OK, I wanted (read: needed) to share this with you, as I feel I have been on a journey together with many of you over the past many months, and I owe you all some thanks for so much input, inspiration, smaller and larger nudges and encouragements!
So, last week, for the first time in about 20 years I played music again with someone else – and, even more excitingly – it was the first time I played bass guitar in a setting with other musicians!
I had been doubting myself whether I should take the plunge, with “only” 10 months of learning the bass under my belt, but I was really itching to get back to playing with others. After all, that had been a major motivation for me to pick up an instrument again (even if it was a new one for me).
So, I had monitored a Danish site for bands looking for musicians for a while and saw a post by two guys (guitar and drums) looking for a bass player. They described their music as “melodic rock”. Now, my long-term goal might be to be able to play jazz, jazz-rock, fusion type music, but, really, I don’t want to be as “snobby” as I perhaps used to be, and the main important thing is to make music with other people… almost any kind!
Of course, some types of music and genres are just intrinsically more difficult and challenging to play than others, but – as it turned out after having heard some examples of the music these guys played – melodic rock might just be THE perfect entry to playing (again) with others, especially for aspiring new bass players!
Why? Well, because
- There are hardly any odd time signatures or superfast tunes with crazy chord progressions or overly complicated breaks (in fact, most tunes are in a moderate tempo in 4/4)
- There are no extremely surprising (experimental) harmonic structures involved (after all, “melodic” rock kind of implies it is pleasing to/easy on the ear)
- You are not expected to play rhythmically challenging, heavily syncopated or funky stuff (with ghost notes, slapping and what not); and most of the time chugging isn’t even required either
- As a bass player, you can start out with playing the roots, follow the drummer for some (small) rhythmic variations – and you are already doing a great job!
- Once you get more familiar with the tunes and are more confident in your playing, you can develop the lines you play. The way to do this is ALL laid out in Josh’s course – start with adding fifths (and octaves perhaps); involve the funk formula for variation; beware of major or minor if you want to add thirds; listen to the drummer; and so on…
I had “prepared” two of their tunes at home by listening to the mp3’s they had sent me and figuring out the roots and the structure of the songs and then slowly developing what to play along with it. I tried figuring out the chords by assuming the composition was following the diatonic approach (it turned out the guitar player is not overly concerned with these things ) To give you an idea of the type of bass lines that go with this kind of music, think “Don’t Stop Believing” from the course. If needed, you could play along first by just playing the roots and then later add the notes leading up to the next root etc. That’s exactly what I did with their songs and what worked…
An added benefit was perhaps that the recordings they had sent me were done very “quick and dirty” in the rehearsal room, and you could almost not hear the (original) bass. Which was actually nice, since then I could work on my own lines and not be biased by whatever their former bass player had played. (Of course, once we met and they heard me play what I thought would fit, they might have objected to it and started mumbling “Well, but our former bass player used to…” – alas, they didn’t and liked what I played).
I was very nervous, but somehow I also felt confident that I could pull this off. And they seemed to like it! After we had played the two songs I had prepared, they whipped out some new “scores”; in essence, chord progressions and structures ( sort of like “Intro-AABBCAAB-outro”), which I then tried to sight read and play. Haha, hilarious, but so cool to see how I actually found the root notes on the fretboard and made it through the songs almost unscathed. Of course, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well with a bebop or a death metal song, I am sure.
It was stressful, but in an exhilarating kind of way. It showed that I probably knew more and could do more on the bass already than I had thought myself. I was realizing stuff, which I had learned in the course, but not quite understood its usefulness/relevance, on the fly, while playing. In other words, it was such a great learning experience as well.
Maybe, just for completeness sake, I should mention that these guys want to play music for fun, perhaps a few gigs every now and then, but nothing more. Also, they are about my age, which certainly has some advantages as well… Whether we will completely “swing” on the personal plane in the long-term remains to be seen; but, we are going to jam some more soon!
So, in conclusion: once you’ve been through Josh’s course and kept practicing these things (and slowly expanding your repertoire), you CAN go out and play with others (also if you were a beginner to start with). Perhaps melodic rock is the indeed best option there is to get into playing music with others – it proved to be almost ideal for me!