A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for March, 2015

Warm-up for this week: Minor Scale exercise

Its day 1 of being a single dad until the wife returns from New Orleans. So far, the baby and I have both survived, but I haven’t gotten to practice with the bass as much as I’d like. Maybe tonight, when she’s asleep.

Here’s a quick warm-up variation for this week. Last week‘s basically took a common major scale pattern and ascended 3 notes at a time, using each scale degree as a root. This week, lets do that with the minor scale: We want to do it both ascending (root to octave) and descending (octave to root). This one won’t work the middle finger as much, because the usual minor scale pattern uses index, ring and pinky, so feel free to alternate with the major scale one from last week if it bothers you. There’s a shift in position around the octave.

This is what it looks like going up, in C on the E string (scale degrees are below):

C Minor scale exercise going upward. Scale degrees listed at the bottom.

C Minor scale exercise going upward. Scale degrees listed at the bottom.

Descending, its reversed, so instead of starting on each scale degree, you end on them.

C Minor scale exercise going downward. Scale degrees listed at the bottom.

C Minor scale exercise going downward. Scale degrees listed at the bottom.

Remember to play this in every key, but don’t just go up in sequence (C, D, E, F, G, etc.). Its better to mix up the order using the Cycle of Fourths, so play it in C first, then F, Bb, Eb, Ab, and so on. Basically, do the exercise in C. Then do it again with the root note on F, then again with the root on Bb, etc. When you get to doing it in E, you’ll need to use open strings. If you don’t already know the notes of the scale by their letter names (which I don’t yet, but can puzzle out as needed) focus on the sounds of the intervals/scale degrees. Once you’re used to the sound, you can figure out what to reach for with some trial-and-error. You can go up the neck a little to find the right note to continue on – you’ll know the spot when you get there.

Here’s the tab for the C minor scale starting on the E string, without any additional stuff. The pattern can be easily moved into any key. Like before, its not meant to teach theory, just to get the hands working. For theory, what you want to learn is the scale construction (whole-half-whole-whole–half-whole-whole) and note names to start.

Tab for C Minor scale with root on E string

Tab for C Minor scale with root on E string

Here’s the difference with the major scale spelled out in scale degrees:

  • Major scale: 1 –  2  –    3  –  4  –  5  –   6  –   7  –  8
  • Minor scale: 1 –  2  –  b3  –  4  –  5  – b6  – b7  –  8

So the difference is that when you play a minor scale, in comparison to the major one, the 3rd, 6th and 7th are flatted.

[edit] I simplified the tablature for the exercises going up and down by cleaning up some of the lines so they’re only divided based on the root note for each scale degree. I think it’ll be easier to understand & follow like this. Here are the original ones, if anyone wants them for some reason:


Gospel of the Witches & I met Ross Dolan (bassist for Immolation)

The wife with Karyn Crisis

The wife with Karyn Crisis

So, last night, wifey and I left the baby with her grandparents and went to St. Vitus in Brooklyn to see Gospel of the Witches. Its Karyn Crisis‘ new band, along with her husband Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), Ross Dolan & Robert Vigna from Immolation and Charlie Schmid from Vaura – the only band I wasn’t familiar with.

I was up in the air about where to write about this, as I have an infrequently-updated metal blog as well, so I decided to write a little about it here for one main reason – we met and chatted with several of the band members after the show and one of them was Ross Dolan – bassist for GotW and Immolation.

I’ve been a fan of both Crisis and Immolation for about 20 years, and of Ephel Duath for around 12 years, so it was amazing for me to see an act comprised of members from all 3 bands. Crisis was one of the first (if not the first) female-fronted death metal bands. Immolation are one of the original NY death metal bands and are from Yonkers, where we live. Ephel Duath used to be black metal. They’re from Italy. I got into them with the 3rd album however – The Painter’s Palette. At that point, one of the 2 initial members had left and Davide restructured it into this amazing experimental jazzy metal hybrid that reminded me less of death and more of something like a super-textured Tool with elements of hardcore, metal and post-metal. I loved the crap out of it.

