Poll: What did you do?
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View poll results: What did you do?
Theory over technical ability
19 19%
Both evenly
48 48%
Technique over theory
33 33%
Voters: 100.
Page 1 of 2
#1
when i first started playing bass i met my drumemr little brother (jordie) who at the time had been playing bass and taking lessons from a highly respected local bass teacher. He knew all sorts of different theory and various knowlage of how a bass worked, but he was all that great technicly, couldent play very fast and what not. Then i met my rythem guitar players little brother (page) who is obsessed with flea, and can play mos tof the stuff sdo obviously he is preety skilled technically but he know absolutly kno theory he cant set up the EQ on his amp he dosent know what the knobs on his bass do he is help less to anything other than actuyally playing it. Me, i find myself just as good as Page technically, and i still have a ways to go before im up there with jordy in theory, but i do know some basic to interm theory.

i was just wondering How did the other bassist of the world learn?

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#2
Well, I switched from guitar, so I had basic guitar knowledge but never took lessons, mostly reading stuff online. So, I'm a mix but more of technique over theory for sure.
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#3
I learned a lot of techniques on guitar and I could play a lot of songs. Then I started to learn theory. I knowway more about Equlizations, tone and techniques then I do about music theory though.
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#4
I could go on for about a paragraph on this, but for once I'll be succinct.

Technique will make you a good bassist, but to be a great bassist, you are going to need both in equal balance. Theory brings understanding, understanding will bring greatness. Period.
#5
if i had to choose, id obviously go both, but if i had to go one or the other, id go theory. id rather someone who can make good, effective basslines, than someone who can solo uber fast and make up bad lines
#6
Quote by anarkee
I could go on for about a paragraph on this, but for once I'll be succinct.

Technique will make you a good bassist, but to be a great bassist, you are going to need both in equal balance. Theory brings understanding, understanding will bring greatness. Period.

Yeah I agree, it's like knowing how a rubik's cube works and spending hours playing with it to find it's secrets. Both are needed, though most people never really finish the damned cube.
#7
I said theory because I'm never satisfied with my technique (no matter how good it is), but I'm always happy with the note(s) I play. Someone listening to me might say that I use both evenly, but since I'm never satisfied with my technique, I have to go with theory.
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#8
Theory is more important if you want to write music and be a contributor musically to a band, or even go into music professionaly. But if you want to just play well and show off and not write music, then technical ability. So it depends. But me? Theory for sure.
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#9
I aytech ability


I don't know any theory and make my own stuff up by just remembering where sounds are....kinda.
#11
You can be a good bass player without theory, and only just good technique. But the lack of theory makes everything harder, with theory you know which notes sound best when, what effect they'll create etc. Technique allows you to play what you want, theory is the guide which tells you what will be the best options.
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#12
Quote by anarkee
I could go on for about a paragraph on this, but for once I'll be succinct.

Technique will make you a good bassist, but to be a great bassist, you are going to need both in equal balance. Theory brings understanding, understanding will bring greatness. Period.


+1

I spent the first two years of my bass career working on technique, and after some time I realized I could only go so far with it. Thats when I started learning theory. My theory still needs a lot of improvement, but its made me a much better bass player.

The guitar player for my band is one of the best technical guitarists Ive ever met. But writing music with him is difficult because he knows no theory. Jamming is even worse.
#13
If you know everything there is to know about theory, but your technique ain't worth crap, you won't go nowhere. If you have awesome technique but don't know crap about theory, you'll be good player, but there will be serious lack in your compositions. You need a balance of both.
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#14
You definitely need both to become a great bassist, but technique is more important than knowing theory. You can still know which notes fit where and how to play them without knowing theory, that just comes with having a lot of experience. Comparing music to language, technique is being able to speak and theory is being able write and read. You don't need to be able to write and read to be able to speak, but it helps get you through life.
#15
good poll
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#16
Technique and 'real world' skill is far more important than theory.

Knowing theory is great for composing and improvising. It can help a ton. It is never required though. Some of the best guitarists and bass players of all time never formally studied theory, and only ever picked up the bare basics.

