A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for February, 2015

Coursera – DYM Lesson 4 videos (4)

Video #4 for Lesson 4 of Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class is the longest of this lesson’s videos. It centers on the blues progression.

4. Dominant 7th Chords and Blues Progression (13:04)

Professor Russell begins the session seated at the piano, as usual, and tells the class that he’d like to talk about the blues progression. His first statement is that in a typical blues progression, 7th chords are used. “So,” he says, “we’re going to talk about building the 7th chord and then go into the blues progression.” He proceeds to construct a 7th chord, which is a major triad and an additional note – the 7th note of the major scale. This makes the notes 1, 3, 5 and 7. He then flats the 7, making the chord 1, 3, 5, b7. This is, of course, the dominant 7th chord. He proceeds to play a C7 and an F7, to illustrate the sound of the dominant 7th in both keys. The screen highlights the notes with the onscreen staff.

With C7 and F7 in our ears, the Professor says that the next chord to the blues is a G7, or G dominant 7. This is spelled G-B-D-Fb. He plays this on the piano and then reminds us that one way to find the flat 7th is to play a whole step below the root – although by this, I think he means a whole step below the octave because he keeps playing that instead of the original root.

With G7 spelled out for us, he plays and shows us onscreen all 3 chords, C7, F7 and G7. However, I noticed that C7 and F7 have flatted 7th in the onscreen staff. G7 doesn’t. I don’t know if this is a mistake, but I think that it is. “All these chords, these three chords,” he says, “go into playing a blues.” He continues with, “Those are the only chords you need to play a blues.”

C7 - F7 - G7 (dominant chords)

C7 – F7 – G7 (dominant chords)



Coursera – DYM Lesson 4 videos (3)

Video #3 for Lesson 4 of Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class introduces us to 7th chords.

3. 7th Chords (4:07)

Professor Russell opens this segment at the piano again, playing a short piece that lasts about 15 seconds which, to my ears, sounds richer and fuller than a lot of what he’s played before. I know that what he’s doing is playing something with 7th chords in it from the title of both the lesson and the video, but its interesting to know that and to actually hear it as well.

So, he starts speaking with, “What I ‘d like to talk about right now is building a 7th chord.” He directs us to look onscreen, where we’ll see a major scale and says, “As I have told you before, everything is going to come right from that major scale. So, we are going to build a major 7th chord and we are going to start right with C major 7. We are going to start with the triad C, E and G. Then, we’re just going to add the 7th degree on top. There, you have a C major 7th chord.”


Coursera – DYM Lesson 4 videos (2)

The 2nd video for Lesson 4 of Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class is a review of Lesson 3.

2. Review (3:12)

Professor Russell opens this video with a blues tune on piano that lasts for about 1:45. About a minute in, he begins speaking to the class while continuing to play. He explains that he’s playing a blues progression and using the minor pentatonic scale to improvise a little. He says that we’re going to talk about the blues and some other progressions, which is what made him decide to play the blues – plus, “Not only that… it feels nice.” Then, he jumps into a review of last week’s lesson.

He starts the review by reminding us that the last time we were together, we talked about the minor pentatonic scale. As a reminder, he calls on the Berklee students from last session to sing the minor pentatonic scale song from last week. They sing the “one, flat-three, four, five, flat-seven, one” vocal part while he plays piano, effectively spelling out the scale formula, while ascending the scale, for review. This lasts for about a minute. Then, the Professor says, “And that scale is so significant, because, as I mentioned before, it is probably the most-used scale in all American music history.” The video then ends, making this the quickest review we’ve had up to now.

Recommendations to Newbies

In four days, its going to be 4 years since I started this blog.

Since experiencing this beginner’s music theory class from Coursera, and blogging every day for a solid 5 weeks, I’ve been thinking about how I’d proceed to learn electric bass (notice I didn’t call it bass guitar) if I had to start all over again, or what advice I’d give to other newbies who are trying to get their bearings. The two main roads are self-study and getting a teacher, but there are different lanes on both of these roads.

I don’t believe in the concept of truly independent self-study anymore. This is because, as much as we can feel that we’re teaching ourselves by not having a formalized music education, we self-studiers still rely on outside resources, like books and videos. This is still utilizing a teacher by proxy on some level. Once we begin exploring our options, we’ll discover bass-centric websites, online discussion forums and other resources. We might branch out and look at other generalized music resources as well. The internet is the great enabler here, giving us access to more information, and more misinformation, that any generation before us.

I also think that there are different flavors of formalized education. Enlisting the services of a teacher, taking a class, enrolling in a music school and engaging in online lessons via something like Skype are all different ways of interacting with a flesh-and-blood mentor who can guide us along the path. These are all different though. sitting knee-to-knee with an instructor isn’t the same as being in a classroom with a dozen other students, and both of these differ from pinging electrons back and forth in a semi-static manner like what Coursera offers or a dynamic and visually interactive manner like Skype.

And, of course, there are even midpoints between the two of these, like learning with a friend who’s not well-versed, but who knows more than zero, or having formal music education with one instrument and then trying to apply it to another.


Coursera – DYM Lesson 4 videos (1)

Ok. Here’s a summary of what I saw, and hopefully learned, from video #1 of Lesson 4 for Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class. The interviews this week centered on auditioning to get into Berklee.

1. Berklee Faculty/Student Spotlight: Audition Tips (4:03)

The video begins with the question, “What was your Berklee audition like?” and then cuts to answers from students that we’ve seen in prior lessons, as well as a staff person. The first person to answer is the East Indian girl that we saw before. We learn that she’s actually from Sri Lanka, not India proper. She said that the staff were “brilliant”. I think that this is probably the British brilliant, not the American one. She then recounted that the staff just welcomed her, asked how she was, if she was really there all the way from Sri Lanka, if she was jetlagged, if she was freezing here and said that they’re all set to go when she’s ready. The audition went by really smoothly for her because it happened before she actually realized that she was in it. She also commented that she was really at ease and comfortable and that a great quality about auditions at Berklee is that they’re molded according to the student. She wasn’t versed in jazz improvisation and told this to them. They said that its alright and asked her to try it a little bit. She apparently did, enjoyed it and nailed the audition.

The next person up was the Hispanic male with barbershop parents. He said that he could feel the openness and support of the staff and that it was a great environment. His belief is that at a lot of schools, when potential students audition, they’re sized up and picked apart to determine what they doesn’t quite have together, but because Berklee is geared more towards the actual music business as it stands, they’re looking more for potential, so they look for what a potential student does well.

With that said, the video jumped to the Jamaican girl, who recalled that she was really nervous because she’d only done one audition before and failed. She went to the audition at Berklee with the intent to just get it over with, but found that the staff were really nice and wanted to “have a conversation about what she wants to do in music and why she wants to attend Berklee”. She said it ended up being the most amazing audition she’s ever done – not because she feels that she was amazing, but because it was “a great process”.


Coursera – Developing Your Musicianship Lesson 4

Lesson 4 for Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class became available online at the beginning of the week. This time around, the main topics are major and dominant 7th chords. I haven’t gotten to watch any of the videos this week, so it looks like I have my work cut out for me for the next few days.

These are the titles for the videos in this lesson:

  1. Berklee Faculty/Student Spotlight: Audition Tips (4:03)
  2. Review (3:12)
  3. 7th Chords (4:07)
  4. Dominant 7th Chords and Blues Progression (13:04)
  5. 7th Chords Practice (3:04)
  6. Lesson Review and Assignment Overview (3:39)
  7. Berklee Student Performance: New Kind Of Dirty (4:32)

The total running time for these 7 videos is just shy of 36 minutes, so its longer than last week’s, but still not quite as long as the first two weeks’ videos. Also, I guess we should take into account that for each of these weeks’ lessons, the student performances don’t necessarily tie into the course material. I actually noticed that the syllabus posted on the main website for the class has student performances from an older class, not the current one, so they must change videos every time the class is offered. I’ll see about linking to those at a later point, just so that in the future, other students can indulge in historic performances if they want to.

Here’s a snippet from Professor Russell’s announcement this week:

Today begins lesson 4. I can say without any uncertainty that you are going to enjoy this lesson. We are going to explore constructing 7th chords and dive into the “blues.” How is a typical blues tune constructed? How do you construct a melody to a blues? What kinds of chords are used when playing the blues? These are just a few of the questions that will be answered. You will also watch as I put the Berklee students on the spot and have them spontaneously compose a blues.

This looks interesting to me. It looks like we’re going to begin delving into song construction with melody and appropriate chords. I notice that there’s no real mention of bass though. 😦 Maybe that’s what’s implied by asking what kinds of chords are used though.

Awesome Ear Training Exercise For Bass Players – Scott’s Bass Lessons

Here’s a video from Scott Devine, of Scott’s Bass Lessons, that has an ear-training exercise for bassists – although it can probably be used with most instruments. It basically calls for the person practicing ear-training to sing solfege or just sing something in the same pitch as the interval that’s being played. The video focuses on notes of the major scale, but it can, obviously, be altered to any scale, and any pitch or tone.

I’m glad that Scott’s about as good a singer as I probably am, which means I’ll have to practice this in my closet at night through a handkerchief, and its fun to hear that his wife actually IS a singer. That Coursera course that I’m about halfway through now has included ear training for 2 intervals each week for the past 3 weeks now. I haven’t gotten to watch the Lesson 4 videos yet, so I don’t know if it will continue. We covered Major 2nds & 3rds in Week 1, Perfect 4ths & 5ths in Week 2 and then Major 6ths and 7ths in Week 3. I don’t see any intervals in the Lesson 4 titles.

Awesome Ear Training Exercise For Bass Players (L#151)