So, I’m practicing the Cycle of 4ths tonight, and I move from running it on the E string to figuring it out on the A string, because I got to a point where my mind is wandering since I’ve been focusing on the E string for a few days. Somehow, while there and while comparing tones in my head, I realize something: “Every Little Counts” from New Order just uses B and E in its bassline. Its just two notes! Its [B, B – E] [E, E – B] over and over. Those are notes from the Cycle of 4ths (C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G)! Give it a listen:
I was able to figure out part of the melody that begins around 2:48 as well. It uses notes from B major. Using scale degrees, I think its [3-3-3-3-5] [1-1-1-1-3] then a lower [7-7-7-7-6-6-6] below the octave.
Why am I so amused by this? Well, for one thing, I recognized part of a song that I like from something I was practicing, so yay! But, the other thing is – this was our wedding song. 😉
I’m not doing much right now except running the Cycle of 4ths on the E string, in an effort to start practicing again and to learn the notes on the neck. I think its starting to work. My ears know when I make a mistake now. They anticipate the sound of the next note in the Cycle, so in some way, I know what an ascending fourth sounds like in all 12 keys. My hands are also arriving at the right notes faster than they were when I started – and its only been a few days.
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.
Mark from Talkingbass.net did a video at the end of 2015 with an exercise that basically asks us to play the Cycle of Fourths, one string at a time, to memorize notes on the fretboard. I remember a while ago, I was doing this, and it was actually working. What he really wants us to do is play a major scale with a root beginning on each note of the Cycle, so that we cover all 12 keys with whatever we’re practicing. I think that with a lot of focus, I could do that, but for the time being, simply playing the cycle and naming the notes is challenging my memory and predictive capabilities enough – and this is just on the E string.
In four days, its going to be 4 years since I started this blog.
Since experiencing this beginner’s music theory class from Coursera, and blogging every day for a solid 5 weeks, I’ve been thinking about how I’d proceed to learn electric bass (notice I didn’t call it bass guitar) if I had to start all over again, or what advice I’d give to other newbies who are trying to get their bearings. The two main roads are self-study and getting a teacher, but there are different lanes on both of these roads.
I don’t believe in the concept of truly independent self-study anymore. This is because, as much as we can feel that we’re teaching ourselves by not having a formalized music education, we self-studiers still rely on outside resources, like books and videos. This is still utilizing a teacher by proxy on some level. Once we begin exploring our options, we’ll discover bass-centric websites, online discussion forums and other resources. We might branch out and look at other generalized music resources as well. The internet is the great enabler here, giving us access to more information, and more misinformation, that any generation before us.
I also think that there are different flavors of formalized education. Enlisting the services of a teacher, taking a class, enrolling in a music school and engaging in online lessons via something like Skype are all different ways of interacting with a flesh-and-blood mentor who can guide us along the path. These are all different though. sitting knee-to-knee with an instructor isn’t the same as being in a classroom with a dozen other students, and both of these differ from pinging electrons back and forth in a semi-static manner like what Coursera offers or a dynamic and visually interactive manner like Skype.
And, of course, there are even midpoints between the two of these, like learning with a friend who’s not well-versed, but who knows more than zero, or having formal music education with one instrument and then trying to apply it to another.
Just a quick update:
So, last night, after thinking about how miserably I’m doing when trying to name the correct interval while testing myself on Major 2nds and Major 3rds, I found a way to drill the sounds into my head during practice. I’m running the Cycle of Fourths and playing each interval (2nd & 3rd) along the Cycle. I think its helping a bit, but its kind of boring as well. For some reason, its just more fun and more pleasant-sounding to run the Cycle with 5ths than it is with 2nds & 3rds. I think I need to get this done though, before moving on to the Perfect 4ths and Perfect 5ths from Lesson 2 of the online Coursera class.
Its interesting to notice that the notes sound a little different to me when I play them faster or when I play them slower and hold the note. What’s useful to me is that I can also start on the 2nd or 3rd and go to the root, so I can hear the sound both forward and backward. I don’t know if the movement is the same though, or if it varied based on direction, like how in the Cycle, moving one way is a 4th and the other is a 5th.
Yesterday, the 2nd lesson for Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class started. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, its a 6 week, 6-session, online beginner’s music theory class. I have mixed feelings about Lesson 1. I don’t think it really went into detail about any of the topics it covered. It seems more functional to me than theoretical, which is probably fine, but even in that regard, it hasn’t felt like there was a lot of guidance. Of course, that might be the nature of having a decentralized online class with no real two-way video interaction between the students and teacher.
Here’s the first part of the Announcement for Lesson 2:
Hello, and welcome to lesson 2! This week, we are going to continue our exploration of intervals, focusing on the perfect 4th and perfect 5th intervals. We are also going to dive into the world of triads—specifically major and minor triads, and how they are constructed. Finally, we are going to look at the I IV V chord progression. I am sure you will recognize it instantly, as it appears in countless songs.
Professor Russell goes on from there to say that he has enjoyed reading our messages in the discussion forums and loves how we’re sharing music from our cultures, our tips for learning music and our passion for music. I wish he’d compound that by answering some of the posts/questions on the forums. Its really been the other students driving the questions and answers there, so that lack of true guidance concern really extends outward from just the lessons.
I understand that its a free online class, but I’d have liked to have seen something like an FAQ or other document that at least takes questions from prior offerings of the class and answers them. My hope is that Berklee would have the resources to comb through this information and codify it. Of course, its possible that these issues are actually resolved in their paying classes, and this could be a way to get input about that for minimal cost. Nothing in life is truly free.
Like with the first lesson, I’m familiar with the concepts that this session will be covering. I know what triads are, although I’m no expert, and I have an understanding of what a I-IV-V progression is. I haven’t blogged about it yet, but I’ve been playing with them a little more during practice at night via the Cycle of Fourths. I’ll see if I can post about that a little more later this week.
Here are the titles for the videos in the 2nd lesson:
Lesson 2: Major & Minor Triads