So long as you know that this string here at this fret here sounds like this and that sounds pretty cool when you then do this and then this and this - so long as you are good enough to actually play that - that's all that really matters. You don't need to know the proper names for everything, you don't need to know every scale variation in the world, it's the finished product that counts.

A crowd isn't going to look up at you on stage and think "wow, that guy really knows his modes!". No, they just care about "whoa, awesome riff there".
#17
That's an interesting question actually, while I believe theory is a very important weapon in any musician's arsenal, and it will help any player tremendously, I don't believe it is a requirement for skillful playing. Many of the greatest musicians of all time never knew a bit of theory, Jimi Hendrix, Cliff Burton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, hell even Jaco didn't learn much theory until later in his career.

But at the same time, I don't think technique and technique only will ever make a great musician, and it damn sure won't make a great bassist. What this question fails to address is what makes bass what it is, the feeling, the groove. While many other instruments can ignore the groove factor and use theoretical or technical knowledge to compensate, bassists can not. It's not something that can be forced either, nor studied, it is simply something that comes in time and in the bassist getting to know his instrument as his (or her) own.

So, the way I see it, technique can compensate for lack of theoretical knowledge, but only if you have a hell of a lot of groove and a hell of a great connection to your music. However, theoretical knowledge alone won't get you very far as a bassist, as groove comes from the soul and through the technique of playing, not through the mind.

However, when it comes down to the painfully Black and White question of "Technique or Theory?" then I'd say they are both equal in importance, especially when taken into thought that those two things are only the tip of the bassist's iceberg.
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#18
Quote by bokuho
Technique and 'real world' skill is far more important than theory.

Knowing theory is great for composing and improvising. It can help a ton. It is never required though. Some of the best guitarists and bass players of all time never formally studied theory, and only ever picked up the bare basics.

So long as you know that this string here at this fret here sounds like this and that sounds pretty cool when you then do this and then this and this - so long as you are good enough to actually play that - that's all that really matters. You don't need to know the proper names for everything, you don't need to know every scale variation in the world, it's the finished product that counts.

A crowd isn't going to look up at you on stage and think "wow, that guy really knows his modes!". No, they just care about "whoa, awesome riff there".

what if you are a studio bassist? or you play jazz?
#19
^ If you're a studio bassist, then theory won't necessarily be as important because most of the time you won't be the one composing the work.
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#21
^ Well, then it would depend on the type of studio bassist then. If they're paying you to write it, too, then I'd say theory is more important, because chances are they won't want an amazing technical bassline, just something that fits the song. You'd just need to have enough technique to play any style.

Of course, I say this without the experience of being a studio musician. Also keep in mind that studio musicians are some of the best musicians in the world. A la John 5.
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#23
Quote by UndeadPaperclip
That's an interesting question actually, while I believe theory is a very important weapon in any musician's arsenal, and it will help any player tremendously, I don't believe it is a requirement for skillful playing. Many of the greatest musicians of all time never knew a bit of theory, Jimi Hendrix, Cliff Burton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, hell even Jaco didn't learn much theory until later in his career.



lol not to be a dink or any thing, but i am like obsessed with cliff burton, he had an incredible amount of theoretical knowlage. He took classical piano when he was 8 til he was 14 when he started to take bass lessons. so i dont know about the other guys but cliff had crazy theory behind his fingers

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Last edited by Narcotics at Jul 26, 2007,
#24
When I think of this question I think of my guitarist playing a chord. Without theroy you sit and play the root. Now this isnt allways a bad thing but with theroy you can play around with your modes and scales 3rds 5ths all that stuff..

Im only just starting to sit down and learn my chords and scales.

I think all that stuff is more important then two hand tapping and wild slap solos
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#25
Quote by Narcotics
lol not to be a dink or any thing, but i am like obsessed with cliff burton, he had an incredible amount of theoretical knowlage. He took classical piano when he was 8 til he was 14 when he started to take bass lessons. so i dont know about the other guys but cliff had crazy theory behind his fingers


Well I'll be damned, I'll take your word for it, I wonder who I was thinking of then...

