#1
Hello,

I've been playing bass since I was about 14 and I am now 21, I've been in all sorts of bands from punk to folk to blues, but I'm finding that I have reached something of a plateau with my playing, so does anyone have any tips for taking things up a level?

I've never taken any lessons (due to the expense) and I'm completely self-taught through picking up tabs and learning songs by ear, then developing my own riffs, and I tend to play in a bluesy-rock style (due to my longest-running band being a blues band). All this said I've never really studied the theory side of things and while I have a grasp of it (ie, I know what notes I'm playing and can improvise a little along while jamming based on blues progressions), I'm not at any standard where I can just bust out some crazy solo.

I'd welcome any tips or thoughts anyone has, or any books anyone can recommend. While I want to expand myself in every direction ultimately, my inspirations are John Entwistle and Jack Bruce so that's where I'm looking to progress.

Thanks!
#2
How do you want to get better? Think specifically. Wanna get better at slap bass? Look up some slap bassists that you like, learn how to play their songs and use their techniques. If you like Entwistle and Bruce, look up some solos by them and learn how to play it. Practice applying those techniques and styles in your own music. If its difficult to play or hard to figure out thats a good thing, the key to getting better is overcoming challenges.

For overall improvement, I would recommend a book called The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten. Just as good is his Groove Workshop DVD. The book was recommended to me by Skerik (sax player for Roger Waters, Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, etc). He gets really deep into the importance of certain aspects of music besides notes, like dynamics, articulation, and phrasing. He is all about feeling the groove and improvising comfortably whether you know theory or not. The book can get pretty far-out at times, but if you just go along with it you'll walk away with extremely valuable info. I've read his book several times and watched the DVD. I can truly say they've been some of the best things for me, not just as a bassist but as a musician.

You can always learn more theory, too. Just pick up a book on music theory and read it- as long as you have a basic understanding of notes and scales, most theory books will make sense. The thing about theory is that you can't get so distracted by it that you lose sight of your creativity. Then you'll just sound like everybody else.
I play guitar in a funky death metal band called Lobotomizer. Listen to our demo here.
I also slap the bass and I'm learning how to tame the sax.
I go to school at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts. Any questions about it? Ask me.
Last edited by jasonofthestorm at Apr 12, 2011,
#3
Try something you haven’t tried before.

I know when I get bored or hit a platue I start listening to genre’s I normally wouldn’t. That usually helps to inspire me and help to broaden my musical taste. Sometimes the people I listen to and emulate aren’t even bassists.

Have you ever listened to Blue in Green by Miles Davis? Great song, if you haven’t. I try to pick up as much as I can from him. Miles doesn’t play a lot of notes but the ones he does play speak volumes. His Phrasing and spacing are un touchable. After listening to that for awhile I’ll switch to something like James Jamerson. His timing and phrasing are amazing, but he plays a counter melody with the singers in most songs. Which I think is really freaking neat. Then I’ll throw in some Rocco Prestia who plays funk but instead of slapping he plays ghosted 1/16th notes. Then I take what I like from each style I’ve learned and try to mold it into MY STYLE

There millions of ways to play the bass, and trillions of ways to make music. Look around you’ll find something that inspires you to try something new. Just remember if you keep looking where you've always looked, you'll find what you've always found. If you want to find something new, try looking in a different place!!!
Quote by MetlHed94



Well played, sir, well played.
#4
Quote by jasonofthestorm
How do you want to get better? Think specifically. Wanna get better at slap bass? Look up some slap bassists that you like, learn how to play their songs and use their techniques. If you like Entwistle and Bruce, look up some solos by them and learn how to play it. Practice applying those techniques and styles in your own music. If its difficult to play or hard to figure out thats a good thing, the key to getting better is overcoming challenges.

For overall improvement, I would recommend a book called The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten. Just as good is his Groove Workshop DVD. The book was recommended to me by Skerik (sax player for Roger Waters, Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, etc). He gets really deep into the importance of certain aspects of music besides notes, like dynamics, articulation, and phrasing. He is all about feeling the groove and improvising comfortably whether you know theory or not. The book can get pretty far-out at times, but if you just go along with it you'll walk away with extremely valuable info. I've read his book several times and watched the DVD. I can truly say they've been some of the best things for me, not just as a bassist but as a musician.

