How To Play Bass - By Playing "Words" Not Letters the "Pros" learn to play!

In the previous article I talked about how I become the "songs not scales" teacher on YouTube and  And I mentioned that although that approach works it's akin to tryint to learn to speak by sounding out the letters of every word phonetically.

I also mentioned a Pino Palladino story I'd share that would illuminate some of this.

So here's the context for this: Pino was interviewed in a british guitar and bass magazine around 86 or 87. At this point in time Pino had appeared on two critically received albums by Paul Young (with particular reference to his bass lines on Wherever I Lay My Hat, Every Time You Go Away, Come Back And Stay and Tear Your Playhouse Down) as well as albums by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd (Murder) Ice on Fire by Elton John (Shoot Down The Moon) and White City by Pete Townsend (Give Blood).

That list is a partial list.

Like a "greatest hits" list.

So Pino was already a serious player.But in the interview I'm talking about Pino either said or alluded to these musical facts:

  1. He didn't know any scale theory as he took a few lessons with the teacher I mentioned in yesterday's lesson and learned the modes of the major scale (Dorian, Mixolydian, etc) and;
  2. He didn't read music

So the obvious question to ask is this: if Pino didn't know any scale theory (and didn't read music) how did he come up with the critically lauded bass lines I mentioned above? As well as a bunch more.

The answer is that Pino had - and has - great ears.

And his bass lines were created by his creative adaptation of the bass language that existed. And that Pino had learned by listening to.  That was bass players like Jamerson, Stevie Wonder's keyboard bass, Jaco, Paul Jackson (RIP) and similar.

What I think Pino did was this: he heard ideas in the bass lines of the guys I mentioned above; he worked out how to play those ideas on the bass; by experimentation, he worked out how to create lines by putting together those ideas in ways that sounded good to him.

This is akin to the way we learn to speak:

  • we hear people speaking around us;
  • we try and mimic the words they tell us;
  • we ask for definitions of words we don't understand;
  • we experiment with communicating with others by putting the words we've learned together into sentences.

Now if you don't have great ears it's very difficult to do this.But what you CAN do is come from this from another angle:

  • you can learn the most commonly used 'words' in the bass language;
  • you can practice these words so that you learn the sound of them (and you'll know you've done that when you hear a bass line on the radio and you recognize some of the 'words' being used)
  • you learn how you can put these 'words' together in a way that makes sense in different chord progressions to create a bass line
  • you learn the bass equivalent of adverbs that allows you to add variety to the bass 'words' you are speaking on your bass.

Now depending on where you are on your bass journey there's a good chance that you already "know" some of these bass words. You just don't know that you know them, you don't know enough other words to create your own sentences, you don't know how to thoroughly practice them in multiple chord progressions and in all keys so that you 'own' them, and you don't know how to modify them.

In the next lesson I'll point you to a lesson that I'm going to set up for you demonstrating one of the most basic words in the bass language.

Hit the blue CONTINUE button below to check that out.

Paul Wolfe/

If you want to check out the previous article in this series then click on the link below to check them out:


#1 How I Became The Songs Not Scales Guy -