I Know I’m Annoying The Bass Player

Fiesta Red

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I am a lousy and lazy player.

I don’t play chords correctly.
I don’t worry about sounding like the record.
I don’t know what scale or mode or time signature I’m playing in.
I’m often not even sure what chord I’m playing.
Hand me a chart or a sheet of music and I’ll draw pictures of armadillos on it.

But it sounds right when I play, and that’s why people play with me, or come to hear me play.
One guitarist said, “I like to watch you play because I can’t figure out how you got those sounds out of what your hands were doing…they don’t match…”
He jokingly said I play “Kung Fu Guitar,” just like the old karate movies with the actor’s mouths not matching the words.
I finally showed him I was using some open and alternate tunings.

If you will show me what we’re doing a couple of times and give me a little bit of time to get the groove, I’ll figure out something that “fits” the song, as long as you aren’t expecting a perfect-to-the-original rendition.

If you want perfect renditions, I’ll give you my guitar tech’s number and let him drive you crazy with his OCD and ADHD.
 

OmegaWoods

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You’ve provided the same feedback over and over but nothing has changed. You must decide whether it’s too much for you. He is not going to change, you need to accept that fact.
 

bluesfordan

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7 years or so playing with the bass player. He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend.

Like anyone, when we practice at home we get better. When we gather for rehearsal I can only take so many sour bass notes. I try to be positive, encouraging him to fix his errors. I say “I hear something is off. Let’s work it out.” We do. He often gets grumpy, but we fix them. Next practice same wrong notes. Stop again. Work them out again.

Sometimes he aggressively says “Ya, ya. I got it. Let’s move on”. If I don’t say anything, more often than not he doesn’t hear the sour notes. He does not realize he’s one fret out. Or sharp or flat. His ear is not very developed. I let this go for a long time. Then I’m thinking to myself “this is wrong we need to fix this. He does not know he’s playing sour notes”.

When he does get annoyed at my neutral comments to address the mistakes, I smile and say, “I’m not trying to pick on you. We just need to fix this”. Other times I start to say something and then stop myself. So as not to get him on the defense.

One time just the two of us were practicing together. We rarely ever do this, just the two of us. Maybe once a year. I said let’s work out things. Make sure we are playing the right notes together. We did well. I said “This is good. We are getting better. I’m sorry if you feel like I am picking on you at band rehearsal. I’m not. I just want to fix things.” He said “this is the time and the place to do it. Not at rehearsal”. I was stumped. If I can’t say it at rehearsal how are we going to fix things? Foolish pride I guess.

He accepted my one-on-one coaching well and we fixed errors….Until next practise. Tonight at rehearsal I’m watching the fingers, seeing and hearing the same sour notes.

I guess I am not asking for advise. I’m just venting. I know what probably should be said if we are to fix things and keep them fixed. I’m not interested in a hen fight over grown adults practising at home. I’ll cut him some slack. It’s summer. Lots going on in his personal life. Less time to practice at home maybe.

Tonight he got pretty defensive about a song. I stopped and said we need to fix this. Wrong notes. He got pretty defensive claiming “I’ve always played it this way. Maybe you need to put your capo on for this song”. Nope I said. “We’ve played like this at least 20-30 times. You are out and very flat”. Bass player came back with more defence and push back. I’m like “Man, I don’t know what to say. It’s wrong. Your notes are wrong “. He eventually came around and agreed, he was mistaken.

I’m not perfect either. I too make errors. Yet I hear my errors immediately and strive to improve. I point out my own errors and say “I screwed that up. Can we go again from 4 bars before the bridge”. Or whatever.

I am struggling a bit with someone who does not hear their errors and is resistant to coaching to fix them. Band drama. That’s my rant. Good night. I’m over it. I’ll try hard to keep my mouth shut or this band will come apart.
Don't feel bad. When Frank went back to see Sal playing in a new band, he was still playing the bass parts wrong.

What movie am I referencing?
 

keithb7

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Someone’s been practicing!