So, yeah, I was stoked.

I’ll skip the show details. I really should write about that on the other blog. I don’t make time for that one much, as this one consumes my online activity. But, in a nutshell, sometime before they went on, Karyn spoke to the crowd about the history of witchcraft and its perception through the lens of a Christianized West. It went into Roman history and the supplantation of a more feminine religion with the masculine Christianity. She spoke about the Craft and gave some of the history and differentiators between that and druidism, and how the Romans approached (and attacked) the female practicioners vs. their avoidance of the male ones, who had a more frightful reputation. It was interesting stuff. I hadn’t known before about the differentiation of “high” magic vs. “low” magic based on the level of codification and intellectualization. But the gist of it is that wise women, healers, medicine women, and the like were eradicated and became reviled and hunted as “witches.”


Karyn Crisis/Gospel of the Witches

GotWIts been a long day. Usually, I work on Sundays, but this weekend, I switched it to Saturday so that tonight, wifey and I can head over to St. Vitus in Brooklyn to see Gospel of the Witches, Karyn Crisis‘ new band. She did a write-up of the debut CD for Metal Riot, and they asked her to review the show, since they know we’re going to be attending tonight. She’s off to New Orleans after that, for the PCA conference. She and a co-worker, from when she was a librarian at the Metropolitan Museum, are presenting a session about developing a graphic novel collection – something she started at the Met before leaving for Columbia – to other librarians down there. Its gonna be a fun week being a single dad with the baby… thank goodness for grandparents.

Anyway, I’m excited to see Ross Dolan, the bassist/vocalist from Immolation tonight. He’s on backing vocals and bass with GotW. Immolation is from our hometown of Yonkers, NY, so its also cool to support “local” musicians, although, Immolation is a pretty established act in death metal.

Here’s something I wrote about Gospel of the Witches, when wifey reviewed them:

HLBM 05: Notes on the E-String

Snippet from Notes on the E String (pg. 15)

Snippet from Notes on the E String (pg. 15)

The next set of exercises on the E string in the Hal Leonard Bass Method are a bit harder than those first 3.

Exercise 13 wasn’t so bad. We’re asked to say the note names, instead of counting the beat. This wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, although I did maintain a count when we moved into half-notes and a whole note.

Exercise 14 got a bit harder. After writing my previous post, I realized that 10-12 had us play consecutive notes. It was all E-F, F-G or the reverse. This one begins skipping notes. Its still E, F and G, but now we get into moving from E to G. The hard part was the end. After playing with E’s moving to G’s, we bring back F’s and move down instead of up, like the 1st half of the exercise. It tripped me up a bunch of times.

Exercise 15 is the first to not start on E. It starts on F. It also eliminated the count at the bottom. I thought this would be hard to work with, but it wasn’t the tricky part. The tricky part was the end, just like the #14. Here, we start moving from G down to E and it stalled me a few times.

I have to practice those last two more, but I’m getting it. When playing consecutive/adjacent notes, things seem fine, but when skipping notes, it gets tricky. I’m used to doing that when I practice chords, but reading it and then hitting the right notes is different somehow.

Its also different from reading tablature because with tab, I’ve generally looked at notes for song phrases or scale/chord fingerings. With this, I’m reading notes that include note durations and trying to play as I read, instead of like tab where I generally broke up what I looked at into small parts and practiced them and chained them together. I suspect that once I’m a better reader, it will get more like that though.

[edit 11.15.15] Here’s a recording of the Notes on the E-String exercises:

[edit 01.27.17] I’ve been recording video playthroughs of exercises from the book. Here’s exercise 13:

Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 13 @ 80bpm

HLBM 04: Notes on the E-String

Snippet from Notes on the E String (pg. 14)

Snippet from Notes on the E String (pg. 14)

I worked on the first 3 exercises for Notes on the E-String in the Hal Leonard Bass Method earlier. Overall, they weren’t too bad, once I actually woke up. This first lesson with actual fretting on a string introduces the open E, F on the 1st fret and G on the 3rd fret. It all takes place in 1st position, which means that the index finger of the fretting hand is on the 1st fret of the bass (and in this case, only on the E string as well – no string switching at this stage).

