A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Weekend antics

So, this weekend brought some interesting bass-related activities that I haven’t gotten to write about until now. Chief amongst these is that I played with someone else – namely, my wife, on piano, and I tried to apply some of what I was practicing from the Building Rock Bass Lines book to a guitar & voice-driven song from Shelby over at Sound Waves & Spray Paint (formerly Grrl + Guitar).

Beethoven can't hear youI didn’t do anything fancy. With wifey, we’ve always talked about learning instruments and trying to write something together – we’re hoping for doom metal or post-metal once I know which is the pointy end of my bass. She took piano lessons when she was a little girl, but stopped when she was still small. So, its been more than 20 years since she’s really played anything.

I showed her what a chord progression is. We actually just used the one I’ve been doing exercises with from BRBL. Its [Am-C-G-D] [Am-C-G-E]. I tried to come up with something simple, on the fly, which ended up being primarily root notes, and at some point, an approach tone, as I’m trying to use them to kind of walk to the next chord, since reading more about them in that book by Joe Riposo. If I remember right, I started with the notes from an Am triad, and the rest is mostly roots.

What I found interesting, since chord progressions are new to her (I think she was learning more about reading music when she was small, than theoretical stuff like progressions) is that she seemed to also play single notes and root notes on the piano. I think that once we make time, and she gets to brush up more, it’ll be fun to see what she can do with piano chords with me supporting on bass. I’m also curious about moving away from roots and playing more 3rds and 5ths later on… but that’s for another time, and also, only if I can make it fit and sound decent.

With Shelby, she wrote an acoustic guitar song called Hurricanes. I was listening to it, and thinking about an earlier blog post in which she said that she wrote it with C, Am and Em. So, as an exercise, I tried to use my admittedly hairy ears to follow what she was doing. I tried to hum along with her melody (although, I was thinking of it more as a rhythm, really). Then, when I thought I had it, I tried playing a root note at the beginning of each chord change, just to let my hands know where those notes were when I heard them and get my ears accustomed to the sound. Then, I tried actually coming up with a simple rhythm that could support it underneath but not overpower either her guitar or voice.

I *think* that what I came up with works, but when I recorded it to share, I made some mistakes. It should still work to get the general idea out… and it was something like 2 or 3 in the AM, so there’s that. I’ve come to realize that even if I’m not sleepy, being tired is different and still affects how I process and perform actions.

With the bass part I tried, I played C, A, E, G instead of C, Am, Em. I think the G works because its a chord tone for C (its a 5th) and I believe its also a 3rd for E, which it was essentially replacing for that part that I used it. So, I was really using a chord tone, if my understanding is correct.

Here’s a link to my attempt, for those of you without fear:


Finally, I signed Bopps up for an evaluation for piano lessons at The Belle School of Music. We have a 3:45 appointment today. If it looks like she’s enjoying herself, I’m excited to start her down a musical path. We meant to get her a drum kit for her birthday, last year, but didn’t get to for a few reasons… its still coming though. We might go electronic, so wifey can also use it, and it won’t wake the house at odd hours. After posting about it on FB, I found that wifey’s 2 cousins also went there when they were kids, and at least one of them had fond memories of it. He also still plays piano and guitar, and a picture of him from the 1990’s is still on their website.

Oh, and wifey got us tickets and we saw Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Cryptopsy and Abysmal Dawn at Irving Plaza right after Valentine’s Day. So, I finally got to see Alex Webster live! \m/


8 responses

  1. Grrl in Progress

    That was an interesting project. I can’t remember if I ever touched base with you on it when I listened through the following day. (I was half zombie when we were talking about it late at night! Lol). I remember looking up the notes in the chords to try to figure out why you’d chosen G though, at some bizarre hour of the morning. Haha.

    What was interesting out of the gate for me is your bass made the points where I switched things up pretty obvious. That’s not actually something I thought about on a conscious level, but then I hear the baseline and it’s like ‘oh, there I am doing…whatever.’ lol.

    March 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    • vishalicious

      Holy crap – that actually means that I was doing it right! 😉 One of the main functions is for me to outline the chord changes. I freaking did it! 😉

      I remember us talking about the G a little bit, and I talked about scale degrees. My theory isn’t very deep yet, but I think that what I did was what I wrote in the post. I did it somewhat by ear and somewhat by pattern and then looked at the actual notes afterward to try and make some sense of what I was doing.

      Did the bass track line up right for you? I tried to play them together again afterward and I think I was off by a little bit.

      You can see where I messed up a bunch in at least 2 places, and where it took me a while to go back in too.

      March 8, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      • Grrl in Progress

        I couldn’t seem to hit play on both at the right time to get them just so, but I got the general idea.

        It was funny for me, because all the non-singing parts I just sort of improv, but based on your bass line, they were reasonably consistent in spite of me winging it.

        March 8, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      • vishalicious

        I think you were consistent throughout, but somewhere like 3/4 of the way through or so, either I messed up or you played something twice. I can’t remember. For the most part, it all worked though.

        If you want to experiment with it, I can re-record what I did and send you the Audacity file, or and MP3 or something, so you can play with running them together. Of course, its probably more educational musically if you actually record one of your basses though and then use both instruments’ recordings to put together a version with guitar & bass.

        March 8, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      • Grrl in Progress

        It’s cool. Most likely I had a longer bit between verses. I don’t really plan the between bits. I know the chords, the basic structure, and I just go. I’d have to listen and see if I did one differently. I tend to joke that I never play the same song the same way twice. Haha.

        I don’t think I’m quite ready yet to start combining instruments anyway. Eventually. For the moment though, I’m more focused on much more basic things.

        March 8, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      • Grrl in Progress

        And, come to think of it, somewhere in the final sweep one of the verses has an extra line, which could also have been the culprit.

        March 8, 2016 at 10:59 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing this article. I love that you and your wife are sharing in this exciting adventure we call music! Musical families are fun. My brother is a drummer, my husband also plays bass guitar and both my daughters sing, play piano and guitar.

    March 8, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    • vishalicious

      That’s amazing. I love the idea of musical families. I’m hoping to build something like that myself. I don’t have any musicians in my immediate family, but we have aunts, uncles and cousins who play – its mostly instruments popular in Trinidadian music, like hand organs and Indian drums. Some also play piano, violin and steel drums.

      My wife’s side has a bunch of guitarists, violinists and pianists – but they’re Filipino, so its expected that some of them will learn.

      I’ve said it elsewhere on the blog, but my end goal is to have a father-daughter grindcore rhythm section with me on bass and the baby on drums. But, while she shows interest in other instruments, I’m going to help her explore as many as I possibly can. 😉

      March 8, 2016 at 9:13 pm

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