I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

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Allaneightyfour
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I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby Allaneightyfour » 05 Jun 2017, 09:36

OK so, I picked up bass about 10 years ago as some friends of mine were forming a band and thought I'd give it a shot. Since then, I've always played in bands comprised of friends of mine, basically almost exclusively practiced band material only, and just generally 'gotten by' as a bassist to fill a gap. Basically, I've focused more on being a good band member, rather than a bassist.

Anyway, it's gotten to the point where my poor technique is really irking me. My band are about to release a new record on a fair sized label. It's going to be sold internationally. It's being played on Triple J. And all I can think of is how goddamn humiliating it was to be in the studio recording the thing, needing to compress the hell out of my signal to try and hide my uneven notes from my poor right hand technique. Remembering how in some songs I needed to change what I was playing to be all on the E string, not because it necessarily sounded better, but because quickly transitioning to A string to play some notes in a run was too difficult to do and it was sucking up studio time. In short, it's really sucked the enjoyment out of something that is supposed to be really exciting and enjoyable.

I need practical exercises that I can do to help improve my technique. I have limited time available to me, amongst band commitments, family commitments, and work commitments, so I can't just sit down and practice for 4 hours a day or anything. Therefore, I want to focus on improving my technique first and foremost, and once I've improved that I think I'd like to focus on other stuff - but technique is by far the most pressing thing at present.

I play with a pick. I'm going to continue playing with a pick, and am not at all interested in the "dude you should be more flexible by learning fingers too" - no time for that. And I have a job to do in this band, and I'm primarily focused on doing that job much better - not necessarily becoming a more well-rounded musician at the moment.

A lot of our material is a lot of up-down strokes. The strokes are uneven. I play too hard, I grip the pick too tight, downstrikes are louder than upstrokes. Playing runs across multiple strings often results in my pick getting caught and messing up the run. Notes don't sustain as well because I'm pounding the strings unnecessarily hard. It doesn't sound as smooth as I'd like. I don't want to have to feel like I have to compress the hell out of myself to just sound decent.

Are there any solid exercises that I can focus on practicing, say, half an hour a day, that will assist with improving the above deficiencies? Youtube seems full of tons of difference exercises, so ideally I'd like to be able to sit down with a couple of different exercises on youtube and just go from there. I just don't know what to practice at this stage, so I'm hoping for some guidance.

This is a pretty humiliating post to make so thanks for reading, and thanks for any help you can provide. Cheers.

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maxgroover
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby maxgroover » 05 Jun 2017, 09:52

I reckon a good start would be to play the bass lines for your songs really slowly, until you get them sounding even. Then, speed them up a little and get it even at that tempo, and so on until you get it to the tempo the song is played at.

I don't have a lot of experience playing with a pick but it's something I'm keen to do more of.. Like you, I need to get the muscle memory to a point where my hand knows where to go for each string I'm plucking. I currently struggle with playing the g string and getting it even with plucking the other strings.

There's no shortcut unfortunately but if you start slow and work at it you'll get your bass lines more fluent.

Good luck. :thumbup:
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rev matt
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby rev matt » 05 Jun 2017, 10:06

A mate gave me a run of lessons with Artistworks a couple of years ago. They are based in the US and you do your lessons via video. On top of that, you can watch other players and see what the teacher critiques them on.
It's not expensive and it is very good. They have lessons to cover just about everything you need or want to learn. Nathan East runs the electric bass lessons and he is very good.
http://artistworks.com/rock-bass-lessons-nathan-east
With these lessons, you can go at your own pace. I found them very useful for improving some of my technique shortcomings and theory blackspots.
Having fun is half the fun- Warwick Corvette $$ 4- Cort acoustic 4 - no name ebay special 5 (now fretless), Kala spruce fretless Ubass, Washburn M-3SWS mandolin , Ashbory and a 2001 LTD edition Warwick Thumb Fretless 4.

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narcdor
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby narcdor » 05 Jun 2017, 10:09

Allaneightyfour wrote:Basically, I've focused more on being a good band member, rather than a bassist.


You're already working with a solid foundation there, everything else is practice. An hour a day is plenty to improve rapidly so get stuck in. My technique is not great so I'm not too helpful on that front but to say keep your motivation up and there are plenty of helpful people here who will chime in with some roadworn advice.
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cleary
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby cleary » 05 Jun 2017, 10:10

Seconding maxgroovers excellent advice, I would also recommend you record yourself.

If you can go direct into a computer or software that can visually analyse your levels that would make it easier, but even if you just do it on your phone and listen back you should get a good idea.
The outcome being, to identify where those differences in volume occur, so you can slow it down and focus on those specific problem areas.

