Most of us reading Smart Bass have some kind of a day job. Whether it’s a formal 9-5 job or a series of part time jobs that consume 90% of the day, work and life’s obligations consume a large portion of our minds and our free time.
While the mindset at work should be to, well, work and do what you’re paid to do, one question that has persisted in the minds of musicians eager to play their instruments even during the working ours is how can I play without my bass guitar? How can I improve when I’m not in my practice space and how do I practice without a bass in hand?
While there is no clear cut answer and any answer for that matter can be pretty challenging to answer, in this post, we’re going to look at some possible solutions to practicing without your bass and keeping your mind sharp and in the musical game when you’re at work and away from your bass.
Practicing Without a Bass: Points of Consideration
1. Record Yourself Practicing and Listen Back to it at Work
One way to keep your mind in your bass playing is to record your practice sessions and musical ideas and listen to the back at work.
Assuming your desk job is relatively uneventful and not riddled with back to back meetings and engagements, the benefit of doing this is that, you have a lot of time to sit and listen while you work.
The same way you might sit and listen to music as you work on a project or repair something in the garage, while you sit and work at the office, you have the available time and wherewithal to focus on your playing without a thousand other outside distractions like having to take the kids out to their baseball game, pickup dinner or meet the inlaws.
You have 8 hours to focus on your playing.
Now how do you get these tracks onto your work computer without problems or suspicion?
Here’s an easy, no cost way:
Set up a Soundcloud account and take your recordings and upload them to the site as Private tracks. The benefit of Private tracks is that only you can listen to them. And being on Soundcloud, all you need to do is log in to listen to them. No messy downloading or MP3 player needed.
Now let’s take a second to talk recorders.
Your choice of recorder is up to you. The benefit of a smart phone is that it’s likely going to allow you to download a platform like Soundcloud’s app and make uploading easy and quick. However, there are other options. GarageBand and Audacity are other options to consider for recording but there are more steps involved including Exporting and then uploading which usually can only be done at home most easily. You can also consider one of these external recorders like this, this or this. While the quality might be better, again, more steps are likely needed to get the tracks to a platform.
2. Practice Finger Independence Exercises
There are a million and one different kinds of finger exercises out there – and even some from Stanley Clarke. It’s really up to you to try as many of them as you can out and even invent some of your own to see what works for you.
Here’s one from reddit that was particularly interesting and even came with a video:
Grab your right hand with your left as though it were the neck of your bass (thumb on palm). Line your 4 fingers up along the “g-string” (bottom of your hand). With slow control, move your pointer and ring fingers off the skin, up to the “a-string” position (approx) and put them down. Then, in the same controlled fashion, pick them up and pull them back to the starting position, and down.
Next, do the same out-and-down-and-back-and-down motion with your middle finger & pinky finger. Then the pointer/ring combo again, then the middle/pinky again. You’re going odds/evens/odds/evens. Repeat until smooth, effortless, and doesn’t hurt your brain. It took me a long, long time to be able to do this without thinking. Non-musicians are often blown away by it, and most musicians I show it to see its value. I think I learned it from an old bass teacher years ago.
What’s even better is that you can see he’s clearly at the office!
Additionally, you could purchase one of these hand grip exercise tools. One hand answers the phone, the other practices finger patterns and builds strength. Rinse and repeat.
2. Research Gear, Pedals and Basses
While this is less of a playing and strength building point and more of a knowledge building point, it’s still very important to actually know many of the popular terms and lingos that come with bass guitar.