Can't play with backing track or Josh talking

I really need some advice here…

I’m going to use Module 7 Lesson 6, “In the Midnight Hour” as an example, but this is a problem I have regardless of what I’m trying to play.

I find that after much practice and repetition, playing off the sheet music, I can nail it. I can hear the song in my head and I play with it perfectly. But if I try to play it while watching the lesson and Josh is talking, I get confused and totally lose it. I suspected it was Josh’s counting and giving fingering instructions that was confusing me, but when I try to play to along with the backing track, with just the drums, musicians, and Wilson Pickett singing, I still lose it. I turn the track off, and voila, I play it perfectly again.
This concerns me because if I can’t stay focused with only a backing track, in the privacy and solitude of my own home, how would I ever manage to play with others?
Is this a common problem? If so, is there anything I can do get over this obstacle?
Thanks!

Pam

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Hm, the way you describe it… yes, it could become a challenge for you. But, I am sure you can work with it and rectify this fairly easily.

Have you ever played in a band, or together with other people? Playing by yourself can create the “illusion” that you play something perfectly, mainly because there is not external yardstick. Once you play with others, any flaws you might have regarding rhythm, timing etc will become more obvious, and once you notice you are out of sync you might even get “thrown off that horse” entirely (because you try to adjust your playing on the fly, which is tough for a beginner).

I would suggest you play some simple patterns or grooves (even just quarter notes) together with a metronome first and see how that feels. Does that feel natural? Unnatural? Annoying? Mechanical? Do you feel rushed? Do you feel you have to “wait” for the metronome to catch up with you? A lot of people don’t like playing to a metronome, but it is essential for long term success to use one as often as possible.

If you really don’t like it (or, if it works out OK and you just get a little tired of the monotonous metronome), you could try to play to some drum grooves/loops. There are apps out there that let you play loops recorded by real drummers and then you can play along to that. This could be a rock groove, shuffle, swing or other styles. This is more “natural” than when playing with a metronome, but it can also be a bit more confusing if you are not used to isolating the “important” bits from what the drummer plays.

Check out @JoshFossgreen’s most recent YouTube video (also here in the forum), where he talks about playing along to a drum track. He also has some rhythm exercises in the course (I can’t remember which module right now), where you further train your internal clock and sense of timing.

Good luck!

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Good point @joergkutter, I have noticed that and I agree completely! :+1:

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Yeah I am finding that I regret not practicing with a drum track more myself.

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I wonder the same thing too - along the lines of I can get some of this stuff in my own home, watching the lessons, (and rewinding as needed!), but how will this translate in the “real world” with others?

I think one solution that has helped me with my own (many) bass playing deficiencies has been to trust Josh when he says, “keep going, come back to it later, you may be surprised that something that troubled you before is now better, after more lessons”. Maybe not his exact words, but it was true today for me when I went back to Billie Jean after a month away from it, and I can almost 100% nail the Medium speed.

Also, some others here have mentioned rhythm/groove - I just started on Module 14 today, and Lesson 1 there is actually “easier” in many ways than these last few modules I’ve slowly gotten through. And it’s all about developing a sense of rhythm. Not saying anyone should do these lessons out of order, I know Josh created a formula for learning that is really good, but just letting you know he kind of addresses stuff like this later on! (And I think I see something in Mod 15 up ahead about syncing with a drummer)

Great hearing all the advice from the B2B “grads” as well :slight_smile:

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just thinking a bit different : what if you tried playing with other people ? you might have some friends who play music and would be happy to help you in this experience.
it could be a very easy song, something that doesn’t challenge you : nobody said music had to be complex to be fun. this would build some confidence, and you would have the interraction with people that you can’t have with a backing track. in the worst case, if you make some mistakes … well, that’s not a big deal ! you will laugh and retry, that’s all :slight_smile:

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Since I posted this, I got myself a metronome from Amazon and tried playing “Midnight Hour” to it. I set it on 112 bpm (the tempo on the music sheet). I totally lost it! It seems I can’t concentrate on where my fretting fingers are supposed to go, and which string to pluck, while simultaneously trying to maintain the beat. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!
I throttled the metronome down to 60 bpm and tried that, but still struggled. I’m going to work on this until I can overcome it at 60, and then gradually work up to 112.

