A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for February 7, 2015

Coursera – DYM Lesson 1 videos (6 & 7)

The 6th Developing your Musicianship video from Coursera begins ear training by introducing the major 2nd and major 3rd intervals. These are the two notes that follow the root in a major scale.

6. Major 2nd and 3rd Intervals (4:18)

Professor Russell starts the video by saying that he’d like to focus on two intervals, the first being the major 2nd. He sings “Major 2nd, la, la,” plays an example on the piano, and explains that in this case, he’s playing from C to D. He then shows it on the G (I think this would be G to A) as well and includes a short song example. He immediately moves onto the major 3rd, from C to E. He calls this moving from 1 to 3 and sings to establish the sound.

He follows by doing it on F but sings over what he’s playing, so its hard to actually hear it. Finally, he plays a series of major 2nd and major 3rds. We have to identify what each is (a 2nd or 3rd) but he doesn’t actually say what each was during the video, so we’re left to our own devices to determine if our guesses were correct.

As a beginner to ear training, I’d have appreciated it more if he gave answers to each of the intervals he asked students to identify at the end. He doesn’t need to say which specific notes were played, just if they were 2nds or 3rds. I think that this is important to orient new students who have never listened specifically for intervals before.

One of the students on the forums posted a link to an online ear training program at musictheory.net. I haven’t made time to use it much yet, but here it is, as a reference to all:

7. Major 2nd and Major 3rd Interval Practice (1:47)

The 7th video is a short one with extra practice listening to major 2nd and major 3rds. In this one, the Professor plays some of each of the two intervals. Sadly, it again doesn’t say what each was, so students are left to themselves to know if they were correct. Some of the students on the forums ended up posting the answers to these, and the ones from the 6th video, so there’s some resolution there.

[edit 2.9.15] If you play the videos in the browser instead of downloading them as MP4’s there are several times that the video stops and a quiz question appears. This happens every time you’re asked to identify an interval in the video. After you answer, you’re told if your response was correct or incorrect. By virtue of this, the answers to whether each tone the Professor played (major 2nd or major 3rd) is revealed.


Coursera – DYM Lesson 1 videos (5)

Here are some thoughts about the 5th video in the online Coursera class I’m taking. Lesson 2 should be available on Monday (in 2 days), so I’m going to try and do a short write-up of the remaining videos before then.

5. Sharps and Flats (1:33)

Video #5 from Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class is a brief mention of sharps (#’s) and flats (#b‘s). In this video, Professor Russell explains that sharps and flats raise or lower a note by a 1/2 step, respectively. He gives examples of this on a piano by playing an A and then showing how A# just means to play the next adjacent key (a black key, one key to the right). He then shows the same for flats by playing an A and then playing Ab (the adjacent key to the left, also a black key). After this, he shows the same thing with D, and then he goes on to show how Fb is a special case because there’s no black key between E and F, so Fb is E. F# is a normal black key.

The professor’s definitions weren’t very detailed. He didn’t say WHY the notes are named like this. I do remember reading about it some time ago though and it basically came down to this: In a regular major or minor scale, with 7 notes, each of the 7 letters must be included in the scale, and can only be included once. So every major scale has exactly one kind of A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Because of the way the major scale is constructed via whole steps and half-steps (W-W-H-W-W-W-H) if you start on some notes and follow the formula of steps & half-steps, you’d end up skipping some letters. To make sure that every letter is represented, the ones that you land on, which are in-between two regular notes, are given a note name and a sharp or flat, depending on which direction you’re playing in (if you’re playing ascending, its a sharp and if descending, its a flat). That’s how it works, in a nutshell, and to the extent of my understanding.

I imagine that later in the class, we’ll delve in to the why’s of all of this. Here’s something I wrote a while ago about it, when I was first learning about them:


Memorizing notes on the E, A & D-strings using the Cycle of Fourths

Apparently, I can play the Cycle of Fourths starting on C on the E, A and D strings. However – it seems that what I’ve really done is learn the pattern of the Cycle, which is just what I’ve been afraid of. I’m up in the air about whether to continue and learn the notes on the G string or find a way to really learn the notes so that I actually know where to find them, and not just how to play the Cycle.

I’m probably going to end up moving onto the G string this week, just for completeness. Its a good exercise, and I’m able to consistently use it to practice 5ths and other stuff. I’m sure that on some level, I also actually know the fretboard better than I did a month ago as well, but its not how I want it just yet.

I tried playing each note on all 3 strings – so finding all 3 C’s, then F’s, then Bb’s and so on. That was hard. Its also how I confirmed that I didn’t know the notes as well as I’d like to. I think what I’ll do is break them into smaller chunks and practice like that. Maybe groups of 3, so [C-F-Bb], then [Eb-Ab-Db], then [Gb-B-E], and finally [A-D-G].

Tabbed out for the E, A and D strings, the exercises will eventually look like this:

Cycle of 4ths - E A D strings (by note)

Also, I think I got a feel for the D string faster than the first two, so something is clicking subconsciously.