Understanding the Learning Process of the Bass Guitar

This illustrates what I call “The Chain of Sound.”  When somebody plays their bass, this is the way the chain of sound occurs in order of importance:

1)  Spirit, Soul- YOU!

This is where the feel, heart and emotions of your sound come from.  Everybody is different and we all come from a variety of backgrounds which contributes significantly in creating the individually of sound and personality on the bass.  There will only ever be one Anthony Jackson, one Marcus Miller.  When Jaco passed away, that was it; nobody will ever replace him.  Because it’s not about notes on the paper, it’s all about the vibe, spirit and soul. 

Marcus Miller Bass player

Marcus Miller

2)  Mind

This is where our knowledge, skill, thought, and ideas are constructed and developed.  It is also the place where developing the proper mind-set when playing in different scenarios exist.  As a player, when you are out of your own comfort zone, much psychology comes into play.  Anybody who is serious about their playing must understand the basic principles of music.  Jeff Berlin stated that it doesn’t matter whether you are playing rock, jazz or classical; you are still going to have to know what a G major chord is.  The principles of music transcend all stylistic classification.  Without understanding this knowledge is germane to not being able to read, write, speak and understand your own native language.

3)  Body

In order to play the bass guitar, we need to be able to develop some technical skill.  Too many people misinterpret technique for just being able to play fast.  Technique development includes a whole host of different elements that are very often overlooked.  These include, but are not limited to posture, correct hand positioning, stamina and playing pressure.

4)  The Bass Guitar

It is peculiar how many people actually believe that a particular bass guitar will make them sound like a better player.  Sure, you should have the instrument that meets your particular requirements for the music that you are playing, but as you begin to develop your personality, understand the basic principles that all musicians need to know and start to develop a strong working facility with the instrument, no matter what bass guitar you have in your hands, you will have your sound.  When I first saw Abe Laboriel live, he was playing a cheap old mail order bass that was terrible feeling and looking, but he made it sound like Abe!

When learning new information, the order of the chain of sound is slightly altered.  This often confuses or frustrates the beginner.  When learning something new, the first thing that you have to do is intellectually absorb the information.  This “understanding” phase is interpreted differently depending what kind of a learner you actually are.  There are three basic types: visual, audible and kinaesthetic.  So, nevertheless, the first stage when learning something new has to first be processed through the Mind.

The second step is to integrate the new information into your playing through disciplined and organized practice. So, the second element becomes the Body.

The third stage is often the most difficult to develop.  What tends to occur is a “yo-yo” effect between the first and second steps.  The reason that this happens is that many people are led to believe that they have mastered something when hey get to the stage of just cutting it.  I have a maxim, “When you get to the point where you can play something, that’s when you are ready to start working on it.”  This is deep, but this approach will help you to develop your ideas on a more intuitive level and thus bring the third and most important element of the chain of sound into the BIG picture which is the Soul

Simplified, this gives us a more complete and holistic approach to learning the bass guitar which incorporates all three elements: Mind, Body and Soul.

Peace

Joe

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