Exercise 10 was simple – just whole notes in the string E-F-G-F-E. Its good to start though, because it lets us see how each note looks in standard notation. Having the E all by itself, below the actual ledger lines, with a line drawn through it, makes it easy to use as a reference point for other notes.

Exercise 11 was all half-notes, except for the last one which is a whole note. This also seemed like a logical choice, as it now gets us both counting and moving to different notes on a single string without being overwhelming. I had to run through this one a bunch of times, counting out loud, so that I got the time right. I found that without the actual activity of counting, I’d rush and just play the notes with no regard for note duration.

Exercise 12 was all quarter notes. This was actually the easiest one to play, because there was no real count involved. As I saw a note, I played it. So, this one focused more on the notes and less on the note durations. It ended with a half-note, and at that point, since its the last note being played and gets 2 beats (being a half-note and all) it also let me count and mute the note after it rang for 2 beats.

In all, it was a good lesson for a beginner. It used only 3 notes, in one position and slowly ramped up.

[edit] Here’s a post from when I first tried this with the HLBM in 2011.

And here’s the link to the other posts about the book/method:

[edit 11.15.15] Here’s a recording of the Notes on the E-String exercises:

[edit 01.27.17] I’ve been recording video playthroughs of exercises from the book. Here are exercises 10-12:

Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 10 @ 80bpm

Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 11 @ 80bpm

Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 12 @ 80bpm

7th Chords: Major, Dominant, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor & 1/2 Diminished

7ths are chords that have one more note than a basic triad – the 7th. Just like there are a bunch of different triads, beyond the major and minor ones, there are additional types of 7th chords. Most of us are familiar with the major 7th and the minor 7th. The former is a major triad with a 7th added to it. The latter is a minor triad with a flatted 7th tacked on. Its not really brain surgery. Here are the spellings for each:

  • Major 7th: 1 – 3 – 5 – 7
  • Minor 7th: 1 – b3 – 5 – b7

There are at least 3 other 7th chords that are variations of the two base ones. These are the dominant 7th, which is a major 7th with a flatted 7; the harmonic minor 7th – which is a minor 7th with a natural 7 instead of a flatted one; and the half-diminished 7th – which has an intimidating name and is basically a major 7th with everything flatted, or a minor 7th with the 5th flatted (both ways of looking at it have the same notes).

A quick note about the minor 7ths – the regular minor 7th is sometimes called the natural minor 7th. This is to distinguish it from that new one, the harmonic minor 7th.

Here are the spellings for each of these new 7th chords:

  • Dominant 7th: 1 – 3 – 5 – b7
  • Harmonic minor 7th: 1 – b3 – 5 – 7
  • Half-Diminished 7th: 1 – b3 – b5 – b7

Here are patterns for the major and dominant 7th chords, derived from the usual major scale pattern because they have major scale fingerings. As illustrated, the only difference between them is the flatted 7th in the dominant chord:


The Amazing Human Musical Mind (by Mr. A)

So, Mr. A finished his series of posts about the cognitive and neurological effects of music on brain development in babies, toddlers and young children. Its a 10-part series in all and includes suggestions for incorporating musical activities both in the classroom and at home.

I was reblogging the posts as I read them, and linking them to each other, for ease in connectivity, but as I’ve learned from blogging about the Coursera class I took, its easier to make a central index for posts of this type, so here it is. I’ve removed the duplicate links from the other ones and will add links to the remainder once I’ve read them.

The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 1
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 2
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 3
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 4
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 5
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 6
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 7
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 8
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 9
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 10

Finally, here are some video examples of songs and techniques referenced in the series: