Why some bass players never succeed

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In my long-time pedagogical practice in teaching students of different ages, I’ve noticed many mistakes. In this post I would like to point out 10 most common false guidelines in the very beginning of learning and practicing bass guitar.

Many bass guitarists are asking: “How can I improve my slapping on bass?” or “How to practice bass guitar the right way?”

So here are the 10 most common mistakes many bass guitarits and other musicians make.

1. I want to become a master right away!

They choose hard and virtuosic examples from the very beginning. Then they rehearse them for days, months and years and try to prove themselves with just a few examples. Such music could also be called “I’ll prove myself” music.

Bass Guitarist Prooving Himself

Are you trying to prove yourself too?

This is why we should begin with initial and basic exercises and upgrade them later on. It is also advisable that you don’t skip or leave out exercises. Also do not to practice just a few examples for a very long time. Instead, it is advisable to change them and let them mature.

Even a child that stands on his feet for the first time can’t start running immediately!

2. I want to know everything by heart

They often learn examples by heart and those are that few, although enviable, 155 examples of funk! All of these examples are, again, mostly complicated and don’t correspond with the needs of the music group in which they play.

This way a musician closes his path to new ideas.

In music you need to take your time and space. Music has to sound right. It goes the same for bass lines and solos.

Even three notes can have a good sound. Complicated and excessive rushing through bars seldom truly has a good sound, in a sense, that it is acceptable for the listener’s well-being and his ears.

3. I’m ambitious, gifted and I have a big talent

Though there are a few, the majority of success is based on persistent and hard work. Those without the systematic and progressive learning are just the ones that end up in a one way street without ideas.

4. I will learn everything by myself. I don’t need anybody in my learning process

They take the whole education into their own hands and are certain they master the subject. Autonomy is a good and desirable trait, but everyone needs a role model and correct guidance in their development.

Even the best musicians rehearse systematically and gradually. They reach their virtuosity gradually and with slow steps. These steps are also presented in my Big Funk Text Book – Slap, as a universal school of funk-slap.

5. The reasons for my failure lie in in the bass guitar, strings, effects, amplifier, etc.

They often change their guitars, strings and effects and spend a lot of time and money on it.

Knowledge first play with effects later

Invest in your knowledge first, you can add effects and special equipement later on.

Prerequisite for success is a quality school, correct teaching methods and regular correct exercises!

6. Poor knowledge of bass guitar

Before they even get to know everything regarding the bass guitar, they concentrate on the effects and various devices and expect exceptional results.

The basic sound of funk-slap is reached without additional apparatus and effects. Such are mp3 examples from my workbook, they are recorded exactly in that manner – without colouration and effects.

7. They are convinced that they are already very good

But the fact is they haven’t even got started with building their success and knowledge. It could take a decade before a musician really starts to hear the sounds.

Practicing certain techniques can take as much as a year or two! We build our musical personality our whole lives.

Young bass guitar musician

We build our musical personality our whole lives.

There are never too many ideas. It is always possible to upgrade your technical and harmonical knowledge.

8. They listen to only a few musical genres, or maybe just one musical genre and few selected musicians

There is nothing wrong with that, but listening to different genres opens up horizons, broadens knowledge and gives us new ideas.

All ideas and concepts cannot always be just our own – we need role models. But we have to make an effort to interpret the ideas our way and develop our own style.

explore music and develop your own style

And develop your own style.

We have to learn to listen to music and focus only on the bass, drums, or even other instruments and details.

9. They compete in music and perhaps even participate in some competition

Though there is a lot of competitiveness and rivalry in life, there isn’t much space for it in art. Therefore I do not support competitions between musicians, just creativity.

10. And last piece of advice, which is rather cliché

Slow and steady wins the race.

Here is the deal! You can always improve your playing skills, but it is crucial that you also practice correctly and use quality resources.

So, what is your experience and how are you becoming a better musician? Feel free to drop a comment!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gellard January 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

I’ve just started playing a few days ago. Thanks for the tips. Although with #4, I seriously can not afford lessons. Do you think this will really be a big problem with my learning?

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2 Ladislav January 28, 2013 at 11:15 am

Shure this can be a big problem, you need metodical and well defined practice so you will not loose time and will be able to learn properly. This is exactly why I created my ebook, to help students such as yourself. Best!

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3 Bethel June 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Please i want you to teach me how to play a bass guitar,i dont have anyone to teach me in my place but i believe that you will help me

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4 Ladislav June 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I cannot help you in person, but you can use my ebook which I believe can be of great help.

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5 topcat June 16, 2013 at 3:00 am

Hi, i’ve been striving to study bass for some time now by way of books,a semester or two at a community college or even picking up tips from here and there, and even online youtube videos and courses and to some degree it has helped but many times even with the knowledge of some theory i have not reached the goal of really being musical and creative. I wondered at times did i learn to correctly apply the scales or modes in the right way because i find myself struggling to play certain songs even though people say it sounds good, but my fingers are always struggling to stay in place with time. As for funk slap playing i can do a little but once again i struggle to stay in place especially with open string playing. welcome your teachable knowledge and of course i’am interested and will purchase the slap e-book i just hope it’s not another gimmick con that as many don’t really differ from any other. thanks for listening!!!!

