Go play a REAL instrument!

It's only cool if no one's heard of it.

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razor
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Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:07 pm UTC

Well, I got tired of hearing that after all the guitar hero I've played, so I'm learning to play bass. (Ok that's not the real reason why but I'm short on wit right now)

Anyway, I'm really excited to play bass, but I'm having a lot of trouble. I like to play with my fingers rather than my thumb or a pick because I think it sounds better, but my nails are making things hard. I have high nail beds, so I can only cut them so short, and they grow back REALLY fast. So my options are either trim my nails uncomfortably short, or learn how to play with my nails. Neither option sounds easy or at all fun, but I'm willing to do what I need to.

I know music theory pretty well, I know how to read music and I know the notes on the strings, the problem is the physical aspect of playing the instrument.

Any tips/suggestions?
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby idlehandsrome18 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:33 pm UTC

Good bass technique focuses around playing with the pads of your fingers so I think you can keep your fingernails a little long, but shorter is better. Rest your thumb on the fretboard or pickup of the bass and use your index and middle fingers to pick upward on the string to make a sound. Alternatively you can pop and slap the strings to make sound on the bass, but the tone is totally different, more hard edged instead of liquid. To pop a string, pull it away from the fretboard and let go so it slaps against it. To slap the strings, use the side of your thumb to smack the fretboard and pull back quickly for the best tone, but this only works on the E and A strings. Try experimenting with different techniques, all players have their own style anyway, so I think you should be alright.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:49 pm UTC

I'm terrible at slap/pop, but I like the sound of it for certain songs and I know some people who can do it that can probably show me how to do it right. Hopefully after enough practice I can learn to overcome the nails.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby eviloatmeal » Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:17 pm UTC

2 cents:

Picks are addictive. I have lost all will and ability to play with my fingers. =(
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby armandtanzarian » Sat Feb 28, 2009 6:20 pm UTC

I miss my bass. :(

Back then I used plecs and fingers interchangably. It really is a case of personal preference; most punk bassists prefer picks, its easier if you play one note per bar in semiquavers. If you do a lot of walking, playing 2 notes at the same time etc., fingering is easier. Plus, you can't slap/pop on picks. If you do though, use thicker picks, at least 2mm. I find 3mm is best.

Fuck the finger purists, I used both.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:49 pm UTC

I want to learn how to get good at each method. Finger, pick, slap/pop, I wanna do it all. The two I have the most trouble with right now are finger and pop.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby idlehandsrome18 » Sun Mar 01, 2009 4:44 am UTC

If you think alt two fingering is hard, three fingering bass technique is absurd. I don't think there is any proper way to do it, bassists who are really good just play that way to spite people like us.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Midnight » Sun Mar 01, 2009 4:54 am UTC

idlehandsrome18 wrote:If you think alt two fingering is hard, three fingering bass technique is absurd. I don't think there is any proper way to do it, bassists who are really good just play that way to spite people like us.

i just use three fingers to spout off as many triplets as I can. It's not too hard, but I can't do like, straight eighth notes with three fingers. It has to be triplets. Helps in songs with galloping (like run to the hills). mostly it's two fingered. I use picks OCCASIONALLY but I don't like them. I think it's a bit of a crutch. my guitarist friend plays for shit without a pick, but unless someone cuts off my fingers I'm capable. I can understand it for chords in guitar, but I only do chords occasionally.

my advice is that, frankly, just cut your nails whenever they get in your way. now, I have the terrible habit of biting my nails, so they're kept short, but try to use the pads, and your hand doesn't have to be perpendicular with the strings. they can be slanted towards your body and you strum down, kinda, as long they don't slap against the fretboard.

i'm bad at slapping though. I can do it, just not anything fancy, nor can I solo while slapping.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:38 am UTC

Yeah, I'm also trying to keep them buffed so I don't have any of my nail pointing out for the strings to catch on. Two fingers isn't all that difficult actually, though it can be tough to make sure it sounds clean every time you pluck. Also I can slap decently, but popping is hard to get right.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby poxic » Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:54 am UTC