Much appreciated improvements at band rehearsal last night. All band members brought their A-game. The PA was dialed-in. The bass player performed very well. My wingman whom I share vocals and trade guitar licks with was spot-on. Drummer was like a rock. Harmonies were among the best we’ve ever accomplished. We are all anxious for the big-gig tomorrow night.

So what lessons does this thread hold?

Being in a band has its ups and downs. Any tight relationships with other people has its swings. Band members need to put in the work. Even if you’ve been playing together for years. You can’t stop learning. You’ll get left behind. There are are always new songs and techniques to learn on your instrument. Ear training. Vocal harmony work. Working on your timing, and more. The band is often always moving ahead. If you aren’t, it might only be matter of time until others are asking why you are in cruise control mode?… If they do ask. You may just find yourself sent packing. Fired from the band. Or other band members are quitting, you are left wondering why.

A band is a team that is only as good as its weakest member. We may all take turns being the weakest member at some point. My suggestion is don’t always be the weakest member. Especially due to complacency. Others will grow tired of it as it becomes apparent.
 

viking

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Its all a matter of what the goal is , IMO
Playing with mates that arent that good , can be quite allright.
I ageee that recording everything could be a really good idea.
If it doesnt work , and you still want to play with a mate , you just keep doing it , or.....
At this point in my life , I would probably rather have the mate , than a better band mate.
 

Midgetje94

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If the rest of the band is tight together. Just get someone to sneak his volume down at gigs. Lol. Several bands make it without a bass player
 

TheCheapGuitarist

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7 years or so playing with the bass player. He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend.

Like anyone, when we practice at home we get better. When we gather for rehearsal I can only take so many sour bass notes. I try to be positive, encouraging him to fix his errors. I say “I hear something is off. Let’s work it out.” We do. He often gets grumpy, but we fix them. Next practice same wrong notes. Stop again. Work them out again.

Sometimes he aggressively says “Ya, ya. I got it. Let’s move on”. If I don’t say anything, more often than not he doesn’t hear the sour notes. He does not realize he’s one fret out. Or sharp or flat. His ear is not very developed. I let this go for a long time. Then I’m thinking to myself “this is wrong we need to fix this. He does not know he’s playing sour notes”.

When he does get annoyed at my neutral comments to address the mistakes, I smile and say, “I’m not trying to pick on you. We just need to fix this”. Other times I start to say something and then stop myself. So as not to get him on the defense.

One time just the two of us were practicing together. We rarely ever do this, just the two of us. Maybe once a year. I said let’s work out things. Make sure we are playing the right notes together. We did well. I said “This is good. We are getting better. I’m sorry if you feel like I am picking on you at band rehearsal. I’m not. I just want to fix things.” He said “this is the time and the place to do it. Not at rehearsal”. I was stumped. If I can’t say it at rehearsal how are we going to fix things? Foolish pride I guess.

He accepted my one-on-one coaching well and we fixed errors….Until next practise. Tonight at rehearsal I’m watching the fingers, seeing and hearing the same sour notes.

I guess I am not asking for advise. I’m just venting. I know what probably should be said if we are to fix things and keep them fixed. I’m not interested in a hen fight over grown adults practising at home. I’ll cut him some slack. It’s summer. Lots going on in his personal life. Less time to practice at home maybe.

Tonight he got pretty defensive about a song. I stopped and said we need to fix this. Wrong notes. He got pretty defensive claiming “I’ve always played it this way. Maybe you need to put your capo on for this song”. Nope I said. “We’ve played like this at least 20-30 times. You are out and very flat”. Bass player came back with more defence and push back. I’m like “Man, I don’t know what to say. It’s wrong. Your notes are wrong “. He eventually came around and agreed, he was mistaken.

I’m not perfect either. I too make errors. Yet I hear my errors immediately and strive to improve. I point out my own errors and say “I screwed that up. Can we go again from 4 bars before the bridge”. Or whatever.

I am struggling a bit with someone who does not hear their errors and is resistant to coaching to fix them. Band drama. That’s my rant. Good night. I’m over it. I’ll try hard to keep my mouth shut or this band will come apart.
Here's the problem with dealing with a bass player: there is a shortage of them. That's the sad truth that makes them inherently difficult to deal with.
 

