Steps to Learning a Lick
There are 5 steps I use and am currently using to learn any lick. In this video I’m learning a lick from Jaco Pastorius’ song Havona that he recorded with Weather Report. However, you can apply these steps to any lick you are wanting to learn, at any level of playing.
- Learn the notes
You can do this by tab, notation, or by using your ear. Always try to learn the lick by ear first. Always be working on developing your ear!
- Locate the notes on your bass
Locate the notes and figure out the best fingering for the lick. There are usually more than pattern that you can use.
- Nail down your fingering
Know exactly what finger is being used for each note, on both hands. This is tedious and can be frustrating to learn, but once you have it down, you’ll nail it almost every time!
- Practice the lick perfectly, repeatedly
Of course, in order to do the lick perfectly, you’ll need to do it at a very slow tempo. That’s the idea, work it slowly and perfectly.
- Increase the tempo
Increase the tempo while maintaining steps 3 and 4 until you have it down at the original tempo. This might take a while, but the results are well worth the time and effort.
Why don’t many of our practice routines last for very long? Because we plan an unrealistic routine. This video shows a few suggestions for creating a simple, yet sustainable practice routine. The key is in planning a routine that is sustainable. Consistency is King!
I start off this lesson by reviewing and clarifying some of the techniques from part 1. Next, we’ll look at a couple basic Kick/Snare patterns, followed with adding the notes and finally a quick hammer-on lesson.
0:11 Review of last lesson
4:56 Kick/Snare Slap practice exercise
6:24 Adding Notes to the Kick/Snare pattern
7:58 How to Add Hammer-Ons
I’ve included a link to an interview with slap bass legend Larry Graham
Interview – Larry Graham
Remember that this technique will take time to perfect. Practicing patience and diligence will get you toward your goals much quicker! In some ways this will be similar to learning a new instrument as you work out coordinating your left and right hands; think like a drummer!
Practice tip: use a scale or any simple bass line that you already know and play it with your thumb-slap. It’ll be a little clumsy at first, but this will help you to build the technique using different strings. Have fun!
Slap Bass – This lesson teaches the 4 basic elements of slap bass and begins to put them together with a basic practice exercise. Additionally, this lesson teaches the importance of having a relaxed “whip” action on your right hand, along with some percussive elements necessary to create the slap groove.
The elements are:
1. Thumb Slap
2. Left-Hand Mute
3. Right-Hand slap (mute)
4. Finger Pop/Pluck
Making too many mistakes? Check your fingers
Play a song, play one of your favorite fills, runs, or scales. Now play it again, but this time pay attention to your right hand fingers (or left if your left-handed). Observe your plucking fingering with the eye of a teacher assessing a student. What did you discover? Are you playing the part with the same exact fingering each time? Now slow it down and play it again thinking through each note and which finger is plucking which note. If your experiencing some frustration during this process, then you’re doing the right thing! Stay with it and nail it down. The reason you’re playing is proving to be inconsistent is, quite possibly, because your fingering is inconsistent. Although there are many reasons we can’t play a part as well as we desire, the main reason for many of us is that our fingers are out of control.
Hopefully, this tutorial will get you on track toward getting those unpredictable fingers under your control:-)
Why can’t I ever seem to get this right?!!
Every one of us experiences some form of dissatisfaction with our playing. We want to be able to play this song more smoothly, be able to create killer fills, or play a particular lick without having our fingers trip over each other. Some of us are just wanting to make it through a worship service or gig without making a noticeable mistake (that was my goal for many years!). Regardless of where your dissatisfaction lies, you can get out of that rut and overcome that area of frustration. The reason many of us take so long to get out of our ruts is that we see our “musical monsters” as too big to overcome and try to overpower them by buying more books, watching more videos, and collecting as much information as we can hold. Yet, we find ourselves not making the progress we had hoped.
Too Much Information
We live in a world of information overload. You and I can access the greatest minds in music through the internet and spend days upon days gathering information. There are over 100 bass guitar instruction books on the market that can be downloaded, or delivered to your home through Amazon. The problem with all of this information, for me, is that I will become distracted, redirected, and overwhelmed. If I want to work on improving my fingering on my bass, I’ll begin finding excellent videos and blog posts on the topic, but then find out that there’s another technique that I didn’t even know about. The three books I ordered differ in their approaches. Should I have been working on that? Should I change the way I’ve been playing this song, or this lick? Then, I look for videos on YouTube and come across a three year-old playing a Jaco Pastorius song on bass which makes me start feeling like a loser. Don’t get me wrong, having access to all this information is an amazing blessing. However, it can also be a debilitating curse.
