A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for November, 2015

Warm-up for this week: String skipping/vertical stretch

I haven’t posted up a warm-up exercise in a long time. Here’s one I did yesterday, today and will probably use more during the week. Its meant to add a little vertical stretch capability to my fingers – something I’ve not been working on for a while. The pattern is below. Basically, just do it starting in 9th position (with fingers on frets 9, 10, 11 & 12) on the E string and move backwards until its completed. So the next one starts in 8th position (index finger on the 8th fret) then when that’s done, in 7th position, and so on, until we reach the 1st fret.

Once we make it to 1st position, we move up a string so we’re on the A string and do the same thing going up the neck until we’re in 12th position (unless you want to go further).

So, start on the E string, 9th fret, do the pattern, then shift and do it from the 8th fret, 7th fret, 6th, etc. After you’ve done it on the 1st fret, move up a string to the A string and do it in 1st position, then from the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th, etc.

In tab, it would start like this, going down on the E string from the 9th fret to the 1st:

2015.11.30 stretch down tab.jpg

Here’s how it starts on the A string, moving up the neck:

2015.11.30 stretch up tab.jpg

If you’re so inclined, you can even come up with a way to do it across all 4 strings. I do that from time-to-time, but its not my focus right now. There are probably permutations that would change the role of the index and ring fingers from “anchor” positions on the lower strings to the top ones, so the middle and pinkie can anchor instead. Go forth and figure that stuff out.

Here’s what the exercise should sound like, both going down the E string and up the A string:


Practice: 11/29/15 – HLBM 42

In Soviet Russia

I made some progress with the dreaded ex. 42 in the HLBM. It wasn’t the way I intended though. I tried running the exercise by reading it, but was getting nowhere. I kept making mistakes. So, I tried to play along with the track again, to give myself some audible cues. Well, I didn’t do so well there this time either. I kept frazzling my B’s and D’s.

So, I just ran it by ear. Surprisingly, I got it. Then I did it again… and again. I mess up a little bit with it on some runs, but for the most part, I can play it through by ear and memory, but not by reading the notation. Two steps forward. You know how it goes.

I’m gonna get this via notation. I have to break, run out and get my brother-in-law home before Walking Dead starts, but when I return, if the baby doesn’t jump me, I’m going to go at it again.

Practice: 11/28/15 – HLBM 42 (2)

Ok. Its 8 AM now. I’m not sure why this particular exercise is so hard for me, even after I’ve eliminated the chord symbols from above the notation (they weren’t starting on the root and were really throwing me off). I’ve made some progress though. I acquiesced and listened to the CD track, instead of just playing it from the notation. The thought was that at my level, hearing the music the way its supposed to sound might help me connect the notes or phrases in a meaningful way so I could play through it.

It mostly worked.

After listening to the track twice and then just playing an open string on each note to get myself used to the rhythm at whatever tempo it’s being played at, I attempted it a few times with the CD and made some good headway. There are times when I hit the wrong note and either lost my place and had to start over, or was able to recover with the next note or jump back in on the next bar and then continue.

This is interesting to me because it also means that if I’m not frazzled by screwing up, I can continue on without starting over – although that’s not consistent yet. For some reason, the D note, in particular, is throwing me off more than the others. I’m trying to read ahead and I’m mostly saying the note names aloud, which helps me hit the right one, but its going to take more practice.

This is the exercise I stopped at when I was last going through the HLBM. Also – its a country song.

HLBM42 - D-Lite (no chords)

HLBM Exercise 42: D-LITE, with no chord notation

Practice: 11/28/15 – HLBM 42

So I got up at 3 AM and wasted 45 mins on Facebook looking at what people ate to wrap-up their Thanksgivings. After that, I brushed and toyed with the idea of stuffing my face. Instead, I stared at the note names for the spaces and then the lines on the bass staff for a while and then warmed up and tackled ex. 42 in the HLBM again. I used my edit that doesn’t have the chord names.

I’m able to make it through 6 bars now. That’s everything except for the 2 endings. Yep – that’s a new thing introduced with this exercise: 1st and 2nd endings. I’d kind of have preferred 1st and 2nd helpings instead, and I’d have taken leftovers over standard notation, but, that’s not going to teach me how to read music, so I went with the road less-traveled.

Anyhow. Its 4:45 AM now. Everyone else is sleeping. I’m going to break and eat something after all. I don’t want any of the food to go bad and, uh… breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Here’s some of what I’ll be staring at while I chew:

Practice: 11/27/15 – HLBM 42

Kitchen Warzone. Entry 1.

Day 1 after Thanksgiving. Got 3 hours of sleep. Guests from Trinidad arrived at 01:30. Baby didn’t sleep until 04:00. Got up at 06:00 and launched sneak attack on leftovers. Launched 2nd volley with wife at 12:00. Targets took casualties but retain vast reserve. Regrouped and readying new strike. Their forces are substantial but susceptible to rapid assault & retreat.


I’m working on ex. 42 in the Hal Leonard Bass Method. Its the last exercise I’d gotten to when I was working through the book a few months ago, and its hard to read. I don’t know if its my own mental block or my turkey & ham-addled brain, but I realized something this AM. I need to memorize the lines & spaces on the bass staff so that I can more quickly recognize what notes I need to play. Some notes come easily to me, like A, because its the first space, but others take time for me to work through, and now that I have 3 strings to coordinate, with repeated notes that are on both the E and D strings, things are getting hairy.

Having notes from inside of the chord (not necessarily the root, but other notes, like the 3rd & 5th) in the notation while the actual chord is written above the lines is as confusing as I’d anticipated it would be. I’ve fallen back to that edit I did where I removed the chord names. It helps, but I’m still proceeding very slowly.

HLBM42 - D-Lite (no chords)

HLBM Exercise 42: D-LITE, with no chord notation

I’m going to take a short break, and maybe a nap, and resume later. Forget Black Friday, people – eat leftovers and practice bass!

Leo Lyons and a Double Sided Bass

I’ve never seen anything like this before. Here’s a video from Leo Lyons, the bassist for a British blues band from the 60’s & 70’s called Ten Years After. He shows us a different kind of double bass. Flip it around and there’s another working bass behind it. One side is fretless and the other is fretted. Amazing!

Double Bass! | Inspire Instruments | Leo Lyons

And here’s the article from No Treble where I just saw it:

Accessing Musical Memory Through Writing Charts

Here’s a new video from Adam Neely about transcribing music. Its a fascinating watch, not only because Adam is so coherent and fluid in his explanations, but because he actually transcribes a song using Sibelius right in front of us, so we can actually observe the process from someone who’s demonstrably good at it. It also helps that he picks “Just Like Heaven” from The Cure, which I dig. 😉

Accessing Musical Memory Through Writing Charts

At first blush, it might seem that his method only applies to people who know how to read standard notation, but I think the principles apply more broadly – he speaks about transcribing in detail, leaving notes or cues to yourself that help you keep track of where you are in a song, when to indicate that a part repeats, and so on. Even if you write solely in tab, I’m sure that the ideas that he shares remain the same.

He also mentions Musescore, which is apparently free, open-source transcribing software, so you don’t necessarily have to shell out cash to purchase Sibelius or Finale to write.

One important thing to note here is that Adam also has a good ear. He’s practiced and honed his ability, whether through relative pitch or actively recognizing notes as they’re played, so this process is going to be much smoother for him than say, someone like myself.

Here’s the Talkbass thread that he shared the video to: