support Tutorials CDs PPT mouthpieces

(Temporarily) switching to bass guitar

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
Café Supporter
Messages
1,857
Location
Breda
I'd intended to post this as a 'lighthearted' message but through this I learned that jbtsax had sadly passed away in December. My memories and tributes are posted in the thread John Talcott - aka jbtsax. My heart is heavy with the (for me) news that John passed away some 3 months ago. So I'm feeling the exact opposite from 'lighthearted'.

I just wanted to share that I've twice participated in a series of 10 (weekly) 'jazz improvisation workshops' on tenor sax. I've learned a lot and the workshops have definitely improved my understanding of - and playing abilities in - 'improvisation'. The number of workshop members is (compared to my Big Band) small - about 10 members. I enjoy playing with new people in a smaller setting.

I signed up for the upcoming 10 'spring to summer workshops' and it turned out that that they didn't (yet) have a bass guitarist. I told the workshop leader that:
- I was an ex-guitarist and still knew my way around a keyboard
- I had a 3-year old bass guitar that I'd done very little with in 3 years
- I'd like to 'misuse' the upcoming 10 workshops to learn to play bass guitar

He agreed but the proof is in the pudding. I already knew that playing a 4-string bass guitar is very different from playing a 6-string guitar. The main differences are that:
- the distances between frets on a bass guitar are greater than on a 6-string, No idea why, but the 'finger stretch' on a bass guitar is much longer than on a regular 6-string guitars that the bass
- the bass guitar is the 'bridge' between the 'rhythm' (drums) and the chords (guitar, keyboards)

My first workshop as 'still learning beginner bassist' is in week's time. So I'm practicing hard. if 'Bass Guitar" doesn't pan out then I'll just switch back to tenor sax :)
 
It will be interesting to hear how these workshops go. I wonder whether the rhythm section (including the bass) will be treated differently to the horns / solo instruments.

I am doing monthly improvisation workshops with piano, bass, drums, guitar + about 8 saxophones and one trumpet. I tend to play soprano and baritone as there are loads of altos and tenors.

I think that mainly the horn players are used to playing with backing tracks so it comes as a bit of a shock if the tempo speeds up and the rhythm section instruments are not completely perfect !

The workshop leader often stresses the importance of listening to and interacting with the other players, but my brain is so overloaded most of the time that I can't manage that !

Rhys
 
The main differences are that:
- the distances between frets on a bass guitar are greater than on a 6-string, No idea why, but the 'finger stretch' on a bass guitar is much longer than on a regular 6-string guitars that the bass

Good luck with the endeavor. I, too, play guitar(s) and saxes, and often thought of taking up bass since I have a longtime friend that builds some of the best basses in the world. Now that my left thumb is showing osteoarthritis, it is no longer even a dream.

The finger stretch feels very different because it is. Typical scale length (distance between nut and bridge) on guitars is 24.75” (ex. Gibson) and 25.5” (ex. Fender). Nominal scale length on a bass is 34” because of finding a balance to achieve tension and pitch. A shorter scale at similar pitch would require a more massive string (linear density) at similar tension, or a very floppy string at similar gauge.
 
The late great Wilton Felder was a fine saxophonist (The Jazz Crusaders and later the Crusaders) and also a great bass guitarist in fact he was the go to guy for Motown sessions when Berry Gordy moved from Detroit to LA (check out the doco Standing in the Shadows of Motown - The Funk Brothers) playing for the Jackson 5, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Michael Franks, Seals and Crofts, etc - I play a bit of guitar a Tele and a ES-335 copy ( I big fan of Larry Carlton, Steve Khan, Louie Shelton, Eric Gale and all those hot shot session guys)...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgZnhqpmkCc


Cheers,

Greg S.
 
The workshop leader often stresses the importance of listening to and interacting with the other players, but my brain is so overloaded most of the time that I can't manage that !

Rhys
I know the feeling!
I take lessons in a music academy over here in Belgium. And part of the curriculum is playing in a combo.
Up until about a year ago I was generally so busy trying to play my part correctly that I had trouble paying attention to what the others are doing. I have always had an awareness of what they are playing though, enough to keep up with the tempo and such.
These day's I am getting a it more of a grasp of things, allowing me to focus on other aspects of playing music.
 
Many thanks for your encouraging replies. In my first workshop (on bass) 2 days ago I was TBH all over the place! I missed bars and (therefore) chords/notes. Things got better when I decided just to play over the 1st 5 frets instead of the 1st 8 ( or more). I'd had less practice time than I'd hoped through sorting out new strings and a new bass amp.

I'd hoped that the workshop would start off (as in previous workshops) with a simple blues number. But the 1st number turned out to be a Bossa Nova with (for me) challenging chord changes. Luckily, I've now found a YouTube video that goes through the bass accompaniment!

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfibwW-bQos
 
That's one of my favourite tunes, but not an easy starter ! Does the organiser / leader let everyone know the tunes in advance and provide consistent charts and/or recordings in time for people to work at them ?

I've got our next monthly workshop on Saturday and I'm feeling underprepared (again). But that is my fault as we have had plenty of notice of the three Benny Carter tunes we will be doing.

Looking forward to hearing more from you.

Rhys
 
That's one of my favourite tunes, but not an easy starter ! Does the organiser / leader let everyone know the tunes in advance and provide consistent charts and/or recordings in time for people to work at them ?

I've got our next monthly workshop on Saturday and I'm feeling underprepared (again). But that is my fault as we have had plenty of notice of the three Benny Carter tunes we will be doing.

Looking forward to hearing more from you.

Rhys
Hi Rhys, I really like this tune too. But as you say, It's not an easy starter for a beginning bass player! My playing improved as the 1st workshop went on but initially I found finding basic fingering patterns for quick-changing keys like A-flat, E-flat, changes from C to C# etc. to be a challenge. I just had a basic lack of 'fretboard familiarity' for chords other than C, G, F, B-flat etc.

My (beginners) technique is still far below standard. So I need to work on 'anchoring' my right hand, plucking with 2 fingers, muting strings with both hands, etc. Yes, the organiser does post the 'dots' a week in advance so that people can practice. His view is that - since almost all of the current participants have participated in previous workshop series - it's now time to 'step things up'. In other words, no more 'easy blues' but more diverse structures and chord changes.

As a sax player. I could probably adjust quite quickly, As a (beginning) bass guitar player, it's going to take more time.

But (as an ex-guitarist), I'm still keen to learn more about how to play bass guitar. Which I've had lying unused for the past 3 years. One of the things I've come to love about bass guitar is that it's the main instrument that provides a 'bridge' between the drummer's rhyme and the chords.

I've signed up for an online 'fundamentals of playing bass' course. Tenor Sax is still my main instrument and I still need tro to practice for my Big Band rehearsals. Learning to play bass guitar is just fun
 
Last edited:
I’m also learning some basic guitar, and keep wondering if a short scale bass can be an acceptable compromise to at least get a first hands-on experience.
I play saxophone and upright bass, with some playing of electric bass. The roles of guitar and bass are so different that you must treat guitar and bass as totally different instruments.

Most people find the best tonal results on bass guitar with the standard scale, but there are many good-sounding shorter scale basses. I'm pretty sure "standard" is 34" and "standard short scale" is 32". There are oddball instruments with even shorter scales but then the thud, thud thing starts to be an issue.
 
As Bass is my longtime primary (almost 2 generations, now), I will add my 2 cents:

~It's relatively quick and easy to learn (to sound acceptable on). So it has that going for it.

~Honestly, an adult doesn't 'need' a shortscale neck unless they are lilliputian. Bass plays one note at a time, there is no 'stretch' required for chords (unless you wanna be a hotshot which at the beginning stage needs to be tempered right from the start).
An electric bass is one of the most user-friendly instruments I can think of, quite honestly.

~ Moving from a horn (lead or sectional instrument) to bass is VERY interesting because the ROLE, musically, is ENTIRELY different. As Turf notes, it's even different than a guitar or piano.

~ It's March and I assume workshop starts in June. Thee months is a pretty tight window to be able to learn to play (Jazz I assume) electric and get good enough that a workshop ensemble can rely on you to be providing good, consistent, reliable bass lines. It's a somewhat tall order, not crazy tall, but challenging.

~ Bossas are esier for bass line crafting because quite honestly, all you gotta do is play the root note, 5, and occasionally the octave 75% of the time. In bars where there are two chords, even easier. 1 and 5 even ignores whether the chord is major or minor, it sounds fine on either. So it's really all right hand for bossas, just getting the syncopation of the latin jazz rhythm correct.

~ Unless ALL the bass charts in that workshop are written out basslines (that would be surprising to me), you are gonna be reading chord charts sometimes and you have to put a nice walking bass (assuming swing tunes) to those chord changes. There are tricks that can get you by, though (feel free to PM me about some). But it takes years to really get good at that.

Best of Luck, you certainly aren't shy to try !
 
As Bass is my longtime primary (almost 2 generations, now), I will add my 2 cents:

~It's relatively quick and easy to learn (to sound acceptable on). So it has that going for it.

~Honestly, an adult doesn't 'need' a shortscale neck unless they are lilliputian. Bass plays one note at a time, there is no 'stretch' required for chords (unless you wanna be a hotshot which at the beginning stage needs to be tempered right from the start).
An electric bass is one of the most user-friendly instruments I can think of, quite honestly.

~ Moving from a horn (lead or sectional instrument) to bass is VERY interesting because the ROLE, musically, is ENTIRELY different. As Turf notes, it's even different than a guitar or piano.

~ It's March and I assume workshop starts in June. Thee months is a pretty tight window to be able to learn to play (Jazz I assume) electric and get good enough that a workshop ensemble can rely on you to be providing good, consistent, reliable bass lines. It's a somewhat tall order, not crazy tall, but challenging.

~ Bossas are esier for bass line crafting because quite honestly, all you gotta do is play the root note, 5, and occasionally the octave 75% of the time. In bars where there are two chords, even easier. 1 and 5 even ignores whether the chord is major or minor, it sounds fine on either. So it's really all right hand for bossas, just getting the syncopation of the latin jazz rhythm correct.

~ Unless ALL the bass charts in that workshop are written out basslines (that would be surprising to me), you are gonna be reading chord charts sometimes and you have to put a nice walking bass (assuming swing tunes) to those chord changes. There are tricks that can get you by, though (feel free to PM me about some). But it takes years to really get good at that.

Best of Luck, you certainly aren't shy to try !
cc. @turf3 Thanks for this, Jaye. And for your kind offer of PM-ing you. Interesting to know that Bass is you're long time primary instrument! Sounding 'acceptable' for simple bass patterns and lines is what I'm aiming for :).

I bought my 2nd hand SDGR (300EB) 3 years ago to replace an old, battered bass guitar (missing a pickup!) that someone had lent me. I did try out a short scale bass too but decided on the SDGR, because it played easily (and partly because of the 2nd hand price!). I've since looked up reviews of the SDGR and it seems generally to be a 'reasonably good beginners bass guitar".

And you're right: the bassist role is entirely different and that's what I like about it. The series of 10-12 workshops has already started. Luckily the workshop organiser/leader - who's also the MD of my BigBand - is a well-qualified musician and primarily a guitar tutor. So he's able to give all participants on whatever instrument good feedback and tips for improvement. Especially to those in the rhythm section.

Yes, the role of bassist is challenging for me. I've picked up quite a few tips from YouTube, notably from talkingbass.net, and I've just signed up for one of the 'premium' bass fundamentals courses. But it takes a lot of practice to actually use those tips when playing in the workshop. Luckily, the workshop leader (and participants) don't mind that I'm a beginner. They're happy just to have a 'bass' in the rhythm section. When I explained to everyone that I was just starting to learn to play bass (and would make mistakes), the workshop leader said "even if you just play the root note of each chord on the 1st beat, that good enough". The time will come when I'll - like other instruments - I'll have to improvise on bass too. But from previous workshops on Tenor Sax, I've learned more about determining whether the key signature is major or minor, and the 'structure' of pieces (16 bar blues or ...?)

