A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for April, 2011

Shopping with the alien

So, we got back from Bill & Sara’s wedding on Sunday. It was lively. 😉 After all these years, I had my first hangover. I figure its nature’s way of reminding me that I’m less than a month from turning 36.

I learned some cool things about Bill while we were drinking, way up in Geneva. He’s not primarily a metal drummer. Its just that everything he plays turns into metal. His first love is progressive rock. He’s also a big theory-head, and plays guitar… and a little bass. I picked his brain a little up there, and he admitted that he approaches bass from a guitaristic (is that a real word?) vantage. Its all good though.

When we got back, I finally got to take my cousin’s husband out briefly. I feel really bad for him. He’s from Trinidad, where most of my family is from. This is his first time up in New York. His wife (my cousin), her sister and their mother are with him. So is his 2-year old daughter. With the exception of the daughter, they’ve all been here before… and where do they take him? Shopping. Nonstop… 3 weeks of shopping.

So, anyway, I got away from work for long enough to take him out. It turns out that he’s a guitarist back home. He recognized my bass right away when his daughter ran up the stairs and into my bedroom. He also recognized that I’m left-handed. We got to talking. He’s a lefty too. He was in a band in Trinidad that plays things like Bryan Adams covers. That was a big surprise to me, because Trinidad isn’t known for rock. Its the home of the steel drum, soca and calypso. He hasn’t played in a while, but has been itching to get back into music.

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Bill’s getting married!

So, wifey and I are running upstate to Geneva, NY today and returning on Sunday. No bass for me for a few days. 😦 Its for a good cause though. Bill Angelini, our friend and drummer for Open Denile, is marrying his longtime girlfriend, Sarah, on Saturday.

You’re on your own Bill, no one warned me when I tied the knot either!

Here’s a video of Bill at a drum challenge from a few years back. He came in 3rd place. 😉


Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Destroying Angels

Bohren & Der Club of Gore

I’ve been listening to this album all day while working. Its called Black Earth (2002). Bohren & Der Club of Gore are German ambient jazz. Its fantastic, but its making me crave whiskey, cigarettes and a walk in the rain.

[edit 8.21.15] The original video has been removed. Here’s a new link:


What are sharps and flats?

In a previous post, I spoke a little about how to play sharps (♯) and flats (♭) on the first few frets of the E string. I didn’t actually talk about what they are though. This is a little confusing to me still, but lets take a shot at it:

What are sharps and flats?

Sharps and flats belong to a group of notes in music called accidentals. They’re most easily visible on instruments like piano and keyboard as the black keys. In contrast, each of the natural notes (A – G) is played on a white key on the piano. The accidental notes occur between the naturals.

On bass, the pattern is the same, but it’s represented a little differently. Most of the natural notes on bass are 2 frets apart. The in-between frets are where the accidentals reside. For example, on the E string, the first fret is F. The 3rd fret is G. That fret between them is an accidental.

Look at the keyboard image above. You can see F on a white key, followed by a black key, and then G. Now, look at the image below. You can see F is the first fret of the E string, followed by an F# and then G is the third fret (the first dotted fret on the bass).

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Second exercise

This is an exercise I did by accident for weeks, when I was going through Bass Guitar Secrets about 2-3 months ago. I’d read the tab upside down, because I like to practice late at night when I’m running on fumes and my head isn’t clear. The idea is that its supposed to help with flexibility when playing over multiple strings. It forces you to leave one finger behind when other fingers move up a string.

The exercise is in 4 parts. The first part isolates the index finger, the 2nd isolates the middle, then comes the ring and finally the pinky. Basically, each gets anchored to the E string (or whatever your lowest string is if you have more than 4) while the others move up. Its done in a position. This means that you can play it further up or down the neck when you’re ready.

If you have BGS Volume 1, the exercise that Alex Sampson wrote which I messed up to create this is Exercise 3, “Birds on a Wire“.

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Crowbar – Ace of Spades (Motorhead cover / live)

Crowbar – Ace of Spades (Motorhead cover, live 7/2000)

I love Crowbar. This is probably my favorite cover of Ace of Spades. Kirk Windstein is such a fat, doomy bastard. 😉


Sitting vs standing

Background / Senseless prattle

For the first few weeks after I started practicing, I found that I was only able to move around the fretboard if I was seated while playing. I practiced my exercises and got to where I could play them without many mistakes, but if I stood up and played, it was like I was touching the neck for the first time.

The main issues were that I couldn’t see the frets or where my fingers were when not on a chair. Sitting made the bass rest partially against my thigh, which angled it so that the front faced a little more skyward. Standing lost this angle and made me rely on feel, which I don’t have yet.

I didn’t really know what to do about this other than to practice while standing. And you know what? It worked! About 15 years ago, a friend of mine (Hi PJ!) said to me that the sixth sense was sense of body. Its like how you can close your eyes and still know where your fingers are. I think that if you play enough, memorization and sense of body will teach your hands where the contours of the instrument are and where your fingers are along the neck, much like typing.

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