SKILLS: WHAT IS THE BASS COMPETENCE? (excerpt from book)

Andriy Vasylenko learning bass guitar

Keep on learning bass! As I promised, here’s more stuff from “An Introduction To Bass” (read previous article “Functions: what is the bass for?” here). This is the largest section, and my favorite one. Check out an intro and a piece from it – “Rhythm / dynamics“. I am a graduated pedagogue, so I like to analyse, classify, and teach. The chapter shows it pretty good))

Don’t forget that I’m not a native English speaker. I’m always open to your corrections and suggestions via email 🙂 So, here we go!

Skills: what is the bass competence?

by Andriy Vasylenko

Now we’re coming to a special chapter. You can’t find the stuff anywhere. Here I’m going to sort out all the abilities bassists should have. Knowing those specific skills will help you to identify weakspots of your technique, or competence, to be more precise. There’s a lot of those abilities, and they are pretty subjective. I’ve selected 17 items and grouped them in 8 kinship cells:

  • rhythm / dynamics
  • mobility / timing
  • strength / endurance / speed
  • technique / performance
  • music theory / fretboard vision
  • composing / orchestration
  • equipment / sound
  • ear for music / improvisation

Rhythm / dynamics

Rhythm and dynamics – two crucial musical elements, not directly related to tonality and modality. Their function is to bring pulse, breath, colors to melody. Otherwise it’d be just a bunch of notes.

Rhythm is mathematically determined motion of music. The bound term is tempo – speed of performance. In other words, tempo is how fast or slow you move, and rhythm – the way you overcome the distance: running, walking, galloping etc.

Rhythm is formed by notes of various value: full, half, quarter etc. – and beats: strong (more accented) and weak (less accented). Accented beats usually counts from beginning and then one after another (first, third), weak ones are placed between strong (second, fourth). The rhythm pace distinctly appears in drum lines and is the most common, especially in rock music. Play on weak beat are used mostly in reggae and dance music.

Beats compile bars – rhythmically complete “bricks” of music. Number of beats in a bar depends on a time: 4/4 – 4 beats of 4th notes, 6/8 – 6 of 8th, 4/2, 15/16 etc. There are equivalent times in the system, like 6/8 and 3/4, 4/4 and two times of 2/4, and so forth. It’s determined by needs of musician and peculiarities of composition.

Why is sense of rhythm so important in learning bass guitar? Here’re the reasons.

Firstly, well-defined play with beat is the thing which knit up music and makes groove – the feeling of holistic rhythm. Nonetheless, slight dragging or rushing could be the specific forms of orchestration, need to be used masterly.

Secondly, you’ll not cope with syncopes without good sense of rhythm. Syncope is a note played between beats, it makes rhythm kind of broken and shifted. This is a large force in music, though. But if it goes to performance, a lot of beginners can’t do that.

Thirdly, sense of rhythm helps to play variable rhythmic times and passages. Just take a glance on guys who perform prog and math rock – their rhythms seem incredibly complex! Learn plain times to start – 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 – and triplet feeling.

Dynamics – power and loudness measure of playing. Those rates are called dynamic colors. They have forte (strong, loud) and piano (faint, quite) marks, adding suffix -issimo (very) and prefix mezzo- (average) – from piano-pianissimo (ppp, very-very quite) to fotre-fotrissimo (fff, very-very loud) with a number of colors between.

Dynamics and rhythm are inseparably bonded. Dynamism is the exactly thing which liven music up: lyrical moments traditionally play softer, heavy riffs – stronger, chorus have to sound louder that verse – these are examples of that. Practical gradation of dynamics is wide – from faintest note, played by light touch, to rattling punch the strings. Bassist and drummers have the biggest possibilities of using dynamics. This is your musical palette of colors.


I could reveal a new chapter next time. Or should I stop teasing you and release the book after all?) Will see. Join AVanguard to get my “An Introduction To Bass” for free then \m/

Tags: An Introduction To Bass, learning bass guitar, sense of rhythm, free bass book, Andriy Vasylenko
Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015

2 comments

  • Liquid Köre

    Hi Bro ! I definitly can’t wait for your book. Your explainations are so clear that I directly want to put them in my practice. At first its obscure, you explain it, I try… and its works ! Its the sign of a great teacher ! As a biginner, its so motivating to constantly “progress”. Will your book contains some specifics exercises or some specifics tracks to try to illustrate those theories ? As always, great job ! Thanx and cheers !! \m/ Oo \m/

    • av

      Thanks a lot! No, this book doesn’t contain any exercise – it’s an introduction to a series of practice-oriented books and videos. I know that sense of rhythm is the most common problem, so I’ve started to plan a course about it. Next time I reveal names of all the chapters, and then probably goes the book \m/

Leave a Reply