Billy Sheehan is a bassist from New York State, his bass career kicking off in the early 1970’s. He’s played in bands like Mr. Big and with artists like David Lee Roth from Van Halen, but these are hardly all of the artists that he’s played with. Richie Kotzen, Marty Friedman, Steve Vai, and Niacin are also on that list, among others. Because of such an extensive background, Sheehan is surely the man to teach us bass.
In this basic bass video, he breaks down the fundamentals of playing the bass guitar. He starts off with teaching us what makes a bass a bass. He mentions some of the woods that various basses are made of. He even explains what types of bass necks there are.
Sheehan also makes a good point in making sure the future bass player picks a bass that he/she is comfortable with. It’s up to the bass player whether they’ll play the bass farther down their body or farther up their body, but choose your position according to what you plan to play and where you’re comfortable at. And also depending on what you want to play, you can choose a 4, 5 or 6 string bass. Sheehan clears up the myth for us that only the experts can play a 5 or 6 string bass. So don’t be afraid to spring for what you want.
Personally, I had no idea about what made a bass active or passive. I’d always heard the term from a bass player or a music instructor but I never actually knew what it meant. But Sheehan explains it nicely for us. Simply put, an active bass has a battery and this battery can help cut and/or boost the tone of a bass. A passive bass does not have this capability and has fewer electronics built into it. But sometimes, the simpler the better. Sheehan makes a good point of saying that the less variables there are, the easier it is for you to maintain the same instrument for a long time and grow in your bass playing skill. When one thing breaks, you may go have to go through the arduous task of finding exactly what it is. And if you have a more complicated bass guitar, it may take you a long time or cost you a pretty penny to fix it.
Timing is very important in music, for obvious reasons. It’s brought up in the video how inconsistent one may be at first when they play eighth notes for a moderate period of time. Sheehan suggests really slowing down and practicing playing evenly for a long period of time. So grab a metronome and settle in. The patient work you’ve put in will make a difference in the end and if you’re playing with a band, your band members will thank you.
Sheehan gives us a little tutorial on the slap bass, which was made popular by bass player Larry Graham in the 70’s. He teaches the classic thump and pluck technique but doesn’t spend an excessive amount of time on the section. Which is a good thing in my eyes because it’s pretty cut and dry. Over explaining can sometimes be more confusing than helpful.
Sheehan encourages that starting bass players should learn, at least, one major scale. In my own opinion, I say try to learn all of them. He’s right that it will help you with your ear training and the theory of music in general. It takes practice and a good chunk of time, however, the benefit of learning scales goes beyond just knowing how to play them on the bass. And when watching this video, the viewer would do well to pay attention to the different patterns that Sheehan shows on his bass. This too can be very helpful in learning the major scales. He shows the different patterns in G major but this can be translated to the other scales.
When a beginning bass or guitar player tries to play a lick, the entirety of it may be very daunting. When I began to play the bass, I used to try to play something I read or heard all in one fell swoop. And it almost never worked well. But when I learned to break the lick or the line down into different parts, it became so much easier. Sheehan shows the viewer that, again, this is the easiest way to learn a lick and it also builds finger strength and flexibility.
Other topics that Sheehan covers in this video include: Left Hand Basics, Time, Locking in With the Bass Drum, Simple Bass Lines and more. Upon further investigation of this video, there is actually book that accompanies this Basic Bass Lesson by Billy Sheehan himself. Everything that Billy has in the video is nicely laid out in the book. It’s nice because it appeals to both the visual and the auditory learner. Sheehan does a good job covering the various topics about the bass in the video. However, if you feel that you’d be better off reading the book instead, or in addition to the video, you can buy the book off of Amazon. Or, if you’re like me, scope out the internet to find a PDF of the book. Whichever you find yourself doing, I’d say take the time to review these materials. In time, you’ll find yourself playing just as good, or better, than Billy Sheehan.
Filed under: Bass Guitar Lessons
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