A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Books & Resources

Wifey’s extreme metal thesis and drum blog are here!

This isn’t totally bass-related, but it might be intriguing for some of you who are interested in extreme metal and in drumming (even separately).

individual-thought-thesis

My wife finished her 2nd masters degree this year. Apart from her MLS, she now has a masters in anthropology. Her thesis topic was centered on women’s participation in New York’s extreme metal scene – from musicians and fans to others in the industry like photographers, writers, women who run magazines and websites, women who host radio shows and more. We attended shows (quite a few were around the baby’s schedule), she met and interviewed women in the scene, conducted an online survey with dozens of respondents, and met and presented with incredible metal music scholars – a discipline that I didn’t even know existed until she started doing her thing. Many of them have written books and papers in academic journals and some have released video documentaries as well. Its a thriving and fascinating international community.

Anyway – for those interested, her thesis is finally available for public consumption via CUNY Academic Works. Here’s a link to the PDF (you can click the “download” button on CUNY’s site or read it online):

Here’s a link to her blog where she announced the release of the thesis as well:

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Lessonface

So, yesterday, during dinner, I watched some bass videos on YouTube while the baby figured out more of Let It Go and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on piano. After taking the summer off, her lessons are due to resume next month. I think the only time slot available is 9 AM on Saturday. We’ll essentially wake up an hour later than on regular school days (we get her up around 6:30). No rest for the wicked.

Anyway, YouTube suggested a video called Time and Feel Exercise for Bass Guitar, by Yonit Spiegelman. Apparently, she’s part of a group of instructors from Brooklyn who created or work with an instructional website called Lessonface. It looks interesting. It mainly offers real-time music lessons over the internet.

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Music Notes app for Windows 10

Music Notes app

So yesterday I mentioned a music app I grabbed from the Windows 10 store that helps with learning notes on the musical staff. The app is called Music Notes. Its almost like using flash cards. When you start it up, you choose treble or bass clef, slide the game timer (I kept it at 5 mins) and hit start. It then flashes notes on the staff onscreen and you have to choose the note name by letter. If you get the note right, another appears. If you get it wrong, you can try again until you have the right one. At the end, it lets you know how many notes you correctly named and what your percentage of correct notes over the play time was.

The app isn’t complex, and I actually like running through it 1 or 2 times before moving onto other stuff, especially if I’m reading on my tablet in bed. I think it actually is somewhat helping me to remember notes, but I won’t be able to make a more educated assessment until I’ve used it for a while.

I do wish that there were an option to select from a specific set of notes, so I could synch it to run the notes I’m working on in lessons from the Hal Leonard Bass Method. Also, with the version I have, its all natural notes – no sharps or flats. That’s fine for me for now though, since I’m still wet-behind-the-ears with notation.


Help Your Kids With Music

Help Your Kids With MusicSo, yesterday, Bopps, wifey & I went out to eat with one of wifey’s friends after they got back from some librarian thing hosted at Columbia. I suspect there was a lot of shushing and existential questions starting with “Dewey, or don’t we…” After dinner we made a pit stop at Barnes & Noble so Bopps could work off some sugar (she built her own sundae and was heavy on the sprinkles).

After a while of setting her loose in the kids’ section, I left her with the lady-folk and went to the music section. They grabbed her some Peppa Pig books that she didn’t already have and I found something else: Help Your Kids With Music, from DK Publishing. I have some of their other books, and they’re pretty informative.

I flipped through it a little and was impressed with the diagrams and sheer breadth of information in the book. When I opened it, I randomly started on the triads section, and its illustrations and concise descriptions got my attention. Those of you who have followed my ramblings for any length of time know I have a collection of music-related books which I’ll never really work through, but irrationally amass anyway. This one reads like an even-friendlier edition of Edly’s Music Theory for Practical People, which I also really dug.

So, later that night, I was going through the book in bed and Bopps comes into the room, because her sleeping habits are borderline mine – which isn’t a good thing. We looked through maybe the first 50 pages together, and she was really into it. The pictures drew her in. She used the piano diagrams to “play” and sing aloud Doe a Deer, Mary Had a Little Lamb and some other stuff. She was reading notes to me, and asking a hundred questions about other stuff she was seeing. It really had her engaged.

