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So, I am learning to play bass...

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  • So, I am learning to play bass...

    What songs should I learn to play? I can play some songs with hammerons (American Life, Schism), but my hands aren't strong enough to play them properly.

    What are some songs I should learn, and how should I build my finger strength?

    If any of you care, I am using a Japanese Fender Squire Jazz Bass with Ernie Ball roundwound strings.

  • #2
    As a man who likes to play Black Metal music, I often hear the word bass and my brain gets confused. However, on the rare occasions I've gotten to play a bass (since I don't own one myself) I like to play old blues jams.
    Quake is for nerds.


    • #3
      I don't know much about bass, but I'm learning acoustic guitar. My advice: start simple. My only goal right now is to learn chords, memorize finger positions for them, get fluent in switching between them...I do this by picking some simple songs with consistent chord progression. I know bass is a different animal, but any songs that are simple that allow you to effectively memorize basics are probably a good starting point. Avoid the tricky stuff till you have the basics. Finger strenght develops the more you play (I couldn't do a bar chord when I first started...I still can't do them proper, but at least I can hold pressure across the fret now).
      'Replacement Player Models' Project


      • #4
        Learn something by Primus.

        On a different note, my friend Jorge is an AMAZING bassist and he swears by Jaco Pastorious (I might have spelled that wrong. google can fix it). Jorge was an amazing guitarist before he became an amazing bassist though. The last I heard Jorge was actually the bassist for Exhorder. I know he at least toured with them as their bassist a few years ago (according to this)


        If you switched to learning scales and theory you wouldn't have to learn chords (per se) because you could just make them up according to their signature. Here's a simple one: A major chord is comprised of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of a major scale. So, let's say you wanted to play a C Major

        C D E F G A B C

        C E G are the 1,3,5. So, play CE&G anywhere on the neck with C as the root and feel free to include any/all of those notes from the next octave and you are playing c major. For instance, the open middle C chord on guitar is CEGCE. When you get your theory down you can easily modify shapes. In order to play a dominant 7 you play a major with a flatted 7th. You know C,E,G is a major C so C,E,G,Bb would be a dominant 7th. Want to make it a minor 7th...flat the 3rd. Scales are the root of everything. Take a simple jazz progression 1~ 6 ~ 2 ~ 5. That's indicating that you should play chords derived from the 1st, 6th, 2nd and 5th modes of whatever key you are in. An example would be C7, Am7, D7, G7. Scales have modes (ionioan, dorian, phryggian, lydian, mixolydian, aolian and locrian to be specific) The 6th mode of any major scale is it's corresponding minor. This means. as example C major and A minor are the exact same scale you are just starting from a different point.

        C Major
        CDEFGABC (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, te, do)
        A Minor
        ABCDEFGA (la, te, do, re, mi, fa, so, la)

        To figure out any major scale use this formula

        full step, full step, half step, full step, full step, FULL step, half step.

        to make it a minor start from my capitalized "full" and wrap back around to itself.

        I've been playing guitar for 26 years. Learn scales and theory. You could name any chord in the world, even nonsensical ones and I could play them straight out of my knowledge of music theory. I would never need a visual or any examples. Learning shapes isn't wrong though. You should go deeper and learn what pieces of the shape mean. For instance the first 2 notes of an open C major is a major 3rd shape. If you need a major 3rd in your chord there is no guesswork by already knowing the shape for it. The first 2 notes of a barred C major is a 5th shape, pick up the 5th so you are just doing the barre and you have a suspended 4th shape.
        Last edited by MadGypsy; 05-22-2017, 09:29 AM.


        • #5
          If I had to suggest any bands, I would say learn old Queen and Led Zeppelin songs. A lot of those songs have great bass lines in them.

          If you're looking to build up speed and dexterity, Check out Rancid Green Day songs from the 90's. You can jump to Descendents once you master some of those. =)


          • #6
            Originally posted by SpecialBomb View Post
            What songs should I learn to play? I can play some songs with hammerons (American Life, Schism), but my hands aren't strong enough to play them properly.

            What are some songs I should learn, and how should I build my finger strength?

