A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

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:

vish213 says (03:11):
In last week’s stuff, you mentioned primary triads. I was wondering what makes them primary, and what the other kinds of triads are.
admin says to  (03:11):
I just call them primary because they are the most used
admin says to  (03:12):
technically any 3-note chord is a triad so that makes for lots of triads

vish213 says (03:12):
I also noticed that suspended triads aren’t mentioned. I remember reading about them a while ago.
admin says to  (03:13):
suspended triads would be 1-4-5 instead of 1-3-5
vish213 says (03:13):
Cool. I saw that and was wondering about it, because I always see mentioned that triads use only the odd-numbered tones/scale degrees
admin says to  (03:13):
you never hear suspended triads though…. suspended seventh chords yes
vish213 says (03:14):
Cool. I haven’t gotten to 7th yet in the material, but I’ve read about them before too
admin says to  (03:14):
I call tertial triads the primary triads.  They are build using a series of 3rds.  Suspended triads would not be tertial
admin says to  (03:14):
technically, they would be called non-tertial triads

vish213 says (03:14):
Does it make a difference whether its a major or minor third?
admin says to  (03:14):
I cover non-tertial cells in my soloing course
vish213 says (03:15):
admin says to  (03:15):
the third defines the quality of the triad like a major triad, minor triad

vish213 says (03:16):
Another question I had is, sequences – are progressions sequences?
admin says to  (03:17):
they can be if you have a series of chord progressions that repeat over and over again like 2-5-1 in C followed by 2-5-1 in Bb, etc.  They would be following a chord progression sequence of 2nds in that case
admin says to  (03:18):
sequences are more common in short phrases rather than bigger units like progressions
vish213 says (03:19):
I think I got it. So, if I play a major triad with the root on the 1, then a major triad with the root on the 4, and then another on the 5, that’s both a progression and a sequence, because its the same pattern of notes repeated from different positions?
admin says to  (03:19):

vish213 says (03:21):
I’m trying to remember if there was anything else from last week’s stuff that I had questions about, but I’m drawing a blank
vish213 says (03:23):
I think I have one… cells – are those related to the box patterns used for scales? I noticed that they use scale degrees to name the notes.
admin says to  (03:24):
they can be.  if you play a cell for long enough they can become a pattern.  A scale cell of 1-2-3-5 would be kind of a boxy pattern
admin says to  (03:25):
the trick is to memorize enough cells so they don’t become just box patterns

vish213 says (03:27):
I’ve been looking at that a little and it also made me wonder, lets say you play a major triad (C E G). If you play a low C and then go up an octave and play an E and then go back down an octave and play a G there, is it still a major triad?
vish213 says (03:27):
Does including the same notes from different octaves change anything about it?
admin says to  (03:27):
yeah, just a different inversion
vish213 says (03:27):
That means that there are more than 1st and 2nd inversion?
admin says to  (03:28):
the octave doesn’t matter
admin says to  (03:28):
once you go beyond an octave it’s technically not an inversion
admin says to  (03:29):
you’d probably never see a situation like that in real musical application
vish213 says (03:29):
Cool. I was just wondering about weird permutations like that
admin says to  (03:30):
technically that is a permutation but just not a useful one
vish213 says (03:30):
It happened because I know that 2 frets up and 2 strings down, you repeat notes, so I was thinking that if you alternate notes from those two sets, you might be able to play the same kinds of chords but with odd tones
admin says to  (03:30):
you could play C-E-G in any combination of notes in any octave and they would still be notes from the C major triad
vish213 says (03:30):
admin says to  (03:31):
they would just sound different

We then talked randomly for about 30 mins. One of the interesting topics that came up was music software and drum loops. Cliff really likes Drum Monkey. I told him that I’d used demos of Acid Pro and Fruity Loops about a decade ago… and a tiny drum machine program called Taureg, whose name I couldn’t remember during the chat.

At this point (an hour into the chat) another user named rboucher joined. I chatted with him a bit and learned that he’s taken all 3 IIB classes and was returning to download updates. He decided to check out the chat because it had been a while since he’d done that. Rboucher has been playing bass on-and-off for about 20 years, so he’s got a similar amount of playing experience to Cliff. When asked about his experience, he said “I was more interested in the theory behind jazz… I have played the written jazz, but never knew why I was playing what I was.” I found that interesting, because in general, I assume jazzers know a lot of stuff.

Rboucher is from Canada. He said that the jazz scene up there is tough to crack. He and Cliff basically agreed that music education is woefully lacking and underappreciated today, and Cliff feels that it gets worse every year. I mentioned to them that I think that’s probably an American thing – because a lot of the music I listen to comes from Sweden and other European countries and that they seem to pride themselves in conservatory education. Cliff said that over 1/2 of his students come from outside the US. The majority are from England and Canada.

We then spoke about Canadian musicians for a bit. Mostly bassists, of course. I mentioned Dominique “Forest” Lapointe (who I still have to finish a blog entry on… I started that weeks ago) and talk turned to Geddy Lee. Other players who came up were Alain Caron and Chris Tarry (UZEB and Metalwood), who I ended up looking at on Youtube. They’re fantastic, and they play completely differently from each other.

