Playing the Bass

by Don on December 12, 2010

in Bass Guitar, Music

I’ve played the electric bass guitar for fewer than two years now. I’m making progress in my ability to play. I appreciate the support I’ve received from the other members of the Flatrock Irregulars, North Platte’s premier Irish Band, members of Holy Spirit’s music ministry and the folks at Open Mic. I know I have a long way to go but I’m feeling more comfortable with the bass. I’m learning “The Circle of 5ths,” scales, bass patterns and bass lines. I enjoy the opportunity to learn a new skill. At this point I know what questions to ask.

Learning the notes on the bass’s neck is a challenge. Musicians tell me learning the notes on the neck is an important first step for a bassist. I understand that advice and have set a goal to learn the notes. I will find the position of the notes on the neck without thinking of a scale first. I’m using drills to help me learn the notes positions. But, for me, playing is the most productive way to learn the neck. I’ve also discovered that I need to pay more attention to the timing of a song.

Like many tasks I expect to play expertly after picking up the bass. Alas it doesn’t work that way. Practice, practice I tell myself. Last night I practiced the songs we were to play at Mass this morning. I give special attention to one song in the key of E minor. I had the E minor pattern down and moved through the song. Then came the time to play the lively song and it was clear I had not given enough time to practice. I have learned when playing the bass there is a wide range of alternatives for any given cord. As long as I am playing a note in the song’s key I’m OK. A good bass line may include a variety of notes that support the root note being played by the piano or guitar. I translate that to mean it is hard to make a mistake playing the bass. Nevertheless I ask, “How many hours did I spend wit the bass in my hands last week?” Oh not nearly enough.

Learning to play the bass reminds me one of life’s lessons, if I want the skill I have to be willing to do the work. It’s time trade the keyboard for the bass. And the music plays on.

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