The key to efficient practice is to go straight in to the places you're making mistakes, and work to correct those mistakes specifically.
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absolutlytonedeaf
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby absolutlytonedeaf » 05 Jun 2017, 10:29

All great advice above, I would also consider practising with a metronome slowly and building up speed.
repetition is your friend ,boring I know but being able to coordinate both left and right hand will help immensely.

also look at being "in the pocket "with the drummer, listen to his kick and work with it.

good luck with it all


disclaimer: Im just a hack trying to become better

Allaneightyfour
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby Allaneightyfour » 05 Jun 2017, 10:41

absolutlytonedeaf wrote: disclaimer: Im just a hack trying to become better


Haha, join the club mate!

Seriously thanks very much everyone. Will check all this out when I get home tonight.

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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby bigswifty » 05 Jun 2017, 10:57

For absolute starters, don't be too hard on yourself :)

Apart from things like practicing and technical exercises (someone knowing far more than me will chime in I'm sure) can I just mention a few quick things to fiddle with - apologies if you've already done these.....

Firstly picks. I can't play bass with a pick, can't play guitar without one (some would say with one too but that's another.... ) ... anyway, I note that you're saying that you find yourself gripping the pick too hard and feel like you're playing too hard. There are lots of reasons for that, but one for sure is using a pick that doesn't suit what you're doing. Picks are so cheap there's nothing stopping you from dropping into the local shop and buying a handful of different ones. Be adventurous and try some stuff you think won't work - weird shapes, mandolin picks, gauges that seem ridiculous, felt picks. Apart from anything else it's a bit of cheap fun and you sound like you need a bit of fun. And who knows what you might find? Picks can make a big difference.

Secondly this is something I found with fast strumming on the guitar with a pick - any sensation that you're going to lose the pick, or any feeling in your fingers of fiddling about all the time to find the right grip is *death* to flexibility and tightens your entire forearm up. I don't play enough for it to matter, but it would not surprise me if it lead to premature overuse injury also. Anyway, a simple thing to try is to get one of your standard picks and an office hole punch, and punch a hole through the pick right where your thumb presses when you hold it. It's amazing the improved sense of grip and control you get when you can actually feel your thumb and forefinger touching through the hole. You can move the pick around easier, grip it less tightly, pretty much never drop it. Such a simple easy thing to try, give it a go. Like the one on the right here, only my hole would be a bit close to the fat/top edge of the pick - Image

Lastly, muting with your palm on the bridge/strings is a source of tension (and again for some people injuries). Many great pick players have played this way, but some of the absolute best have taken their palms off the bass, and muted by stuffing foam under the bridge or taping it over the bridge. There have been mentions of old socks, which I think would be a surefire way to cut down on studio time :) Anyways, this is something many of the all time greats have done. There's an enormous thread on talkbass.com which I can't seem to find just now, but basically I'm talking about the Carol Kaye method, which I'm sure you'll find if you search on her site. Basically it means cutting down on overtones and sympathetic vibrations via some object rather than your hand, and freeing up your wrist by keeping it off the bass. For sure the feeling of taking your palm off the bridge/strings opens up your wrist movement a real lot. If you search around I'm sure you'll find more about this.

Let us know how it all goes. I'm sure someone else will pop up here with some exercises for you.

Oh almost forgot - studio can be brutal when the pressure is on and you feel like you're gumming up the works. Try stuff you wouldn't normally, weird stuff can make a difference. Sit down, stand up, strap our bass up so high you feel like a dork, move around, clear the room (nothing worse than a crowd around you barking out ideas and suggestions while you're trying to focus), borrow a different bass - you have to be prepared to try anything.

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rev matt
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby rev matt » 05 Jun 2017, 11:15

One thing I learnt when I played mandolin was that the plucking movement on the strings should come from your wrist, not your elbow. This is not only less fatiguing but also more controllable. I play bass with my fingers, I can play with a pick, but just don't because I don't feel as much control over my tone. But this probably comes down to practice too.
Another thing I learnt recently is that as Mike said, Picks aint picks. The mate who gave me the Artistworks lessons was taking mandolin lessons from Mike Marshall and he travelled to the states for a mandolin clinic weekend (as part of another trip) where he was told about some of the picks he should be using. The attack chamfer angle, the hardness and the material all came into it, so he thought he'd buy half a dozen. Turned out he came away with just one, they were $40 each. He said they do make a lot of difference, but for him and his level of playing, it was probably not worth the money.
Having fun is half the fun- Warwick Corvette $$ 4- Cort acoustic 4 - no name ebay special 5 (now fretless), Kala spruce fretless Ubass, Washburn M-3SWS mandolin , Ashbory and a 2001 LTD edition Warwick Thumb Fretless 4.

