Your Bass "Ah Hah!" Moments

You big bunch of lovelies.

I’m in search of those moments where the stars align! Where you decided bass was the thing to do, where a bass line became discernible, where you figured out the right fingering, where the idea of root-fifth made sense - any time where you had a personal breakthrough with bass.

Here are two from me - one from teaching this week, and one from way back in Gio’s beginning years.

I was working with a student on Monday, and we were working on the 12 bar blues. I could see him having one of the Ah Hah! moments that make this music thing so damn fun.
He was putting together the deep, hear-it-before-you-play-it sound of the blues progression with his part. Learning where to play the notes was the goal, but I could see him KNOW what to do, and HEAR where and when it changed… just not sure where those notes were yet.
It was awesome.

One of my greatest Ah-Hah moments personally was with scales. I had this distrust? of scales. My teacher was always telling me that they worked, but I didn’t really get it. Just play these notes? And it works?
So one day I had the idea: Does the major scale sound good with itself? I played an open string (I don’t remember what, either A or D… let’s say the D string) and then started trying to play notes in the scale on the string above it. It created a bass line drone on scale degree one - the root of the scale. The open D. Then, on the G string, I started moving real slow around the scale. Hearing and testing each note to hear how it sat against the root note of the scale.
I loved it.
It was like getting to know the people in the neighborhood that I’d been sprinting by every day in my practice. It was also intoxicating hearing my bass make these larger, fuller harmonic sounds.
Such a huge light went of in my brain and my ears.

I’d love to hear y’alls’ moments, whatever they may be!
With bass-y love,

Gio

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I started playing around with the bass in March when we got locked down because I wanted to record tunes that I had written and bass players are non-existent on the base. After a while I decided I’d like to create instead of just follow. Started looking around on the Tube to find things to point me in the right direction…the funk box, the blues, box, the slap lesson I’m now at the point where I’m writing the bassline first and then molding the song to fit the bassline. The last 3 songs I recorded were this way. A huge disappointment finding out that writing and following my songs does not give you the tools to follow and recreate someone elses lines. Proud moment (I can do this) number one was when learned the bass line to Tears of a Clown at tempo.

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Man, I’ve never tried doing that, drone the A string, then play the major scale on the G string, starting with a higher pitched A… It does sound really good. And really bad if you play a major scale a half step up or down. Aha moment for today. And a little lesson on droning a string. Good stuff.

My bass playing is just one long chain of aha moments that happened over time, and that I now probably take mostly for granted.

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I have had some moments of clarity, but the tru Ah-Ha moment for me was after I had started working on Scale modes, by working thru them in @JoshFossgreen ebook, as instructed by Josh in an early lesson.
It was not the book itself, or the exercises really, although it was a big part of my early learning, and I can’t speak highly enough about that book and it’s instruction. But, I sometimes (well, always) learn better working with people, watching them, having them show me and / or having them tell me.
After learning the modes really well, and practicing the suggested exercises at the end of the Scale Mode chapter in that book relentlessly, I knew I was missing something that would make it all come together and make perfect sense. I knew it must be more then, this is a major scale, and this mode is major with a flattened note here, and this mode is major with augmented note here. I was not getting hung up on it by any means, but something pc of information seemed to be missing.
My ah-ha moment came when I was watching a video on another youtube channel and the moment when it was said " the C Major scale is all natural notes, and the modes are when you play a scale of the natural notes started on the next note. So D dorian shape comes from the intervals when you start on D and play natural notes in a septonic scale (did I get that numbering right?), and the next mode you start on E and the shape is taken from the intervals you play to get thru all the natural musical notes, and the next mode is playing the natural notes thru the scale starting on F, and then G and then A and Lastly B
So it really made sense of the scales that seemed to be somewhat senseless otherwise. It seemed like they just wanted to get a shape for every possible configuration, and didn’t do so much for me, but once I understood that, I felt like I stepped out of a dark room.

And reading back, it seems like I may have explained it wrong, even tho I do understand what is going on there.

And in full disclosure, the this information was VERY WELL written, AND in Josh’s Book at the beginning of the chapter the whole time, it just did not click until I heard somebody say it.

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I live for these moments! In myself and in others!!! Thanks for adding your story to the thread.

Ha! Awesome. You’ve taken a bold step into… (does jazz hands) Jazz Land!
doo beep, boppy ba-doo-squee-aiowww…

YES!! I mentioned this in an earlier post/thread - there are 1 million and 1 ways to grok the scales/modes. It took me 4 years and 3 teachers. When it connects… BAM!! So cool to hear your version.

THIS! This should be the title of the thread.

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I’ve had many of those “light bulb” moments, or “ah-ha” moments as you called them…

I’d say the two that stand out the most for me, and have made everything else so much easier are:

  • When I learned the concept of “stacking thirds” to make triads and 7 chord arpeggios. That concept turned what began as a complex matter into a piece of cake.

  • When I discovered how logically the fingerboard is arranged, and how easy it is to navigate from one note to another note or interval without having to memorize the entire board.

There have been many others along the way, but those are the two that jump out at me.

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@PamPurrs! This is glorious. (And now I’m going to reveal a bit of the behind the scenes motivations for posting this!) Any memories for how these revelations manifested? The steps that led to the door? The failed attempts that led to the success?? I’m trying to divine or discern some of the pathways to success so that I can (hopefully) aim students on a more focused trajectory!
…and also create a cool revelation repository here on our forum.

