A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for April, 2014

The Past, Present and Future of Sheet Music

For those of you who are interested in musical history, here’s a fantastic post from 12tonemusic that goes over the history (and different types) of sheet music along with projections and examples of how it endures and will even thrive in a digital age. Its a perfect companion to the posts by Melanie Spiller that I linked to almost 3 years ago (to the day). Now that I think of it, I believe she was going to write one last piece on the musical modes that I’ll need to find.

Anyway, some points that stood out to me were:

  • Jazz and improvised styles use lead sheets to outline the melody, harmony and arrangement
  • Pieces composed for many instruments have different sheets for each of them. They have to be played together to hear the full piece (I always thought they all followed the same book in an orchestra!)
  • When different vocal or instrumental parts are printed on the same page, its called a score. This is generally for parts that are played at the same time.
  • Chord charts give harmonic and rhythmic information
  • Tablature dates back to the late Middle Ages!
  • The first music printed in North America was in 1640 – The Bay Psalm Book
  • Modern musicians read sheet music on iPads! I want to see this at an orchestra.



Bass Matter

I came across this site at the end of March, bookmarked it, and then forgot it until seeing it again on Talkbass.

Bass Matter is a labor of love from a bass player named Ryan from Colorado. His “Who is BassMatter” page gives a nice bio and says that he has more than 20 years of experience playing and created the site as a resource for bass players to learn their craft more easily that he did when he was starting out.

There are some nice resources in his Practice Tools section, including charts, jam tracks, exercises and 3 ebooks. Oh, and its all free. Yep. Free. Check it out:

Bass Matter – Free Online Bass Lessons


[edit 04.17.14]  I just looked over all of the bass charts (in PDF format) and one thing really strikes me – this looks like something out of a White Wolf RPG – the font, layout and general feel. I kind of dig it. 😉

[more edit] The 3 downloadable books are also like this. They’re also packed with a lot of more organic information that I generally see in bass books.

Talkbass.com has been updated


Talkbass upgraded their forum software today. For those of you who follow these things, they moved from Vbulletin 3.6 to XenForo, which was designed by former Vbulletin members. So far, I like it. It has a lot of bells and whistles, like hovering over items for context or menus and the ability to attach images to messages (TB didn’t place a limit on the number of images, per message).

I think that all of the old forums, threads and private messages were archived and ported over. Some links will probably be different now, though. Check it out over here:

Oh, and I updated the Links page on the blog. I’ll try to add salient websites to it more often. This might have been the first update to it in 3 years.

I Listened To Music Based On Neuroscience To Help Focus — And My Productivity Soared

I came across this post from Business Insider which speaks about the author’s experience with a music streaming station called focus@will that creates playlists that help “listeners” focus on demand for long periods of time. It says that the average person can focus on a task for about 20 mins before needing to take a break or losing concentration. focus@will supposedly creates playlists which “include smooth rhythms which don’t put you to sleep and are based on the idea that music can help you tap into your concentration flow.” This can help people focus for up to 100 mins, on average, before needing to take a short break and then return for another session.

The music that they select works by “essentially blocking out the part of your brain (the flight or fight mechanism) which is on the lookout for `danger, food, sex or shiny things,’ the company said.” That’s really interesting to me. We all know that music can affect our mood and also be generally distracting, but this is quite the opposite – releasing us from strongly emotional moods and clearing distractions.

I’m actually writing this blog post while listening to the sample “1 Hour Alpha Chill Focus Session” video at the bottom of the article. I can’t say as of yet if its helping me focus, but after initially finding myself analyzing the bassline, I only now realized (12 minutes later) that I can’t really remember any of it but did manage to write this post while going back-and-forth between WordPress and the article for reference.



For a while now, I’ve been reading posts on Talkbass and sections from books that talk about things like harmony and “harmonizing the major scale“, which seems to be a very important thing for bass players to do. One problem that I’ve come across though is that none of them explains what harmony is, or what harmonizing the major scale means. The internet also mostly provided information about how to add harmony using chords and other stuff that really didn’t explain the basic concept. As a beginner to this material, that wasn’t very helpful to me.

I finally found something that explains it – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory. I must be one of those. I went through a bunch of my other bass books and music theory books (including the Dummies one and Edly’s book), but nothing else really just laid out what harmony and harmonizing is – which is probably elementary stuff for people who already know it, but is an important basic concept for people like me.  So…


Harmony is basically playing multiple notes at the same time. Ideally, these notes are related and sound good together (I think this is called consonance). One a single instrument, it revolves mostly around playing chords. When multiple instruments are thrown into the mix, then the supporting instruments harmonize what the lead or melodic ones are playing with lines that follow the same chords as the lead instrument. I think this is the main reason why bass players are often asked to play the root or the root and 5th when supporting a song.


A List of Unusual Scales

Its about 7:30 AM. I ran Wifey and one of her former co-workers from the Metropolitan Museum to Kennedy Airport this morning. They’re headed to Chicago for this pop-culture symposium that they go to and will return on Friday night. This means, I’m going to be changing more diapers than usual for the next few days. Lets see what interesting music-related stuff they come back with to make me feel better.

Andrulian added a great post on his blog with a chart of interesting scales that he’s picked up over time. He shows the scale degrees, based on the Major scale as well as giving the formula for each, in the form of intervals. I have to link to it, because I find this kind of stuff fascinating. There are a bunch of pentatonic scales – a long time ago, I read that pentatonic scales are the most common type in the world – particularly amongst indigenous people. His chart shows at least 7 of them.

Survey: Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Music Scene

As some of you know from previous posts, Wifey is working on her 2nd master’s. This one is in Cultural Anthropology. Her thesis is going to focus on women’s participation and experiences in the NY extreme metal scene (death metal, black metal, grindcore, etc.).

If you’re from around the NY metro-area and go to metal shows, are in an extreme metal band or work in the industry, feel free to take her survey. More info can be found on her blog:

MetalSurveyFlyer1_with QR code

Here’s a direct link to the survey itself: