Recording as an Educational Tool
Documenting your work is extremely educational. Past generations of music students had few opportunities to record their playing, but today, the sky's the limit! If you record yourself regularly, you can better measure your progress, and this will help you to better structure your practice routine. In a sense, you can be your own teacher.
How does this work? Through recordings, you can listen to performances after the fact then judge your work. Once you remove yourself from the mechanics of music making you will be able to listen with a more objective ear. In other words, you will be able to hear yourself as others hear you. This is an invaluable tool, especially if you do not take private lessons. It's hard to critique your playing in the heat of the moment. However, if you go back and listen to what you played after the fact, you will be able to assess your music with more insight and clarity.
When listening to recordings of yourself what should you listen for?
Time keeping. If you find that you are not keeping steady time, spend more time with a metronome.
Rhythmical accuracy. Are your rhythms clean and fluid? Do you play with intent and confidence? If not, again, practice with a metronome. If you're having a lot of problems with rhythm, buy a beginner drum method book — yes, a drum method book — and practice tapping or clapping rhythms. This will help you to better understand rhythms. It may also help you to create tighter grooves with the drummer in your band.
Tone. Are you creating an attractive and expressive sound on the bass? If not, think about how you're plucking or picking the strings and how you're depressing each string. Also, ask yourself if your bass is in good shape. Have you had a setup recently? Is it out of tune?
Appropriateness. Think about how well you're gelling with the other musicians in the band, particularly the drummer and the singer or soloist. Are you too loud? Too soft? Too busy? To spare? Are you driving the music or do you sound soggy and logy? Does the music feel good or does it feel stiff, uninviting, or mechanical? Feel is everything!
Proper bass lines and improvisation. Proper or good bass lines are not easy to devise. Hopefully by now this book has set you on the right path. The goal is to properly fill out the lower end of the band's sound without getting in the way of the lead singer or the soloist. If you're in a situation where you improvise, are you playing thoughtful solos? What about your note choice? Do you make lots of errors when you solo or do you play lines that fit well over the chord changes? There is nothing worse than sketchy improvisation. It's important to use your ear and your knowledge of music theory to discriminate between right and wrong notes. Also, it's important to know the difference between hip notes and passable notes. Obviously, some of this is subjective. The best way to learn about note choice is to listen to and internalize the bass playing of the masters. Will you play a wonky note on occasion? Yes. However, if wrong notes are commonplace, you need to rethink your approach to improvisation and make soloing or improvised bass lines a bigger priority during practice time.