            If any of you care, I am using a Japanese Fender Squire Jazz Bass with Ernie Ball roundwound strings.
            Are you sure it's made in Japan? Most of the non-US Fender/Squier instruments are made in Mexico these days. And honestly, there isn't too much difference between the Mexican and American models other than the BIG price tag difference. The American models tend to have much better and smoother fret edge finishing. Many American models have the more expensive nitrocellulose lacquer finishes rather than cheaper polyurethane which takes less skill to apply and buff correctly. In my opinion, the high dollar US Fender models aren't really worth the price for what you get over the Mexican models. And if it's a question of pickups, bridge components, etc, you can always upgrade those with the same parts they put on the American models and still come out cheaper.

            Finger strength is gonna take time to build. One thing you gotta realize is that a bass guitar really isn't a guitar at all. The electric bass guitar was created in the 50's to replace the upright bass with something louder and amplified in modern bands. The guitar format was just easier to handle. There are no solid rules when it comes to music and creativity though, so a person "can" play a bass like a guitar if they want. Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead made his entire career playing a bass mostly the same way that you'd play a guitar. But in most other bands, the bass is an instrument that acts almost as part of the percussion. Many people think a bass has only 4 strings and you don't usually play chords and shit with it, therefore it must be easier to play than regular guitar, right? Not true. Bass can actually be more difficult than guitar. Like I said, it's an instrument closely related to the drums, and it must be working together with the drums perfectly. Stops and mutes must be clean, and timing must be 100% accurate, or else the entire song will sound broken and lazy. The ability to play clean and clear on a bass takes a long time to develop.

            But that's the big word you're faced with: TIME. Do you have the patience and determination to trudge through the amount of time it takes to teach yourself how to play? Is it something you enjoy enough to do it for an hour or two every single day for a year and still not be able to play like some virtuoso rock star? Because that's what it's gonna take and that's how it's gonna be.

            Your fingers are going to hurt like a motherfucker too. When I started playing bass, I had been playing guitar for a long time, so my fingertips already had nice thick callouses. However, bass strings are much thicker than guitar strings. The fret spacing is wider too. This makes you have to use a little more pressure to hold notes, and within the first two days, I actually had bruises on my ring and middle fingers from where I had smashed the fleshy part of those fingers between my finger bones and the string. Part of that was improper fingering technique (using the side of the finger rather than the tip of the finger), but it's also just a natural occurrence. So expect pain. If your fingers get to the point where they feel bruised and the bones hurt, take 5 to 7 days off, but then get right back to it as soon as you can play without major pain again. You just gotta face facts that there will always be some degree of pain in the first few months. You have power through it though and eventually your hands get conditioned to take it with no pain at all.

            As far as actually learning things... your own ear is the best teacher. Listen closely to bands that you like, and try to figure out how to play what they are playing on your own. This will familiarize your brain with where the notes are located and help your hands and brain work together better. Later, learn scales, as many as possible. There used to be a series of books called the "Guitar Grimoire" series. They were mainly for guitar. They had one dedicated to scales and modes, another for chords and intervals, another for progressions, a chord encyclopedia, etc etc. One of the greatest series of books for pure knowledge about guitar. I had the scales and modes book, and as far as I can tell, it has every single scale ever conceived documented in it, some I'll never even have an opportunity to use because they're so weird sounding. Now... they aren't "lesson" books really, but you can use them to experiment with new things and possibly add some new tools to your trick bag. Anyway, they have one book called the Bass Grimoire, and I'd highly recommend it for any bass player.

            If your tastes are mostly rock (and it sounds like probably they are) then I'd recommend starting out learning blues scales forwards and backwards and moving them all over the neck. It's one of the simplest scales to memorize and can be moved up and down the fretboard with little to no change to the patterns. It's also the basis and foundation for 90% of rock music. Focus on memorizing the patterns really well first. Then once you can speed through them easier and play them from any position with the same ease, focus on technique (fingering the notes on your fingertips, fretting the notes clean, muting notes cleanly with your fretting and plucking hands.)

