ZTL ep.30 - The only 2 things you really need to play

ZTL ep.30 - What do you really need to play?


Tiziano dedicated an episode of the ZTL series (which you can find on our YOUBASSLAB channel) to a somewhat controversial topic. Exactly four minutes on the topic of priorities, i.e. what is really essential if you want to play a musical instrument, be it electric bass or whatever.

In fact, it happens that many instrumentalists get lost in a flood of 'minutiae', pass me the term (and instruments, and strings, and amplifiers, and pedal boards, etc.), often going into the smallest details almost to the point of exhaustion. True or not?

Of course, they are important. Everything is important, starting with the instrument that goes without saying is essential. In doing so, however, they lose sight of what really counts for useful and effective practice (and solid performance). If you want to play, in fact there are 2 things - 2 skills - that come BEFORE EVERYTHING ELSE.

If you put these two skills first, and take care of them constantly, the rest also works MUCH better.

What are these two things? Titian talks about them in that video, which I have summarised and developed below. I think it will make you think and give you a key to organise your music practice with the right things... in the right order.


The 2 fundamental skills


There are 2 things a musician must be able to do really well.

Everything else(beautiful bass, great amplifier, new strings, various pedals...) is interesting and useful, but secondary and doesn't deliver without these two fundamental skills.

In a way, it is disconcerting to realise that the various accessories you buy are not so essential... and that the only two things that are really important for playing are actually the only things you can't buy!

No, you have to sweat these out. You have to devote time and attention to them, constantly. They must become almost a habit. Of course, the benefits are incalculable.

These 2 skills, quite simply, can be summarised as:

1) Ability to sing sounds

That is, you must be able to sing the sounds with the clearest and most precise intonation possible.

N.B. Ability to sing does not mean having a singer's range or timbre. It is not necessary. But you need to make sure that yourear has a clear understanding of the frequency of the various sounds that you then go on to perform on the instrument.

2) Ability to perfectly beat the rhythm

That is, knowing how to scan a rhythm using hand clapping. You don't just have to perform the rhythm by playing it with a note on the instrument, or by singing it internally in your head.

No, you really have to perform rhythmic exercises with your hands, physically, because it is the most effective way to internalise the pattern of a given rhythm. Its scansion, its structure. Only with your hands do you really make it your own, and super precise.

Why are they so important?

These two skills, the precise rhythmic clapping of the hands and the intonation of the notes, are by far the most important for playing music. They formthe scaffolding on which all music stands, and make you 'exposed' and vulnerable if you don't master them properly.

They are like a compass that allows you to orient and direct all the other elements you use to produce music with your instrument.

For this, you must first be able to sing the notes you want to play well, and to realise them rhythmically with clapping.

Your musical result is not really a matter of the equipment you use or the various adjustments of all the devices. All this is certainly important, BUT IT COMES AFTER!

If, on the other hand, you develop clarity in rhythm and intonation, you are better able to intervene on the other, more 'refined' aspects (e.g. change bass tones, add a chorus, etc.) with real knowledge. If, on the other hand, you are weak in rhythm and ear, everything else loses its foundation.

And so, whenever you have to learn a new piece, be it a bass line, a small melody, or a more articulate piece, use this preparatory process:

  • first beat the rhythm with the clapping of your hands
  • sing the line with your voice

Don't think it is a trivial, boring, or worse just a useless waste of time!!!

On the contrary. This is actually the most important and beneficial practice of all, and will make you a very solid musician. Those who can do these things well automatically can play the instrument much more incisively and accurately. Which is exactly what is required of an electric bass in particular 😉

Those who practise these aspects with care certainly achieve a higher level of skill than those who neglect them, regardless of the value and quantity of the equipment used!

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🔴 It is no coincidence that in the Contemporary Bassist Online method a large part of the work is dedicated to developing these 2 aspects with various specific rhythmic and ear training exercises, which I invite you to follow with particular attention. Particularly in volume 1, which is the basis for the whole course.

With over 500 progressive videos, the online course gives you a very solid knowledge of all the fundamental subjects for a professional bass player.

You can find all the information and access to the various sections of the course here ==>


Obviously you will have to start with the first cycle Lessons 1-10 (you can also add Volume 1 needed to follow the videos). You need a good connection and of course some commitment and perseverance on your part. In a few months you will be able to complete the first level and be ready to tackle more and more challenging material and musical situations!

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One comment

  1. Great tip, the rhythm in your hands and the sound your mouth makes, thank you for all you do for those who love and want to learn this wonderful instrument.

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