#Music Lesson: Practice Tips for #Bassists

LA Music Academy’s Doug Ross graduated with honors from MI in 1988 and the University of Maryland in 1992. For over twenty years, he has performed, recorded and taught bass all over the world, including four years as head of the bass department at Fukuoka School of Music in Japan. A few of the artists that Doug has recorded or performed with include Brett Garsed, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Otmaro Ruiz, Fantasia Musical Circus, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, Gregg Bissonette, and jazz pianist Ron Kobayashi. Information on Doug’s activities and recent solo album can be found on his website at www.dougross.net.

Doug features quite a few bass lessons on his website here – http://dougross.net/bass-lessons/ – and he’s allowed us to “borrow” one for the Get to the Music blog! In this condensed version of his lesson, Doug offers tips for practicing your bass. Not all as obvious as you’d think!

Practice Tips For Bassists

by Doug Ross

If you’ve already been playing for a while, you have probably come to the realization that bass ain’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be.  Playing any instrument well requires a long-term commitment to disciplined practice.  I have personally experienced the frustration and wasted effort of bad practice habits, and I’ve also seen many students struggle to keep on track.  With the hope of helping you to avoid some potential pitfalls, here are my suggestions for maintaining a healthy practice routine:

1.     Every Day is the Only Way

Practice 5-6 days a week. Regularity of your practice routine will get you where you want to go.  Practicing 10 hours a day only on the weekends will never yield results like practicing one hour a day all through the week.

2.     What Do I Suck At?

This is the first thing I ask myself every time I sit down to practice — the guiding principle for setting my practice priorities.  After working on one skill for a while (like reading music for example), it gets better and becomes a relative strength.

3.     Practicing vs. Goofing Around

Let’s define “practice” as solitary, focused work on musical skills you haven’t yet mastered.  That excludes a lot of other valid musical activities: performing, jamming with others, listening to music, playing familiar tunes and licks, rehearsing with a band, and just goofing around with your bass for fun.

4.     Budget Your Time

If you can only consistently do one hour a day or even 30 minutes a day, then plan on that and divide up your hour into small chunks of time for each item on your “suck list”.  Even 5 or 10 minutes per subject per day can yield some progress.

5.     Break Before Burnout

If you are practicing for longer stretches of time, it’s important not to run yourself into the ground on any one topic.  Remember, we’re working on new, difficult stuff here, so frustration is a real danger.  Figure out your own attention span, and make sure that you get in the habit of switching subjects before you start pounding your fists on the music stand or your eyes glaze over.

6.     First No Time, Then Slow Time

Give yourself the luxury of playing out of time at first.  Once your fingers are making the right moves, then you’re ready to turn on the metronome at a slow setting and add that timekeeping element into the equation.  If you’re consistently making mistakes, that means you’re probably going faster than you’re ready to play, or biting off too big a chunk of music, which leads me to my next point…..

7.     Isolate the Difficult Bits

Don’t waste time going back to the beginning of that Beethoven piece every time, it’s just half notes and you can already play it!  It’s that tricky shift in the middle that keeps tripping you up, so what you need to do is isolate those few bars and work them out.  Repeat them a bunch of times, and once that’s solid, make sure you can also nail the transition from the easy part into the hard part.

8.     Practice in All 12 Keys and in All Neck Positions

Yes, it’s kind of a drag.  It’s one thing to understand a musical idea conceptually, but it’s something else to truly master it.  You don’t really own anything until you can play it in all keys.

-LAMA Staff

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One response to “#Music Lesson: Practice Tips for #Bassists”

  1. Philip says :

    Thanks for this great piece of advice! I’ve visited Doug’s website to check out his lessons, which are great. What I would recommend to fellow bass players is to check out Doug’s site AND another one I’ve discovered recently, which is one of the best, IMHO, if you’re looking for video bass lessons: http://scottsbasslessons.com . And it’s all free!

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