A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

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Jo Bench (bassist for Bolt Thrower)

bt-logo

Those of you who are death metal fans know that Bolt Thrower retired last week. Its been a year since the passing of their drummer, Martin Kearns (Kiddie), and with that, they’ve finally laid down their instruments together.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that their bassist, Jo Bench, is one of my favorite low-enders. Her style is relentless and unstoppable. Whenever I talk about her with people, I end up comparing her to a steamroller, flattening everything in her path with the riffs emanating from her bass. She’s not flashy, but her groove and sensibilities mesh with Bolt Thrower’s playing so seamlessly, it makes me tear up. The duo of her and Kiddie are one of my favorite rhythm sections in metal. When I think “driving rhythm” in metal, they’re one of the teams that always come to mind.

Jo is one of the first women to gain prominence in death metal. She might actually be the first. While editing my wife’s thesis on women in extreme metal, I learned about classifications of women in metal from scholars such as Sonia Vasan and Deena Weinstein that placed them into two main categories, one of which flaunted their sexuality or gender difference to find a place in the scene and another of which adopted more “male” trappings and behaviors to fit in. I think Jo fit into the latter more than the former – although she might have somewhat sidestepped the entire issue of being a “woman in metal and/or rock” by being a musician first and woman second, when conducting herself both on- and off-stage for Bolt Thrower.

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Practice 8/29/16 – HLBM More Notes on the A String

This weekend was Bopps’ birthday. She turned 4 and we had a little get-together in the backyard with a few folks. There was a bunch of food and a kiddie pool, so both kids and adults were happy. Because of this and a visit with some relatives from Trinidad who stayed with us for the past 2 weeks, I didn’t get to sit down and practice for a few days. I finally got some time to myself just now, though, and went through the Hal Leonard book again. I completed everything up to the “More Notes on the A String” exercise, which gives us A#/Bb and C#/Db, along with introducing us to the finger roll.

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Snippet from More Notes on the A String (pg. 20)

I made it through the first page of the new lesson with A# and C# and got to that “Roll It” lesson that has the fingerings above the notation that was stalling my reading last time. It did it again, so I’m stopping for now, since I’m tired anyway and need to throw some clothes in the dryer.

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GigPig drum kit/percussion box

GigPig Double-Tom-blackSo, wifey saw her department head the other day when she picked up her thesis with his suggested edits. Because she had some free time, they shot the breeze, and during the talk our plan to get drums for Bopps came up, and he told her that he wanted to do the same for his son, who’s now 13.

Because of space constraints, he was looking at something I’ve never seen before – its called a GigPig. Its like a crate with a drum kit growing out of it. I haven’t shared it with my drummer friends yet, but I’ll do so this weekend. It looks cool to me, but the sound is supposed to be a little different from a full kit as well.

The main page has a bunch of videos. If you’re interested in drums, percussion or just instruments in general, take a gander.

Music Notes app for Windows 10

Music Notes app

So yesterday I mentioned a music app I grabbed from the Windows 10 store that helps with learning notes on the musical staff. The app is called Music Notes. Its almost like using flash cards. When you start it up, you choose treble or bass clef, slide the game timer (I kept it at 5 mins) and hit start. It then flashes notes on the staff onscreen and you have to choose the note name by letter. If you get the note right, another appears. If you get it wrong, you can try again until you have the right one. At the end, it lets you know how many notes you correctly named and what your percentage of correct notes over the play time was.

The app isn’t complex, and I actually like running through it 1 or 2 times before moving onto other stuff, especially if I’m reading on my tablet in bed. I think it actually is somewhat helping me to remember notes, but I won’t be able to make a more educated assessment until I’ve used it for a while.

I do wish that there were an option to select from a specific set of notes, so I could synch it to run the notes I’m working on in lessons from the Hal Leonard Bass Method. Also, with the version I have, its all natural notes – no sharps or flats. That’s fine for me for now though, since I’m still wet-behind-the-ears with notation.

Practice 8/24/16 – HLBM Notes on the A String

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Snippet from Notes on the A String – Cattle Crossing (pg. 19)

I got in a little practice this AM, running through all of the More Notes on the E String exercises from the HLBM and then moving onto the Notes on the A String exercises. I was able to get through all of them, and surprisingly had an easier time on the A string than the E. It might be because A, B & C actually fall into the same pattern as the minor scale, so its something that I’m somewhat used to playing.

The last exercise, Cattle Crossing, was a little bit of a twister to play initially, because it uses both the E and A strings and a sharp instead of all natural notes, but I did it! I’ll try to run through these again later today, depending on how work and baby stuff goes.

Practice 8/23/16 – HLBM

HLBMSo this is the 2nd day in a row that I’ve gotten some practice in. Yesterday, it was in the early AM. Now, its in the early night. I ran through the More Notes on the E String exercises from the Hal Leonard Bass Method. It introduces us to F#/Gb and G# and also has those dreaded shifting exercises that used to trip me up so much in the past.

I’m happy to say, even though I’ve only practiced for 30 mins, I made it through the whole section, shifting exercises and all, with the metronome set to 92. I had to run some of the exercises beforehand, without the metronome, just to make sure I could read the notation, but once that was done, I was able to pull it off – and I’m not saying the note names aloud when I do it. Some of that is probably me beginning to internalize them again, and some of it is because I just can’t recognize the notes, say them aloud (when I have to say “sharp” or “flat” with the note letter) and actually play the right note. Someday…

Also, I grabbed an app on the Windows tablet the other night that I finally had a minute to test out last night, before bed. Its a free game that just flashes notes on either the treble or bass clef (I chose bass clef, of course) and you have to tap on the right note letter. There’s a timer – so I set it to 5 mins. I played through twice and got 90-something notes each time, so I’m getting around 18-19 notes per minute right, or roughly one every 3 seconds. Yay! I’ll post later with the name of the app, as the tablet’s upstairs.

Updates since July

Minions bass

Its been a long month. Wifey just got back last night from a few days in Texas at a bridal party for one of her best friends (who’s also the godmother to our daughter). Said daughter is going to turn 4 in 6 more days. Next week she starts pre-k, and we’re basically potty-trained. That could be a post in itself, but its for a different blog than this one. Wifey got an email from her graduate advisor for her 2nd master’s. He was really impressed with her paper on women in extreme metal in NY and will send edits to her, which she has to pick up tomorrow – by hand, of course. She’s also starting a new job at Lehman College this week, after about 3 weeks off since leaving her position at Columbia University. And I started advertising my new company, HouseCall, about 3 weeks ago. I’ve gotten 2 calls so far – a home user and a small business – and was able to solve both. I also have a repeat customer with the small business and became an authorized Avira reseller.

I’m trying to figure out advertising. So far, I’m on Craigslist, Google Adwords, Facebook and just signed up with Angie’s List this weekend. Outside of the internet, I’m advertising on the placemats at Coach Diner in White Plains and will be in a church bulletin after finalizing an ad tomorrow. I wanted to be on the placemats at Raceway Diner, which is right up the street from me. I’ve been eating balboas there for about 25 years, but I missed the deadline by a week, and their placemat ads run in 6-month blocks. I’m reserved for the next run though.

Ok. On to bass. I practiced for about 15 mins yesterday before the baby made it impossible. I ran through all of the old exercises on the E string from the Hal Leonard Bass Method after warming up with Lucretia, My Reflection, from Sisters of Mercy. This AM, I ran through those exercises again, only this time with a metronome set to 92 BPM. I’ve found that playing with a metronome is harder, because I’m listening for the click, instead of purely counting internally. I’m up in the air about whether its keeping me honest with regard to my actual time, but it probably is.

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