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What I learned today #4: About bass playing

When I moved to my new job/church/apartment/life, I decided soon after that I wanted to learn to play bass. That’s because my church has one bassist who’s just beginning the instrument and plays every other week. The media coordinator was all for my giving it a try to fill in the gaps on the other bassist’s off-weeks.

First of all, they had to get the strings replaced on the church bass. Once that was done, it could hold a tune and it made sense to start practicing. So I lugged the thing home after church last week, agreeing to try it out and perhaps start playing with the church praise band the following week or three.

So, first time I plugged it into a small amp and played with it, it was surprisingly easy (thanks to a YouTube video tutorial) and I fooled around with a few songs out of my old rock’n’roll music book and my worship song collection. I mainly had to practice remembering what notes could be played where.

That’s the biggest difference between rhythm guitar and bass – on guitar, the chord shapes are what you end up focusing on, not each of the six notes you’re playing. For bass, you actually learn to translate individual notes from music (or chord sheet) to the frets because you’re playing just one note at a time. Over the last week, I’ve realized how little aware I was of the actual notes I’ve been playing on guitar. Practicing bass made me much more familiar with what notes the individual strings are playing and where I can hit the frets in order to get other notes. (I’m pretty good now with Bb, Eb, C and F especially.) It’s also made me more in tune with the structure of the bass strings – how the notes relate to each other if you’re playing in a given key, like F or D or whatever. It has a lot to do with the music theory I’ve picked up. (It’s hard to explain but it’d be easy to show.)

Anyhow. A couple evenings of practice and I figured, hey, my guitar XP made it 90% easier to learn bass, so I’ll be ready to play along this Sunday! (Lookie there, I threw in a random gaming term even though I don’t do computer games. Oh the things you learn from reading on the Internet.)

So come yesterday morning, I lugged the bass back over to church and plugged it in. And borrowed one of the guitarists’ tuners to make sure it was in tune first (it wasn’t).

Praise band practice was swell. Playing with the band was different from playing with the music running through my head – for obvious reasons – but it wasn’t too much harder.

And during the actual church service, I hit only a few wrong notes during the three songs; I could probably count them on one, maybe two hands. And “You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)” (link goes to a PDF of a chord sheet) had a lot of changes in it. Well, it did as seen through the eyes of this beginning bassist, anyway.

Before last week, I had no idea it would be so easy to transition to bass. I might’ve done it earlier… had there been guitarists at my other churches to play along with. But I’m glad to be widening my musical abilities now!

(And as has been typical of these “What I Learned” posts, I’m about a day behind. I don’t care. It’s still new to you. Open-mouthed smile )


da_baum said…
Soon you'll be playing like this:
da_baum said…
Oh wait...wrong one... Here is the right one...
mafia said…
so is it base-ist or baas-ist? :-D
Sarah said…
John: suuuure I will. I have seen that video before and enjoyed it just as much this time as I did the first time. (That's a good thing!)

Abby: Base-ist. Like bass clef. Bass like baas is only for fishies. :D (Why does clef look like it's missing a letter??)
da_baum said…
It is so good! I miiiiiiight get to see him live in a couple weeks... :)
Anonymous said…
Well, if I have left two comments, please forgive me! My first one just disappeared! It was interested to read that you are playing bass. I have three nieces-in-law who play bass--and never knew anyone who played it before! Love it! Carol M.

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