how to play/jam

good kinda new here and a new bassist as well..i've been practicing scales and inversions etc but my problem is i dont how to apply it in jamming or how do i use them..what i know is only going back to the root everytime there is a chord change..apart from that im dumb...could anybody help me or could lead me to a post here that discusses this kind of topic or any books or dvds that concerns this? lots of dvds and books deals with technique only..pls help..

i dunno anything about scales,inversion or technique....

i learned to play by ear and from my heart and only tip i can give you is listen to the music and especially the beat of the drums and go where it moves you......


*and it harm none,do what thou will*

*and it harm none,do what thou will*

wheat's picture

Welcome to the site. Being

Welcome to the site. Being sure you hit the root on the "one" (i.e. the first down-beat) of any chord change is an important first step. What you do from there varies a lot depending upon the sound. Your basic job is to find an interesting way to connect those dots. The simplest (rock) approach is just to pound the roots in a steady pattern (say, eighth notes). If you were playing country, your line would bounce back between the root and the fifth of each chord.

You are on the right track learning scales, chords, and arpeggios. Knowing those will let you know which notes are "legal" over any given chord. Listening to a lot of music in the genres that interest you will also give you some ideas about stock phrases (i.e. idioms) that are common to that genre. Let your ear be your guide. Invent lines over stock progressions (I-IV-V and ii-V-I, especially).

I'll chime back in later with some specific examples.


Jam Trax

I have a lot of fun with Jam Trax. I prefer the Blues Trax. They come with no bass in the tunes, but have a tabbed section to give you ideas. There is one track on one of my Jam Trax CD's that I love. It is a blues in B and goes on for about 7 minutes. During that time I will try all kinds of new things and then play it again and try to get a groove going based on the ideas I worked out the first time through.

You can play them on CD player that has an earphone jack directly into your amp if it has a "CD In" jack... or you can use a Tascam Bass Trainer.

This is a way to use the major scale, minor scale, blues scale, etc. or a combination of many scales.

You should begin to develop a mental catalogue of lines that work, and eventually begin to lay down lines that hold the pocket throughout the entire track.

Two other ideas: 1) Check out Wheat's Bass Book; or pick up a copy of Bass Guitar for Dummies to learn more about how things work and don't work.

Best to you in your learning process... by the way, that process never ends as you get better.


Hazz's picture

Do what the others have

Do what the others have suggested but pay no mind Wheat and all his "LEGAL" mumbojumbo. He is just covering his butt ;)
Everything is legal, it all depends on what you and the folks you are jamming with like the sound of.

As for learning to jam, "Do what the others have suggested" but another way is to get a few songs you know, simple tunes like twinkle twinkle (for example listen to Merrill Hagard's version), happy birthday, Marry Had A Little lamb(ex. Stevie Ray Vaughn) some holiday tunes and a few rock songs that use three chords, etc etc etc, you'll get the picture. Learn to play them pretty cleanly. Once you can then just start improvising over them. Use what you know, take (to make it easy) the root when playing Twinkle Twinkle and use a major scale to "run" AND walk, up or down to the next note. Be sure to do it both ways. Then do the same thing but use a Blues scale and go both ways and also a 12 bar Jazz scale. Do the same with Arpeggios. Play the songs at 100BPM and use 1/4 to whole notes and play them at 160BPM using shorter notes (skill will depend on how short but you could shoot for 32nds haha ;)

Then to spice things up mix up the scales, start off with a major and then switch to a Lydian Dominant or Harmonic Minor and back.

I find Blues and Jazz the easiest to jam over and they give you a lot more option on what you can do. Also, slower tempos help. If you are just starting, a tune running at 140BPM that it filled with 8th and 16th notes will be a pain unless you are just pounding out the root OR you know the song well.

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wheat's picture

It's true, there really are

It's true, there really are no wrong notes. There are just notes that you (or your bandmates, or your audience) will or will not put up with. If you throw your bass against a wall and it makes a sound you like, that's legit. But it gets expensive after a while. :)

But (and you knew there was a "but," didn't you), starting out with the "legal" notes isn't a bad idea. It'll give you some appreciation for when you're going outside the norm. Making that work requires knowing chord/scale relationships, which my book and Patrick's both cover. Here's the super-simple version:

Major chord = Major scale: If the chord is a C major (or Cmaj7) play notes from the C major scale over it. When in doubt, emphasize the root, third, and fifth notes of that scale (C, E, G).

Minor chord = Minor scale: If it's a C minor chord (or a Cmin7), play notes from the C natural minor scale or the C Dorian mode. The C natural minor scale is also called the C pure minor scale, or the Aeolian mode. When in doubt, emphasize the root, third, and fifth notes of those scales.

Dominant chord = Mixolydian mode. If the chord is C7 (not Cmaj7), play the C Mixolydian mode. Again, the root, third, and fifth should be the focus. Use other notes to get to or move away from the root, third, and fifth.


Paul Warren's picture

Another great way to learn

Another great way to learn to jam is to get either some jam tracks like Pete suggested or like the ones at The Libster and learn to play/jam using them. The ones at The Libster cover many variations of classic blues and rock.

Or, if you like you could purchase Band In A Box from pgmusic. It is capable of laying down a backing track in virtually any genre you like. It can even solo over your improvised line. I highly recommend it.

There are a number of bassless tracks here at BP as well. Look for the BassIAB forum topics and download the songs to jam with. The beauty of those is you can hear a number of different bass lines to each song.

Best of luck with your learning experience. I think you'll love it.


wow ...this site is a bomb!..learned much from you guys!! thanks much all of you!! hope you'll continue pounding on this topic so that newbies like me can appreciate more the pains of playing bass!!

life's too short to be pissed off, it's just not worth it...