Grooving while Practicing
As a bass player, your main job (aside from being a bad-ass) is to keep on grooving. That means that you have to do your best to keep everything anchored; Your job depends on it!
That doesn't necessarily mean always playing the root over and over again, or just following the guitar player, but it DOES mean that you have to have solid timing and a good sense of groove.
Think about it this way: If the guitar player messes up a chord, it might sound off, but they can generally find a way to cover it up or brush it off and the audience might not notice it. If the drummer is a touch off, the rest of the band usually follows them, keeping the tempo fairly consistent. But if the bass player makes a mistake in timing or loses the groove, people can FEEL it.
That's right. They will FEEL the mistake more than with any other instrument in the band!
So, how do you avoid making such a mistake?
Simple. You practice making your ass groove like nothing else!
And how, might you ask, would I go about making my ass oh-so-full of wholesome groove?
Even simpler: You practice to something that cannot make a mistake!
Two of those things that you can practice to are the Drum Machine and the Metronome.
Now you might be asking: But Malcolm, those are boring and not nearly as much fun as picking my ass. How can I make those lame drum tracks and boring clicks just interesting enough that I wont feel like ramming my bass through my wall?
One good way is to consistently keep the metronome going, no matter what you're practicing. That way, no matter what, you'll eventually sync with the metronome and the time will "click" with you that much easier. Even if you're not practicing at the moment, try to keep it going in the background. Eventually, you'll just be able to jump in at anytime and play along and your timing will improve many times over. Trust me on this one.
The same goes for a drum machine, except that with a drum machine, you can get a beat going that is MUCH more interesting to listen to.
When you're actually playing over the clicks or the drum pattern, try to play along with the beat and hit the click on every "one". If you know that your timing is good and you know the click is on, but you can't hear it separate from your bass line, you know that you're doing well. You want it so that the clicks become part of your line.
If you can feel the clicks going "against" whatever you're playing, then you need to take a second and try to line up with the clicks. Try playing something a bit more simple and go faster only when you have everything clicking properly.
If you're ever in doubt, SLOW DOWN and take it one step at a time. You only get what you put into practicing, so make sure that you try to keep your time solid and "on the one"!
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