Practice by improvising rather than learning songs

Hi everyone

I have started play bass one year ago now
I have completed Josh’s Bass Buzz course and I have keep practicing almost daily.
Now I take some in person lessons with a good teacher I met in my city.

Am I the only one that get absolutely bored by try to learn songs ?
I find way more interesting and funny try to improvise on some backing track.

What do you think about it , is it a good approach ?
I would like to know someone thoughts on this topic

Many thanks



I don’t feel bored by playing songs, there is so much to learn when you play different styles.
Playing along a backing track is definitely fun, but you stay limited to what you already know. Playing songs shows what the pros do. I do benefit from learning songs.


Hey Mea,

Welcome to Bassbuzz.

It depends on the goal of the practice. Why do you play bass? And what you want to improve. Improvising can learn you a lot about scales, shapes, etc. … but only if you will focus on these aspects. The same way you have to approach learning songs, however. Learning songs can be boring, but only if you take it just as the action for sake of it. When you learn songs and focus on the way how ratios, relationships, scales, and key, tempo changes work in an acclaimed piece of work. What does the bass actually do in the song, how does it interact with drums, snares, lead vocal, etc… . There’re hundreds of years of musical development and inspiration behind some of these famous pieces. Centuries of musical discovery and invention you don’t have to do on your own.

A combination of both improvisation and learning songs, both with a specific goal of practice, will give you the biggest benefit. If your goal is to be as good a bass player as possible. If you practice learning songs and only you do is … learning, memory stuffing your memory with sequences of moves and notes, that’s what you will be better at with time. The same with improvisation, you will just get at the level when you can do all your moves you already know on time and dexterously. (Like when you get enough muscle to do 12 curls with the biggest dumbbell in your gym. The muscle will not grow any more until it’s challenged by some stress and new impulse.) But you will not magically start to understand bass as a whole by simply practicing somehow. It’s what you make of any practice.

My 2 … long … cents on the matter.


Thanks Tomas, see what the pros do definetely a good point.

Maybe I have exaggerated a bit with “absolutely bored” but yes I do get bored when I’m trying to learn a song.


1 Like

Hi Wellbi, thanks for the welcoming and for the time you have take for answer me :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes definetely good points , see how everything work in a song and kind of show hundreds of centuries of music knowledge and wiseness that otherwise would have to be figured out by yourself definetely a point.

Why do I play bass ?

mmmmm… because I feel good when I try to lock into a groove. Because I like music and bass is one of my favourite instrument. Because I love low frequencies as well.

I do like to study some music theory aniway it is just try to learning a full song that bored me out , I feel I’m doing something more “musical” just trying to create a groove with the bass and try to follow a drum of a backing track.

But yes probably learn some songs will help.



My magic practice formula:

1/3 - Technique/Theory
1/3 - Learning Songs
1/3 - Improv

All roughly speaking. Some days it’s just one or the other, but over time it works out to about that. Works for me, but everyone is different. Just have fun. When you stop having fun, you stop playing the bass.


Yes having fun is the number 1 for me

nice one


I sometimes get bored with learning songs, or just don’t feel like it at the time. So I often put on drum loops and just improv on a scale to them. Playing a live bass groove on a 170bpm DnB break is super fun anyway :smile: Big Bass Energy :tm: Or slow it down and do some smooth downtempo stuff.

I have a lot of drum loops already, but I’ve been recording drum loops found on my old E-Mu Proteus 2000’s Beat Garden ROM. Generally more electronic stylings, but fun all the same.

Also, a lot of metal is all “lol f standard tuning, and we all tune to a different ‘standard’ so good luck!” so annoying XD

1 Like


yes I like to improvise on electronic music beat too ! On electro funk kind beat sometimes, I will try DNB.

If you want to pass me your beats , I will give it a go …


1 Like

Spead up your funk beats to 160-180bpm :smile: That’s how DnB was done back in the day. Sampling breakbeats, particularly the Amen Break

1 Like

eheh yes I know…I live in Bristol…DNB city =) …thanks !

1 Like

An online repository of decades old sample CDs and such. I can’t say anything about the legality of the content, but I imagine due to age nobody really cares. Lots of drum beats to be found, though. ORIGINAL JUNGLE BREAKS is an example of one. Don’t worry about REX files; they’re just a special format that is probably older than some of these downloads. Some software still recognizes and supports it. As per usual, your mileage may vary, download at your own risk, etc. Paging @mea1990

Sample CDs of Times Past

How do you use these? Unzip/unarchive a download, and it will be full of folders with more folders. Drag the .wav files into audio software and either duplicate it a lot, or tell your software to loop the region it takes up. I don’t know that the default software that comes with Windows or Mac (or whatever) can loop a music file indefinitely.


This is a great thing to do @mea1990, in fact, many instructors have a ‘pick a song, forget the bass line, make your own’ exercise. I will do this fiddling around while learning a song once I get the basic patterns and chords and just see what happens. I’ve been playing a lot of late Beatles stuff of late and noticing some riffs/patterns/style bits and then fiddle around on my own and guess what - still sounds like a McCartney line - kinda (so so not as good, but something is sinking in).

Anyway, long story longer - yes, its a great practice tool.


Koldunya, thank you very much, I’ll have a good dig on it !

Much appreciated

Hi John thanks for the tip, I never try to do that on an already existing song, I’ll give it a go


Yeah it depends on the song - generally best to choose one you like…

Improvisation is pretty much essential to becoming a well rounded musician. However, while an infinite number of monkeys might come out with the works of Shakespeare by pure improvisation, you don’t have the luxury of working on their timescale. At the end of the day you have to give yourself some tools to work with, i.e. learning some riffs, fills and chord progressions.

When improvising, try to avoid guitar shop noodling. Try to have a goal in mind: working with a song you know and like, try changing the feel (e.g. to a shuffle), try chugging the bassline, try a gallop, try inserting fills and turnarounds between chords, try turning it into a different genre etc. However, whatever you choose to do, be consistent - do it until it gets natural before you move on to something else.

Mainly try to enjoy yourself! And record it and put it here so we can see you.

1 Like

Hi Ed

good advises, have some tools to work with definetely an important point , nice one

recentely I have found this youtube playlist I like to try to lock my bass playing on it. Some are really challenging but I really like thoose rythims and I enjoy try to play on it.

And cool, I’ll try to record something


1 Like

I don’t think learning songs teaches much besides learning to play that song, and is really not a very effective way of learning play the bass. Improvising is far more educational and skill-building because it’s testing your bass skills in real-time.

Learning songs vs improvising is like writing out someone else’s novel vs writing your own novel. The former is passive, the latter active.


Stream mea1990 music | Listen to songs, albums, playlists for free on SoundCloud I have recorded a bit of today practice… little impro on a bossa nova style beat…any feedback welcome =)


Nice! @mea1990
You could next try adding different note lengths to mix it up a bit. and some rests. Silence is powerful in improv.