What makes a good bassist?

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MHXANHMA
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What makes a good bassist?

Post by MHXANHMA » March 10th, 2003, 8:58 am

After comparing my technique to that of the bass star system and all those giants of the 4 strings, I find myself completely belittled. I feel like I am no good. How do they play so fast? How do they sound so good? Why can't I sound as good as that?
These question give rise to several other questions... For example, do you think that one's gear is what makes him/her stand out (I personally don't think so)? How can one become a very good bassist? I know, the answer I am most likely to get here is "practice practice practice", but can it get more precise? Practice what? How do I increase my speed without compromising the quality of my play?
I have been at a stagnation point fore a while. No progress what so ever. I thought I might need to listen to some new music and see where that gets me, but the weakness is far more within me. So, what can I do to gradually improve myself?

Cheers,

BrotherJack
Johann Sebastian Bass

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dhodge
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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by dhodge » March 10th, 2003, 9:50 am

One of the most essential things about become a good bassist is also one of the hardest to practice - interaction within the band. You can have great gear or great chops or play incredible fast, but if you don't have a sense of rhythm or a sense of feel for a particular song it won't really matter.

Bassists provide both rhythm and the "bottom end" but they can do so ina wide variety of ways. The more you get to play in a group situation, even if it's not a band but just jamming around, the more you will develop.

If you don't have other people to play with, try recordings. Start with simple songs. First you have to know that you can keep the beat - that's the big thing that anyone is going to want from you. Then, they'll want to see how you interact with the other instruments.

Good bassists plot out where they can fill in spaces in a piece of music. Usually spots where there is no lead going on and the vocals are in a pause between phrases. Sometimes they will shadow another instrument (or the vocal), adding a harmony to what is already going on. Sometimes they will help the drummer to accent a certain beat.

This not only takes (big surprise) practice, but it takes thought and analysis, which is perhaps why many people find being a good bassist hard. But you can do it. That you're thinking this early is a great start.

Peace


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MHXANHMA
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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by MHXANHMA » March 12th, 2003, 9:59 am

Hello dhodge!

Playing with a band has helped me this far. But these past few weeks, the band I am in keeps deteriorating. I don't know exactly why. Both the guitarist and the drummer are making mistakes, and their mistakes prompt me to make mistakes as well, because I cannot play correctly if the drummer looses time all the time.
The guitarist is also getting on my nerves. He never admits that he made a mistake, he always blaims it on me. So I thought that maybe it is time for me to quit this band. It is very difficult to find good bandmates these days. Most of the drummers I have jammed with make many mistakes, and it is hard for a bassist to follow correctly when the drummer makes too many mistakes. I know it is impossible not to make mistakes, but usually when people make mistakes they should have a tendency to correct these mistakes (and these drummers don't!).
I am about to quit the band I am currently in and form a new band with two friends of mine which I know i can trust.
On the other hand I need to evolve musically as well. I need to sharpen my theory knowledge because I think that I am very mediocre at that. Can you recomend any books on that? I already have two but they're not written for the bass.
I also have a metronome, but I think it is broken and so I don't practice with it any more. I'd like to get a new one, but i'd like it to be able to accentuate the clicks differently. For example, I'd like it to do 4/5 and accentuate the 5th hit differently. Are there such metronomes? Are there metronomes that you can connect to your amp so that you can hear the clicks even when you are playing loud?
The bass is really the instrument for me. So I'd hate to become "just another bassist". I would like to be good at this, but I seem to have stumbled somewhere. The problem is I can't find what I'm doing wrong...

Cheers,

BrotherJack

Johann Sebastian Bass

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dhodge
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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by dhodge » March 12th, 2003, 2:18 pm

Hi again

Finding the right chemistry is always hard, if for no other reason that people are always changing and people grow at different rates and turn to new things.

The main thing, though, is to play. I hope you figure out things with either your old band or your new one. Or both.

Concerning the metronome, my advice would be to find an old fashioned one, like classical musicians use. These don't count by threes or fours, they simply click the beats. Then you can decide what count of beats per measure you want.

Another thing you might try would be to get a cheap drum machine (or even some of the free downloadable ones). Get some rhythms going and then play. Often you can also program chord progressions with these so you can give yourself quite a practice workout if you're willing to put in a little preparation time.

Concerning the theory - music theory, at its pure form, is about notes and chords. It doesn't matter what instrument, if any, you play.

But as a bassist, you have a few avenues open to you if you use your head. First, I just went to http://www.sheetmusicplus.com and did a search of "bass + theory" under the "instruments" header. It turned up a half dozen titles. I would imagine that there are more books as well, but this brings up point 2 - since the bass and standard guitar have four strings in common, any guitar theory book will apply to the bass, provided you keep in mind you're only concerned with the lower four strings of the guitar.

