I’ve always been “into” music and, despite a brief time in my teens when I wanted to be drummer, bass lines are what really hook me. It’s no coincidence that my favourite playlists include great bass, and even the songs that I want to play in a covers band also feature bass heavily. For years I’d loved the playing of the likes of Ali McMordie from SLF, Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave and Donald “Duck” Dunn from Stax records / Blues Brothers, and I wanted to be able to play what they did.
Saying all that, I didn’t actually start learning till I was in my late 30s, so I had a lot of catching up to do. Somehow I managed to find time to practice for 60-90 minutes four or five nights a week, and an hour long lesson every weekend. My practice and lessons always followed the same sort of structure: scales, homework (generally new pieces from various tutorial books) and finally jam / playalong.
- Scales etc are boring to do, but so important, as they are the basis for any new lines you want to be able to play
- Tutorial books – especially those with playalong CDs – are also good, particularly if you want to learn multiple styles eg funk, reggae, rock, jazz etc. I worked through the three books written by David Overthrow – they’re brilliant
- Jamming to a drumbeat with my teacher – he played guitar – using lines I’d learned in the lesson or improvising new ones, and playing along with music CDs helped build confidence and complemented the styles I’d been learning
One of the brilliant things about this approach was learning about new players too. Jack Bruce from Cream and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin came to my attention, as did TM Stevens. One of my playalong sessions was in the style of TM and, to be honest, I’ve never managed it. Check out this video and you may see why.
I love the bit around 1:45 in when he’s introducing himself and has to stop talking, just plays then says “I’m back!”. That’s the result of a lot of practice! I’m going to keep trying, though I don’t practice as much as I used to, and one day I hope to be able to play at even 1/10th of the speed he does!