            Don't really think of the bass as a guitar. It is, but... it isn't. It plays notes, but the way you play it should resemble a drum set more than a guitar. And if you play drums sloppy and out of time, the whole song is gonna sound terrible. Same thing with the bass. Playing bass takes more precision and skill than playing guitar a lot of times. So if you picked bass because you thought it was "easy", you thought wrong. "Playing" is not so hard. A 10 year old can play bass in a week. But playing it "well" to where you sound semi-professional takes years of practice and skill.
            Last edited by Focalor; 05-22-2017, 01:04 PM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by MadGypsy View Post
              Learn something by Primus.
              That's kind of a goal, I am hoping to learn "Tommy the Cat," or something really complex like that after I get enough experience.

              Speaking of Jaco Pastorius, I never knew this, but the first technique I learned were harmonics, and I use them a lot. That was before I learned about Jaco, I could only hope to play one of his songs at any point. "A Portrait of Tracy" has to be one of the most beautiful things I have heard in a long time.


              Yes, it's made in Japan. It's not new, I didn't just pick it up at guitarcenter or anything. My dad got a really good deal on ebay, and he made very sure that it was authentic (he has used fender guitars since he was 16, and has also knows how to modify them, but he definitely isn't a luthier or anything). The serial number is E708756, meaning it was made from 1984 to 1987 (I don't want to open the thing up and look at it's pickups, so I used fenders guide here). It's really nice, but I have no way of comparing it obviously. In short, it isn't shitty and it's comfortable. The board appears to be rosewood, and that's the extent of wood that I can identify.

              I never originally played a guitar, I started out with a bass. Funny though, as I started playing two weeks ago, lol. I can play guitar, but I don't enjoy it as much. So, I don't try to play it like a guitar, although I will tap on it sometimes in order to play faster. Yes, I do agree that it's definitely a rhythm instrument, as I play it as if I had some sort of heavy beat in my head. Of course, I can't really do that since I haven't even learned a godamn scale yet, lol.

              I have time, and I am really interested too. I wanted to play bass, because guitar always seemed to be missing something to it, and bass had that for me. I am sixteen, summer is coming up, and I have already decided to play the hell out of it during that time (as well as Quake). I wanted to use a synthesizer, but those are too expensive, so I decided to just try and play what I have, and I really enjoy it. I just can't do much yet. Hell, I really wanted to be a percussionist too, but I would have no way to practice without being too loud.

              Hurt me plenty.

              I would have to work really damn hard in order to imagine where notes would be, as I am a tad bit tone deaf, but that's probably because I don't have experience. I will look at that book, if it's that good I may just buy it if I can find a copy. I hate reading books on a computer.

              I like rock, but I wouldn't play rock music. I want to play something that isn't super simple, and "jumps around" a lot. Because of that, I was thinking of investing in a five string simply because I could have more notes to mess with.


              • #8
                FLEA from RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS!

                2. Flea | Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top Ten Bassists of All Time | Rolling Stone


                • #9
                  Flea is good, damn good, but he isn't my favorite.


                  • #10
                    I always found this good practice :

                    Chilli Peppers -
                    nobody weird like me

                    I just like listening to these guys, a good reason to get a good system too.

                    S.M.V. - Thunder

                    Learning the classic: Schooldays by Stanley Clark is a must also!

                    Big fan of Michael Manring also : The Enormous Room

                    And on his Thonk album, another good finger technique one : Bad Hair Day

                    These are just a couple off the top of my head, Good luck with your Bass playing!