Point three is that you can also look at any books for the stand-up bass as well. If you know how to read the bass clef notation, any book that involves it will be good for you.

Finally, and this has nothing to do with being a bassist, don't think of yourself as "doing something wrong." All learning involves various stages and even when you learn something bad, you are moving in a positive direction. I know it sounds silly, but if you're already so positive about playing, then don't cut yourself down when you're doing the best you can to learn.

Hope this helps.

Peace



 

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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by hbriem » March 13th, 2003, 5:12 am

I would like to take this opportunity to recommend
James "Wheat" Martin's free on-line Bass Book:

http://www.wheatdesign.com/bassbook

As good as anything in print and best of all, free!
--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com

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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by Cyco_Grooves » June 29th, 2003, 7:41 pm

Playing from the heart makes the best musician, no matter what instrument they play.  ;)
"Never-fall as long as I try Refuse-to be part of your lie Even-if it means I die, you can't bring me..."

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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by paul donnelly » June 30th, 2003, 2:49 pm

In response to your question about learning speed without compromising quality, you yave to start slow and then gradually work up to it.  The way to avoid practicing a bad technique is to pay careful attention to what you are doing, and practicing slowly allows you to do that.

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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by paul donnelly » June 30th, 2003, 3:12 pm

Also, in regard to playing with your band, how much practicing is going on at home?  A band practice's function is to work on the things you can't do on your own, bringing it all together.  Band members should learn their part on their own time.

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MHXANHMA
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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by MHXANHMA » July 1st, 2003, 2:26 am

Hello people!

In the time that has passed since I posted this one many things have changed. I did quit this band, I found better drummers and better guitarist and I currently play with two different bands.
I figured it's not so hard to practice, if you know what you're aiming for. I bought myself a new metronome, one of the old fashioned ones, and it seems that it helps a lot, although it is a little bit confusing because it does not accentuate the ending beat differently.
I have also found many different good drummers to play with, which I think is by far the best practice for a bassist.
So my guess is that in order to evolve, practice not only helps become better in a technical sense but also in finding what you like to do and why you like it.

Cheers!
Johann Sebastian Bass

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MHXANHMA
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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by MHXANHMA » July 1st, 2003, 1:26 pm

Indeed it does!

There's still so much I'd like to do or be able to do. It seems like a long way up the road. The bass is the instrument for me and i am realy proud to be a bassist. This is pretty much irrelevant, I just felt the need to say it, looking back at my progress so far and the things i have not achieved. Sometimes i wish i had 4 hands!
Johann Sebastian Bass

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Re: What makes a good bassist?

Post by fleaaaaaa » July 28th, 2003, 2:58 pm

the rythm and making a catchy bassline that fits..... are both very important things.

The simplest basslines can be catchy listen to simon gallups bassline on the cure's a forest. Try not to overcomplicate where its not needed, it makes a song unclear and too busy in many cases.

If you cant think of a particular bassline, try just following the chords and improvising a bit around them, make sure it fits and doesnt interfere with any other instruments, including the vocal. Sometimes just following the chords (with a few minor variations if you feel like it) can work very well. Pink floyds comfortably numb's bassline plays the chord and follows the rythm of the bass drum and it's amazingly effective.

The bass drum and the bass guitar have a major link, on many songs the bass guitar will follow the ryhtm of the bass drum (pink floyd's hey you, about a million rock songs).

Learn all the songs by your favourite bassists, especially if your band plays a similar style. I learn't to play rock n roll basslines just from listening and working them out.

Work things out by ear - unless you really are struggling with a bassline, can't be bothered, or just don't know what is going on then try and work a few songs out by ear........ from time to time at least, this will train your ear.

Learning songs by your fave bassists and working them out will help you understand how other bassists use bass to complement the music and this can help you with your playing.

Develop your own style, practice improvising to a cd and then with your band.

Reccomended bassists:
Paul Mc cartney,
Flea,
Simon Gallup from the cure,

But listen to any of your favourite bassists and learn their songs, I'm sure that will help.

If you just can't play what they play, well then they're probably amazing show offs and my reccomendation would be to get guitar pro, you can download a demo or get the whole thing off kazaa

http://www.guitarpro.com

and goto http://www.mysongbook.com

search for a song and if it has the bass part there will be a little bass guitar icon, you can now slow down or speed up the song and take it at your own pace.

If you can't do this then just listen to the bassline on the song you wana play and use a metronome to practice it at a slower speed.


Overall I guess good bassists/musicians just know never to go too over the top and try to suit the mood of the song with their playing. Sometimes a bad solo or a bit of bass that doesnt fit with the mood of a song can jerk someone out of the mood in a song thats otherwise going ok.

Finally, learn from mistakes and experience, this is where I learnt most of this stuff.

Hope that helps.

Oh and final link, http://www.basstabarchive.com is good for, you guessed it! Bass tabs!
together we stand, divided we fall..........

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