RetiredUnit1

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This may have been mentioned before -
Can you make recordings and play them back to listen to as a group together? The issues are more obvious when listening and not playing.

Even better is a mutitrack setup (easier with a digital mixer and a DAW like Reaper). It's even possible to create practice/critique mixes for each member, with the band in one stereo side and the individual on the other. That's some work, but not too bad once the multitrack is set up.
Yeah, you took the words right out of my mouth. There is *so much* going on in the head while playing that sometimes it's a bit hard to listen at the same time you're playing. My friend the bass player was hitting a lot of sour notes.

I recorded us on a Zoom and played it back right after we recorded. He got a funny look on his face when he realized he was missing the chord changes big time
1663535247362.png
 

Jim622

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Maybe he doesn't think much for the tunes, so he's giving minimum effort. I do not put the same effort toward cover tunes as I do for original material. So I could never last in a cover band. There's just not much joy for me there.
 
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Refugee

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7 years or so playing with the bass player. He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend.

Like anyone, when we practice at home we get better. When we gather for rehearsal I can only take so many sour bass notes. I try to be positive, encouraging him to fix his errors. I say “I hear something is off. Let’s work it out.” We do. He often gets grumpy, but we fix them. Next practice same wrong notes. Stop again. Work them out again.

Sometimes he aggressively says “Ya, ya. I got it. Let’s move on”. If I don’t say anything, more often than not he doesn’t hear the sour notes. He does not realize he’s one fret out. Or sharp or flat. His ear is not very developed. I let this go for a long time. Then I’m thinking to myself “this is wrong we need to fix this. He does not know he’s playing sour notes”.

When he does get annoyed at my neutral comments to address the mistakes, I smile and say, “I’m not trying to pick on you. We just need to fix this”. Other times I start to say something and then stop myself. So as not to get him on the defense.

One time just the two of us were practicing together. We rarely ever do this, just the two of us. Maybe once a year. I said let’s work out things. Make sure we are playing the right notes together. We did well. I said “This is good. We are getting better. I’m sorry if you feel like I am picking on you at band rehearsal. I’m not. I just want to fix things.” He said “this is the time and the place to do it. Not at rehearsal”. I was stumped. If I can’t say it at rehearsal how are we going to fix things? Foolish pride I guess.

He accepted my one-on-one coaching well and we fixed errors….Until next practise. Tonight at rehearsal I’m watching the fingers, seeing and hearing the same sour notes.

I guess I am not asking for advise. I’m just venting. I know what probably should be said if we are to fix things and keep them fixed. I’m not interested in a hen fight over grown adults practising at home. I’ll cut him some slack. It’s summer. Lots going on in his personal life. Less time to practice at home maybe.

Tonight he got pretty defensive about a song. I stopped and said we need to fix this. Wrong notes. He got pretty defensive claiming “I’ve always played it this way. Maybe you need to put your capo on for this song”. Nope I said. “We’ve played like this at least 20-30 times. You are out and very flat”. Bass player came back with more defence and push back. I’m like “Man, I don’t know what to say. It’s wrong. Your notes are wrong “. He eventually came around and agreed, he was mistaken.

I’m not perfect either. I too make errors. Yet I hear my errors immediately and strive to improve. I point out my own errors and say “I screwed that up. Can we go again from 4 bars before the bridge”. Or whatever.

I am struggling a bit with someone who does not hear their errors and is resistant to coaching to fix them. Band drama. That’s my rant. Good night. I’m over it. I’ll try hard to keep my mouth shut or this band will come apart.
Sounds like a clear cut case of a player that never ever practices the band's music outside of rehearsal. Had a rhythm guitar player like that and it drove me nuts. He was clearly the weakest link and was given an opportunity to play with much better players. And totally squanders it due to laziness. Don't feel bad, there's one in almost every bar band.
 

Papanate

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7 years or so playing with the bass player. He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend.

I am struggling a bit with someone who does not hear their errors and is resistant to coaching to fix them. Band drama. That’s my rant. Good night. I’m over it. I’ll try hard to keep my mouth shut or this band will come apart.
Fire him - lives too short to placate someone who doesn't get it.
 

