So, this week, I started working through The First 15 Lessons: Bass (F15L), by Jon Liebman. Lesson 1 orients us to the bass and conventions used in the book, particularly rhythm tab, which is a combination of tablature and circles & tails around fret numbers, to tell us the duration that notes should be held. Its easy to understand, at a glance, and while it gives us more info than regular tablature, it doesn’t help impart knowledge of what note is being played, in the way that standard notation does. For beginner purposes, it works though.
Earlier this week, I went through Lesson 2 (Groovin’ on Open Strings), which is made up of 7 12-bar-blues exercises, each of which uses a different rhythm and only open strings. They’re basically all I-IV-V progressions using A-D-E or D-G-A, depending on if you run them starting on the A or D strings. Two of the exercises make use of dotted notes, and overall, they weren’t very difficult. I like that they’re structured around an actual blues form, because its musical; but in my experience, that’s also a hallmark of Jon’s teaching style.
The first exercise gives us an entire blues, all 12 bars of it. The rest give us only the first 4 bars, but since they follow the same structure as exercise 1, we’re able to then figure out how to transpose the pattern into the right notes by just taking the new exercise’s pattern and applying them over the bars in exercise 1.
The First 15 Lessons: Bass Guitar is a 30-page beginner’s method, written by Jon Liebman of ForBassPlayersOnly.com and published by Hal Leonard as part of its First 15 Lessons series. I have Jon’s Bass Aerobics book, and while that volume completely awed me, its also beyond my skill level with regard to reading and playing. This book, however, aims to provide those who are new to bass with a foundation for playing. Here’s Jon’s statement of intent from the first page:
The purpose of this book is to provide the beginning bassist with a hands-on approach to the fundamentals of good bass playing. As in all of my books, as well as my online bass lessons, I have presented you with a sequence of practical exercises to provide not only technical instruction, but examples that are musically satisfying and enjoyable to play. I’ve also included several examples from well-known songs to further enhance your real-world learning experience. Note that the lessons progress sequentially, with each lesson building on the previous material, so be sure to go through them in order.
Its been 13 1/2 months since I last blogged here, and its been just about that much time since I last practiced with my bass regularly. When I fall off the boat, its steep. In that time, we’ve grown the family a little. Bopps is now 5 1/2 years old, and she has a 4-month old sister, Kara. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen since December. I got my wife an air fryer for Christmas. We opened it about 2 weeks early, and I’ve been air frying ever since. In January, I added an Instant Pot to the mix, and now, while I’m no chef, I do manage to put food on the table that people can actually keep in their stomachs. Oh, and I discovered that I like moscato wines quite a bit.
I’ve been getting my music fix via Bopps’ piano class. Although we’ve missed some here and there, we go once a week and she’s able to read enough music (using solfege, not note names) that she can handle stuff that isn’t from class. I got her a 2-CD and 2-book set with nursery rhyme songs and other children’s songs, and she’s able to read most of the music and play it on her piano. Its great that the lessons are paying off, although we do need to get more disciplined with practice.
I started tackling videos for older exercises in the Hal Leonard Bass Method tonight. I went back to the beginning and recorded exercises 10-17, which are all of the exercises from the E-string lesson. It took about 5 mins to record, because I did it in one sitting and ran each exercise twice at 80 bpm. Turning them into videos took considerably longer – I had to slice up the big video with everything in it, do the same for audio and then combine them into a single file. That’s 8 down and only like 35 more to go…
After I uploaded the videos to my Ugly YouTube channel, I dug up old posts and added the videos to the ones that were about them. If anyone’s interested, here they are, followed by direct links to the 8 videos:
- 03.29.15 HLBM 04: Notes on the E-String (ex. 10-12)
- 03.29.15 HLBM 05: Notes on the E-String (ex. 13)
- 04.01.15 HLBM 06: Notes on the E-String (ex. 14)
- 04.05.15 HLBM 07: Notes on the E-String (ex. 15)
- 04.06.15 HLBM 09: Notes on the E-String – Little Rock (ex. 16)
- 04.06.15 HLBM 10: Notes on the E-String – Kinda Folky (ex. 17)
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 10 @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 11 @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 12 @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 13 @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 14 @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 15 @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 16 “Little Rock” @ 80bpm
- Hal Leonard Bass Method ex. 17 “Kinda Folky: @ 80bpm
Running exercises at 80 bpm is working pretty well. I’ve just about caught back up to where I was before the stomach bug benched me. Today, I worked on ex. 49-56 in the HLBM. I’ve mainly been focusing on a few bars in ex. 56, because I’m making mistakes when switching between strings in 2 sections (bars 7-8 and 11-13). The next one, ex. 57 (F/X), is what I was up to previously, so I’m right on schedule to tackle it again. I plan on recording practice videos of older exercises, because I haven’t done that for most of the ones in the book yet. It helps me to track the progress I’ve made, and it also seems to be helpful to other people who are working through the book as well.