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Its been 5 years?!

This morning, Laina Dawes, who presented with my wife  at the Metal and Cultural Impact (MACI) conference in Dayton back in 2014, posted on her FB page that its been 3 years since she started a page for her book, What Are You Doing Here – A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal. It made me realize something – today is my blog’s birthday as well. We’re 5 years old today! (And I still haven’t learned the fretboard!)

So… happy birthday, my Uglies… 😉

Here’s a shot of the baby prancing in front of one of my basses… and an ugly shot she took of me when she stole my phone. Yes… I’ve cleaned the office up a bit since then. My own face, however, is a lost cause.


Target and Approach Tones – Shaping Bebop Lines (by Joe Riposo)

Target & Approach Tones (Joe Riposo)Yesterday, I ran to the laundromat to wash two comforters that are too big to fit in our machine. The machine is probably around 30 years old and still kicking – they don’t make ’em like they used to. While I was there, I took a small book to read while I waited. I grabbed Target and Approach Tones “Shaping Bebop Lines” by Joe Riposo. Its almost 50 pages, so wifey’s thesis is probably going to be heavier than it.

There’s no table of contents, but I read the first two sections, which were about 15-18 pages. It dealt with some theory and had exercises to work through. I read through the notation as best as I could – and I’m rusty from not doing that since the beginning of December. Even in this shape though, it was really interesting.

Here are some things I learned:

Joe believes that people drill scales but don’t really know how to use them to make music, which is something I’ve heard people who practice scales complain about, so he’s probably right. He thinks that improvised basslines are often choppy and don’t connect from chord-to-chord. He lists the following elements that he believes all improvised lines must have:

  1. Target Tones, Peak & Focus Tones
  2. Hinge Tones
  3. Points of Resolution
  4. Approach Tones
  5. Tension and Release Tones
  6. Shape and Forward Motion

I think the only thing on that list that I’ve read about are tension and release. I know that certain notes have a stronger pull towards the root than others, and that chord tones tend to be used for release while non-chord tones build tension. If my understanding is correct, scalar tones resolve to chord tones.

Target tones are notes in a chord that “gives the melodic line focus and direction”. They actually color or flavor the line. Joe says that the 3rd gives a scale tonality and focus. I think this is demonstrated in other books I’ve read that explained that the 3rd can be major or minor and really define a chord as such. Last night, I practiced that root-5th-8th thing. There was no 3rd in it. I noticed and blogged about the idea that the R-5-8 was ambiguous and could fit over major or minor sounds – there was nothing that defined it as either, so it could be used all over the place and blend it easily. That 3rd is one of the things that would completely change that. It makes the chord pick a side, major or minor.

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Wikiloops & JamKazam

jamplay & wikiloops.jpg

I was in bed, browsing the TalkBass forums, which I haven’t visited in more than 6 months, when I came across a thread from a person about my age who’s been practicing alone on his bass but hasn’t played with any other musicians. On the 2nd page of his thread, in which he asked for advice on finding others to jam with, two people mentioned online solutions that I just looked at and am frankly blown away by.

The first is called Wikiloops (which has apparently been in my bookmarks since April, go figure), and the 2nd is called JamKazam. They’re both online communities that share backing tracks, which are actually multi-tracked, so individual instruments can be muted, as desired. They also enable live collaboration and sharing. Videos from both follow. There’s amazing potential here.

Wikiloops is free and basically allows people to upload MP3’s of themselves playing instruments. These playthroughs can be added to other people’s sessions and used to build remixes which are organized in several ways including by instrument and genre.

JamKazam has a similar service as well as live online jam sessions and is in beta development for a physical interface which can be used to connect instruments to a router with low latency – this basically means they’re building a box that you can plug into and will let you play at blazing speed, so there’s little or no loading/buffering/processing or whatever it is that other platforms might suffer from.

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