Developing your bass chops can sometimes be a frustrating process. Many players regardless of their instrument) often find themselves getting stuck in a rut with their practice routines. Unfortunately, progress is best achieved through consistency, and it can be tricky to find ways to stay motivated to get better at your instrument. In this article, we’ve listed six different exercises or processes that you can utilize to improve your bass playing. Some of these activities can be done passively, while others will require some extra focus and attention.
At Home With Your Metronome
The best bassists have a strong command of timing and dynamics in a song. There is simply no better way to better your foundational playing than with a metronome. Any song or exercise that you practice without accompaniment should generally be to a metronome. You can buy one from your local music store or download a metronome app that you can carry with you on your cell phone.
Set your practice routines to specific tempo intervals. For example, try to do a G Major scale at speeds of 80, 100, and 120 bpm – working your way up in increments until you reach your maximum speed. The interesting aspect of a metronome is that it can often show us our playing imperfections at slower speeds instead of faster ones where the primary focus is to keep up.
Reach Beyond Your Limit
Much like professional athletes or other artists, musicians need to explore and expand their mental and physical boundaries to improve their playing effectively. The simplest way to achieve this is by attempting songs or exercises that are above our playing level. This exercise may feel counterintuitive to some players, but many players attribute their playing ability to testing their playing limits.
Pick a song or artist that you enjoy listening to but may struggle to keep with while playing. You can use a variety of means to play these artists’ songs at a slower speed. You can also break the song down into sections and work your way up from the easiest to most difficult parts – at your own pace- until you’ve mastered the entire arrangement. This is a tried and tested study, which has only been made easier thanks to technology. Sites like Youtube and Ultimate Guitar also offer musician-made song breakdowns that will seriously boost your learning experience.
Riff Offs and Shoot Outs
If you’re lucky enough to be in the company of other musicians, you can create some healthy competition by challenging each other to learn new riffs, songs, or tricks. Shoot Outs and Riff Offs are a healthy way to implement this type of competition.
Find some players in your local community. These could be fellow players in your church, school, or even musicians that you connect with through online forums and platforms. Set up a weekly time where you meet up and try to accomplish a similar set of goals. Shoot Outs are a kind of musical game where each musician takes turns improvising over a particular progression. The initial player sets the initial playing level, aiming to up the skill as the game progresses. You can also challenge each other to go home and learn riffs by your favorite artists or ones that you’ve written yourselves. Remember that each person’s progress is different, and try to encourage an atmosphere of consistent encouragement.
Questlove, the legendary drummer of R&B band The Roots, tries to consume over 4 hours of new music every day. That’s an average of 28 new albums worth of material every month. While this may seem like an overwhelming amount of music to consumers, it’s almost guaranteed that your ears receive a lot more passive information daily. Many top producers and composers will tell you that the most powerful tool in music is the ear.
If you realize just how much information our ears consume daily, you’ll be able to grasp just how much of that information you can curate to better your playing ability. If you can, try to avoid as many noisy or busy environments during certain times of the day to give your ears a rest. Follow up these quiet periods with focused listening sessions to set time aside to study an album or artist. You’ll be amazed at how much more receptive your ears are when you give them care and attention. Being able to absorb music with clarity will only better your ability to translate and repeat audio information.
There’s no better method to expand your understanding of music than to try and play another instrument. Musical arrangements are generally made up of various common elements like a backbeat, consistent hooks by lead-like instruments, and backing chords or countermelodies done by other instruments. By learning another instrument, you’ll be able to gain a deeper understanding of the context of your bass playing, seeing how it fits with these other elements.
For most bassists, it’s recommended to try and gain a basic understanding of the mechanics behind drumming. Drums and bass form the fundamental rhythmic drive and dynamic behind most compositions. Learning the fundamentals of drumming gives an inherent instinct for how the two instruments tie into each other.
As mentioned earlier, every musician’s path of progress is unique. However, if you wish to become a professional musician or even a skilled hobbyist, setting aside a fixed schedule dedicated to bettering your bass playing is imperative. It’s also equally important to dedicate yourself to enjoying this time practicing, as musicians generally improve much faster when they’re having fun with their instruments. Thanks for taking the time out to read through our 5 Practice Tips To Better Your Bass Playing.