The few times each year that I play bass, I use a pick simply because I haven't built up the calluses needed to make fingertip-strumming comfortable. (I'm a keyboardist, dammit. When our [well-callused and ass-kicking] bass player falls over because her blood sugar has plummeted, someone has to take up that half of the rhythm section. Guitar One is better at it than me, but we can afford a keyboard gap much more than a guitar gap. And I suck cow farts on guitar.)
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Maseiken » Sun Mar 01, 2009 7:44 am UTC

A Bass is heavier than most other instruments that are actually held by the player, which makes it probably the most difficult to wield in single combat, but very rewarding. it's wide, thick frame offers impressive protection when held correctly (held high, and hanging down from the neck, giving adequate coverage of the head, neck and torso)

With enough force, the Bass will rip through most lesser instruments, including, interestingly, it's acoustic predecessor, and can even be a match for the electric guitar, although the latter is lighter and much easier to wield with speed.

Overall, the bass is an effective and satisfying melée weapon, capable of inflicting a great deal of damage, and only really failing in the speed department, gripping the neck close to the frame will negate some of this, and will also allow for the neck itself to be used for parrying or short-sharp blows when facing a speedier opponent.


Also, I can kinda play the bass, I pick it up every now and then and have a bit of a plunk, but really I'm a Singer/Violin player.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby poxic » Sun Mar 01, 2009 7:55 am UTC

Maseiken wrote:A Bass is heavier than most other instruments that are actually held by the player, which makes it probably the most difficult to wield in single combat, but very rewarding. it's wide, thick frame offers impressive protection when held correctly (held high, and hanging down from the neck, giving adequate coverage of the head, neck and torso)

Word. The bass I'm most often called upon to wield is a Lado through-neck, heavy as all fuck even after the solid metal faceplate was removed, and all the wiring too. (It's now basically just [contra-tuned!] strings connected more or less straight into the electricity, run through some sweeeeet tube cooking on top of a Workingman amp. Buttery fat yummy. Mmm.)
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Sun Mar 01, 2009 8:58 pm UTC

my bass is actually lighter weight than a lot of guitars, it also has a thin and narrow neck, very easy to play :)
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby SkaBassist » Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:14 pm UTC

I have the same problem. The main solution is to cut your nails as short as possible as often as possible. If "as short as possible" isn't short enough, then you're going to have to adjust your technique. Try and have your hand flatter over the strings - that helps, but not much. It mostly comes down to the nails.

It's a bitch, I know.
idlehandsrome18 wrote:If you think alt two fingering is hard, three fingering bass technique is absurd. I don't think there is any proper way to do it, bassists who are really good just play that way to spite people like us.


It's really way easier than it looks. It's just about repetition - the only way I was able to do it was sitting in class, practicing on my leg.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Midnight » Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:55 am UTC

well with popping.. just make a fist, then slap the thumb down, and then hook the digits of the index finger under the intended string, the top digit that is, and then.. pop it up. practice makes perfect, I guess.

and what kind of bass do you have?
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:24 am UTC

Ibanez SR405QM. It's a 5-string made of basswood with a quilted maple top.

One thing I do is sometimes play with my fingers purposefully. It can make a pretty neat sound and it actually allows me to play much more quickly, just gotta be careful to apply the same pressure each time.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Ptolom » Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:01 pm UTC

I haven't played bass properly for ages but something I've always wondered is how accepted is playing with the thumb. It's the only way I've ever played but I've never seen anybody else do it apart from my teacher (who was an amazing bassist.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby thatguy » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:12 am UTC

I generally use finger picking, but switch it up if the situation calls for it. I also have a habit of slapping the strings while doing it, kinda like John Entwistle.

Finger picking is a good all-around approach.
Pop/slap is well... you know. Funky.
A pick tends to sound tinnier, good for punk or thrash metal, I find.
Using the thumb gets a note with little/no attack and good sustain for me.