Harley Wycliff

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Forgive me if this has already been discussed, but one point I think needs to be made is the notion of “opportunity cost.” Let’s say you spend weeks, months, years doing your best to kick a substandard player (or even an entire band) into gear, and things just never pan out, so after a while you have to throw up your hands and leave. Well, during all those weeks/months/years, how many really good bands were looking for someone just like you, but you were totally unaware because you were so focused on whatever situation you were trying to whip into shape? While you were busy with that, they found someone else, and he’s working out great and locked in for the long term.

Well, that could’ve been you!

Another thing: Listen to your inner voice. A few years ago I auditioned for a well-known regional country band. The pedal steel player used to tour with an artist everyone here would recognize; he could’ve given J.D. Maness a run for his money. Yeah, he was that good. Brought my crappiest looking bass guitar and crappiest amp to make sure I got over on playing and harmonies rather than image. I “made the finals,” so to speak, but... something just didn’t feel right. I contacted them later that day and asked to be removed from the list of candidates. They were pissed, never even replied. (Prima donnas, so Bullet Number One successfully dodged.)

Logically, bailing from the competition made no sense, especially when I later learned they’d hooked up with a (reputedly) great female country singer. I’d never heard of her, but she did have the looks and the attitude and all that. So, did I bugger a really good opportunity?

Two months later, that band was no more. Not even a trace of them. Why, I asked myself? Well, being curious, I looked around Youtube for some of their stuff with the new singer and... she was AWFUL. Bullet Number Two successfully dodged.

The next band they put together was, frankly, a joke. Bullet Number Three successfully dodged.

So yeah... listen to that voice. It might just have something important to say.
 

telequacktastic

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I feel for you having to deal with subpar "bandmembers". This is another reason why I find it hard to settle into 1 band. Folks literally have different commitment levels when it comes to everything. It's all work ethic.

I don't like being the bearer of bad news, but 7 years should be enough time for him to grow into a bass player with an ear or at least a better teammate. I have yet to see anyone remove mistakes from their playing without their own effort, if he's not able to correct some of his mistakes in the moment OR he doesn't have the motivation, there's no rehearsal technique that anyone can do. No reason to beat yourself up about it, you can't beg them to improve his performance. If they can't remember how a song goes and want to be attentive to their performance it's literally...

1) Either you grow the talent to musically tune out what he's doing by focusing more intently on what you're doing and/or angling his amp away from you

2) Cut him or you

That sounds harsh but he's dragging everyone else down with him.
 

Skyhook

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I used to video the rehearsals so we could see:
1) our own stage presence
2) any missplaced idiosyncracies
3) to be able to visualize the mistakes and fix them

its a great tool , it shows you what you look like to the audience and how bad are the mistakes plus how much those mistakes pop out!
Good stuff!
If a video of your show looks like a .jpg, then you need to work on your presentation a bit.
 

Trenchant63

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It’d be one thing if your friend was new to bass, had a positive attitude for learning and was willing to take guidance work on his own to constantly improve. But being obstinate and especially not hearing the issue and only correcting when directly confronted .. eh .. I got enough ropes to push uphill already. We’d have to be friends outside of the band. [Edit: just read bass player has come around and band working great - congrats!]
 
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Jef

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When I switched from guitar to bass it was very confronting to hear the impact of my own mistakes. If a guitarist hits a wrong note or chord it's gone in a second, but if the bass player hits a sour note the complete song goes wrong. I learn a lot from playing with musicians who are better than me, and rehearsals are the place to work those mistakes out.
 

Festofish

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My buddy and I answered an add and the guy had his own space which turned out to be a storage space amongst many. He was odd but aren’t we all? The bell rung when he asked us to turn around so he could clean his underwear after he had just farted. Ghosted him which was rude but I didn't know how to process what I had witnessed.
It was a Christian band and his “name” was Lance Pierce.
Some peoples kids.
 

