Why Your Bass Playing Sounds “Meh” (5 Beginner Fixes)

You hit the right notes… but something still feels off. Here are 5 subtle nuances pro bassists use to make it sound on.

0:00 - Do You Sound “Karaoke-y”?
1:14 - Connect the Notes
4:07 - Consistent Rhythm
8:01 - Subtle Slides
10:35 - Cut For the Snare
13:01 - Downpicking

If you’re doing the Beginner to Badass course, this lesson would fit once you tackle syncopation in Module 8. And those of you taking the 50 First Songs 100 Week Challenge should find these useful on quite a few songs!

Listening for the Little Things

[Josh gets on his soapbox]

There are a couple things I want to expand on from the end of the video:

To sound more pro, start listening for the little stuff - Even in bass lines that seem simple, there are always more details to find and nail better than last time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard students play a tune that they thought they had down… and then I gently break it to them that there are several things we need to work on. :stuck_out_tongue:

Pro bassists don’t think any bass line is beneath them - Because of the above point, experienced players (of any instrument) know that there’s no such thing as a song that’s “too easy” or “boring,” if you pay enough attention.

We all know it takes less technical mastery and speed to be able to play On The Road Again than it does to play Classical Thump -

But that doesn’t mean it’s “easy” to play On The Road Again well enough that Willie Nelson would want to hire you. The lack of technical complexity means you’ve got more attention you can put on nailing other details - locking with the drummer, nailing note length, getting the right tone, good dynamics… the rabbit hole never ends.

This is why anytime I get a message like this:

I say the same thing every time - just start at the beginning. Even if playing the whole notes in the first playalong is “easy” for you, that just means you have more attention to focus on other details - clean note transitions, comfortable technique, locking with the drums… again, the rabbit hole goes all the way to Wonderland.

So - there’s always room for improvement, even if you’re a legendary bassist and you’re playing medium tempo roots and fifths. /endrant

Alright, the soapbox is free for whoever else wants to step on it!

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Good one. The impact of playing around snare is really underrated. Some of the best funky basslines are genius in their two or three bass mutes against a snare in some mad drum break.
And there’re a few tasty basslines build around the interaction of a clap and a bass.

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Great video @JoshFossgreen . I think I’m guilty of not connecting the notes consistently . Thanks for the new tips!

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That’s a great video @JoshFossgreen , I picked up lots of great tips from watching it. I’m sure I’m guilty of some of Noob Josh’s mistakes, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so helpful to record yourself playing, and listen to it. It’s amazing how much you notice when you’re listening to yourself play.

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Totally. All that attention that’s normally worried about flying fingers, string crossing, and rhythm can just be listening.

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Good video. AND @JoshFossgreen got a snappy new haircut! Looks good, dude!

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Wow, I didn’t even notice that! You’re looking quite dapper @JoshFossgreen

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Thanks for the reminder/refresher, @JoshFossgreen - that should be semi-annual mandatory viewing :grin:

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Thanks @JoshFossgreen

Lots of good tips here. And anything with the Ramones is okay in my book. Not only did Dee Dee (and CJ later) down pick the bass, Johnny only played chords on the downstroke, which made more work for him but gave a really aggressive sound.

Now to give a listen to Rocket to Russia

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:+1:

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Great vid @JoshFossgreen.
Great tips for creating bass lines but also for covering for sure.
After getting notes under my fingers, I always try to listen closely to what the bass line is and how it was played. The sheet music (not tab) will get very close, but then sometimes there is still nuance.

It is really funny how our brains remember a song but when you critically listen to the same song it becomes very different. Agree every bass line can be improved. Every time I do a cover I think and think i nailed it (ie, got through it in one take without major “oh crap’s”, if I wait a month or so and listen back I cringe at how bad it was applying critical listening to it.

This video makes me think a ‘write a bass line challenge’ would be a good thing for us to all try and critique each other on how we could improve.

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Good video. Downpicking all the notes is tough for me, though. No amount of practice seem to fix it. Just 2 minutes into (say) a 150bpm song (e.g. Dakota, Stereophonics) and my arm drops off. Lactic acid. It’s the only technique that makes me want to change the length of my strap (make my bass 1 foot lower).

On the other hand, ‘down and up’ picking works OK for me. Plus, I can’t say I hear a major difference between down/up and 100% downpicking in a full mix.

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Worked for Hooky :slight_smile:

image

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Yup, same for Dee Dee Ramone.

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Poor n00b Josh. You just wanna give this guy a hug, don’t you?
Great vid - as always, it gave me several things to consider improving. I especially liked stressing the “awareness” on the drums. One of the things about playing guitar and switching over to bass that still gets me is the idea of how important that consistent rhythm is (especially on songs where you’re meant to leave a lot of space). I think you can be “close enough” on guitar, but it’s worlds looser than the expectation of the bassist/drummer relationship.

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Added to Module 8 on the BassBuzz YouTube Video Guide.

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Great video again Josh.
Slides is a big one I have been working on.
Definatly making sure to play them for covers, but also just adding them in places they seem like they would work.

Sometimes they actually do.

Actually they’re work after getting the timing right. It takes a-lot of attempts, anticipation, and work to know when to start, how gar to go, when to come back if you are sliding both ways between two notes, etc…

Very rewarding when you get them working.

I always try to spend a little time in each practice to focus on everything else you listed except down picking.
But, I don’t pick much, so i need to practice both down picking, and single finger plucking. I know a few songs O play with fingers that really would sound better with a pick. Guess its time to stop being such a finger snob

Thanks again Josh and Bass Buzz

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