A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for December, 2011

IIB Week 3 – Monday chat (12/19/11)

The Week 3 chat with Cliff Engel from IIB was more productive than the first week’s. I think its because I had time to go over some of the material from the previous week (Week 2) beforehand.

The first five minutes was smalltalk, but then Cliff asked how the lesson material was going. I told him that I’d not gotten through everything yet, but that I had a few questions based on what I had read and what I was practicing. Here are snippets of the questions I asked and the responses from the chat log:


IIB Week 3 – Lesson #3 (Seventh Chords)

I’m a little late with this post but I did make Week 3’s chat with Cliff Engel. We can look at that later though. IIB‘s Week 3 lesson focused on 7th chords – which are the next chords after triads. I’ve actually not gotten to go through all of the materials yet because end-of-year client stuff. I’m still working (a bit slowly) on Week 1 and Week 2 materials (learning the notes on the neck and triads – plus their inversions, etc.).

Anyhow, here’s a rundown of what I have to get to from Week 3… thankfully we can go at our own pace with this:

  • Seventh Chords
  • Chordal Sequences
  • Chordal Cells
  • A Guide to Chord Symbols
  • Bass Notation
  • Note Studies – Open Strings – 5th Fret
  • Rhythm Studies – Half, Quarter & Eighth Notes
  • Ear Training – Seventh Chords

The opening text for this lesson (which also included a ZIP file with 11 folders – each of which has twelve 7th chords in MP3 format) says the following:

In our third lesson, we are going to discuss seventh chords. We will study a collection of the most frequently used chord symbols in charts along with a unique set of markings and symbols that are utilized specifically by bassists in music notation. We will also continue working through a series of note and rhythmic exercises to increase the proficiency of your sight reading skills.

I’ve practiced 7ths a bit before, but not to the extent that this material seems to cover. I’ve only glanced at it, but it looks like it will explore them much more deeply than the 1-2 patterns I’ve taught myself (which were basically a major 7th & minor 7th). Like with the other lessons, repetition is most likely key.

Here’s a breakdown of the topics:


Christmas Invasion

Ho ho ho.

Christmas this year was really music-oriented, much to my surprise – and Guitar Center‘s delight. We grabbed a copy of RockSmith for the PS3 for our nephew, Christian, and his dad, Tony. Earlier this year Christian showed an interest in learning guitar, and his dad owns & plays an acoustic. Along with RockSmith, we grabbed a pickup for Tony and a Fender Squier Bullet Stratocaster for Christian. We also got a 2nd USB guitar cable so they can play together. Its not made by the RockSmith guys. Its something else that the salesperson said would work, but it also lets the user plug a guitar into a computer for recording while being simultaneously plugged into an amp. They opened it all on Christmas Eve at midnight, and then everyone passed out an hour later.

When we got back, my sister and her boyfriend (Rita & Mark) had come down to visit. They opened presents too. One of the boxes was gigantic, and no one knew who it was for. Well, everything got opened except for the mystery box, which Mark then said was for Rita. It was a cello. Its really beautiful. The case is almost as big as she is and has a device to measure humidity.


How NOT to Play Bass like a Guitar Player Playing Bass

Here’s an interesting article I found when I was looking for information about a specific back issue of Bass Player that I don’t have, but want. Its from a September 2009 article on a website called Premier Guitar.

The original article can be found here:

How NOT to Play Bass like a Guitar Player Playing Bass
Pro bassists weigh in on the differences between how guitarists and bassists approach the instrument

Conventional wisdom says that even if you’re just moderately accomplished on guitar, you can still pass on bass. But in reality it’s not hard to spot a bass player who’s really a guitar player in disguise.

That got me to thinking: what is it about a guitar-playing bass player that’s different from a “pure” bass player. Surely, our musical DNA is ninety-nine percent identical. So what exactly is that other one percent? And how can a guitar player play bass like a “real” bass player? I don’t presume to know the answers, so I asked some accomplished “real” bass players from a variety of genres to weigh in.


Notes on the same fret & “rolling” fingers

I was practicing one of the 2nd Week’s lessons from that IIB class. Its a C Major Triad. I can play it in root position with no problem. That’s the pattern I’ve been using all year and it makes sense to me. However, now I’m being introduced to 1st and 2nd inversions. Basically, taking the notes and playing them in a different order… only, its not using the patterns I’ve been practicing. In the lesson, the notes are the same, but their positions are completely different. For example (numbers indicate the order in which to fret each note, in this example):

C Major inversions

Now, the note choice isn’t what’s bothering me. Its the choice of where the notes are that slows me down. In both inversions, notes are on the same fret, one string apart. I’m pretty sure I brought this up on TalkBass. I remember people replying and saying that I could either barre the frets (press two of them down with the same finger – like using the pad and part of the 2nd digit) or use two neighboring fingers (it looks like it would be index and middle for 1st inversion and ring and middle for 2nd inversion). I’m going to have to research this more.

IIB Week 2 – Lesson #2 (Primary Triads)

So, I missed this week’s Monday night chat with Cliff Engel and the other students taking classes at IIB. I was editing wifey’s Afrobeat/Black Metal paper. I did grab all of the course materials for the week though, and started looking over them two nights ago. This week’s focus is on triads. The lesson overview says that we’ll go over the following:

  • Triads
  • Triad Sequences
  • Triad Cells
  • Signs & Terms
  • Note Studies – Open Strings – 3rd Fret
  • Rhythm Studies – Whole, Half, Quarter & Eighth Notes
  • Ear Training – Triads

The text in the 2nd opening paragraph says the following:

In our second lesson, we are going to discuss the primary triads. We will study a collection of the most common articulation markings, signs, symbols, dynamics, and terms found in music notation. We will also begin working through a series of note and rhythm recognition exercises to increase the proficiency of your sight reading skills.

Some of this is material I’m a little familiar with. I’ve been practicing chords and scales with some regularity. There is material that I’ve read about but not practiced yet though, like chord inversions. I’m not familiar with sequences yet, but I suspect that they’re related to the major and minor scale sequences that I saw in Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies. The lessons are a little different from what I’ve been practicing though. The pattern I’ve been practicing for minor triads is different from the one in the lesson. Just like I had a Major Scale Pattern #2, what’s presented is basically a pattern based on something like a Minor Scale Pattern #2.

Here’s a little more detail on some of the week’s lessons.


The Dominant (Mixolydian) Scale and Chords

Prior to starting that IIB class on Music Theory for Bass, I was practicing scales and chords. I’ve completed a basic write-up of the major and minor scales already, so I’m going to continue with the rest of the modes of the major scale and their related chords.

The Dominant (Mixolydian) scale is a variation of the Major (Ionian) scale. There’s a difference of one note in the pattern. Here’s what one source says about it:

Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies:
The dominant scale, or Mixolydian mode, is the most commonly used scale for bass grooves. You can think of it as a major scale with a lowered seventh.

Playing the Dominant (Mixolydian) Scale (Pattern 1)

Now, with the above in mind, here’s the Major Scale pattern that we’ve looked at before, followed by the Dominant/Mixolydian. By comparing them, its easy to see how the pattern differs (the lowered 7th note). Later on, we’ll see how chords based on the pattern are formed.