Focus on One Thing
Identify a goal. Take some time to think about what it is you’d like to work on and write it down. Keep a piece of paper with that goal either on your music stand or a place where you will always see it. Let that be a reminder to you every day to stay on that goal. If you’re anything like me you will need reminders, constantly! Keep some form of a reminder in front of you so you stay on task.
Here are a few suggested goals:
- Learn one song a week
- Play through a favorite song without error
- Learn and play the 7 chords of a major key
- Read and understand chord charts.
Try focusing on that one goal for 2 weeks. Stay on your goal until you realize some success. My favorite acronym for Focus is from EOFire’s John Lee Dumas, Follow One Course Until Success. Take this time to follow ONE course. Stay on that course and see how you improve upon your goal. Believe me, if you focus on that one goal for the 2 week period, you will gain more ground than you ever would by working on it occasionally.
The sea of internet will still be there when you’re done:-)
Be like a postage stamp—stick to one thing until you get there. – Josh Billings
2016 proved to be an active and challenging year for my family and me, so I’m happy to be entering into a new year with a somewhat clean slate:-) I’ve been blessed with a growing number of subscribers and plan to increase that number as I add more videos for the coming year.
New Course Coming in February!
I’m looking forward to creating my first multi-segment course to be out in mid-February. However, I haven’t nailed down the topics for the course content. That’s where I want your input. What kind of help are you looking for in an online bass course? Modes? Theory? Particular techniques? How to learn a song? Important scales and how to apply them? Creating bass fills? How to read chord charts?
These are some of the topics I’ve been considering, but really want to know what would be most helpful for you. My primary purpose for creating the Worship Bass Workshop has always been to provide help for bass players who are not able to find a teacher or course that connects with them. If you’re looking for a worship focused bass course, then I hope you’ll be able to find it here. I should also mention that although my Youtube videos will always be free of charge, the online courses will be sold for a one-time price or through a subscription (still working that out:-).
Please leave a suggestion in the comment section on this post or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your awesome support! Mike
(I’ve been away from my website and Youtube channel for the past 2 months, but have returned after a crazy summer full of home renovation and moving across town. I apologize for the delayed responses and absence. It’s really good to be back!)
Perhaps you’re like me and struggle with maintaining a solid, regular practice regimen. You know scales, arpeggios and modes are good to know and helpful to practice, but have a difficult time keeping the routine going. Although I believe the fundamentals of music such as those mentioned are essential for any serious musician to grasp, they are certainly not the only things necessary for strong growth in your craft. In fact, the more I read and hear from other professional musicians, the more I realize that the greatest thing you and I can do to grow and improve as bassists is to learn songs.
Sit down and learn a song today. Learning songs will develop your ear, your recognition of patterns and common chord changes and it will keep you engaged more than any other practice routine, in my opinion. In his book, The Music Lesson, Victor Wooten teaches that we learn to speak our language by engaging in conversation. We first learn to use the language in context before we go to school and learn about the language (you can also hear Victor talk about this in his interview with Scott Devine on the SBL podcast). This is also the idea behind the Suzuki method of learning music.
Find a song you like that won’t frustrate you too much and take 15-30 minutes to focus on learning as much of the song as you can. Chances are you’ll put in more time than you had planned and will enjoy playing along with the recording. Further, you’ll have a new song in your repertoire. So much will be gained from this process. As you get to know songs, pay attention to the chord progressions. Find a chord chart and take note of the major and minor chords. As you become familiar with a particular genre and/or artist, you’ll be able to feel where the song is going and start to see the commonality of many chord progressions. Learning theory will then help you to see the how’s and why’s of the songs you’ve been learning and performing. The theory will become a light to help you navigate through creating new lines and learning new songs.
Make up your own groove. Find a 3 or 4 note pattern and get creative with the rhythm and phrasing to make it your own. Then practice making it groove, really groove. Start slowly and commit it to memory. Get your fingering down until you can play it pretty easily at that tempo. Get out the metronome or work up a cool drum loop and start jamming with your new lick. See if you can stay in the pocket as you play it. Record yourself and play it back. Does it sound like you want it to sound? Are you wanting to tap your foot or bob your head to it?
Now try working at that groove at a comfortable tempo for a straight minute, now try three minutes. Can you stay in the pocket for five minutes? Five minutes is a long time to play the same lick repetitively!
There ya go! Busted out of boredom, creating a new lick, and improving your groove. Come back and do it again for another 5 minutes tomorrow…and maybe the next day. Have fun!