Fiesta Red

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Revisiting this thread a month later…

I have been the “weak link” in a band before.
I knew the other people were better.
The other guitarist could play circles around me…shoot, the bassist was a better guitarist than I was…the drummer was world-class.
They’d been playing together for over a decade, and I was the new guy—playing a genre that wasn’t my first choice.
They were “educated” musicians, all knew a million chords, knew theory and could read charts and tabs; I wasn’t always sure what freakin’ chord I was playing…they had to dumb stuff down for me on occasion.

Plus, I wasn’t likely to “catch up” quickly. I didn’t have the time to practice (especially compared to the other guys—two of them were single). I was married with a full-time job (which, being on-call meant I usually worked 55-60 hours per week, not counting commute time). My wife and I took care of my elderly grandfather-in-law (who was living with us at the time), and my wife was dealing with the beginning of a health problem that later almost killed her (fortunately, she survived, but not without some physical and emotional scars). I didn’t have time to sit down and learn some stupid country song that I liked okay but didn’t love.

I could not—and would not—take the time to work out my weaknesses because ultimately, the whole band thing was (1) for fun and (2) nobody was depending on this to make a living…we played gigs, but the pay was enough to pay for gasoline, guitar strings and an occasional splurge on a cheap pedal.

So why did they keep me around?

I played to my strengths.
I became the ultimate sideman in a band where I was supposed to be the frontman:
-I could sing; the other guys were good at harmony but didn’t have great lead vocal abilities. The bassist was pretty good and could have been the frontman—he was funny and entertaining—but overshadowed by the guitarist before I arrived (interpersonal issues going back to their childhoods that I wasn’t going to get involved in), and didn’t have the confidence to sing lead all night.
-I could play slide guitar. That took the place of a lot of steel guitar licks in the songs (this was a country/HARD Honky Tonk band), and added a little edge to our performances, because I was throwing in Muddy Waters and Ronnie Wood licks to some country songs and everyone—both band and audience—liked it.
-I could play harp/harmonica (which a lot of guitarists dislike), and it added another angle to our performances. The guitarists didn’t mind because I knew “when to shut up” on harp—which is a weakness of many harp players and most horn players.
-I was humble enough to know when not to play, if I didn’t have the song “down”, or if it didn’t need any additional instrumentation, I would say, “This one doesn’t need rhythm guitar (or slide guitar or harmonica)—I’ll just sing.” That endeared me to the rest of them who’d suffered through some egotists who refused to “play to the song” and would add stuff that didn’t fit, just for the sake of continuing to play.

How does this relate to the bassist in the OP?
-Well, if you’re making a living with this band function, it doesn’t…you can make up for an inferior player if their strengths outweigh their weaknesses, but if they’re a glaring error/flaming disaster/total dumpster fire, it’s time to move on…But if this just “fun/hobby” stuff, keep working with him, if his friendship means that much to you.

Does he have other strengths that you can encourage him to play to? Does he sing or play another instrument? Is he a good frontman or a great sideman?

There are bands that have a marginal “player” in the group who’s learned to play to their strengths, and the band has learned to cover that player’s weaknesses…Stevie Nicks can play basic guitar and piano stuff—but compared to whomever is playing guitar (they’ve always had top-notch guitarists) and Christine Perfect-McVie on piano, it would be a disservice to Stevie to make her play guitar or piano on-stage…both Fleetwood Mac and her solo bands play to her strengths as a singer, songwriter and frontwoman/performer.

Either way, it seems the bassist needs to develop some humility and take the advice to learn the songs or learn to do something different (including a different instrument, if need be) if this band is important enough to him.

One final thing—can he hear himself?
I know that sounds stupid, but there’s been times when I thought I was playing well or I thought a particular amp setting, guitar or pedal sounded great, until I heard the playback…then I realized I wasn’t sounding good in the mix—or I wasn’t sounding good, period.

In a live setting, it’s sometimes hard to hear the bass until it’s wrong—and a single muffed note here or there doesn’t seem to be a big issue (to the Muff-er) until they hear how wrong it is throughout the song or set.
Make sure they can hear themselves—which might necessitate a dedicated monitor or in-ear device.
 




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