Of course, no obligation. I’m just so curious as to how we each find our way to these concepts - the moments where the bass world opens up and lets us in, and where we get that momentary relief from feeling outside-looking-in.

Those are the moments that keep me going, and I can physically FEEL them when a student makes the connection in a lesson.

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I played piano before beginning the bass. I don’t read very well and mostly play by chord shapes. Once I was able to learn where to find a 5th and where to find a 3rd on the bass, I could go “Oh, here are the shapes! Cool!” And then all the background in music theory just carries over. For someone with a theory background, covering more in terms of shapes early on works well, at least for me. That makes it all click.

That one video people like to post that shows dropping the fretting hand to a natural relaxed position down beside the body and then just hinging it up into playing position made a big difference in how I approach the ergonomics of playing. Everything became more relaxed and natural. It was suddenly obvious how to find good positions as a natural variation of how the body already wants to be. Along with this I also pulled my plucking elbow out so my wrist isn’t bent and my tone improved dramatically!!! It also freed me to position the bass back and forth across my body to make my wrists happy. It all stemmed from: “stand in a natural relaxed position and hinge into playing with the least amount of contortion possible.”

Another one was being amazed at how little fretting pressure is needed. The idea of fretting without any thumb contact on the back of the neck made me realize how little contact I actually need and again, completely changed how I approached fretting.

For music in general one of the biggest moments for me was the day I was noodling around on the piano and noticed that Fur Elise and Tocatta in D Minor had some elements that sounded kind of similar and I just started switching back and forth between playing segments of each one and then eventually I kind of figured out how to splice them and make an improv mashup of both. Until then I had really stuck to learning music as it is written. It was the first time I broke off and realized I could play something that wasn’t strictly written, but still sounded good. Up until then I had such a fear of just making a discordant mess and couldn’t find things that sounded good together. After that I realized that I could play without written music. This is what launched me on learning theory and shapes. I wanted to learn frameworks of what could sound good together so I could just play what I wanted.

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I’m with @PamPurrs on stalking thirds and that moment when I was able to slap and sounded like the real thing. Not sure how I was butchering it before, but dang, it sounded horrible. Now I can’t get that “beginner slap” even if I try… Ok… D and G string slapping still needs work (not consistent) , but I can slap that E string like no tomorrow!

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Is it weird that I get super stoked just reading this? It’s like I can feel the spark through the words. Awesome moments, @DaveT. Thanks for chiming in!

YES! Such a glorious moment. Congrats, @smurillo.

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Oh totally the same for me! I was getting so frustrated with slap… and did watch a bunch of videos and did a mini course to no avail. I simply started thinking “well maybe slap is not meant to be on my journey” or “my bass is not slap ready” or “my strings are old”

That is… until I found a video from Josh. It simply clicked… and from one second to the other I was able to apply the technique like it was second nature, and just like you I can’t mimic the previous behaviour

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Late to the party…

I agree pretty much with everything already mentioned… in fact, I think my bass journey is a continuous string of ah hah moments - which makes it so entertaining and rewarding! I guess it helps that I had some prior musical knowledge and that I am “older/wiser” as now a lot of musical bits and pieces have fallen into place since I picked up the bass.

I don’t know whether this counts as an “ah hah” moment, but I have this “YES” moment every single time I plug in the bass, switch on the amp and get that first sound coming out of the speaker.

There is just something extremely satisfying to get that rich, complex sound from plucking a metal string strung over a piece of wood.

It is also satisfying because it is so consistent… I guess this is hard to understand unless you have, e.g., played a reed instrument before. Getting a sound, much less a good sound, out of a sax is much more challenging. You need to carefully “prep” the reed (I spare you the details here :grin:) and the whole setup/concept with the reed is just so much more whimsical (if that is the right word). I really don’t miss it (a lot)… :wink:

Yes, you get that consistency also from a keyboard, but it is just nowhere near as direct, tangible and immediate as plucking a bass string!

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I completely understand you.
I have a good friend who is a phenomenal violinist. He would always say “You have to love the sound of your instrument. Otherwise, you’ll never play. You’ll never practice.”

I totally agree. And what a killer experience every time it powers on! Lush, deep bass sounds!!!

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This is not really the ‘Ah Hah’ moment I think you had in mind @Gio , in the sense it’s not about suddenly understanding how a piece of music theory fits, or how something I had been struggling with suddenly came good. It’s much earlier than that.
Me taking up bass was mainly accidental, in the sense I hadn’t been looking for an instrument.
When the covid lockdown happened, I realised I really needed a new hobby and focus.
I was watching YouTube and randomly watched a video of someone playing a bass cover of one of my favourite songs, and I thought why not learn the bass?
But the actual ah hah moment was putting the bass over my shoulder and the first time I played any notes on it. . Weird feeling but I just knew I was going to love playing the bass!
Previously I had played drums, and really enjoyed it, but I never had that ‘ah hah I found the right instrument’ feeling when I picked up the drum sticks the first time.
My overriding thought when I picked up the bass was oh shit I should done this years ago!

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This is exactly what I’m talking about!
I just love to hear how different individuals connect to bass. Could be a theory/practice/playing element, but I love this too.
Thanks for putting your stamp on it.

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