A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Coursera – DYM Lesson 6 videos (4)

We’re in the home stretch. This is one of the last 3 videos for Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class. Its video #4 for Lesson 6. Some of the other videos upped their game, when it came to subtitling the lessons, with relatively few errors. Here, however, we’re treated to a marathon of utterly ridiculous misspellings for an instructional class. I almost think that its an inside joke that I’m not in on.

4. Composing a Blues Riff Tune Using the Minor Pentatonic Scale (5:52)

Our now fancily-attired Professor Russell begins this one by reminding us that another scale we learned about in the course was the minor pentatonic scale. He demonstrates its construction by playing and singing the “one, flat-three, four… five, flat-seven, one” song that he had the Berklee students sing in Lesson 3.

After playing a brief piece to illustrate the sound, he says that we’re going to take the minor pentatonic scale and create a riff blues. He plays a 12-bar blues in C to show us a blues progression and then says that one way to create a riff blues is to create a melody that’s 2 bars long, skip the melody for the next 2 bars, play it again for the following 2 bars, skip the next two, vary it for 2 bars, and then close with no melody.

It looks like this:

1. Start melody 2. Continue melody 3. Rest melody, play rhythm 4. Rest melody, play rhythm
5. Start melody again 6. Continue melody again 7. Rest melody, play rhythm 8. Rest melody, play rhythm
9. Vary melody 10. Continue variation 11. Rest melody, play rhythm 12. Rest melody, play rhythm

For the bars that skip the melody, the harmony (i.e., rhythm or bass) keeps playing. For the two bars with a varied melody, just change it a little, to generate interest. He says that the goal of the variation is to musically answer the question that the first melody asked. If the structure sounds confusing, look at the riff blues picture below. Remember – for the whole song, the harmony is played (drums, bass). For some bars, the melody (vocal, guitar, etc.) rests.

After explaining the structure, he plays through a simple example, twice, so we can really hear the progression and when the melody is played, rests, and is altered. Then, he plays a more complex version. He says that this one is more sophisticated and uses more notes. It has a noticeably more involved melody. Finally, he plays one last, jazzier example and then announces that our assignment this week is to create our own riff blues tune. He says that a blues backing track has been provided to us. It includes a piano, bass and drums. Our task is to create a melody based on the minor pentatonic scale. We can create our own backing tracks as well, if we’d like.

Here are some of the subtitles that we’re treated with for the lesson. The information that the Professor shares is fine, but the people who provided the subtitles really need to take a remedial English class and invest in hearing aids. I really am bothered by this, because it indicates a lack of quality control on the part of the school, and also, for non-native English speakers, these instructions can end up being confusing. Its funny to me, as much as its aggravating. Remember: A bear eats shoots and leaves.

Provided  subtitle: What was actually said:
So let me give you an example of a very simple riff loops tune So, let me give you an example of a very simple riff blues tune
Now we’re going to vary the melody for two bars, its a rift blues, very simple Now, we’re going to vary the melody for two bars. Its a riff blues – very simple.
Yes now vary it. Rest. Now vary it.
The roof blues, now, I’d like for you to record your own riff blues. The riff blues. Now, I’d like for you to record your own riff blues.

One response

  1. Pingback: Coursera – Developing Your Musicianship Lesson 6 | Ugly Bass Face

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