You can also vary how deep you sound by where you play: tinnier but faster by the bridge, slower but deeper by the neck.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby dburke » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:08 pm UTC

For the sake of clarity: in classical and jazz upright, playing with the fingers is called pizzicato On upright and electric bass, the secret to good pizzicato tone is (obviously enough) making sure only the pad of the finger is used to make the string vibrate. This becomes easier as your calluses develop, but fingernails will always be an issue. (You can't play pizzicato with Lee Press-ons.) If you keep cutting the nails a little short, they will eventually change to stay where they need to be. A nail file can also help fine tune the transformation of your nail.

As far as popping goes, I find my nail gets in the way if I have more than a couple days' growth. And man it hurts when it gets caught on a string. One thing that can help is playing a Les Claypool/Primus song that employs the flamenco strumming along with popping and slapping--it's like a very fine nail file while playing a song. "John The Fisherman" song | tab (the last one on that page is the best) is a pretty nice and easy example of this. You may be familiar with it from Guitar Hero. It's one of the few songs that actually plays very similarly on both guitar hero and the real instrument.

In the end, playing any instrument will be slightly different for pretty much everyone. We all have to make small changes in our playing technique to utilize our own physical differences appropriately.

P.S. My favorite bass-playing, tip/trick: tune your bass in fifths -- low to high C G D A. I found out about this from some real old-school jazz bassists who have used this tuning. The extended low end is a lot of fun, and you can't beat the mental exercise of relearning songs, scales and patterns in that tuning. My main bass is a 6-string but whenever I do play 4-string I can't help tuning it in fifths.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:15 pm UTC

I just started guitar lessons last week (second session tonight!). I know D, A7, and G. Woot.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby casiguapa » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:36 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I just started guitar lessons last week (second session tonight!). I know D, A7, and G. Woot.


For some strange reason, I really like A7. When I was 9, I would only learn songs that had an A7 chord in it. Sometimes, this is still the case, 14 years later
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Midnight » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:12 pm UTC

dburke wrote:P.S. My favorite bass-playing, tip/trick: tune your bass in fifths -- low to high C G D A. I found out about this from some real old-school jazz bassists who have used this tuning. The extended low end is a lot of fun, and you can't beat the mental exercise of relearning songs, scales and patterns in that tuning. My main bass is a 6-string but whenever I do play 4-string I can't help tuning it in fifths.



tuning my E down to C would make it go as floppy as spaghetti. The bass is fairly short scale so there's a big tensile difference with even a step down. Though, that's the only thing I like about my fender more than the gibson
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby thatguy » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:50 am UTC

I tuned down to Standard-C (I think. I know the E became a C...) to Play "No One Knows" by The Queens of The Stone Age, and I was surprised by how well my strings stayed taut.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:05 am UTC

Dudes, help me out. I can hardly hear the difference between, uh, a normal chord, and a x7 chord. Is that even the right nomenclature? x7? x7?
So I know A, kinda C, D, E, G. Who wants to jam?
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Dream » Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:59 pm UTC

You just need to train your ear. It is really hard to hear this kind of thing. The very reason the various notes sound good together is that they are all made up of each others harmonics.* So it can be very hard to tell them apart. It helps if you play the chords on a really good, clear instrument. Find an acoustic piano, and play the triad, followed by the seventh chord. You'll hear the difference clearly. Then go back to the guitar and try to hear the same difference between the two chords, using the clearest tones you can. (If the guitar is electric of course.)

It should grow on you after a few tries. Guitars can be very "cluttered" at times, often sounding six notes of a chord. The single note different by only a tone can be hard to pick out. Try playing a fast arpeggio of the three notes of the triad, and feeling the "shape" of the sound. Then add a fourth note, the "seventh", and feel how it is different.

This might help. Or not. Who knows, but it's worth a try, hey?