                    This is someone else's bass but I have the same one from 92'
                    Username : pointfile
                    Steam, XBL, PSN, WiiU & Desura too.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SpecialBomb View Post
                      Yes, it's made in Japan. It's not new, I didn't just pick it up at guitarcenter or anything. My dad got a really good deal on ebay, and he made very sure that it was authentic (he has used fender guitars since he was 16, and has also knows how to modify them, but he definitely isn't a luthier or anything). The serial number is E708756, meaning it was made from 1984 to 1987 (I don't want to open the thing up and look at it's pickups, so I used fenders guide here). It's really nice, but I have no way of comparing it obviously. In short, it isn't shitty and it's comfortable. The board appears to be rosewood, and that's the extent of wood that I can identify.
                      Yeah, if it's a Squier made before 1991, it was most likely made in Japan. They still have a factory in Japan where they make Squier and Fender guitars, but most of those are not exported, they only sell them inside Japan. Since the early 90's, the vast majority of non-US-made Fenders and Squiers have come from the factory in Ensenada Mexico. I "think" (not 100% sure) that many of the Fender guitars with "Made in USA" stamped on them are actually partially fabricated in Mexico, and then completed in another factory in Arizona USA. Nevertheless, they have 2 factories in the USA, and the oldest one in California is mainly where they make all the super high dollar custom shop models made by exclusive Fender luthiers.

                      They've always had a standard formula for the makeup of their basses and guitars though. Fretboards will typically either be rosewood or maple. You can clearly tell which it is by the color. Maple will be blonde colored, rosewood will be brown. The necks are always maple. Maple is dense and strong and doesn't flex much, which is why it's a popular wood for guitar necks. Fender bodies tend to be either maple or alder, but Squier models are budget models. Alder is more widely available and cheaper, so they always make Squier bodies of alder.

                      If you really want to know for sure, you may be able to email Fender/Squier through their website and ask them if they can find records based on the serial number to identify the year of production and it's specs. But... there's been a lot of moving and changing going on with Fender/Squier since the 80's. The parent company owns several different brands, and the Fender branch itself has bought up several different companies including Hamer guitars, Jackson guitars, Ovation guitars, Charvel guitars, Genz Benz amps, and a bunch of others. (They've damn near got a monopoly on the music market) And like I said before, they don't export the Japanese models anymore, so they may not possess or have access to the Japanese records anymore. But it's worth a shot if you haven't tried already.

                      Originally posted by SpecialBomb View Post
                      I like rock, but I wouldn't play rock music. I want to play something that isn't super simple, and "jumps around" a lot. Because of that, I was thinking of investing in a five string simply because I could have more notes to mess with.
                      I'm not a big fan of the Fender basses. The sound you get from them just isn't worth the price in my opinion. You can get more options, flexibility, and better sound quality from cheaper basses. A Fender bass is gonna hold it's value for resale better, but I'm not really concerned about resale value. If I buy a quality instrument in the first place, I shouldn't WANT to sell it.

                      I would advise against looking at 5 string basses for purpose of "having more notes to mess with" because that may not be true. The only extra notes you'll have easier access to will be higher ones. Bass players in a band setting really don't use many higher notes. The more strings, the wider the neck becomes. It would be a better idea to become proficient with a 4 string before deciding to try 5 or 6. By then, you may find that your personal play style doesn't work well on a 5 string. This is one of the pitfalls that the guitar retailer world lures you into: thinking that you gotta have these fancy gadgets and gimmicks to be a better player. When I started out playing 20 years ago, I had have a guitar with one of those divebomb whammy bars on it. But as time went on, I never used the damn thing. It became more of a hindrance to my playing progress than anything. It made quick and easy restringings and tuning a total pain in the ass. It was so tedious to keep perfectly in tune, and it sucked much of the joy out of playing for me.

                      But if you are in the market to get something a little better than a Squier, one brand I would highly recommend testing out is Ibanez. The two main lines of basses you'll find in stores like Guitar Center would be their GIO and SR lines.

                      The GIO's are the cheaper entry level basses, but for an entry level bass, it's made incredibly well. Most of the GIO models feature a PJ pickup style (jazz bass single coil at bridge position, precision bass split coil at middle position). The controls are similar to a J bass, volume knobs for each pickup, one master tone knob, but it also has an additional 1-band active EQ knob for more tonal flexibility. All Ibanez bass necks tend to be much shallower and easier to handle than those thick fat Fender/Squier necks too, something to seriously consider. The GIO GSR200 models are all maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and mahogany body. The top GIO model is the GSR200SM which is the same as the standard GSR200 but with a nice looking spalted maple veneer cap on the top of the body.

