Learning Bass Guitar Online
I decided to learn bass guitar in late 2019. It was an awkward time for me to take up learning an instrument. I was finishing up my 3rd…
I decided to learn bass guitar in late 2019. It was an awkward time for me to take up learning an instrument. I was finishing up my 3rd year of a B.S. degree and my job was leaving me with little free time to boot. Still, I longed to get back into music. I’ve been a drummer for most of my life, although it has been years since I’ve owned a drum set for a variety of reasons. Bass is something I’ve always wanted to learn and it seemed like a good fit for a drummer who knows next to nothing about melodic instruments.
So, I picked up a relatively cheap beginner grade bass, a small practice amp, and a beginner method book. It didn’t take long to get frustrated and discouraged trying to teach myself from a book. If I was going to truly get my head wrapped around this instrument, I decided I needed an instructor.
First, I tried taking a lesson from a pro bass player friend. He’s a great bass player and he showed me a few helpful things. However, he didn’t seem to have a clear teaching path and what he showed me amounted to a few tips and tricks. I really needed more structure and he lives quite a distance from me. Even if his teaching were more structured, the travel time on top of lesson costs was going to be too much.
Next, I tried taking a few lessons from a local guitar tech who did a setup on my bass. He’s a great guitarist and plays some bass as well. He’s closer and the lessons were reasonably priced. Once again though, I felt like the teaching style just wasn’t a match for what I needed. We jumped around a lot, trying some scales, some songs from tabs, etc. He showed be a few things that got me playing some bits of songs and that was rewarding. Still, I didn’t feel like I was getting a solid understanding of my instrument.
Then the pandemic hit and in-person lessons seemed like not such a great idea for a while. So, I turned my attention to online sources. I tried the YouTube route for a few weeks. While there is some great content out there, finding it can be quite a time consuming chore. I grew weary of watching bits of videos that went nowhere.
Eventually I caught an ad for Fender Play and gave it a try. The structure of the lessons seemed like what I was looking for and I became a subscriber through a sale they had going on. I liked that they got me playing things quickly and I felt like I was actually learning more than a handful of tips and tricks. The short lessons were easy to fit into my hectic schedule and I progressed through them fairly quickly. I got to the end of the bass track after several months and…now what? The downside of Fender Play is that it is way more guitar focused. Bass is kind of side order to the guitar main course.
Alas, I was back searching online for the next step. I’d learned some neat things and could play a few simple songs. I still had lots of questions and felt like I was no where near understanding the bass guitar enough to create any music of my own. I’d learned some of the “what,” but I wanted to learn the “why” as well.
One guy I found on YouTube had caught my attention — Mark from Talking Bass. He’s got some really well done free videos out there so I decided to buy his beginner course package. There is some great information in his videos to be sure. For me, it comes a little fast. I liked that he was getting into theory, which was starting to answer some of those “why” questions I had. I found myself having to rewind a lot to catch everything he was saying. Playing the exercises could be frustrating at times and often felt too fast and complex for me to keep up with. I started having doubts as to whether I’d ever master the bass guitar.
While researching online for some ideas on practice techniques, I stumbled across the concept of “deliberate practice.” There is a theory that you can learn just about anything under the guidance of a teacher in conjunction with a carefully constructed deliberate practice routine that builds upon previously learned skills and includes feedback for correcting errors. The concept was intriguing to this frustrated old drummer and I ended up buying and reading a book by called “Peak” by Anders Ericsson, who did pioneering research into how those who truly excel in their fields became masters. This book instilled a lot of confidence and helped me dismiss my belief that I’d never be very good at playing bass because I didn’t seem to have any natural aptitude for it.
It seemed I really needed a good teacher to get me where I wanted to be. Meanwhile, COVID-19 was still surging in my area. Luckily, I discovered Josh from Bass Buzz on YouTube. His videos were fun and informative. I liked his casual style and checked out his site for more information on his paid course. Interestingly, he talked about deliberate practice and how his course is designed to get people from zero musical experience to being a bass badass. I estimated that there was enough material in his 16 module beginner course to keep me busy for at least 6–8 months. The price was a bargain compared to what I’d paid for the few in-person lessons I took.
I was pleased with the style of Josh’s teaching right off the bat. He makes things fun and completely non-intimidating. Even though I probably could have skipped a module or two based on what I’d learned already, I went through everything. I’d found what I was missing. Josh is doing something that seems to be lost in most online teaching I found. He takes things slow and works up gradually, encouraging you to practice the exercises on your own to mastery. There is no pressure to play things at full speed immediately. There are guided practice sessions that will walk you through exercises slowly and deliberately and work you up to speed as you are able to do so correctly. This is so important!
When learning new things, it’s easy for me to get impatient and want to run before I have mastered walking. Sticking with the slow, then moderate, and finally fast workouts of the Bass Buzz course, mastering each level before going to the next, made a huge difference in my playing ability and understanding. Before, I tended to rush into playing things at speed too soon and would be frustrated by mistakes like wrong notes or buzzing frets. This course encouraged me to play things correctly first, then ramp up gradually.
The Bass Buzz course also got into some music theory in a way that really made sense to me. Lots of teachers will teach scales and maybe some chord arpeggios. Josh explained concepts like diatonic chords and the Nashville Number system that resulted in a number of “a-ha” moments for me. The basics of how to actually create my own bass lines instead of just learning licks from tabs was starting to click.
As I write this, I’m in the final module of the Bass Buzz course. Sadly, Josh doesn’t have any further offerings yet to continue studying with him. However, the foundational things he thought me are going to really help me continue my studies. I’ve decided to return to Talking Bass with Mark and his Chord Tone course as my next step. The lesson overview makes a lot of sense to me after going through Josh’s music theory lessons and I’m more confident I’ll be able to keep up with Mark a bit better now.
Some day, I would like to get back to some in-person lessons again. Online makes sense for me for now and, just like finding an in-person teacher, you have to find an oline teacher who’s a fit for you. I wish I’d found Josh at Bass Buzz sooner. He gets the importance of carefully structured and paced instruction and the importance of deliberate practice.