If you’re a beginner bass guitar player the chances are you’re going to be thinking “how do you learn your first song on the bass guitar”?
After all the chances there were probably some songs or bass lines that made you think “I want to be a bassist”.
For me it was hearing bassists like Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, Marcus Miller, John Paul Jones… and the case of today’s lesson John McVie from Fleetwood Mac.
John McVie’s bass playing is fantastic because it’s a great place for beginner bass guitar players to start learning songs.
In the video the above I show you to go about the learning the Fleetwood Mac Classic “Don’t Stop”.
Here are 5 further tips that will also help you hit the ground running when learning your first song:
Simplify The Bass Part
As I touched on in the lesson “Is The Bass Guitar Easy” last time the beauty of the bass guitar is you can make it “as simple or as complex” as you like.
In the case of “Don’t Stop” you can just play 4 simple quarter notes per bar and you will have a great sounding foundational bass line that will work!
Over time it’s great to build out the shuffle feel in the original bass line because it’ll really add some forward propulsion.
Break The Song In To Simple Sections
In the case of ‘Don’t Stop’ I’ve broken the song into two simple sections. Most songs can be broken down in 2 or 3 simple sections. The important thing is to try and figure out what these sections are right away. They will provide the building block of the 3-4 minutes songs normally last.
Don’t Stop can be broken down into a verse section which is 8 bars long and a chorus section which is also 8 bars long.
8 and 16 bar sections in songs are very common - so look out for these!
Check out this lesson where I break the Motown Classic “Get Ready” In to 3 simple sections
Write Out A Simple Song or Chord Chart
Once you know what the two or three core sections are, write out a simple chord or song chart.
This will give you what I call the “40,000ft view” so you know how all of the sections link together.
It also works as a great ‘aid memoir’ too so you don’t have to worry about memorising the song right away.
Make sure you download the lesson notes which come with this lesson so you can see an example of how to approach this.
Watch Out For Curve Balls
The great studio bassist “Tom Warrington” said something on a tutorial video back in the 1990s that has always stuck with me - “Don’t be fooled - pop music is never simple” (or words to that effect).
There’s always something under the hood which make it sound great or creates interest or variation.
In the case of Don’t Stop they extend the B chords in 2nd chorus and guitar solo to 4 bars long. This extends these sections to 10 bars.
There’s also a checky ‘Stop’ on bar 4 of the last but 1 chorus.
These are all details which add layers of complexity to a simple song… but also make it sound fantastic.
The important thing is to understand the 2 core sections first… then master the details.
Strip Out The Fills To Begin With
This point is directly connected to the first tip. It’s essentially simplifying.
The important thing is to nail the feel and chord structure to begin with.
Once you’re comfortable and can play the song all the way though add the fills in.
I’ve seen too many students try and do too much too quickly. Don’t worry about the clever stuff … always look after business first.
The fills are always the icing on the cake. Nobody will thank you for playing a clever fill then messing up the structure or chords of a song!
If you want to learn more about how to play songs make sure you check out ‘The Bass Vault’... you can get this as part of the Bass Lab PLUS Membership.
The Bass Vault is a collection of my personal chord charts, song sheets and transcriptions that I have collected over the past 15+ years.
It’s a unique resource which gives you a window into how i’ve learned over 500 songs.
Make sure you check it out!
See you next time 🙂