And yes, for the 'rhythm section' usually only chords are denoted. With the possible exception of intro's and outro's.
So I'm excited about being able to 'misuse' this series of workshops to gradually learn to play (simple) bass guitar instead of improvising (yet again) on tenor sax. In my Big Band, I still play tenor sax (for which I have to practice too!) so the combination between 'Bass on Mondays' and 'Sax on Wednesdays' keeps me busy!

FWIW, at the 1st 2-hour workshop 4 days ago, I was full of trepidation. But as the workshop proceeded, I improved too: synchronising better with the drummer, hitting the right notes at the right time, etc. So that gave me confidence that I would improve as the series goes on :).

Mike
 
The very most important thing you can do as a bass player is to play IN RHYTHM. You need to play confidently and firmly, IN TIME. The correct note at not quite the right time, is a wrong note.

Your priorities, in order:

1) Rhythm
2) Rhythm
3) Rhythm
4) Rhythm
...
20) Note choice
21) Hipness of note choice
 
Jack Bruce used a Gibson EB3 with a 30.5" scale.
I also had one but with the classical style headstock.
Not long after Carl Thompson opened his shop, I stopped by and he gave me some plastic filler and I made mine fretless.
The downside to a fretless bass is you have to pay attention to your intonation and not to the Ladies that are smiling at you. ;)

Making two fretted bass guitars with a 695mm/27.4" scale for our young family members. Might be good as that's a Cello length scale and maybe they'll become real musicians. :eek: :D
 
Last edited:
Jack Bruce used a Gibson EB3 with a 30.5" scale.
I also had one but with the classical style headstock.
Not long after Carl Thompson opened his shop, I stopped by and he gave me some plastic filler and I made mine fretless.
The downside to a fretless bass is you have to pay attention to your intonation and not to the Ladies that are smiling at you. ;)

Making two fretted bass guitars with a 695mm/27.4" scale for our young family members. Might be good as that's a Cello length scale and maybe they'll become real musicians. :eek: :D
I'm going on 70 and - as an ex-guitarist - I'm just learning to play a fretted bass guitar. Tenor sax is still my 'main instrument'. So the chance that I'll ever learn to play a fretless bass is close to zero. But I really do love the sound of a fretless bass!
 
I'm going on 70 and - as an ex-guitarist - I'm just learning to play a fretted bass guitar. Tenor sax is still my 'main instrument'. So the chance that I'll ever learn to play a fretless bass is close to zero. But I really do love the sound of a fretless bass!

I'm no expert, and haven't played anything with strings in a couple of years. Frets make it easier to begin with, but with practice and a good ear, muscle memory kicks in soon enough. My other half has an upright bass (NS Design NXT 4) and noodling on that I quickly got a feeling for the scale length.

If you like fretless, get one -you only live once! Thomann's own range called Harley Benton have a good reputation and start at under €200 Euro
 
I'm no expert, and haven't played anything with strings in a couple of years. Frets make it easier to begin with, but with practice and a good ear, muscle memory kicks in soon enough. My other half has an upright bass (NS Design NXT 4) and noodling on that I quickly got a feeling for the scale length.

If you like fretless, get one -you only live once! Thomann's own range called Harley Benton have a good reputation and start at under €200 Euro
Oh, I'd really love to be able to play a fretless bass! Either guitar or upright. Long '(50 years!) before I ever considered learning to play bass guitar, I've always loved listening to Jaco Pastorius on fretless bass guitar. Especially the live concerts with my then favourite musicians: Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny on guitar, Michael Brecker on Tenor sax and Jaco on Bass.

At the moment, learning to play a fretted bass guitar is enough of a challenge for now. It's closer to my long ago 'playing guitar' experience. But if I really get the 'bass bug' I will consider learning to play a fretless bass in the future!

Mike
 

Similar threads

Back
Top Bottom