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BazzBass
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby BazzBass » 05 Jun 2017, 12:10

like it or not, practice practice practice is the only way

Record yourself playing slowly up down up down up a string etc

do it over and over and over til you can't tell if it is an up or a down stroke.

once you release a recording there is no taking it back, so either re-record your part or learn to live with it.

My experience was always that the minute I record a bassline, the very next rehearsal I come up with a much better bassline, unavoidable hehe
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Rude_Mechanical
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby Rude_Mechanical » 05 Jun 2017, 23:57

Apologies if I missed any of these in another reply, but:
- What gauges are you using? Heavier strings will even out your pick attack a little.
- Where are you picking relative to the bridge? There's less give in the strings closer to the bridge.
- What picks are you using? Softer picks will be more forgiving if your attack is inconsistent.
- Can you play any of the material with downstrokes only? That's always more consistent than alternating strokes.
- You talk of messing up runs across strings - are they necessary? Any time you're just doubling the guitar, you can almost always simplify to the benefit of the song. I get more "notey" when the guitars are simple, to add a little contrast.

As an aside, what bass(es) are you playing? Some are more forgiving than others - humbuckers are naturally more compressed than single coils. I had a tough time with a '51 Precision Reissue vs my usual P basses.
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rev matt
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby rev matt » 06 Jun 2017, 05:58

I reckon you're aiming at the wrong thing. All of the things you mentioned about the impact of the pick on the strings are not the bass, string gauge, type of bass, position.....its all you. You have to learn to control the pick, use a hard pick, adjust you stroke with the grip of the pick or the movement of your wrist. Learn to play evenly on both up amd down strokes until you cant hear the difference. Introduce syncopation to it to set the timing (so you can hear that its in 4/4 or 3/4 timing etc.)
Last edited by rev matt on 06 Jun 2017, 09:09, edited 1 time in total.
Having fun is half the fun- Warwick Corvette $$ 4- Cort acoustic 4 - no name ebay special 5 (now fretless), Kala spruce fretless Ubass, Washburn M-3SWS mandolin , Ashbory and a 2001 LTD edition Warwick Thumb Fretless 4.

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onehandclapping
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby onehandclapping » 06 Jun 2017, 08:29

Have played bass with a pick for 50 years ,I find I play with a pretty light touch and prefer lighter gauge strings,I have basses with heavier gauge but prefer light.
As the guys have said just start out playing the part slowly and after a few days just get faster with out tensing up.I have started to play with my fingers a little more so on slow songs I I won't overplay as is the tendency because I can,fingers I can't.Good luck,don't be too hard on yourself
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billybass
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby billybass » 06 Jun 2017, 10:23

First of all, congratulations.

Knowing you want to correct your technique is the first important step.

Be kind to yourself, this art/music thing is a lifelong pursuit.
I am 66 years old, spent most of my life playing music and there has been many times that I have found the need to work on stuff and thought that I sucked.

Joe Hubbard has a saying, "you're not doing it all wrong, but maybe only half right" and it reminds me that you have made progress, now you just have to focus on specific stuff you want to improve.

If you have access to rhythm exercises, I could suggest you practise playing rhythms, whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eight notes and sixteenth notes.
Then mix them up and write out you own exercises and practise them, down stroke, up stroke and up down.

I trust your ingenuity, and in time you will trust your own ingenuity, you will find you own voice.
It's in you head and heart now all you gotta do is get it out.

Cheers BillyBass

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Ox Boris
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Re: I desperately need help with technique and don't know where to begin

Postby Ox Boris » 06 Jun 2017, 12:36

If you've been in bands for 10 years, playing live and attaining some success, as you have, then you should feel confident that you're a "proper" bass player and an important member of your band. Some folk are better on the road, some are better in the studio.

My advice is: Do nothing. Or at least, don't expect to achieve anything from totally revamping your playing style a fortnight ahead of recording. It may even work against you. If there's a couple of standout bits that you can work on, great, but make sure they're tiny little things. For instance, you know the opening bass riff for The Boys Are Back In Town? It's been giving me nightmares for days. Like you, I was just winging it at full speed. But last night I worked out that I have to play the first note with my forefinger. If I remember to do that, I hit the riff no worries. You can brush up things like that, but don't try to change everything in a hurry.

If the aim is to reproduce (as far as is possible) your live sound, just rock up and play your stuff how you play it. If the aim is to produce a perfect studio track, just rock up and play your stuff how you play it!
Because here's what's going to happen in either case: For the former, the studio engineer is going to take your bassline and tweak, move and generally sort out all the timing, peaks, squawks, buzzes and wrong notes. For the latter, he or she will just plug in the studio P and record your part.

Don't worry about it, you're the only one who can do what you do live and it sounds like you're doing that just fine. You've attracted success by doing what you do. Don't stress, enjoy it, man! Congratulations!


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