Talk then went to gear for a bit. I didn’t have much to contribute to this, as I don’t know much about it yet. They went into some bass and amp stuff that I couldn’t follow. I then asked about chordal playing vs. scalar playing in jazz, since both of the guys play that, and got an interesting bit of information:

vish213 says (04:29):
Hey, since you two are both jazzers – do jazz players tend to favor chordal sounds or scalar sounds when they write basslines, and is it different when they write solos?
vish213 says (04:30):
I’m asking because I saw a Carol Kaye video a while back where she took a stance against a scalar approach and was more into chordal playing, and referenced 50’s jazz a lot
rboucher says to  (04:30):
yeah…i have seen that too
rboucher says to  (04:31):
i like scalar…almost chormatic during solos
admin says to  (04:31):
up to the release of Kind Of Blue in 1959, most jazz was played chordally.
rboucher says to  (04:31):
in my opinion you have to be carefull what notes you extend
vish213 says (04:31):
This is the video I saw:
vish213 says (04:31):
vish213 says (04:32):
I used to rewatch that a lot, months ago. For some reason, hearing her talk soothes me while I eat. 😉
rboucher says to  (04:32):
yeah…some of the old solos were totaly chordal, but sounded amazing.  i have trouble with that
rboucher says to  (04:33):
yeah…i have seen this one…talking about Jaco
vish213 says (04:33):
I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I saw that, but I only started learning scales and chords a few months ago (I;ve been learning for less than a year) and just these last 2 weeks, I started going over triad material from this IIB class
rboucher says to  (04:35):
i forgot that she played with a pick…i found that weird for jazz…lol
vish213 says (04:35):
I tried doing that, but didn’t take to it at all
rboucher says to  (04:35):
i have never been good with a pick
admin says to  (04:35):
yeah, picks don’t work real well for traditional jazz
admin says to  (04:35):
my first 2 years were spent with a pick

Then, things got more interesting for me, because rboucher said the following:

rboucher says to  (04:36):
i have been playing in a metal band lately with some friends, and a few people mention that i dont play with a pick

We spoke a bit about metal. Rboucher likes some death and grew up listening to thrash. I was surprised, considering I thought he was primarily a jazzer.  The 3 of us started comparing bassists. I brought up Jeroen Thesseling, Steve DiGiorgio and Alex Webster. Rboucher mentioned Michael Manring, and then I followed with Roxanne Constantin (because she’s both Canadian and amazing). Cliff posted up an interview he did with Manring (he’s done a lot of interviews, but didn’t answer when I asked if I could post links to them in this blog – I might do it later, after I’m done with the course and am going over these entries in a few months).

Jeff Berlin came up… we’re all admirers of him, but his personality bugs rboucher. 😉 Cliff, of course, interviewed him and posted it up on the IIB website.  He also said “If everyone followed his advice, we’d all be virtuosos.” I pretty much agree with that assessment. Rboucher said that it bothered him that Berlin talked down about rock and metal, and I told him that I’m pretty much used to that always happening. I did mention that from what I’ve seen, jazzers look down on rockers the same way that classical players look down on jazzers, so there’s a kind of vicious cycle at work.

So, the reason that rboucher’s disclosure about playing in a metal band intrigued me is that, the next night, the new issue of Bass Player Magazine came in (Jan 2012). I was going through it, and then ran over to wifey, who was doing something on the computer, and showed her the ad for Warwick basses on the page with the table of contents. The person in the middle of the picture was Richard Boucher, bassist for a band called Funeral for a Friend. I’m not familiar with them yet. I only know their name, but I thought it would be cool if that’s who rboucher is. Sadly, I missed this week’s chat and didn’t get to ask. I also got bogged down with work so I’ve not researched him yet to see if its the same person.

I then asked if either of them had ever heard of Jayen Varma (another bassist who I have to write about on here) and got a surprise. Rboucher had never heard of him but Cliff said that he remembered him (wow, that’s a lot of e’s in that word. I never noticed that before). He said that Jayen had emailed him earlier in the year to get help coming to the US for some clinics. He didn’t care for his style of playing though. Jayen is basically a classically-trained tabla (Indian drum) player who took tabla technique and applied in to bass. What he does is kind of like tapping. I was impressed when I saw it a few years ago on Youtube.

I did ask if Cliff could possibly talk to Alex Webster about doing a clinic in NY… he said that he’d work on it. Apparently, they’re both endorsed by the same amp company (SWR) and he knows someone there named Tony Franklin who might be able to make it happen. 😉 I’ll keep my fingers crossed when I’m not practicing.

The next 1/2 hour went on with the other guys talking about equipment again… I didn’t have anything to contribute, but I read up on a few things about companies and gear that they mentioned. It was like a bass gear history lesson. Hopefully, the next time I’m on chat (I missed this week’s and will probably miss the one on Jan 2nd) will be like this.

So, there it is, the Week 3 chat, and like a few other posts, its a lot longer than I anticipated.

[edit] Now that I looked at the ad in Bass Player again – I can see that Richard Boucher is using a pick. Its probably not the same person I chatted with. I’ll find out though… I’d still like to hear his music.


One response

  1. Pingback: International Institute of Bassists | Ugly Bass Face

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