A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for September, 2015

Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 5

FoMT_logoThe 5th video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is called “Introduction to chords“. Its about 9 1/2 mins long. Dr. Worth begins the session by explaining that with scales so far, we’ve been working sequentially, in a linear fashion, sounding one note at a time. However, its very common in music to sound multiple notes at the same time. This sounding of several notes together is called playing a chord.

My understanding of chords is that they’re the odd-numbered notes in a scale. So, if a scale has 8 notes, the chord tones are the 1, 3, 5 and 7. People also include the 8 because its the octave, making it the same as the 1. The even-numbered notes are notes in the scale, but aren’t chord tones. Also, these odd and even numbers are called scale degrees. So, the first note is the 1, the second note is the 2, and so on. I believe they also call this the Nashville Number System.

Dr. Moir jumps in to say that before we continue, we must recap the difference between the C major scale and the A Aeolian mode, or Natural Minor scale. So, C major is played using the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. That’s fairly straightforward. A Aeolian is built by playing the notes of the C major scale starting at the 6th scale degree, or the note A. So, its A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

The Dr.’s then proceed to play both scales on the piano while showing the note names by letter as well as tone & semi-tone formulas onscreen. The formulas show us whether to move one fret or two frets on a bass before we land on the next note in the scale/mode. For pianists, using only the white keys, the formulas reveal whether to move forward by 1 or 2 keys at a time to get to the next note.


BassMatter – Learning Modes on Bass

Here’s a great video from Ryan McClelland of BassMatter that talks about the modes of the major scale and gives examples of them all in play on the same song. Some of it around the middle and end might go over the head of people who are completely new to scales and theory, but listen through it. He shows how each of the modes relates to the C major scale (or Ionian mode) and the playthrough really shows how seamlessly they can fit into a song if they’re in the same key.

BassMatter Core Lesson #16: Learning Modes on Bass and the Power Behind Them

This is a great supplement for those of you who took Fundamentals of Music Theory from Coursera. The 4th video from Week 1 deals with the modes of the major scale, and Ryan’s video dovetails nicely into it.

Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 4

So, its been like 2 1/2 weeks since I last posted about the Fundamentals of Music Theory class – and I think I only shared one post outside of that as well. Luckily, the baby’s grandparents (a.k.a. my folks) are back from the west coast and I should be able to sneak in some time to write again. Without further ado…

The 4th video for Coursera’s FoTM Week 1 class is called “More on scales“. Its a 6-minute lesson that delves into scales beyond C major. Somehow, I’ll find a way to turn it into a 3-hour tour by typing about it though. It begins by introducing a scale with the tonic (root note) of A. This scale uses all of the notes found in the C major scale, but begins them on A instead of C. So, instead of C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C we have A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

By starting on A, Moir explains that we still use the same notes as C major but now have a different pattern of tones and semi-tones. If you think about this using the numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 as C major, we now have 6-7-1-2-3-4-5-6 if we begin on A. He lets us know that this is called the Natural Minor Scale or Aeolian Mode, and that we’ll talk about it more in Week 2’s lesson.

C major starting on A is also called the Aeolian mode, or Natural Minor scale

C major starting on A is also called the Aeolian mode, or Natural Minor scale


5 Essential Uses for The Pentatonic Scales in A Neat Infographic

Apologies for falling off the face of the earth for the past 2 weeks. I sent my parents off to CA and AZ to visit with my sisters and see their nephews. They’ll be back soon, but in the meantime, the baby has been all ours – with some help from my brother during the weekdays. Its been exhausting for the wife and myself, between work, the baby and emptying some of the house, so I haven’t gotten to write or blog for a bit.

I came across this just now while eating, however. Its a nice infographic.


You can find the original here:

Strange Bass Gallery 8

Its that time of the month again. No, not that time. The other one.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 3

The 3rd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is about octaves. Dr. Worth begins it by announcing, “In this section, we’re going to look more at the vertical distances between notes.” He references the graph from the last video and reminds us that the line that goes up and down represented high and low pitches. “We’re now going to start quantifying those,” he promises.

He reminds us that octaves are composed of eight notes (7 notes in a scale + a repeat of the first note, or octave – see how that word gets throw around to mean different things?). He then points to Dr. Moir’s guitar and to the observation that there aren’t 7 notes on it. There are, in fact, many more.

Dr. Moir shows us that if we play an open A on the A-string, and then play an A on the 12th fret of the same string, we’ve played an octave. However, if we count the individual frets/pitches in between the open A and the 12th fret, we find that there are… 12 frets! Its only when we get to the 12th that notes begin repeating. So, physically, an octave isn’t divided into 8 notes, as per the name, but actually contains 12 distinct pitches.

They then show us this same idea on the piano, counting both black and white keys when moving from A to a higher A.

After this, Worth takes to the piano and shows us the difference in distance between a semitone and a tone. A semitone is one key away from another on the piano, or one fret on the bass. A tone is two keys away on piano, or two frets away on bass. Semi means 1/2, so its 1/2 a tone.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Bass Clef

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific.

Bass Clef/F Clef

1-2 bass clefThe Complete Idiot’s Guide tells us that the bass clef is used to notate music written below the treble clef. Its the clef that’s used in all bass music books, and is actually the notation I was learning in the Hal Leonard Bass Method. Its used to notate music written below middle C on a piano and is called the F clef because its two dots surround the 4th line, which is E.

Lower pitched instruments like trombones, tubas, basses and singers in the bass range read and notate music written in this clef.

Bass Guitar for Dummies explains that music notation spells out both the rhythm and notes in music and that low notes are written with the bass clef, which bassists learn to read and play from. It also says that bass sounds one octave lower than the written note and that when piano players read from the same sheet as a bass player, they play their notes an octave higher than the bass.