                      Electric Basses - GIO Series - | Ibanez guitars

                      The SR Standard line is their mid-level standard models. They're really comfortable to play, made well, sound great, and have plenty of available options. They do cost a bit more than the GIO's though, but it's well worth the price in my opinion. The SR300's up through the SR400's may have slightly different woods and colors from model to model, but they all feature the same humbucking pickups. The controls are a little different though. You have one master volume knob that controls the volume output of both pickups. You have one balance knob that blends between the bridge and middle pickups (all the way right is bridge pickup only, middle notch is both, all the way left is middle pickup only). Then below that, instead of a tone knob, you have 3 knobs to set the 3-band active EQ. And the active EQ on these basses is very pronounced and flexible, unlike other basses I've played with 3-band active EQ where the treble knob really doesn't boost that frequency much. ALSO... you have a 3-way toggle switch which can be used to run the pickups either as normal dual-coil humbuckers, or you can flip it to turn one coil off for a thinner single coil Fender-ish sound (coil tap mode), or you can flip it to the 3rd position and it gives it a slightly fatter single coil sound (power tap mode). I'm not really sure what the power tap mode specifically does, but it does have a noticeably thicker yet still distinctive single coil sound. Anyway, once you get to the SR500 models and higher, they begin using things like the better Bartolini pickups, slightly different settings on the 3-way toggle toggle switch, and more exotic woods. From the 500's onward, they go from the 600 dollar range and up.

                      Electric Basses - SR Series - Standard | Ibanez guitars

                      Personally, I fucking LOVE the Ibanez SR models. The body is comfortable and light, the neck size is smaller and easier wrangle than Fenders, and you have a whole fucking UNIVERSE of tonal possibilities at your disposal with the pickup switching and active EQ. I don't own one currently. My bass I'm using now is an old early 2000's ESP LTD C-series neck-through bass which is very comparable to the Ibanez SR models, costs more than the Ibanez SR models, but still isn't as good as the Ibanez SR models. So maybe one day if I have some extra play toy money sitting around, I'll pick one up.

                      My current bass: ESP LTD C-304
                      5piece maple and walnut neck-through-body neck, maple body wings, quilted maple top, EMG HZ humbuckers, 3band active EQ. Paid 360 for it used. I think it originally retailed for about 699 or 799 when it was brand new. 360 bucks for a neck-through bass? That was impossible to pass up. No dents, no dings, looks brand new. I'm playing flatwounds on it right now, but whenever those get crusty and shitty enough, I'm gonna switch to roundwounds.
                      Last edited by Focalor; 05-24-2017, 06:24 PM.


                      • #12
                        I don't have enough money, and I don't have a job yet. I also am not so into the hobby yet, and don't need to buy a great bass just yet. My bass may also need repairing, so that may suck.


                        • #13
                          Repair it yourself. It's not a space shuttle. Most things can be fixed by simply switching out the broken part with a new one. You may need to learn how to solder but, that's not all that complicated. If you have an intonation problem first make sure the neck is straight. If not, learn how to adjust the truss rod ( unless you don't have one). Then adjust the bridge. A simple guitar tuner app can tell you if your octaves match the open string. Trying to play natural harmonics with bad intonation can be another indicator. Simply adjust til it isn't tough to get the proper harmonic in the proper spot. You probably won't get it perfect that way but you will probably get pretty close.

                          I've glued shitty acoustic guitars back together and got them to play properly by messing with string gauges. I doubt your bass is that fucked up. Just take your time and do some research. Buy some other piece of crap with the working parts you need and cannibalize it. You might even be able to find what you need for free on Craigslist. I've seen "curb warnings" that included shitty guitars. Actually, that's exactly how I ended up gluing one guitar back together. I got it to work and sound pretty damn good considering it was basically firewood when I grabbed it.

                          Just don't go screwing anything. It will destroy the resonation in many cases. Use glue and dowels unless it's a part that already used screws. You have a bass and I'm assuming it's electric so, my last sentences probably don't apply to you for 99% of the problems you could have.
                          Last edited by MadGypsy; 06-13-2017, 09:29 PM.