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:52 pm UTC

My eyes got really wide when I looked up "how do I play arpeggios guitar". Dream dude, I've had *2* lessons! So I'll practice this:
http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/arpeggio.php

:mrgreen:
With a java applet chord generator I can *kind* of hear the difference between the chords and their seventh counterparts. Kind of neat. It seems from a cursory and newbie glance over the one's I know that the seventh chord is slightly lower then the normal chords, is this correct?

Recommend me some picking/strumming exercises! I sat around last night strumming chords with zero rhythm, I want to progress faster then this once a week class is going.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby thatguy » Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:20 pm UTC

Learn something really simple, some guitar standard, and play it until you've got it pat. Then, experiment with changing rhythm, changing tempo, and riffing off of it. That'll help with your comfortability with your instrument and chords.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Dream » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:28 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:My eyes got really wide when I looked up "how do I play arpeggios guitar". Dream dude, I've had *2* lessons!

Ok :) Maybe not fast arpeggios. But if you work on positioning your left hand fingers properly and take care not to accidentally mute the strings with either hand, a slow arpeggio should sustain for long enough that you can hear all three, four or more notes at the same time. Then run through the seventh version of the chords you know over and over, and you'll pick up the chord shapes and fingerings fairly quickly, and I'd be confident that you'll hear the difference shortly.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Xutar » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:11 pm UTC

you made me try to unhighlight your avatar. Therefore I hate you.

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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:15 am UTC

Well, I've got basically everything down now, but I don't really know any songs yet. I have a couple of bass lines down, but I don't know any complete songs. Hopefully I will soon. I also hope I can get to the point where I can come up with some of my own riffs.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Midnight » Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:43 pm UTC

know what's a sick riff? the groove by muse. it's a b-side, and the song itself really isn't that good, but it's got good use of octaves. and septuplets.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby poxic » Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:06 am UTC

Don't underestimate the power of very few notes. I'm crap at bass, but if I have to sub in (or want to), I usually stick with just the base of each chord with a simple but nifty beat. It also has to be one I can keep up for as long as the drummer cares to go on, which is sometimes well past 10 minutes. *ow my poor fingers*

/uses a pick now
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Julien » Mon Mar 30, 2009 11:45 am UTC

I used to play bass when I was young(er). I'm not much of a bassist but still I can give you an advice : never forget it is an electrified version of an accoustic double-bass. NEVER. Imagine your bass guitar as a jazz instrument electrically modified to fit in rock music, just like the accoustic guitar of Jango Rheinard was changed into the electric guitar of Jimi Hendrix. I guess Hendrix himself never forgot about it. So don't forget either : a bass guitar is the daughter of a jazz double-bass.

This can change the spirit while you play, this can make the difference between you and some guy who played bass because there are only four strings on it.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Mon Mar 30, 2009 11:25 pm UTC

I'm not much of a jazz person really. I do recognize that it isn't simply a 4-string low pitch guitar though.

Sticking to root notes can be good, but it can get pretty boring for the musician as well as the listener. I like mixing it up by throwing in parts of scales and arpeggios. I prefer my fingers over a pick.

My favorite music to listen to is speed metal, and I'd like to learn how to play like that.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Midnight » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:55 am UTC

cliff burton is now your official deity. know, learn, love. the third (fourth?) solo in orion is a bass solo, before it speeds up again. he wrote that whole song. the start of for whom the bell tolls is also bass. creeping death, he wrote it. it's ballerrific.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby razor » Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:52 am UTC

I haven't heard much of Cliff's work, I'll have to listen to some of Metallica's older stuff.

My idol is still the guy who plays bass for my church's worship team. He's one of those guys who can listen to a song for a few minutes and then play it, he's pretty good.
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Re: Go play a REAL instrument!

Postby Midnight » Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:22 am UTC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm02dZdF76g that's his 4-minute bass solo that a lot of people want me to play for some reason >_>
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chu4BssoYbI <= bassist in that band is my teacher, and I dunno if you can really see it in the video but he's... insane. just came back from a lesson with him playing some funky latin, which I need to get better at. And he's monstrous. Nanosecond shifts, ghost notes all over the neck like nobody's business.
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