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  1. #1

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    Hey all, first time poster long time lurker. I picked up a guitar for the first time about 6 months ago and I’ve been struggling with it. I went into guitar center about 2 months ago and tried a bass just to try it and I fell in love. I was actually able to grasp it pretty well and actually managed to play a few songs. Movies series world For some reason the bass just felt comfortable to me. I felt at home with it. As a kid I actually always wanted to play the bass over the guitar because I’ve always been fascinated by basslines and how the bass holds everything together. I’ve been seriously considering giving up the guitar and going to the bass instead. Has anybody else here had a similar transition ?
    Last edited by Henrryparth; 12-20-2018 at 12:53 AM.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    I switched to bass for 10 years in the 80's. What little knowledge I had of guitar helped a lot with bass. I switched back to guitar in 1993 and only play bass on occasion. Don't get rid of the guitar but play both.

  4. #3

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    I do both too. There is a bunch of knowledge which is common between guitar and bass (guitar I suppose) but .....

    playing jazz bass is much harder than what it seems (less strings to deal with, no funny B string which breaks fingering patterns, etc ..)

    but it's not: bass must keep the rythm and harmony going all along the tune, can't stop playing during a tune, any mistake is perceived
    Perfection is in the Details, but Perfection isn't a Detail (Leonardo da Vinci)

  5. #4

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    I play both. Prefer guitar, because you can lay out. With bass, you can't daydream or get lost in the form. But it is easier to find playing situations on bass.

    Just starting out from being a guitar player, I overplayed; too many notes, too much harmony. The 1 and the 5 and passing tones covers most tunes (the guitar player should cover the 3 and 7 and stay out of your way). Figure out how to walk rhythm changes in the most common keys (I should say all keys, but if you get Bb and G down, the rest are easy to find). Nobody is going to complain about underplaying as long as you play the root when the chord changes.

    Here's a quick tip; check out the backing tracks on You can't go wrong playing those lines, and they are all simple.

  6. #5

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    Out of curiosity I checked these backtracks on One I checked was for How Insensitive one of my favortine tunes, and a bossa nova, a style I like a lot and which is harder to play than one might think. So I thought a few comments might help the beginner bass player

    Most of time I heard Root and the Fifth above the root being played, using the typical uniform bossa nova rythm pattern, dotted quarter note, eighth note. While this is correct, this pattern is too repetitive and monotonous to be played in a repetitive manner along the song.

    In order to break this monotony, at least also use the fifth below the root and vary the rythm in a subtle manner (i.e not every bar !)
    - that typical double (dotted quarter note, eighth note) pattern
    - dotted half note and one eight at the end of the bar before the dotted half note of the following bar
    - two half notes, no eighth
    - dotted half, then tied eighth and half notes
    - few embellishments/fills here and there, typically every 4 bars or so.

    Put another way, playing bossa nova well implies to use subtle variations during the tune. It would be the same when playing the guitar ! I remember one book on brazilian rythm which says that in bossa nova tunes, there are in order of 20 different rythm patterns which can be used over two bars
    Perfection is in the Details, but Perfection isn't a Detail (Leonardo da Vinci)

  7. #6

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    overplaying is the sin of most guitar-playing bassists. take it easy, listen to upright bassists as much as possible, and go for that groove and feel. by the way, bossa nova bass (the real thing) is simply quarter notes on the root.

  8. #7

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    Check out Mr Sunnybass on YouTube, you can listen to (and see) him play bass lines on every tune under the sun:

    - YouTube

  9. #8

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    I played guitar for decades and recently got a bass. FYI, it was a Squire Vintage Modified PJ bass a gigging bass player I know recommended - $299 NEW and it is actually pretty good. Any way, I really really enjoy how bass makes me really think about both the chords and tempo/beat in a way that is much more intense and very different than guitar. It is/was a real epiphany for me. I'm not saying one is better or harder or anything like that, just very different. I wish I would have done this long ago. Like ronjazz says I also like the minimalist approach and the whole "say more with less" aspect of bass. I have zero desire to play a bass solo and have endless fun playing standards with my computer (MIDI files - some cheesy, some okay out there).

  10. #9

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    having a bass and learning to play "Bass" lines will enable you to create your own backing tracks in keys you like at tempos you like if you're interested in doing some solo gigs that will swing and be fun. plenty of drum programs that can be customized as well, add a little rhythm guitar and you're good to go!

  11. #10

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    I transitioned from being a working jazz guitarist to a gigging upright bassist. It's been very rewarding for me and I far prefer playing upright to guitar.

    If you want to play jazz, it helps to understand the mechanics of upright bass, even if you're gonna play electric, because it informs the language. The short summary is that upright is typically played with first, second and fourth fingers of the left hand, with the third finger rarely being used, except in higher registers, where we barre the string with our thumb (usually above a high G on bass).

    Jazz bassists will use open strings a lot, especially when shifting positions. Upright is a physically demanding instrument to play, so economy is important, and open strings facilitate position shifts and such.

    Many great bass players play with essentially one finger on the right hand: The great soul bassist James Jamerson is famous for this, as is Paul Chambers, and Peter Washington. I play with one finger generally (in the "stacked fingers" style of Paul C and Peter W), and usually recommend folks start this way. It's not that hard to switch to two fingers later if you need to, and using one finger is simpler, gives a very big sound, and has a certain consistency to it, at least for me. I rarely play tunes faster than 300bpm or so and can easily play tempos there or below with one finger.

    For musical examples of some kinds of ornamentations jazz players use, either transcribe a lot of Ray Brown or Christian McBride, or get Mike Richmond's book which covers ghost notes, skips, doubled notes, triplets, and other things bassists do to add interest from a quarter note line:

    For a great, detailed overview of various Latin styles, get "The Latin Bass Book", which covers the rudiments of many different Latin musics (there are a lot, and the bass plays a specific role in each):

    For upright technique and constructing jazz lines, Rufus Reid's book is the gold standard that everyone uses:
    The Evolving Bassist | Rufus Reid

    again, it's good to know this stuff even if you are playing electric.

    Some common pitfalls that non-bass players make when playing basslines:

    - too much chromaticism. some people will play extremely chromatic lines connecting chord tones, of course there are examples in the music of great bass players doing this, but they balance that stuff by playing octaves, fifths and other chord tones. Listen to Ron Carter to avoid this pitfall.

    - playing extensions. Let them inform your playing, sure, but your role is to provide the foundation that harmonic instruments will add color to. You do not need to be playing a b13 on a dominant seventh. Again, check out Ron Carter's lines on all those complex wayne tunes (the wayne shorter jamey aebersold is a very clear recording of the kind of stuff Ron plays on these tunes)

    - too much spice: too many skips and anticipations and other such devices. treat ornamentation like salt, you don't want to overdo it and spoil the dish. an even carpet of walking quarter notes is a beautiful thing. Percy Heath and Sam Jones are masters of this, as is pretty much every famous jazz bassist.

    - playing too much on top of or behind the beat. in jazz, it sounds great when soloists lay back on 8th notes because it is sounding against a very solid pulse right in the middle of the beat, i.e., you. you can use your judgement here, but again you usually want to be right in the center of the beat. Sam Jones is your man here, Ron Carter too.

    Hope this helps!