You can always learn more theory, too. Just pick up a book on music theory and read it- as long as you have a basic understanding of notes and scales, most theory books will make sense. The thing about theory is that you can't get so distracted by it that you lose sight of your creativity. Then you'll just sound like everybody else.


I agree 100%!!!

The music Lesson is a DAMN good book. Best $12 I have ever spent, it's a little weird but well worth the money.
Quote by MetlHed94



Well played, sir, well played.
#6
Just to mix it in there, on top of scales, arpeggios are extremely useful in writing lines/fills/riffs/solos/etc. and incorporating advanced sweep/tap/slap work cleverly into lines adds a huge spice that many people tend to overlook.
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#7
Quote by Hail
Just to mix it in there, on top of scales, arpeggios are extremely useful in writing lines/fills/riffs/solos/etc. and incorporating advanced sweep/tap/slap work cleverly into lines adds a huge spice that many people tend to overlook.

Yes. Arpeggios. ARPEGGIOS.

I'd say that like, 35% of my style is good use of arpeggios. "Oh, what's this, we're on the dominant chord? Guess I'll do a 1-4-dom7 arpeggio, add a little hook, then when we resolve on the tonic chord I'll be playing M3-4-1."

Then again, this has pretty much become my style. It's not the kind of thinking that's for every bassist. Regardless, learning your arpeggios can only help.
Les Claypool
Geddy Lee
Robert DeLeo
Flea

Weileder

...Coincidence? I think not.
#8
I'd think about finding a good teacher, especially someone who understands your inspirations. I didn't get lessons until last year (30 years) and my ability has improved more than in the last, say, 10. However, that's me. Maybe you're not as lazy as I was.

Oh, and arpeggios!
#9
Study the playing style of the "greats", whether you like them or not.

Right now I'm listening to... *sigh* ...Victor Wooten to help develop my tapping and double thumping.

I've found the biggest challenge not to be advanced techniques but keeping my playing fresh. For about two years I was playing about with the same riffs around the same two notes, Lemmy-esque, so I broadened my music taste et viola, bass was fun again.
#10
Quote by Spaz91
Study the playing style of the "greats", whether you like them or not.
I've found the biggest challenge not to be advanced techniques but keeping my playing fresh.
This is quite challenging. I gotta force myself into doing different styles at least sometimes.
#11
There's always something you can do to improve. Learning theory is a good way, but just playing to build up stamina is a great way of improving too.

I don't know much theory but one thing I do like to do is figure out the notes in a song or riff and then change it, or add some improvisation in.
You said "This is suicide."
I said "
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#12
Try something in a different musical genre. For the bass, nothing is likely to improve your playing abilities more than funk. It is the most bass-dependent genre of popular music, and much of what we now consider to be exceptional bass talent comes out of funk.

The other thing is don't reach too high or you'll get discouraged. Too many bassists hit a plateau and think they'll cure it by learning Portrait of Tracy note for note in one night. Don't overreach or you'll just end up frustrating yourself. You can work through it.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
#13
Strive to continuously challenge yourself. If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. Another thing you could do if you're becoming a little disenchanted is to stop playing for a while. I'm not saying quit, I'm saying stop playing. More than a couple of weeks. More than a couple of months. I've been playing for 25 years. I put it down for YEARS. I've always had a highly skilled right hand. I always considered my weakness to be my left hand. When I picked it back up, I was revitalized and playing things I had no idea I could play. Hell, I blew my own mind! My left hand was much stronger than I had ever realized. It was all in my head and that mental block is now gone. I was improving daily, but didn't realize it beacuse I was focusing on too many finite details. Stopping playing allowed me to step back and look at the whole picture. Think about a thick candle. If you sit and watch it burn, it doesn't really seem to be affected. If you walk away from it for a good while, when you return, you notice a huge difference. Perhaps you have the same issue. Just an idea.
"Quick to judge. Quick to anger. Slow to understand. Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand-in-hand."
- Rush, "Witch Hunt"
Last edited by deeptubes at Apr 21, 2011,
#14
entwistle and bruce didn't get where they got by growing up listening to and emulating entwistle and bruce. go back.

when you hit a plateau, start learning something you absolutely cannot play. even if you can't play it well after months, the fact you've gotten anywhere at all should reflect in your playing.

http://basstranscriptions.blogspot.com/2010/02/oscar-pettiford-bass-solo-transcription.html
#DTWD