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6 Ladislav June 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Hey there! It is a good thing when musician draws information from variety of available sources. This is how we broaden our knowledge, but only gatherning information cannot be enough to make you a musician that has it´s own playing style and personality. You will need a lot of self reflection and practice, practice, practice!

At the beginning mentoring is also very important, because a good mentor properly directs the educational process. It is necesary to always start with light exercises and short examples and when these are mastered continue to more complex ones. This is a method I also use in my ebook.

In your case consider correct posture of hands, both right and left hand and fingering. I really suggest visiting a good teacher – mentor.

I wish you much success!

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7 Wade June 22, 2013 at 4:42 am

When I first started, all I wanted to do was get better! It seems that with time, smoothness comes, along with learning. I’ve learned not to try to think you’re the best because there’s always someone out there that’s better!

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8 Alex August 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hi, My name’s Alex. I’ve been playing for a good four years, and I love to extend my knowledge as a player. I hate playing with a pick, it just does’t make me feel like a bass player, so over time I have developed a very strong finger playing style. Well, I’ve been trying to learn slap, but I’ve been having some trouble. What would you suggest doing mentally to improve my playing?

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9 Ladislav August 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Hi Alex, I am not shure what exactly do you mean by mentaly preparing, so please check some of other answers in the comment section around the posts, since I have already answered people with similar questions. Try also connecting with other musicians and play with them. This way you will learn new things faster, than only playing by yourself. Mileage will also add more mental preparedness to you.

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10 Suzanne September 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I started playing the bass a month ago, together with my friend, who also plays guitar and piano. The only thing I’ve played before is guitar, but I never felt passionate about it and I dumped it. Now, I really like playing the bass, it actually already means alot to me, but I think it’s hard, especially when I play alongside with my friend, who improves alot faster than I do (which is pretty obvious, since he could read notes before and also plays other instruments) but I keep comparing myself to him… Plus, I have a huge performance anxiety, which sometimes makes it hard for me to play with my teacher, also because, when I perfom, while I’m under pressure from my performance anxiety, I think it’s hard to understand and remember what I learn, because I get so nervous. I’m really scared for the lessons, because I don’t feel good at playing the bass AT ALL and I also consider that as a problem, because I like playing the bass, but yeah… I always think about giving up. But at the same time, I don’t want to. Can you somehow advice me to improve? The hardest things for me, are the rhytmic stuff and also making my own basslines.

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11 Ladislav October 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hello Suzanne, thank you for your comment. You say you only play bass for a month, which is still very fresh, so continue and improvement will come with time, guaranteed! I also congratulate you on choosing to play bass guitar. To find answers on your questions, please check this site and read other comments and posts, I believe you will find all the answers you need. I wish you much success in your playing!

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12 Greenhall Leonard December 8, 2013 at 7:38 am

Damn right – so many starters want to be playing complex riffs on a bass guitar they have owned for a week and played for three days. Got to get back to the basics and build.

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13 Lucas December 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I’ve been playing for a few years now and don’t feel I’ve progressed as much as I’d like to, I always take it slow but when i try playing fast it sounds sloppy
Any advice?

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14 kelvin January 10, 2014 at 12:03 am

my name is kelvin, I have been playing bass for 6 months now… I practice at least 2 hours and listen to alot of music. But i am now worried about my hearing. I want to know when I will be able to find a key to a song and also to identify the progression to the a song?

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15 Ladislav January 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

To Lucas and Kelvin!

When practicing you should have different practices for every style you play. Usually bass guitarists only choose a narrow type of playing. Same holds true for other instruments, not just bass guitar.

My advice is simple, do not expect big successes right from the start, though bass guitar is a relatively quick to learn instrument.

You can also stagnate fast if you don´t practice systematically, which usually happens when training without an experienced teacher. I recommend you and all the players, if you really want to understand music, hire a teacher from the start.

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16 Joel January 19, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Hey Ive been playing for 8 years and I feel like that I’m not growing, I actually feel like I’m trap in a box and don’t know where to go. Do you have any methods or techniques you can share with me?

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17 Ladislav July 10, 2014 at 10:21 am

Hi Joel, thank you for your comment. I have allready adressed this topic in previous comments and topics on this site, so do check them out. My e-book can also help you develop a better playing technique (this is why I have written it for) as well as give you some ideas to what can be done on bass. I wish you much success!

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18 Edmundo April 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm

great submit, very informative. I wonder why the other
specialists of this sector do not understand this.

You must proceed your writing. I am confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!

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19 Larry Duncan July 20, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Sir,I am almost 66 yrs old.I bought a Tanglewood 4 string bass 18 months ago….had 4 lessons in the shop I bought from but as a pensioner found I cant afford this any more.My big problem is the tendons on my right hand…I.m a lefty….even following the exersizes before playing,it is not long before my hand gives me an awful lot of pain…..should I give up,or can you give advice please.Many thanks in advance.

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20 Ladislav July 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Hi there Larry, thanks for your comment. Sorry I cannot help you with that, it would be best to counsult that with your doctor, I do not want to give you wrong advice here. If the pain is too great, it is probably better to reduce or give up the practice, or maybe you try out some other instrument. Best regards

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