Product recommendation- Bass guitars

Oh, Covid lock-down blues……

Ok, this isn’t exactly a product recommendation, because I don’t have a product to recommend to you just yet……. But I’m putting forward an idea, a concept, a spark to stimulate your own thinking? It just might help you pass time quicker during isolation.

So a few months back I received my Roland Hand Sonic, a multi-purpose digital percussion instrument, and as I was banging away on it bashing along to tunes off Spotify, I came to the realisation that I actually preferred the bass part of songs, than being the beat…….

Hmmmm, this posed a few problems, as I had just dropped over $1500 on the Roland, and only now at this late stage I’m realising that I prefer to learn how to play the bass guitar, Than Drums!? D’oh!

So I started to watch YouTube tutorials, to find out how difficult (or achievable) it might be to learn; and I was checking online music stores to find out how much a bass guitar can be, to allow me to join this bass playing fraternity. But like fads or phases, after a week or so, I got over it and I didn’t think much more about it.

That was until one Sunday, as we were waiting for church to start, a friend came to us and handed us a bass guitar, “Um, someone said that you guys were looking to learn how to play?” He said, as he handed over the bass guitar which was enclosed in its bass guitar bag to us.

“Um, yeah….” I could only mutter, as it felt so unreal, like I had only been thinking about it, and only my wife knew of this desire to try, but here it was, handed to us solid in my hands. It turned out that my wife had mentioned it to a friend (a bass player), and her second bass was making the rounds around the church, being lent out to people who wanted to tinker around on its 4 steal strings. And now it was my turn to tinker!

First impressions, boy it’s heavy! Carrying it back to the car I was so surprised by its weight. And trying to play it for the first time, boy the strings were stiff and quite painful to press down. And only after a few minutes of mucking around on it, I decided that the bass was probably not for me, as I couldn’t stand the pain on my fingers. I know! I’m a wimp! So I packed it away, and my largest achievement that day, was to find space in our apartment to store it. As we live in a small apartment, and everything has its place, and I hadn’t devised a spot for it during my day-dreamings. But I found a nook for it, and it was now out of sight, out of mind. To be returned back to our friend, the next time we saw them.

However in the first week, I kept going back to the bass, pulling it out and flick at the strings, still not knowing what I was doing. But the turning point was when I started to use a bass guitar pick. Sure, a “proper bass” player would never use a pick, as they’d be using their index and middle fingers to do the walking along the strings, But I simply couldn’t stand the pain! After following one YouTube tutorial, I already developed a blister on my middle finger pad, which annoyed me to the nth degree. But the pick was a vital key in unlocking the next subsequent stage- which was just spending more time playing it.

So after just putting in the time and playing it, I started to get familiar with where everything was. In tutorial one on YouTube, it was all about the E-string, so I’d play every note only using the e-string. Thus I’d move half way up and down the neck, taking way too long to play different notes, until my wife walked in and pointed out: “You do know you can play that same note on the A-string”. And that was turning point No. 2! And an addition to this moment of enlightenment, was my wife’s tip bit that I basically only had to learn 12 notes, and all of them can be played on the E, A and D strings, without going past the 5th Fret. And this piece of wisdom, I believe has been the most important factor in why I’m still humming along, on my journey of learning the bass! Literally and metaphorically.

Now that I knew that the note that I’m looking for, can be found in this small hand span wide area, it has made it so much easier to pick-up a song, and start thumbing along to it, until through trial and error I’ve learnt all the notes for that song.

Other elements which had helped in this learning phase, was adjusting our amp’s setting to max bass and minimum treble- now the bass actually sounds like a bass! Before that, it just sounded like a slightly deeper electric guitar. Secondly it was taking the bass permanently out of its storage nook, and placing it on a guitar stand, thus its easy now to pick up and play whenever the urge comes. And after I got over my marcho-ness and got over needing to play it “like a man”, now I regularly take a seat rather than packing it in after standing for 30 mins and my neck and left shoulder are screaming out to me to stop! Therefore sitting equates to spending more time playing.

To date I’ve learnt the bass parts to 4 songs, and google and YouTube have been a God send! As you can literally find everything you need there, be that learning what key the song is in, or a step by step tutorial in playing the bass part. It’s all there!

And finally, Spotify premium! Nothing like being able to request the song that you want, and play along to it over and over until you’ve perfected the bass part- sounding like you’re one of the band!

So yeah, this latest round of Covid lock-down hasn’t been too bad, as I’ve been spending my indoor time learning a new skill. So Covid blues? No low mood here, just the blues….. of the musical kind. I imagine the next time I post about this, would be a proper ‘Product recommendation’, where I’ve pulled the trigger and purchased my own bass- so this one can be passed on to the next budding bass player.

What I’ve learnt:

  1. Borrow, don’t buy- only after some hands on experience, can you tell if an instrument is right for you. And sometimes it just isn’t for you.
  • Don’t be a man- if I stuck it out and held onto my macho ways, I think I’d given up on the bass after week one. A guitar pick and being willing to sit down to play, has bought me additional time to learn the basics- and now I can build on those foundational building blocks. Maybe in the future I might graduate to big boy pants, and I can do away with the pick, and stand on my own two feet. But for now, my ass is firmly planted in my chair, and I need to stop losing picks, as I’ve only got 2 bass picks left. Ah!
  • Persistence- I’m not musically inclined, and my natural reaction when something doesn’t come naturally to me is to give up. But by persisting with it this time, and of course obtaining advice from others and YouTube, the bass guitar has been achievable. A good entry level musical instrument for those who lack any musical talent. And for those who have it, then you’ll absolutely excel! As long as you don’t find the bass parts too boring, and lacking mental stimulation.  

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