A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Lesson 1: 3/28/2011 (E String)

Sorry. This first post with the new book is going to be lengthy.

So, I started going through the Hal Leonard Bass Method Complete book yesterday. I did the open string exercises and the lesson on the E string. I’m learning to read standard notation as I go (at least as far as bass is concerned, I think the treble side of things is different), so I’m going slowly. I’ll probably do the same lesson over again, to make sure its ingrained in my head. Here’s a breakdown of what was covered so far:

Equipment & Position:

1.  I glossed over the pages on parts of the bass, the amp and tuning methods. I’ve seen enough of that in other books, so I think I know how it works well enough to move on.

2.  Playing positions covered both sitting and standing. They each get ½ a page with 4 bullets. This is discussed a lot more thoroughly in other books. However, there are differences in things like hand position when sitting vs. standing that I’ll write about later, as it could be helpful to beginners, like me. I’ve grabbed info about left and right hand positioning from the internet and was especially impressed by the videos from Adam Neely which I posted on March 4 (the day I started this blog).

Musical Symbols:

3.  Next comes a page summarizing musical symbols. This is where the book really begins for me. The top of the page shows the staff, bass clef, lines & spaces and where the notes fall on the staff. It explains that music is made up of two basic elements: rhythm and pitch. Pitch is shown on the musical staff by where a note is placed. The higher a note is placed on the staff, the higher the pitch of the note, and vice versa. Some phrases are given to help memorize the note sequence (one for the notes on the lines, another for the ones in the spaces). I’ve seen these in other books as well.

4.  Rhythm is discussed on the 2nd half of the page. The staff diagram here shows bar lines, a double bar line (end of section) and the final bar line (end of song). Rhythm is shown using measures, or bars. This is represented by the horizontal space between bar lines. Each measure contains a certain number of beats, which dictates how many notes are in each measure. The time signature tells the reader how many beats per measure and what kind of note gets a beat. There are a million books and websites which cover this information in detail. Many of the ones I’ve looked at in the past did seem to drown the reader in up-front information. I like that this bass method introduces it in manageable chunks. We’re actually given a lot of data on this page, but the lessons which follow use even smaller subsets of it to gradually orient the reader to music notation.

5.  The bottom of the page shows the quarter note, half note and whole note and tells the reader how many beats each note lasts (1 beat, 2 beats & 4 beats, respectively). That’s basically all we’re initially exposed to, as far as music theory. Its broken down and used in actual practice further in.

Right & Left Hand Technique:

6.  These two pages go over finger-style playing, playing with a pick and the fingering (fretting) system. Other books use the 1-finger-per-fret guideline, which means that they recommend having each finger (index, middle, ring and pinky) on a different fret, ready to press down as needed. This method uses the index, middle and pinky. To me, its weird, but I’ll see if it makes sense as I learn more. It probably begins like this because initially, our fingers aren’t used to stretching out far enough to accommodate 4 frets when we begin learning to play. Additionally, a muting technique is described, where the striking hand is moved to allow the thumb to rest on strings to keep them from ringing as other higher strings are played.

Finally, We Play:

7.  Ok. Those first 11 pages gave us some theory in the form of what music looks like on paper, and a primer on what to do with our hands. Now, we get to use that in a really basic way: open string exercises! There’s no tab, so we’re shown where on the musical staff each of the open (unfretted) strings on the bass is. “E” is actually under the staff. A line has to be drawn to show it. I found this to be useful, because it makes it really different from the others and is very obvious when you see it. “A”, “D”, and “G” have actual places on the staff, either on a line or in a space. A series of four exercises walks us through playing different notes (quarter, half and whole) on each string. It shows us how to count how long to hold each note and very easily introduces us to reading music while playing. Five additional exercises make us play notes across more than one string. Because its just open strings, it’s a really simple introduction. Each note (E, A, D, G) is far enough from the others on the staff that after a few tries, they become very easy to tell apart. So simple, in fact that I ended up moving on to the next lesson: Notes on the E String. Oh, and the technique of raking is introduced. This is just playing several strings from highest (thinnest) to lowest (thickest) using the same finger in one sweeping motion.

8.  The E string! At last, we begin to read and play while fretting a string. This lesson covers the first 4 frets of the E (thickest) string. Its called the lowest string because it makes the lowest sounds when played. Physically, it’s the top string though, the one farthest from the floor. We’re shown the E, F & G notes on the staff, and learn that they’re found on the open, first and third frets on the E string. So, its just 3 notes to learn, both in notation and on the fretboard. Easy! Like with the open strings, there are exercises which have us play the notes while reading. Unlike the open strings, we don’t have exercises with just the same note. Every one mixes all three notes, so you learn to recognize each in relation to the others. Its simpler than it sounds, believe me. Since you don’t have to worry about the other strings, you don’t need to remember the stuff from the previous lesson just yet. I’m reviewing it all tomorrow though, to prepare for later.

So that’s it. It seems like a lot, but really, when it comes down to it, the only new information to me was reading music on the open strings and first 3 frets of the E string. So, it was really just those two last paragraphs that were new. I think further lessons will be about that size, on average. Going through the entire thing with the notes probably took 10 minutes. I repeated them several times though, and will do the same tomorrow and again In the future to make sure I’m able to identify the notes as needed. Thus far, this Hal Leonard method is enjoyable and I’m definitely learning things. So, thanks, Ed Friedland!

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: HLBM 01: Open String Exercises | Ugly Bass Face

  2. Pingback: Hal Leonard Bass Method (Ed Friedland) index | Ugly Bass Face

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