A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for October, 2015

Helloween – Halloween (1987)


In the spirit of Halloween, here’s a fun song I’ve always loved. Its 80s metal in all its glory: Halloween, by Germany’s own Helloween (Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part 1, from 1987). The standout part of this group was, to me, drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg (RIP).

Helloween – Halloween (1987)

Those of you who watched anime in the 80s and 90s might recognize the name from the original run of Bastard! – which is loaded with 80s metal references. I think Dark Schneider invoked a spell named after the band somewhere in the first episode or two… but as I no longer have the VHS and all versions I’ve found since have had the metal references edited into similar-sounding, but different, words, I can’t bring myself to watch it without feeling robbed and stopping.


Strange Bass Gallery 9


Tomorrow’s the last day of October. So, for you ghoulish low enders out there – Happy Halloween! Its been a month and almost 3 weeks since my last Strange Bass Gallery. Here’s some stuff from the backlog:


Of course, you know… evil never dies…


NY Ensemble Classes – Building Better Bass Lines

building better bass lines

Here’s a good series of 4 exercises that show the effects of building basslines with different subsets of note selections. Its jazz-oriented, but there’s no reason that the same principles can’t be applied to any style. Each of the 4 exercises includes a video example.

1. Without the root

The first exercise takes a blues progression and uses only the chord tones of the given scale to make a bassline – so we can only use the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. I don’t believe that it uses the octave. I’ve done this, myself, in the past when experimenting with rhythms – just pick a root and try to come up with repeatable patterns that sound good using only chord tones.

Overall, the video that accompanies this one was the least enjoyable to my ears though. I wonder if that would have been different if there were a lead instrument being played over it, so that the chord tones would actually have something to accompany.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 7

FoMT_logoThe 7th and last video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is an extra called “Modes deconstruction“. It runs almost 7 mins long. When the file is opened, the title screen calls it something a little different – “Thinking about the modes and hearing their different ‘sounds’ (a rough illustration…)”.

This one’s a bit different from the others. Moir and Worth are present, seated at a piano in more casual wear, and Moir explains that they’ve been looking through the online forums (something that sets this apart from the Developing Your Musicianship class right off the bat, and in a good way) and found that some people understand the concept of modes, but don’t quite know what they’re supposed to sound like.

He continues by walking us through the notes of C-Ionian and D-Dorian. C-Ionian is the major scale, starting on C. D-Dorian uses the same notes but starts on D. They look like this (the numbers show their scale degrees):

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C-Ionian: C D E F G A B
D-Dorian: D E F G A B C

So, its the same notes, but we’re starting from a different place. Some people are confused about why this should sound any different, since its the same set of notes. Moir explains that although the notes are the same, their relationship with each other changes. What he means by this is that their function in the scale is different.


Prescriptivism and Descriptivism in Music Theory (and why you should learn it)

Adam Neely is back. When I picked back up my bass a few years ago with the intent of actually learning how to play it, his videos on right and left hand technique really blew me away. His manner of speaking and his thought processes are so clear to me. I’ve missed his videos.

So, anyway, I just logged into Talkbass and found the following one, with accompanying thread. Haven’t been there in months as well. So much to catch up on. This is about learning music theory. Its not stuffy and its a fun 6 1/2 minutes.

Why you should learn music theory (Prescriptivism vs Descriptivism)

Here’s the thread:

Its funny too – I’ve spoken with my wife for years about recent metal studies, and how punk became a thing to study since maybe 2 decades ago and how they’re being approached like how jazz was. Adam concurs and explains how music academia is generally years behind what’s going on with actual music when it comes to study.

Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 6

The 6th video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is a 4:15 second piece called “Primary chords and their application“. Dr. Worth begins the video by recapping that we’ve found 7 triads that we can derive from the major scale. I believe that what he’s referring to are triads with root notes started on each note of the scale. So, in C-major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B) we’d have a triad with a root of C, one with a root on D, the next on E, etc.

He says that we’re going to focus on the 3 major ones, which are C, F and G. I believe that those are major because we’re working in the key of C, and in that key, [C is the 1], [F is the 4] and [G is the 5] – which is also called a I-IV-V chord progression. In a major tonality, the 1, 4, and 5 are major.

Worth explains that these chords are important in common practice classical music, jazz, pop, rock and folk music. Their use is sometimes referred to as the “Three Chord Trick”. Yes, that does sound like a derogatory name for a musician. He then walks us through each of the three triads that we’re going to look at.

  • The C-major chord, which starts on the tonic, or 1, and is called the Tonic triad
  • The F-major chord, which starts on the 4th degree and is called the Sub-dominant triad
  • The G-major chord, which starts on the 5th degree and is called the Dominant triad

Now, these are just names. The names tell us their function in the scale they’re derived from, but I personally just think of them as the I, IV and V. This also helps me figure out which finger and fret to use to find them, based on where the tonic, or 1 is. Of course, that’s because I still use this info with one of two major scale patterns that I know.

What he says next is important to bassists and applies to most Western music: When we’re harmonizing a melody its normal to have a melodic note be a member of a chord that’s backing it. We can expect to hear a strong melody note existing in its chord.


What Should I Practice (JazzAdvice.com)

RoyMusicUSA posted a link to a website called JazzAdvice.com. It was started by two young jazzers named Forrest Wernick and Eric O’Donnell. He shared a free presentation that they created called What Should I Practice? The 3 Essential Pieces to Practicing Jazz Improvisation. Its the best thing I’ve ever read on what to practice to develop a musical vocabulary.

What Should I Practice

Although it has both jazz and improvisation in the title, I look at it as universal – not necessarily style-agnostic though, because it can be applied to any style of music. Essentially, its about studying pieces of music – from short phrases and solos to lengthier parts, basically whatever catches your ear – and learning to play them. Then, dissecting them to see why they move you and creating your own variations thereof.

The entire learning process is broken into 3 actions:

  1. Get more language
  2. Develop the language you have
  3. Work on songs

These actions aren’t linear either. Each informs the other.