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To Bass or Not to Bass : that is the question

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(@vink)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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So, I've recently started thinking it might be a good idea to learn to play bass, to complement my guitar playing. I've been playing now for about 1.5 years after a hiatus of about 22 years. I am not "naturally musical", and one of my weaknesses especially has been my sense of timing. So, I am thinking that learning a more rhythm oriented instrument like bass might help, and it is not as much of a stretch as trying to go learn to play drums.

But, on the other hand, I can only practice about 45 minutes a day at best, and usually only maybe four or five days a week. So, with this limited time, is it a good idea or a bad idea to try bass in addition to guitar?

What do you think? Any and all opinions are appreciated!

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


   
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(@margaret)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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More hours in a day.....that's what we all need.

I, too, want to learn to play bass. I really like the rhythm aspect of music and a good bass line really hooks me in.

So I now have a bass and bass amp, but finding the time to dedicate to it, in addition to keeping up with my guitar practice time between lessons, is really difficult. I'd like to have bass lessons, too, but the expense and time involved in having lessons on two instruments is prohibitive.

I have also found bass to be a lot more difficult to play than I thought it would be. The space between frets is so much greater that it isn't just a matter of transferring guitar-playing skills over to a four-stringer. Much more movement is required on the part of the left hand. A short-scale bass might've been a better choice for me, which would bring the fret length closer to the guitar's. And learning the right hand skills (playing without a pick, which is the sound I prefer) is another matter entirely.

So my advice would be, probably not the greatest idea.....

However, if you decide to do it, I've got a beautiful red Ibanez bass you might like. :twisted:

Margaret

When my mind is free, you know a melody can move me
And when I'm feelin' blue, the guitar's comin' through to soothe me ~


   
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(@pearlthekat)
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Yes, definately bass. I have all the same thoughts and problems the Margaret has stated above, but i still think it's worth it. the guitar will most likely be your main instrument, (but maybe not,) but you'll still have the bass to pick up when you feel like it. I don't have much time for bass since I bought it a couple of months ago, but I don't regret buying it. I'll pick it up again and i'll be happy that I have it.

yesterday as i was in the subway someone was playing bass. If I didn't have one it would have made me want one. since I have one it made me want to get with my bass again.


   
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(@slejhamer)
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I'd say take up bass if you want to play bass. But if your only goal is better timing while playing guitar, practice with a metronome. Also, given the limited amount of time you can devote, if you do choose to try bass you might look into renting gear for a month or so, rather than making a big investment. Then if it doesn't work out you just return it. And if it does work out, you buy Margaret's. :D

"Everybody got to elevate from the norm."


   
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(@davidhodge)
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I'd say go for it but for a different reason - when you get together to play with other people then you've got a second instrument to play (amazing how many guitar players there are :wink: )

As far as "limited" time, we all tend to have more time than we think - it's often a matter of not doing something else. Even now, every time I think now about the fact I need to practice more, all I have to do is to take a fraction of my computer time to get another half hour in. Thank heavens I don't have a television to watch! :wink:

Another thing you can do, especially since guitar is going to be your main instrument, is to make one day a week "bass day" and use your practice time accordingly.

There are numerous posts about how playing bass, even for the shortest of times, tends to help your guitar playing, not to mention your understanding of music in general and playing with others in particular, or how much it can assist your ear training. So I think the benefits are certainly there.

And you certainly don't have to sink a lot of money into it. You should get a bass amp, though (I seem to recollect that question from one of your other posts). A guitar amp will work short term, but you've got the keep the volume down so as not to ruin your speakers.

Hope this help and looking forward to your decision.

Peace


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
 

You can always play bass or electric guitar unplugged while watching TV.....

Like Margaret, I found trouble adapting to the bigger frets at first - and I have BIG hands - but I persevered and I'm glad I did, apart from anything else I found there's nothing better for building up hand strength. From a musical point of view, you'll think more about the fretboard and where the notes are - and if you're one of those people with a lazy pinkie, you'll find yourself using it a LOT more when you play bass.

If you want to find the time, you will.....

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@demoetc)
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I'm totally in agreement with the finger-strength, 'seeing' how things in chords work together, and the rhythmic aspects already mentioned. There's also the melodic element, because well, you don't really strum a bass guitar (though I do it from time to time for certain 'special' occasions ;) ) so since you're mostly playing one note at a time, you get a sense of melody to go with the rhythm, albeit a 'low' melody.

As far as your practice schedule is concerned, since you mostly are into guitar, I would suggest playing the bass 1 day out of 5 maybe, or if you're talking daily stuff, maybe 15 minutes on the bass, then 30 on the guitar. That sort of percentage. You don't have to go crazy with it or even try and make it even with the guitar. Just a little here and there and basically have fun with it.

