I’ve been practicing on-and-off over the past few weeks, but I’ve not been blogging much. Some practice material has been from the Hal Leonard Bass Method and some has been from YouTube videos or snippets I’ve read from other books, and in a few cases even from perusing older posts here!
Its been a while since I posted a warm-up exercise, so this is what I’ve been using this week. Its just a small Phrygian pattern using all 4 fingers that I run along the Cycle of 4ths on the E string and then again on the A string.
So, after watching the Cycle of 4ths video from Talkingbass last night, I ran the exercise on the E string a bit before going to bed. A little while ago, I practiced it again, this time doing some small variations – first just running the Cycle and playing the root & 5th and after I was comfortable with that, I tried to “walk” to the next note by playing each root note twice and then taking two whole steps to the next note. My logic is that, since its the Cycle of 4ths, we’re moving in 4ths to the next note. Between the note I play and the 4th is a 2nd and a 3rd – I could play those on the way to the 4th.
Well, it worked. And, naming the notes as I play them is helping me to link them in my head, plus I automatically know if I’m on the right track because it always places us a 1/2 step from the next note. There’s probably a theory reason for this, but I don’t want to overthink it right now.
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.
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.
Practice has been slow for the past few days. I only got in about 20 mins per day for the last 2 days, until now. I’ve been working on ex. 57 (F/X) in the HLBM and its been going slow. This AM, I ran it at 40 bpm, which is the slowest the metronome goes. I made it a point to say the note names aloud as I played them. I just got in a quick PM session, which I’ve been unable to do recently, and for some reason decided to just start at 72 bpm. As strange as it seems, I was able to handle it, so I did a quick recording for my YouTube hall of shame.
This practice video was recorded with the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 and Audacity. I was going to do it in Reaper, but I think I need to tinker with it a little first – it has exclusive control of the sound system when its in use, and because of that, I can’t use the online metronome that I’ve been using with it.