For this LONG overdue blog post wrapping up the top 5 mistakes beginners make, I am going to hand you over to the incredible Vancouver based educator, bass player and luthier Laurence Mollerup who wrote this perfectly worded post on the infamous Talkbass website. It covers a myriad of issues and topics dealing with beginner bass players so I suggest paying special attention to the opening paragraph, particularly if you suffer from GAS... Amen Laurence, Amen!!
"Spend your money on lessons, not gear. Get a cheap, but working bass, a cheap mixer, a cheap electronic keyboard, good method books, a metronome and some headphones. Then get lessons with the best teacher in your area. Spend your time thinking about music, not gear. Don't cheap out and get half hour lessons at your local guitar store, (unless that's where the BEST teacher is). Do a little research, ask around, and aim high!
Most of this website is about gear. EQ and compression and bubinga and stainless vs. nickel strings, and I love that about it (honestly!) But none of this gear knowledge is going to help you play better.
Learn to "hear". Be able to sing the next note before you play it. Learn to identify all your intervals within a major scale, and be able to sing them, with solfa (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti) syllables and numbers, all on your own without your bass in hand. Learn to recognize major and minor triads, then augmented and diminished, then learn to hear all the 7th chords.
Don't spend too much time on modes. Modes do not equal "theory", even though that's what many beginning players think. Learn the major scale really well in all keys. Be able to play all the diatonic triads and 7th chords in all their inversions. Then do the same with intervals. Be able to play and hear I IV V in every key. Learn how all the chord tones and extensions sound. Play along with your favourite music, by ear, no tab. Better yet, learn to transcribe music while you are sitting in the cafe with your headphones, music paper and a pencil. No bass in sight.
Learn to read. Go really slowly, and learn to find the notes on your bass. Learn to read rhythms by clapping them, or saying 1e+a 2e+a out loud. Learn to play rhythms while keeping a steady pulse and not rushing or dragging. Put sheet music on every wall of your apartment, and try to clap the rhythms. Later on, work on sight-reading. Practise for 10 minutes every day with new material in front of you. Don't fix mistakes, just plow through as though you are in a studio tracking a CD project with an entire orchestra. Read a little every day and you'll become proficient in a year.
Be curious about different musical genres. Don't judge music, just keep an open mind and expand your tastes. Check out traditional Ethiopian music, classical Chinese opera, the new complexity school (Carter, Fenyhough, et al), early jazz, American gospel music, Indian classical music. . .
Don't fuss over technique too much. Practise hard things really slowly and then gradually speed up. Stay relaxed in your body, but focussed in your mind. The music coming from your fingers doesn't matter at all, what counts is the music between your ears! Many young musicians get drawn to flashy players (I did!) and just want to learn to do that one special trick that they see their hero do. It's okay to do that, just remember to put some time in on the fundamentals as well. Learn to be a simple bass player -it will get you a lot of work, but don't forget to find your own voice and your own music. Too many bass players can only do the simple thing, and they miss out on so much. Learn to solo and learn to play melody. Write your own music, we are all waiting to hear you!"