The results can be sort of subtle at first, but at one point you'll start to see how things work together, and well, it's possible to start understanding musical concepts easier than if you just played the one instrument. It would be similar to joining a chorus or choir or something; you get assigned a part and though it's not the whole thing, you get to see where your part connects with everything else. It's more like iit increases your 'musicality' rather than musicianship, though that can happen too.

Next step, get a mandolin and start thinking in the high registers! :)


   
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 vink
(@vink)
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Topic starter  

Thanks for all the replies. The general thought seems to be that if I don't get too obsessive about it, it would be a good thing to try it. I will also talk to my teacher tomorrow, see what he thinks. He also teaches bass, so I can probably interleave one lesson per month or something with my guitar lessons.

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


   
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(@maliciant)
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I recently bought a bass and I have to admit, I probably play my guitar more than the bass, but the time I spend on the bass has helped a great deal with my guitar playing. I love trying to mix together some of my guitar strumming around with some bass, which has forced me to learn more about the music theory side and chord construction (at least when the chords I'm playing on the guitar involve the little e and b strings). If you are purely interested in improving your timing download the audacity program and work on trying to record multiple tracks together and maintain good timing.

You don't need a bass to do this, you could do something simple like play something on your guitar and then play a second track an octave higher or lower, or something I was fooling with last night, playing power chords, but only playing one note of the power chord per track. You could take a nice repeating riff like the one from peter gun, play the notes on the E string, repeat that measure 3 times. Your next run through play the fifth but start a measure later (cause it'll sound cool). Then the third time play it again with the D string starting another measure later.

(all 8th notes)
D ----------------224252762242527622425276
A --------224252762242527622425276--------
E 002030540020305400203054----------------

Of course you could play this using power chords in a single track, and that's kind of fun too, but that wouldn't really help the timing (this is slightly challenging to play in a single track and is a good practice exercise on it's own...).

Even though I said I'm playing my guitar more than my bass, it's probably pretty even and I'm definitely playing my guitar more now than before I bought the bass. I've considered getting a keyboard, though if I do I suspect I'll have to quit my day job to make room for my practice schedule... having a second instrument just allows you to do a great deal more and be more creative with what you make, trying to figure out how to play the other parts to go with the things you create etc is an entertaining challenge, it's similar to listening to music you normally wouldn't, in that it might inspire you with ideas to get you out of whatever rut you might be in now.

(editted in)
Just adding in nothin wrong about gettin obsessive about the bass, if it happens to really hit the mark with you, but that's probably not likely to be the case at least early on, if you do get obsessive about it, it was probably meant to be.


   
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(@vink)
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(editted in)
Just adding in nothin wrong about gettin obsessive about the bass, if it happens to really hit the mark with you, but that's probably not likely
to be the case at least early on, if you do get obsessive about it, it was probably meant to be.

Oh, that was mostly a comment about my limited available time .. the point was that I should not get obsessive about not having enough time, and hence feel frustrated that I am not practicing enough, etc.

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


   
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(@misanthrope)
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I tinker with the bass - I really enjoy it and it helps me break away from learning patterns instead of notes, but guitar comes first. I don't think anyone can tell you if you'll find it worthwhile or not though, is there anyone you could borrow one from maybe? (I'm sure you've thought of that already :wink:)

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


   
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(@vink)
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I don't think anyone can tell you if you'll find it worthwhile or not though

Yes, this is always true .. no one call really tell me what is right for me, but it is always helpful to hear what people felt for themselves, and it is also helpful to know if someone else was in a similar situation and how it worked out for them :-)

I don't have someone I can borrow a bass from, but, especially if don't get an amp right away, the expense is not that high. I can certainly use my toneport with headphones in the short term.

(PS: David, thanks for the answer on the amp question from my other thread.. good memory!)

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


   
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(@misanthrope)
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I play mine unplugged, or through my guitar setup - Zoom pedal and practice amp - perfectly good enough for learning. I'm playing bass with a band here and there too, for that I just use the Zoom plugged straight into the PA, and that's been fine so far too, although maybe lacking a little clarity.

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


   
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(@elecktrablue)
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I say yes to the bass as well! Since I got my bass my guitar playing is improving (or maybe my approach to it has changed a bit, either way, it's a good thing)!! And, like David said, there are LOTS of guitar players out there who always need someone to play bass!

..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
¸.·´ .·´¨¨))
((¸¸.·´ .·´
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"


   
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(@vink)
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Well, I already took the first step .. just ordered David's book from Amazon (and to get SuperSaver shipping, also ordered "Blues Licks You Can Use" -- isn't it amazing how you "save" money? :-))

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


   
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