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If it is any consolation I dislike metronomes myself and do much worse with them than I do with drum tracks. There’s a lot more aural cues in a drum track.

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@PamPurrs - it’s all going to be OK! promise!! Every time a new challenge comes up either on the bass or on the bandstand, there is a huge learning curve and adjustment period.
I have a really hard time playing right now in large ensembles, because I’ve been used to small groups and acoustic music for a while.
I get real distracted and don’t know what to focus on*

So. It is a constant, but it is something that always gets better as long as you stay invested in practice and application of bass skills. There’s probably a nice corollary in your life. Are you a gourmet food taster? A wine connoisseur? A fine judge of horses? Cabinetry?

There’s are points in the pursuit of any specialized thing where your understanding moves from “this all tastes the same” or “a horse is a horse” to “this tastes like roasted blackberries, and must hail from the upper Napa Valley…” or “…something smart about horses…”

I hope you see what I mean. It’s an experience based problem you’re having, and it’s good that you’re aware of it, and it will go away over time.

**pro tip to my distracted self: focus on the drummer˚˚˚

˚˚˚and hope (pray) the drummer knows the songs

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Thank you @Gio

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What Gio said! The bastarding learning curve.

The bad news, even when you get really good, to keep moving up another level there’s always a new learning curve. The good news, when you begin to see the pattern of the learning curve repeat itself you’ll recognise it for what it is. And you’ll realise if you persist with learning that thing you’ll crack it. It might happen inch by inch or you might just wake up one morning and the penny drops.

I’m having to remind myself of this lots recently in my attempt to learn tennis, it’s kicking my arse good and proper but I’m inch’ing my progression in the same way I did when learning bass. Just with a lot more strings (sorry)

Often, it’s like this…

image

Other times, it’s often like this…

image

Occasionally, it’s like this…

image

So yeah, being able to recognise learning curves for what they are can remove a whole bunch of frustration, if one has the patience.

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Love these graphs!! Thanks for adding the visual element!

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I can so relate to what you are saying. I am having the same problem. Trying an online metronome for Smash Mouth’s All Star. It is torture, and I almost gave up on the bass. Started at 40 bpm and now up to 50. It’s going to take a long time.
It would be great if you were in southern Oregon and we could practice together.

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I lived in Portland for a few years prior to moving here to Phoenix. I would have enjoyed having someone to practice with.

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I’ve had the same issue on a couple of the lessons, probably because fingering, plucking, reading and listening to the music pretty much caps out my brain capacity and then trying to listen to Josh just puts my little brain into overload and things go haywire. My solution when this happens is to stop what I’m doing, just watch the lesson so I can pay attention to what Josh is saying, then go ahead and start over since I already know what he wants to get across I can tune him out and concentrate on playing the music.

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Hey @willobird, sorry you’re so frustrated! Please don’t give up, your bass will be so sad without you… :sob:

If you started at 40 and now you’re at 50BPM, then you’re progressing, which is great! Most people don’t have the diligence to really try to get rhythms right when it’s not immediately easy, and then they end up bulls**ting their way through challenging rhythms. I’ve seen it too many times, from “professionals” even… so you’re the real Rock Star, even if you’re at 50BPM!

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you even progressed by 25%, which is huge !

never give up, guys ! playing music is not always easy, and can be sometimes very frustrating, but keep in mind that we all have those hard times. you WILL success. we all do. it takes some work but we all do.

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So true. I have a bassline I have been working on for months now that I had to work up from quarter speed in like 10 bpm increments, over time. It’s taking forever but I’m almost there and it is super rewarding.

As beginners it’s a two edged sword - you’ll see very rapid progress on some things, which is awesome, while others will require tons of practice and work - which is also awesome in the end, even if it is sometimes frustrating in the middle :slight_smile:

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