As the title states, I’ve formally started to learn bass in March. I’ve played a little of guitar before and a little piano as well but nothing really clicked with me until I tried bass.
My teacher encouraged me (a lot) to join one of the bands at the music school, I auditioned for them and I got it.
Now, the “problem” is, before I was going slowly, learning songs I like, doing bass buzz and trying to improve my technique.
Now, since I got it, I was given several songs to learn during the summer holidays and I have found tabs/sheet music for them but they’re not easy songs to learn and with a lot of discipline and practice I’ve gotten to the point where I can mostly play 3/4 they gave me.
The thing is, I’m worried that because of the difficulty of the songs I’m learning now and probably more will be coming and my lack of time (and easier tabs) I’m just focused on trying to play them as well as I can with the tools I have now but that I’m not improving my technique or learning other things (or continuing with my bass buzz course), like slapping which I absolutely can’t do yet.
My classes are starting somewhat soon, and I suspect my bass teacher will be able to help me with some stuff, same with the band leader. But I absolutely don’t want to stop doing my own thing because the songs from the band are taking all of my time.
I have a full time job, and currently (including my bass/band days) I have only one evening free.
What advice can you give me?
How can I make sure I avoid developing or worsening “bad habits” while keeping up with the demands and while also still having fun?
First, I wouldn’t stop this again right away - it’s a golden opportunity and great training to being “forced” to play stuff outside of your “comfort zone”.
If you think about it, lots of (successful) bass players have gone through similar processes; playing as much they possibly could, without careful selection or only picking specific music or tunes they liked.
I think it is great that you are aware of the “dangers”, and that is also your best tool to deal with them - awareness; and then perhaps bring them up with your teacher(s).
For me, an easy pitfall is to become very repetitive (or even predictable) in what bass lines I come up with; playing the same riffs, the same licks etc.
So, I would just thoroughly enjoy this opportunity for growth (I am convinced you will grow faster and stronger in your bass playing in this way), but remain aware of things that you feel you fall back to, or things you feel you execute sloppily and in a not very satisfactory way, and bring those to the attention of your teacher(s). Or, work on them in your own time (if you can find it ).
I would also add this…
A lot of pro bass players have a lot of bad habits.
The kids who learned in their bedrooms/basements/garage bands can always go back and fine tune bad habits. Ideal? - No, but since the goal is to play in a band I say go for that, play the songs by any means necessary, make complicated parts a bit simpler until you have the songs as part of your DNA, then bring in the tough parts.
And work on technique along the way.
Sitting home insuring 100% proper technique never made a gig.
They asked you to join for a reason, you can do it!
I’ll share a little secret with you. Most songs are can’t survive being a song without a bass, yet most people in the audience and even some of your band mates would have any clue when you make mistake(s).
I remember my first performance full dress rehearsal, I played one of the song entirely one step up. No one noticed not even me, not until I listened to the recording on the cassette tape (don’t judge, lol) we recorded I found out I was sharp the entire song.
Keep at it, if you like the kind of music your band is playing then push yourself. As long as you are not the strongest player in your band you’ll benefit from this greatly. Try to video yourself playing and practicing and watch it 6 months from now, you’ll be amaze how much you’ll have improved, just have fun.
All good advice from others. I will add…
Just have fun and enjoy the experience. It will do you more good than you realize. And don’t worry about slapping; you can be a great bass player without slapping. Just understand the chord tones and chord progressions, and follow the instructions of the band leader. B2B will still be here for you, and it will probably be easier for you to comprehend after having performed with a band.
This. Nicole Row is incredible (awesome jazz bassist who just happens to have been touring bassist for Miley Cyrus and Jimmy Fallon’s show band, and now for Panic at the Disco) - and she didn’t formally study music or other bassists. She just learned to play songs she liked - and if they were hard she just practiced them more.
Edit: Nicole learned to play very well like that until college - then she dove in headfirst into formal training at Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music.
“For example, I’m not a good slapper at all, and I don’t play with a pick. I remember Quincy Jones called me to play with him and he said, ‘You do play with a pick, don’t you?’ and I said no, so we decided we weren’t going to work together, because on the stuff he was doing at the time he really wanted a pick player. I can bullshit my way through it: I keep one of my fingernails long so I can play like that - but my facility isn’t there, probably out of laziness.
“As for slapping, I’ve had a lot of wrist injuries over the years and I don’t have a lot of dexterity with it. Once again, I have friends who live and breathe that bass style, so I recommend them when slap is needed.”
Whoa like smashing up hotel rooms and drinking bottles of Jack?
Oh right. I would say this isn’t a problem. Playing in a band is the final destination - the exercises are just the queue you have to stand in to get your turn on the ride. As long as you’re enjoying it, keep playing and the technique will improve itself.
I dabbled in it when I played before my SCIs but never was really fond of it and now post SCI and with wrist damage I’m not even going to experiment with it.
So don’t worry about the slap thing @monse_foster
If you want to learn then put it on the shelf and give it a shot when you can devote some time to it. If not then don’t worry about it.
There’s no rule stating that a bassist needs to (know how to) slap.
You’ll learn far more out gigging than sitting at home slapping bass.
Focus on your band. Have fun. Ask questions. Learn as you go.
You are in an amazing situation in your bass playing experience. Playing live is the ultimate goal as nothing is as satisfying as being “out there.”
B2B is very special, too, as “your trusty bass teacher” will always be waiting for you with a smile and a tune to show you a technique and a bit of theory, whenever you’ve got time and curiosity to learn more. Don’t worry about that.
And, if you develop some “bad habits” in the meanwhile, so what? Achieving proper technique is a lifelong pursuit. Your real-life playing experience will serve as a yardstick you can use to compare and contrast what feels natural to you versus generally accepted proper technique. In other words, your mistakes are actually learning opportunities!
Playing in a band is a special, ethereal experience. I know I’ve never been happier than when I played in bands. Enjoy it for all it’s worth, because you’ll treasure it forever. Have fun.
I think this is a potentially phenomenal/best way to learn.
But - having said that - it’s not for everyone!
My best and most productive learning periods have been in high-demand, concentrated periods of my life. The work that can happen when there is big accountability and high stakes is incredible!.. if you can handle the potentially stressful part of it.
I’m all for learning on the job, and then taking time - when there is time (and there will be! It just may take a bit) to really digest and work out what the hell you’ve been working on.
If it’s too stressful, I get it, and only you can make that call.
But the situation you’ve described above is such a perfect crucible to hone your skills! I hope it works out.
Thank you all.
I’m too much of a perfectionist and it’s been overwhelming, especially learning songs in their full difficulty being a beginner.
I’d definitely give it a shot and I know not a lot of people have this opportunity. I’ll try to enjoy it for sure.
No alcohol or drugs involved on those bad habits I mentioned.