JamPlay For Bass Guitar,
When I heard that JamPlay.com, the best online lessons site I have found, had launched lessons for bass guitar players, I was both thrilled and anxious to review JamPlay for bass guitar. Why? First, my instrument of choice these days is the bass . Second, I knew that if their bass lessons were on par with their six-string guitar lessons, my playing would soon benefit.
Could the bass lessons side of JamPlay.com live up to their high standards for the 6-string side of their site, or would this be an other example of a half-hearted attempt to provide some basic content for bass players, just so they could say they do?
I contacted the staff at JamPlay for a review login, and they quickly provided a full-site temporary login. The staff of JamPlay devote themselves to providing the best in online lessons, and this was another example of how they work hard to get the word out.
I jumped right in to see what they have for the bass player.
A Bass-ic Overview
The JamPlay bass lessons are built into the JamPlay.com site as a clickable tab, which appears near the top of the page after you select one of the Video Lesson links on the left side of the page. This makes sense, but it took a few minutes for me to understand the concept. Once I did, finding and navigating the bass lessons was straightforward. After you click the bass guitar lessons tab, simply scroll up and down to read about lessons and instructors, click on the instructor of your choice, and start your lesson! You can also search for "bass" lessons across the entire site using the handy Search Jamplay box (top right). Some of the results were bass-line lessons for six string guitar, but identifying which were bass-guitar specific quickly became obvious.
After you click the bass guitar lessons tab, simply scroll to read about
lessons & instructors. This example shows some of the Phase I lessons.
If you want the best lessons, you need the best instructors, and JamPlay manages to find some of the most talented and helpful teachers out there. Imagine being able to take lessons, for example, from touring jazz bassist Larry Cook. How would you like to study with Freebo, the award-winning singer/songwriter who has played with artists such as Bonnie Raitt (10 years), John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, CSN, Ringo Starr, and Neil Young? What if you could learn from Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, or Billy Sheehan (from Mr. Big, Steve Vai, Talas, and David Lee Roth). With JamPlay for bass you don't have to get on long waiting lists, fit your schedule to match their opening, drive far, or pay big bucks. You simply select your favorite instructor, then learn on your schedule and at your pace. What could be better?
The Jamplay for bass lessons are organized the same logical way that JamPlay arranged their guitar lessons: by skill level. JamPlay calls these skill levels Phase I (Beginner), Phase II (Genres & Skills), and Phase III (Songs). In addition, they offer an "Artist Series" of lessons, featuring improvisation, writing, advanced technique and other specialized skills for those who feel like a challenge.
Jamplay for bass lessons are organized by skill level:
Phase I (Beginner), Phase II (Genres & Skills), Phase III (Songs), and Artist Series.
Trying A Few Lessons
I looked at a number of lesson options, and decided to try a Phase I lesson called "Beginner Bass With Billy," taught by Billy Sheehan (see above for Billy's short bio). These lessons are perfect for any new bass guitarist looking to understand the art and potential of the bass guitar. In fact, many intermediate bass guitarists would benefit as these lessons are so rich in information. Billy's goal is to equip you with the knowledge to get out there playing with others, while understanding the essentials.
One great aspect of Billy's teaching style is that he understands that there is no "real proper way" to do everything on the bass. There is tremendous freedom for personal style. As an example, it is completely up to you to determine if and when you use your fingers to pluck the strings or use a pick. It is up to you where you place your thumb (though he has reasons for why you might place it behind the neck). The key is to enjoy playing. Much of the rest is up to you.
I was very impressed with the lesson-set I watched. In addition to the discussion on how to play with others, Billy covers the important role of the bass in bringing the entire band together, and how to lock in with the drummer. These topics are frequently overlooked by instructors, but they are critical for setting you apart from other bass players when working with a group of any size.
As with the other JamPlay lessons I have tried, the examples and explanations were consistently excellent. The simultaneous camera angles (one wide shot to see the player and guitar, one focused on the fretboard, and a third showing the plucking hand… even a fourth angle at times!) allow you to see clearly every part of the demonstration.
There was a great balance of introductory theory, practical tips, and a number of simple concepts for the absolute beginner. The lessons also included samples that gave a taste of how good a player can become after a few years of practice. Nothing too intimidating, and nothing too simplistic.
Billy recommends songs for the beginner to listen to, tells you what to listen for and why (hint: prepare to crank up some classic rock!). He also recommends every player learn a series of songs from their favorite artists, and practice until you can play them back-to-back as a "set" (yes, just as though you were performing on stage). He finds this is a great way to learn how to play with others, and how to play what's important. This is excellent advice, but I never heard it before!
Finally, Billy's lessons cover some of the topics every new bass player will want to understand, including: patterns for a major scale, andhow to get past (or get over) making mistakes.
This JamPlay for bass guitar lesson set is not for you if you need to learn the string and note names, or how to play various scales. But it is filled with so much good discussion I would recommend it for all levels of bass player. If you need to understand the skills not covered here, check out the lessons from Freebo (more on his lessons below), or one of the other instructors.
The Freebo Lessons:
Freebo (see bio, above) leads a fabulous set of lessons for the absolute beginner who needs to learn note names, how to hold the bass, learn the names of the parts of the bass, the (important) relationships between notes on the fretboard (how to find fourths, fifths, octaves, and more), string damping (and why!), hammer on's, hammer off's, scales (major, dorian, pentatonic, patterns, progressions) and so much more. Believe me, Freebo and JamPlay put together a great set of lessons.
Freebo methodically advances from topic to topic, provides numerous examples (showing both the right way and the wrong way), and spends the time necessary to make the material understandable. His philosophy is a combination of "everything for a purpose" and "play every note as if it were the most important one you will play."
