Project Du Jour: Learn to Play Bass

It turns out the jazz ensemble in the community band my wife and I play in needs a bass player. The group isn’t very accomplished (yet) and in four years they have never been able to attract a bass player. So the trumpet player, asst. director has been playing the bass part. Me thinks I see the beginning of a very nice project for myself, learning to play bass guitar.

Now I’ve had three basses hanging on the wall of my house for over 20 years. No, really! When I returned to playing the sax I used a bass guitar I procured at a local pawn shop for $50. My intent then was to work on my rhythm. I’d turn on the radio and play bass against some of the simpler songs. It actually was fun. And I have played guitar since high school, albeit not putting any time into it.

I pulled out my trusty axe, tuned it using a free tuner on the internet, and got my 10 watt practice amp out. Then I watched two “Playing Beginning Bass Guitar” vids on YouTube. So far so good. Still hafta figure out if the active pickup on the Peavy is more trouble than it is worth. And I think I’ll pass on the pedal.

Then I pinged the director and this thread ensued.

Bob: I’ve attached copies of the combo music we’re playing. This isn’t what we’d play next season, but it gives us something to play around with a smaller group and see how the rhythm section comes together. So, this is a good time to jump in.

I think we might play Satin Doll next year (full band arrangement), but I’m still debating others.    You can find partial recordings of two of these combo pieces (not Satin Doll) online. I generally play along to a backing track of Satin Doll and have to fake through the arrangement, but gives me a chance to get the rhythm down. “It Don’t Mean A Thing” is the most challenging because of the tempo. Enjoy.

Me: Thx, I am on it.

Then I ordered this lesson book:

Note, I’m not learning guitar tab notation as I really need to read the music like I do on my sax. Also, I will need a bass amp to play with the group so I ordered this one. It’s powerful enough to hold up to a big band and light enough that I won’t need two men and a boy to carry it.

May be an image of text that says 'Peavey MAX 208 200-Watt Bass Amp Combo Visit the Peavey Store 16 ratings TAEY $399.99 prime & FREE Returns Get $200 Gift Card: Pay $199 $399.99 upon approval for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card. annual fee. Color Eligible for amazon mile donation. Brand Peavey Black Output Wattage 200 Watts Dimensions LxWxH inches Item Weight Pounds About this item Up 200 watts power 2Premium speakers DDT speaker protection .Pre-gain control with TransTube qain boost Three-band with Overdrive, Contour, Mid-Shift, Bright, and Kosmos-C switches Compare with similar items New (8) from $399. 99 prime'

AMP: Me: Lots of bass players sub for us with skimpy amps and it’s not a good experience. On bari sax I double them a lot and can tell when they are really underpowered. It’s like people don’t wanna spend the money for the best they can get and then they hafta live with that decision the rest of their lives.

A friend sez about this amp: Haha. Your analysis is correct!

I have a 75 watt practice amp made by Line 6. They don’t make it any more. 75 watts is over powered for a house or a small practice room. But like you said, you need the “head room” of more watts for the tonal space. Why? because you can put the volume at a level where it is loud and play subtly with your fingers. You don’t have to dig in. Between your finger placement on the guitar, the settings on the amp, and your bass – you provide yourself the broadest tonal options.

For me, not having a gigging amp means that I only gig when someone really wants a bass player and can provide an amp – as your group has on occasion for me. Not having that equipment forces me to focus on other things that are musically more enriching for me. Not a boast, a technique that I have employed to keep myself sane because music is part of my mental health.

In the old days, power also meant weight, lots of weight. Any big open room, like the old Microsoft Café, needed at least 200 watts. Anything outside, you might want to make the minimum 300watts. There just are no “do it all” amps for bass unfortunately.

STRINGS: And have someone put flat wounds (or half rounds by D’addario) on it and have it set-up. Better for your sound and fingers as a new player. You will prefer the sound and less string noise. It’s what I always play on my P-style bass. The Peavey is a nice but it has active electronics, more of a bass. That’s too much to manage for a beginner. I would suggest consider a pickup upgrade in the Rogue if you want to get a little more out of the bass.

Another friend sez: That is purely a matter of what kind of sound you want.  I used round wound for years.  They are very bright with a strong attack and tend to buzz a lot if you don’t have good technique.  They are also tough on your fingers and fretboard.  I then switched to flat wounds and have been very happy with the warmer sound. 

However, since I have two fretless basses, I wanted one to have a bit more growl.  I discovered Pressure wounds that split the difference and have been very happy with them.  That is what I was using Monday night.

So I ordered these as there is a lot of fingering noise on my guitar right now:

I am working on my first song from the group and hoping that in January I have also made my way to page 15 of the lesson book (above). I can join them as they prepare the three songs they will be playing for the Winter concert in March. Wish me luck!

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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