                          • #14
                            Repair? Meh, not much to repair on a jazz bass. The worst problem you could ever have would be something involving the neck. Sometimes frets can be worn down from years and years of playing on them. They'll start to develop flat spots where the strings contact them. This can make the string engage the fret closer to the neck and mute notes faster/reduce sustain or cause annoying buzzing. Every so often, any fretted instrument needs a refretting. With a Squier though, I would advise against spending the money on a refretting. You'd probably be better off buying a replacement neck, or a whole new bass, because they're pretty cheap. Refrets usually run around 100 bucks. And I'd actually look to spend a little MORE than that on someone who knows how to press them properly and then further shape them on the edges. That's a big difference between the Mexican and American Fender guitars and basses. The fret jobs on the Americans are WAAAAY better. So when you refret any instrument, it's best to search far and wide for someone you know will take extra special care to polish and shape the new frets absolutely perfectly.

                            Only other problems I'd anticipate someone could have with a J-bass would be either scratchy knobs or a bad input jack. With most of the Squier basses, the input jack is right on the front plate, and all it requires is tightening the nut around it, otherwise you might have to crack it open and resolder a wire to the jack prongs, which is pretty simple. If the knobs are scratchy and staticy when you turn them... about all you can do is learn to live with it. Squiers use cheap pots for the knobs that aren't sealed terrifically, so they let in dust and lint over time, and that's what you hear scrubbing against the contacts. You can try using some electronic cleaner on it to help if it gets REALLY bad. It's called: CRC QD Electronic Cleaner. Make sure you buy it at some place like Walmart or a big home improvement store. I bought my last can at a local small-time Ace Hardware and they totally gouged me on the price. 11 bucks at Ace vs 3 or 4 bucks at Walmart.

                            Anyways, you just unscrew the plate with the knobs on it, get it away from the bass (cuz you don't want the cleaner shit getting all over the wood), then try to spray the cleaner down into the pots from the sides of the knob pole or where the wires connect to the side housing if theres a gap there. Then turn the knobs vigorously back and forth several several times to work the cleaner down into the pots thoroughly. Just don't smoke while doing it and don't spray it onto your skin. It's pretty combustible, and it comes out as cold as gas butane, which is no good for little fingers.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MadGypsy View Post
                              Learn something by Primus. (...) Jaco Pastorious
                              Hmmm... Claypool and Pastorius may be too much of technicians for a beginner to grasp! I'd recommend to follow Dutch's advice about starting simple: I remember the first ever riff I learned on guitar was Smoke on the Water and I butchered it quite badly... Try something like Another Brick in the Wall part 2, stuff like that. This one is great for learning rhythmic precision, because it's very basic but extremely steady, and sounds dull when you play it poorly so it incites you to try and do your best. Some stuff by Tony Levin also fits this bill. Once you start to improve, then you can think about upping the ante and be progressively more ambitious. Another good advice: record yourself. You can't imagine the difference of perceived quality when you're actually playing and when you're only listening to what you've just played. And when you play alone, play with a metronome. Your brain will learn steadiness more easily.

                              One VERY important thing: start or join a band ASAP, even if you still suck donkey balls. Much like someone who learns a new language in a foreign country, you'll never progress as fast as if you play regularly with your band. I once founded a metal band with a drummer who had never touched a drumkit before and by the end of the first year he was really starting to become very good. Also, practice your exercises at least one hour per day, everyday. You'll improve your dexterity pretty fast. Oh, and don't learn with a pick, use your right hand fingers (or left if you're left-handed). Picks can be nice later on to achieve a more metallic sound when needed but if you first get used to picks you'll have trouble when you want to switch to fingers.

                              As for building finger (and palm) strength, there's a very useful tool for that: I don't know how it's called in english but it's made of two hand-sized parallel blocks with springs in between that you grab and squeeze. Ask any instrument shop vendor and they should be able to tell you more about it.
                              Last edited by Mugwump; 06-17-2017, 08:27 PM.
                              ♪ I'm skiiiiiiinnin' in the pain, just skiiiiiiinnin' in the pain ♪
                              ♪ What a glorious feelin' I'm haaaaaaappy again ♪