I know for a fact though that Jaco didn't even know how to read standard notation until after he joined Weather Report. (From the book "Jaco," an absolutely amazing read I might add)
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#26
^ Notation and theory aren't the same thing. I know a decent amount of theory but I can't read sheet music. But, I'll believe you when you say he didn't know much theory.

You also brought up Hendrix in your original post: he didn't know any theory. He got the scales he used from playing around with the guitar and finding out what sounds good.


But I just had a bit of an epiphany. Not really, because I've always thought this, but I was just reminded of it.

Theory and technique are both of some importance, yes. But neither are the most important thing. The most important thing in any artform, and music is art, is expression. Emotion. If you don't have that, if you're not playing from your heart (sorry for the cliche expression), then it doesn't matter how much theory or technique you use. People will say, "Well, that's impressive," and move on. That's why bands like Nirvana make bigger impacts than other bands.

And think about a really technical and/or theoretical bassist. I'll use Victor Wooten for example. Now, all of his work is impressive, yes. But at the end of the day, don't you tire of the stuff where he's just doing insane technique? At the end of the day, wouldn't you rather listen to him just playing something simpler and more from the heart?

Emotion is the key ingredient. Theory and technique are nothing more than tools get that across. Ultimately, you need neither (or at least very little of them), because there are no rules in art. True expression is all you need. Theory and technique only help that expression. Nothing more. Nothing less.
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#27
Quote by Geekis_Khan

And think about a really technical and/or theoretical bassist. I'll use Victor Wooten for example. Now, all of his work is impressive, yes. But at the end of the day, don't you tire of the stuff where he's just doing insane technique? At the end of the day, wouldn't you rather listen to him just playing something simpler and more from the heart?


The album Yin Yang is full off emotion. Just cos the dude can play like that doesnt mean its not from the heart.
I own:
Fender Jazz 24 (5 string) Yay! =D
Behringer BXL3000A Nay =(
Zoom B2 effects Ehh? =S

Im learning:
Bass =P

I play in:
Casual Karma
The Uno Whos
- Both uni bands

DnD nerd of the Bass Militia, PM Nutter_101 to join
#28
Ya, Im sorry, but I do think Wooten has emotion and feel and the whole bit. In the bass community, Wooten has became a legend for his online clips of live shows. A lot of musical artists show off a little extra in live shows. He's got jaw-dropping technical talent, excellent knowledge of theory, and he's got a fair amount of groove.(albeit not as wonderful of a groove as other legendary funk bass players)
#29
I always, in bass, guitar, anything musical... well, anything at all, take the approach of "know why it works, and you'll eventually know how to do it"

My technical skill, palette of techniques, et cetera are probably inferior to a huge amount of bassists who have been playing as long as I have, but when I started getting into the local music scene, I was shocked how little people knew about the theory behind what they are playing.
Unless they're doing exactly what they've learned by hours of watching/listening to/reading about whatever artist/genre, they're completely at sea, while I like to think my skill, however questionable, remains fairly consistant regardless of who I'm playing with and what I'm playing.

I think it's my reputation for being able to adapt and create regardless of what is thrown at me that's kept me playing bass in bands for so long. That would sound pompous, but it certainly isn't my blinding slap skills or intricate bass solos that do it

Free your mind and your ass will follow, as the saying goes. Know your shit and your hands will know where to go.
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#30
Quote by Zen5887
The album Yin Yang is full off emotion. Just cos the dude can play like that doesnt mean its not from the heart.


Quote by etubrutus123
Ya, Im sorry, but I do think Wooten has emotion and feel and the whole bit. In the bass community, Wooten has became a legend for his online clips of live shows. A lot of musical artists show off a little extra in live shows. He's got jaw-dropping technical talent, excellent knowledge of theory, and he's got a fair amount of groove.(albeit not as wonderful of a groove as other legendary funk bass players)


Well, look. It's just my opinion that I don't feel the emotion on as much of his stuff. But you get my point. Surely, there's some musician out there that fits that mold for you, and you understand what I'm saying.

