Its funny – tomorrow is a year since my last HLBM post, and since restarting in October, I’ve gotten back to the point where I left off a year ago – which isn’t very far, I’ve come to notice.
I’m up to exercise 45 in the book (and this is HLBM post 45… coincidence?). It has no name, but it covers the natural and accidental notes on the first 5 frets of the D string. For some reason, its been really hard for me. I’ve been going at it for about 3 weeks, and I’m only now starting to get my fingers around it. I don’t quite know why. There’s nothing unusual about it, compared to any of the other exercises like it on other strings, but somehow, its really stumped me for a while.
I recently started actively using a metronome during practice, and its helped. I mainly play everything in the book straight through, from exercise 10 up to wherever I’ve gotten to – in this case, exercise 45. I’m using an online metronome, and the default speed is 92 bpm, which I play everything through until I get to whatever is giving me pause at the time.
What’s helped with this recent exercise is playing it very slowly, at 40 bpm, for the past week. Today, I finally started increasing the speed, moving from 40 – 44 – 50 – 54 – 60. I was doing 10-minute sessions at the lower speeds initially, but did 5-minute runs at 50 and 54, which also seemed to work. Right now, I’m at 60, and I’ll probably be there more later tonight. When I can play it at 92 bpm, like the other exercises, I’ll move on. Its been an unfoundedly rough exercise.
On the HLBM thread at Talkbass, other people have gotten way past me. Some have finished the books and are looking for other things to practice. I’ve been recommending Jon Liebman’s Bass Aerobics. At some point, I really want to be able to play through that, and of course, I’ve been thinking about taking remote classes with Anthony Wellington. We’ll see how all of this goes, with time and money.
Also, I think we’re going to pull the trigger and get a drum kit for Christmas. I’d love to have one in the house, but also wifey and the Bopps want it. Its a matter of making space for it. After reading a recent Talkbass thread about soundproofing, I have no illusions that we’ll be able to pull soundproofing off.
Today was a good day, practice-wise. I got in just over an hour, broken into small sessions during the day. Most of it was spent focusing on exercises in the Hal Leonard Bass Method, and I’m happy to say, I’m basically back to where I left off when I stalled last year – exercise 41 (Minor League). I’m learning notes on the first few frets of the D string, having gone through the E and A strings in previous lessons.
I’m saying note names aloud as I play them, and for now, that’s tripping me up on the D string. I’m playing the right notes, but I’m calling out the wrong names – particularly with the E.
The other reason that I wrote this post is to share the practice log that I started keeping recently. Its a Google doc that has a table with 6 columns: the date, sight reading, ear training, scales/theory, song/jam and other/notes. Here’s what they mean:
- Sight reading: learning notation, mostly through playing exercises in the HLBM
- Ear training: learning the sounds of intervals, scales, chords, etc., mainly through playing
- Scales/Theory: learning (not necessarily playing) scales or music theory, including writing theory stuff for the blog
- Song/Jam: learning and playing songs or riffs, including my own based on theory study
- Other/Notes: anything I want to comment about the given session
Some of these might tie together, like learning a song by reading its notation, or learning a scale or arpeggio and its sound (ear training & scales/theory). If so, I still only list it in one column, but I’m happy to practice something that works several areas at once. I also note any blog posts I wrote that day, under the date. Here it is:
You can see that October was dismal. I won’t even comment on previous months this year. I’m also not doing much directly with ear training or learning songs. I think that its because my goal right now is learning to read notation and making it through the HLBM. Lets see how November goes. So far, so good!
Ran through the whole HLBM book until ex. 45 again. 42 (D-Lite) stalled me again until I listened to the track. For some reason, the notes just don’t come together in my head until I’ve heard the track. Maybe its a country thing? I don’t know. The notation should transcend that. I just don’t feel that particular exercise at all.
45 is also giving me pause. Its the new finger shifting one, on the D-string, with sharps, flats and specific fingers on specific frets. I have to break it into smaller chunks and tackle it that way. But, its nearly 5:00 PM now, so I’m going to break and hang out with the baby until its time to get the wife from the train. She has some piano-ing to do.
So, I finally did it. After I stopped working through the Hal Leonard Bass Method for a few months, I picked it back up and spent a month getting back to where I was. As of this AM I can say that I’ve made it past the exercise that I had stopped on before, so I’m finally working on new material again.
Today, I started the lesson called More Notes on the D String. I worked on exercises 43, 44 & 45. These introduce us to D#/Eb and F#/Gb on the D string. The first 2 are 4-bar exercises. The last one is 8 bars and includes a shift between 1st & 2nd positions.
I mostly have 43 & 44 down, but I’m going to run them throughout the day. My plan is to try and take a break from sitting at the computer for 10 mins every hour so I can stand and practice. Working from behind a screen all day with no pause is supposed to be pretty bad for our health, so maybe this will benefit me more than just musically. If I manage this consistently, it’ll give me 80 mins of practice each day.
Ex. 45 looks like its going to take a little more doing, mostly because its got that shift, and like the previous shifting exercises (21, 22, 23) from More Notes on the E String, it asks us to shift on specific fingers. I should probably put all of them together on a page to work on them together.
It feels good to tackle new material again. It feels like progress.
I practiced a bit this AM. Warming up took me about 15 mins, with the two exercises I’ve been running. I’m doing them across all 6 strings, not just the 4 that I posted earlier in the week, so its a little more tiring. I understand now how some people have warm-ups that are like 30 mins. Its really about the exercises you do, even though I’m only doing a single run of each, together, they take a chunk of time.
Anyhow, after that, I ran ex. 42 in the Hal Leonard book again, to see how I’m doing, and its smoother than when I last posted it. So, I’m getting it under my fingers. I’m trying to think of that whole thing differently now as well.
Previously, I fretted about memorizing exercises from the book because I want to use them as reading exercises, but I watched a video from Scott Devine about learning licks, and how they become part of our voice. I’m trying to think of it like that – if I physically memorize a sequence of some sort, then for the time that it remains in my tenuous memory, its part of my repertoire of “licks”. Moving along a few pages in the book will probably work it out of memory again.
Anyway, this is how it sounds now, as opposed to how it sounded a few days ago.
I did it. I played through ex. 42 from the notation – not from memory or even using the scale degrees that I was looking at yesterday. I’m going to run it more later tonight, but tomorrow, I can go on to the next page and see what fresh horror awaits me.
I’m 2 days behind where I thought I’d be. The rest of the book wasn’t much of a problem – but this exercise really beat me up. Hopefully whatever’s coming won’t do so as much.
I made some progress with the dreaded ex. 42 in the HLBM. It wasn’t the way I intended though. I tried running the exercise by reading it, but was getting nowhere. I kept making mistakes. So, I tried to play along with the track again, to give myself some audible cues. Well, I didn’t do so well there this time either. I kept frazzling my B’s and D’s.
So, I just ran it by ear. Surprisingly, I got it. Then I did it again… and again. I mess up a little bit with it on some runs, but for the most part, I can play it through by ear and memory, but not by reading the notation. Two steps forward. You know how it goes.
I’m gonna get this via notation. I have to break, run out and get my brother-in-law home before Walking Dead starts, but when I return, if the baby doesn’t jump me, I’m going to go at it again.