When you play through the Freebo Jamplay for bass guitar lessons, prepare to take your time. He does a great job of explaining and demonstrating, but you must practice to benefit from the amazing amount of instruction he packs into most of the lessons!
Tips For Using JamPlay
Without going into a full review on the visual layout of Jamplay.com, I would like to mention a few useful features, all of which apply to the JamPlay for bass guitar lessons screens.
While watching lesson playback, the lesson itself plays in the central portion of the screen. Along the bottom of this panel are the standard "play/pause" buttons and a slider to choose the playback location in the video. On either side of the slider you find time-elapsed and time-remaining timers. Underneath the slider is a description of the scene you are watching. (A number of lessons are divided into several "scenes" in order to group teaching material into logical segments.) To the far right of the scene name is an innocent looking block and bar (which sort of looks like a pixelated microphone). This up/down slider allows you to see all the scene names, which you can then select by clicking the name. (See image, below).
Sample Jamplay For Bass Lesson Screen, showing playback controls,
progress bar, the instructor, quality selectors, tabs for additional content, and more.
To the right of the playback time slider are four very handy tools: Link To, Bookmark, A/B Loop Marker, Fullscreen, and Volume.
The "Link To" button (which has the standard look of chain links) allows you to copy a link to this specific lesson. Simply click it and a pop-up appears with the URL, as well as a "Copy to Clipboard" button. Close the panel with the down-arrow icon.
The Bookmark icon (which looks like a file folder with a star) is handy when you have to get up and leave your Jamplay for bass guitar lesson, but do not want to lose your place. Think of it as "remember my place." Simply click the Bookmark icon and then click "Save". You can also delete bookmarks you previously saved.
One of the most handy features is looping. To create a loop, click the A marker when playback is at the spot where you want the loop to begin, then click the B marker at the spot where you want the loop to end. When activated, your loop will play repeatedly. Use this when you need to hear and see a portion of the Jamplay for bass guitar video several times. There is no better way to practice something new than to see it and practice it repeatedly.
The last two icons are used to make the video full-screen, and to adjust playback volume. Fairly standard options for video playback, but also very useful.
Below the video screen are several settings for playback quality. You can adjust playback quality to best utilize your Internet connection speed.
A set of clickable tabs along the bottom of the screen give you information about the lesson, provide access to supplemental materials (TAB, Notation or other content provided by your instructor), the complete list of lessons for the series you are viewing (handy for selecting the next lesson, without returning to the main lesson page), a place to leave your personal notes about the lesson, and a tab for comments and discussion (presumably for JamPlay staff or the instructor to review).
Along the left hand side of the video are links to return to the main lesson set or the JamPlay Home panel, a description of the current video you are watching in the series, and below that a progress bar. The progress bar helps you remember which lessons you have worked all the way through. Next to the Progress bar is a tab for access to a metronome. You probably already know that a metronome is essential for accurate practice. This basic metronome allows you to set beats per measure, speed, and which beats get an accent. The stop/start button gives a visual indicator of the beat during play.
The JamPlay staff is committed to providing a site that works well and is constantly improving. As an example of this, I noted a problem shortly after beginning to use the Jamplay for bass guitar lessons. It had to do with the placement of the video quality selectors (Low, Medium, High, Super, 720p). On my Mac, running Safari, you had to position your cursor just right or the quality settings could not be clicked. When I notified Jamplay, they replied by stating they already had the problem on their "to fix" list. They had the fix up in just a few days. How many sites are that dedicated to quality and usability?
Pricing & Value For Your Money
How much are good lessons worth?
Note that I did not ask how much you now pay for your lessons. You can pay a lot, or a little, for lessons. In the end the best question to ask is: Are the lessons I am paying for helping me improve as a player? After using the JamPlay for bass guitar lessons for a few weeks, I can honestly say that the value is very high for access to such great-quality lessons and educated instructors. In addition, you can take these lessons on your schedule. You can view them over and over, track your progress, interact with the instructor, and much more. In my opinion, you would be hard-pressed to find a better value for your lesson dollar.
Jamplay for bass guitar is $19.95 per month, $49.95 for three months, or $139.95 for a full year. If you decide to upgrade to a membership that includes both bass and guitar, you can get a discount for access to all of their lessons. (See the Sidebar, above.) When you consider the cost of individual lessons, or even group lessons through a community college or park service, access to Jamplay is a tremendous value.
Can you judge an entire web-site by one or two sets of lessons? No. But, a number of years ago I learned a valuable lesson as a manager. I had just been promoted, and was struggling with how to effectively oversee 15-20 employees. When I spoke to my mentor, he told me about "management by walking around" or MBWA. The key to MBWA is to walk around from time to time and simply observe what people are doing. Once you do this a few times, you get a really great idea of who is working hard, who needs help, and who is goofing off. I applied this to my quick review of the JamPlay for bass guitar lessons. My conclusion? No one is goofing off! The JamPlay staff have done a great job of pulling together high quality lessons using outstanding instructors for Jamplay for bass guitar.
Free Trial (Sorry, Guitar side only)
Would you like to try the site out? The good news that we have a special offer for the readers of Start-Playing-Guitar.com (thanks to JamPlay.com and SelectSoundsLLC.com): you can get a FREE one week trial of JamPlay.com. There are no strings attached. You don't even have to give them a credit card. Simply click here, then enter "SelectFree" as your discount code. You get seven completely free days of access to all of the guitar lessons (sorry, the bass section is not available as part of the free trial yet. But we're convinced that once you see the quality of the material at JamPlay.com, you will see the value of membership).
Thanks to JamPlay.com for allowing me access to the site for this review. I will be back for more!