I’ve found that the exercises that incorporate multiple strings are good reading practice. There are a few that I’ve gone back to expressly for that purpose – ex. 46 (Crossin’ Three), 51 (Gee Whiz), 52 (All Right) and 56 (All Four One) are as much a mental workout as a dexterity one, at my level. I imagine upcoming exercises are only going to build on this. The ones with position changes and string crossing – and the ones that incorporate both at the same time, like going from 1st position on a string to 2nd position on a different string – are particularly challenging. Hopefully, in a few months, I’ll be able to play through these with far less effort, and with greater speed and precision. We’ll see.
The GHS Pressurewound strings are breaking in. They’re a lot easier on my fingertips, so I’ve been enjoying practice more. I haven’t had to use the Gorilla Tips at all. Regarding technique, I need to work on my pinky finger. It stands upright, like Dr. Evil drinking tea, when its not holding down a fret. I’ve watched some videos about correcting this, and what it seems to come down to is slow, deliberate practice and attention, so I’ll have to start incorporating exercises for this into daily practice.
Finally, I made a Google doc that lists all of the videos I’ve done for the HLBM, with links. Its sparse at the moment, which is what made me really see just how many videos I haven’t made yet. That’s something else I’ll work on during regular review.
I’m finally back after that stomach bug wrecked my January. This Sunday, I started practicing through the Hal Leonard book again. I started back at the beginning, at ex. 10 and did 10-42 on Sunday, 10-51 on Monday, and 46-48 earlier today. It wasn’t so bad. I made some mistakes on the first day, but got better as I went. The new GHS Pressurewound strings play more smoothly that the roundwounds I had before, so I’m able to play for longer periods of time without my fingertips getting sore from holding down the thinner strings.
On the HLBM thread on Talkbass, several more people got the book and joined in. One person finished book 2 and is beginning the 3rd volume. I found it encouraging that he said that when he goes back to older exercises from book 1, they glide under his fingers now.
I made videos of the 3 exercises I ran this AM: 46 “Crossin’ Three”, 47, and 48 “Octa Gone”. I’ve been running everything at 80 bpm, because its not too fast, and it still forces me to read at a decent rate. For those last 2 exercises, I messed with the notes after running the exercise as written, just to see how it would sound doubled-up or played with some slower parts and some faster parts, or as dotted quarter notes in some cases. My aim is to ramp back up to where I was (57 “F/X”) by the end of the week.
2017 and I are off to a bad start. Sure the first 2 weeks were interesting – I got the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, wifey’s thesis was released and she started her drum blog, and I got the Gorilla Tips. I even got my old Ibanez 4-string mostly fixed and am waiting to hear back about the acoustic.
Then, wifey caught a stomach bug. It hit her for a few days before moving onto our daughter. That was just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Bopps bounced back from it, and today we finally sent her back to school. However, this week, its been my turn, and I don’t have the resilience that my wife or our +1 does. My immune system is mostly theoretical. I’ve been laid out for the majority of the past week. This is my first time sitting in front of a computer in days. I haven’t touched a bass in 5 days, and spent 2 days completely immobile. I haven’t been this bad in recent memory. I literally didn’t move except to turn from one side to the next for 2 days.
Today, I took my first bite of solid food in days. It stayed down, so things were looking up. The GHS Pressurewound strings came in yesterday – it took 11 days to ship, likely because of the long weekend and USPS. I decided that since I’m finally sitting upright again, I’d restring the 6-string fretted bass with them. I’ve been really curious about them and waited twice as long to get them as I thought I’d have to.
Then I broke the new E-string by over-tightening.
The one thing I had to look forward to, and you took it from me too, 2017!