And as far as Wooten goes, as good as the man is, face it: those tricks become recycled after a while.
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#31
Quote by UndeadPaperclip
That's an interesting question actually, while I believe theory is a very important weapon in any musician's arsenal, and it will help any player tremendously, I don't believe it is a requirement for skillful playing. Many of the greatest musicians of all time never knew a bit of theory, Jimi Hendrix, Cliff Burton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, hell even Jaco didn't learn much theory until later in his career.



I disagree with this statement.

For some reason, people seem to think great musicians knew little or no theory. Burton was classically trained, mate. he knew ALL the theory in Metallica. Hendrix knew theory coming out of his arse. Just because people cannot sight read, say, that doesnt mean they dont know theory. Trust me, you dont get to be that good at an instrument without knowing the theory behind what you are doing.

In fact, i would go so far as to say you are not a musician unless you know the theory behind what you are doing. You are a moneky. It's like paint by numbers: you may end up with a picture, but that dont make you an artist. Anyone can play an instrument by reading tab, anyone can hold a chord by knowing what fingers go on what fret. But that is not being a musician. How many people do you know that call themselves guitar players, but what get lost if you asked them what notes were in the E Major chord they are fretting?!
Jaco spent years reading scores and learning to sightread. He is also a very skilled pianist. You only have to watch his video to know he has an amazing command over the instrument, both technicaly and theoretically.

So, in answer to your question... To be great, you need to be 100% in both.
#33
Quote by UndeadPaperclip
Many of the greatest musicians of all time never knew a bit of theory, Jimi Hendrix, Cliff Burton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, hell even Jaco didn't learn much theory until later in his career.


Actually if I remember correctly, Cliff knew a ton of theory and turned Kurt and James on to learning theory.


Anyways, I think you need both in equal balance. If you can play fast as hell, but not know what to play, then you're kinda up the creek. If know what to play but can't play it, again, you're up the creek.
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#34
Quote by Funkbass796
Actually if I remember correctly, Cliff knew a ton of theory and turned Kurt and James on to learning theory.




I think you mean Kirk and James... But yes, Cliff was a classically trained pianist and took two years of bass lessons.
#35
Quote by Lendorav


I think you mean Kirk



close enough.
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#36
right now, if i had to pick between the two, I'd go with theory. that's more because of my current situation.....(feels a story coming on)

well, I'm in a little project band right now, and it's fun as hell and most of us are decent musicians. We get to jam together and play a couple songs we made up, about twice a week, and everyone gets along really well. Except our lead guitarist. That man has no musical theory knowledge what-so-ever! and considering we jam 2x a week, he ends up playing nothing but solos from OTHER songs over EVERYTHING we do. at first it was....kind of cool, but now it's downright annoying. finally we pulled him aside and said "dude, this song's going to be us messing around in G minor..okay?" to make a long story short, he had no clue what it was, how to play it, or even what it relatively sounded like. he ended up playing eruption.....

this kid is painful to jam with, even though he is fairly good technique wise.
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#37
Quote by Applehead


In fact, i would go so far as to say you are not a musician unless you know the theory behind what you are doing. You are a moneky. It's like paint by numbers: you may end up with a picture, but that dont make you an artist. Anyone can play an instrument by reading tab, anyone can hold a chord by knowing what fingers go on what fret. But that is not being a musician. How many people do you know that call themselves guitar players, but what get lost if you asked them what notes were in the E Major chord they are fretting?!


I'm going to have to disagree with that. I think both the person who doesn't know the theory behind it and the person who does become the "monkies". The latter is only playing those notes becuase that's what theory tells them to play, whether he or she knows why they're playing it or not. They're still basing the music off of a formula. (And I know a lot of people will say that theory is just guidelines and the musician is still the one in charge. But I call bull****. For every guitarist that doesn't know wat notes arre in the E Major chord, there's a bassist who lets theory control his or her playing.) Just because they know why or how the formula works doesn't make them any more of a musician than the person who doesn't.

Being a musician isn't knowing what notes are in a chord. Being a musician is using music to express yourself. Being a musician is using music as an art.
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#38
Quote by Geekis_Khan
I'm going to have to disagree with that. I think both the person who doesn't know the theory behind it and the person who does become the "monkies". The latter is only playing those notes becuase that's what theory tells them to play, whether he or she knows why they're playing it or not. They're still basing the music off of a formula. (And I know a lot of people will say that theory is just guidelines and the musician is still the one in charge. But I call bull****. For every guitarist that doesn't know wat notes arre in the E Major chord, there's a bassist who lets theory control his or her playing.) Just because they know why or how the formula works doesn't make them any more of a musician than the person who doesn't.

Being a musician isn't knowing what notes are in a chord. Being a musician is using music to express yourself. Being a musician is using music as an art.


Fair points, Geekis.

However, i have to disagree that someone who knows theory is being controlled by it. The saying "you have to know the rules to break them" comes to mind. I am not saying you cant make decent music without knowing any theory, but i am i dont class these people as "musicians", in the true sense of the word. If you draw a picture, does that make you an artist? One could say yes it does, but do you understand proper art theory? No. Both have merits, and some may say that art forms are often done best by the people who are "raw", untrained if you will. The people who "feel" the music and dont study it. I agree to a point, but.

You say being a musician isn't knowing what notes are in a chord, but expressing yourself through music. This is a romantic view, in my opinion. You cant express yourself through music without understanding it. At least, not to a decent level.

You wouldnt try to write a book without understand language.
#39
Theory makes playing what you feel easier, because you know which collection or series of notes will portray your mood. And there is no-one that plays an instrument who knows NO theory, everybody knows some it's all a matter of how advanced and how much.
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#40
Quote by Applehead
Fair points, Geekis.

However, i have to disagree that someone who knows theory is being controlled by it. The saying "you have to know the rules to break them" comes to mind. I am not saying you cant make decent music without knowing any theory, but i am i dont class these people as "musicians", in the true sense of the word. If you draw a picture, does that make you an artist? One could say yes it does, but do you understand proper art theory? No. Both have merits, and some may say that art forms are often done best by the people who are "raw", untrained if you will. The people who "feel" the music and dont study it. I agree to a point, but.

You say being a musician isn't knowing what notes are in a chord, but expressing yourself through music. This is a romantic view, in my opinion. You cant express yourself through music without understanding it. At least, not to a decent level.

You wouldnt try to write a book without understand language.


First of all I thought it was funny that your last sentence was grammatically incorrect.

No offense meant, just the irony of a typo.

Controlled isn't the best word for what I'm trying to say, but we'd be lying to ourselves if we said that everyone who uses theory a lot is completely free from those rules. One of the other threads currently in circulation on this forum is about how one's hearing changes after taking up an intrument. One of the things that happened for me is I started noticing all the ways peopleed are tricked into liking a song because everything resolves and the chord progression goes exactly where you'd expect it to go. At the risk of offending a few Eagles fans, the song "Hotel California" is a perfect example. People regard that as a better song than it is because of the reasons I just mentioned. They're "tricked" into liking these songs (not that they're bad songs), while they aren't with more dissonant artists such as Nine Inch Nails. I think my point here is that people use theory not to create art but to create something pretty. Now, if your art winds up being pretty and winds up following all those rules of theory, fine. More power to you. But once again we'd be lying to ourselves to say everyone out there using a lot of theory is using it artistically.

Ultimately, the way I look at music is that dissonance is a trick of the mind (look at how what is dissonant changes as culture changes, and there is support for this viewpoint). There are no out of tune notes only out of tune players. We all fall into that mindset of having to play everything right and in tune, myself included. The point is is that that isn't the only mindset that works. I think that using theory is fine. As already said, everyone uses some theory to some extent. I just don't like the elitism that pops up with theory advocacy. The way I look at it, those people that don't know why they're playing what they're playing are coloring by numbers, but so are a lot of musical theorists.

And you're right, my view is a romantic one (I always like it when people use that word in the original sense ). I'm accused of that a lot. You say you have to understand music in order to create it. I agree with you. But understanding can take more than one form. You might not know what notes are in a chord, but you know how that chord sounds. You know how it makes you, personally, feel. That can translate to understanding just as much as the theory behind the chord.
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