A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Been a long time since I rock and rolled (again)

Wow. Its approaching 7 months since I wrote my last blog post. For a lot of that time, I’ve also not been practicing. The baby and work have completely dominated my time. She turned 9 months old today though (5/28) and I actually did a few small music-related things in the past month, so I’m trying to find more time to squeeze in bass practice and blogging about it again. She really likes my basses, BTW. She always leans in to play with the strings up by the headstock. She’s also trying to explore alternate tunings whenever she can get her hands around the tuning pegs. 

So, in reverse-chronological order: 

head-jamplay-logoJamplay

I just discovered Jamplay – a subscription-based website that has hundreds (if not thousands) of structured video tutorials for learning how to play guitar from dozens (if not hundreds) of guitar instructors. I came across them from a post on Talkbass last week. The important thing here is that they’ve recently added bass lessons and as of this writing have about a dozen instructors, some of which have more than 20 video lessons ranging from complete novice to intermediate to advanced concepts. 

Last night, after winding some stuff down from work (yes, I worked through parts of Memorial Day) I subscribed to the site. One of the people who run Jamplay posted a code for $30 off of a year’s subscription. That’s a pretty sizeable savings, considering that a year costs about $139, so I decided to go for it and work through the material as much as I can for the next year. 

Anyway, I reviewed some basic lessons last night. I went through four of Evan Brewer‘s lessons (About Your Bass, Left Hand Muscle Development, The Notes on the Fretboard and Scale Primer) and one of Freebo‘s lessons (Introduction to the Series). The videos are very well-recorded. The audio and video quality is great and can be viewed in a number of different resolutions. They also employ different camera angles. I liked Evan Brewer’s lessons, but found that I actually like Freebo’s manner of speaking and pace more. I’m going to review some more of his videos and then look at some of the other instructors as well. 

When you subscribe to Jamplay, you can sign up for either bass or guitar. I think you can also sign up for both, but there’s a slightly higher cost. You have unlimited access to all of the videos for the instrument you sign up for and can even do things like leave notes for yourself and message the instructor and other learners or Jamplay staff. You can also rate your sense of completion for each lesson using a slider that goes from 1-100%. It looks like a fantastic site. I especially like that different instructors cover some of the same materials on the site, so for example, you can review scale theory or chord theory from different instructors to get a better understanding if one instructor doesn’t quite answer your questions, and find approaches which make sense to you. 

Right now, the instructors include Billy Sheehan, David Ellefson, Bryan Beller, Evan Brewer, Alan Skowron, Freebo, Robbie Merrill, Larry Cook and Steve McKinley. Upcoming, they have Rex Brown, Dave Larue, Doug Wimbish and instructors from Berklee and other schools. 

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Deathfest2013

Deathfest

Wifey and I went to Baltimore for the Maryland Deathfest last week. It was my first time leaving Ella, so I was nervous and drove back in the middle of the night after two days even thought there were a bunch of acts I really wanted to see. For those of you who don’t follow heavy metal, its basically a 4-day music festival in which an international sample of bands from more extreme strains of the genre congregate and play. Its been getting more and more diversified as it progresses, so there were many old acts which started around 30 years ago, as well as younger acts that are less than 1/2 a decade old in addition to a multitude of subgenres present (death, black, doom, stoner, thrash, grind, hardcore, etc). Some of these acts aren’t technically metal, but have crossover appeal and were received well. 

A highlight of the festival for me was finally seeing Carcass live. I’ve been listening to them for about 20 years and lost all hope of ever seeing them when they broke up in the late 1990’s. They reformed a few years ago and did some touring, playing only older material, and recently got together again and are now in the process of recording new material with a slightly different lineup due to some medical issues (and maybe other reasons I’m not aware of). Anyway – that really made the show for me. I enjoyed their set immensely, and got to see Jeff Walker on bass – from a distance. 

One of the earlier acts we saw was Benediction. I’ve also never seen them live before. Like Carcass, they’re an older death metal band and are from England. It was intriguing to see them play because they commanded high energy, but unlike many other death metal acts, their bass player wasn’t playing complicated “technical” bass parts. The bass players in metal that I tend to gravitate towards are the more complex ones, like Steve DiGiorgio, Alex Webster, Jeroen Thesseling and the like. However, I came to notice how a simpler (although fast) style worked for Benediction and left impressed and with a greater appreciation for less busy playing. It makes me wonder if that whole less-is-more thing is about notes per second or about extravagant flourishes/showy application of theory. 

We watched a bunch of acts during the two days that we were there, and I saw different ways of how bass is used to support and/or drive music in metal. I’ve always gone to these types of shows, but recently, as I started learning theory, I’m able to understand some of what’s going on more than before, and it does make me think about connectivity with the rest of the music more. 

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Overthrow - Electric BassElectric Bass – Complete Edition (by David Overthrow)

About two weeks ago, wifey and I were at Barnes & Noble and I ended up in the music section. While there, I discovered David Overthrow‘s Electric Bass – Complete Edition and started skimming through it. Its a compilation of his Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced books. I like how its laid out and how he explains concepts before giving exercises to help learn and illustrate them. One of the earlier lessons is on tetrachords, and I found myself practicing them a little last week and the week before. He shows 3 different patterns which can be combined to play major and minor scales. I’ll do a more thorough write-up of his book as I go through it. And yes, I know that this is one more method that I now have in my ever-growing mass of method books. Someday, I’ll make it all the way through one… 

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Bass Player Magazine

Finally, I now have 8 issues of Bass Player Magazine that I’ve not read sitting on my desk. Its everything from December of last year to July of this year. I’m going to make an active effort to go through all of it, and also to blog a little about what I read from time-to-time. So, if I begin rehashing old article information, anyone who’s read down this far will know why. Also, the December issue has something on tetrachords, which I was looking at in David Overthrow’s book.

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