This weekend was Bopps’ birthday. She turned 4 and we had a little get-together in the backyard with a few folks. There was a bunch of food and a kiddie pool, so both kids and adults were happy. Because of this and a visit with some relatives from Trinidad who stayed with us for the past 2 weeks, I didn’t get to sit down and practice for a few days. I finally got some time to myself just now, though, and went through the Hal Leonard book again. I completed everything up to the “More Notes on the A String” exercise, which gives us A#/Bb and C#/Db, along with introducing us to the finger roll.
I made it through the first page of the new lesson with A# and C# and got to that “Roll It” lesson that has the fingerings above the notation that was stalling my reading last time. It did it again, so I’m stopping for now, since I’m tired anyway and need to throw some clothes in the dryer.
I got in a little practice this AM, running through all of the More Notes on the E String exercises from the HLBM and then moving onto the Notes on the A String exercises. I was able to get through all of them, and surprisingly had an easier time on the A string than the E. It might be because A, B & C actually fall into the same pattern as the minor scale, so its something that I’m somewhat used to playing.
The last exercise, Cattle Crossing, was a little bit of a twister to play initially, because it uses both the E and A strings and a sharp instead of all natural notes, but I did it! I’ll try to run through these again later today, depending on how work and baby stuff goes.
So, continuing from my previous post from this AM, I figured it out. The 2nd 12-bar blues exercise (ex. 37, A Little Heavy) in the Hal Leonard book doesn’t use the major scale. It uses the minor scale.
Here are the notes from the major scale, starting on F#:
|Frets to move||0||2||2||1||2||2||2||1|
And here’s the minor scale, again starting on F#:
|Frets to move||0||2||1||2||2||1||2||2|
The difference is that the minor scale flats the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes. So, A#, D# & E# become A, D & E, respectively.
This might be a little hard to read. Its the notes from the exercise on the E and A strings. I’ve mapped out what the notes are by scale degree based on the major scale. The only notes are the 1, b3, 4 and 5 – so F#, A, B and C#, respectively. Those are all notes in an F# minor scale.
I’ve been warming up with a descending 4-3-2-1 pattern starting with my pinkie finger on the 12th fret. Its because the fret spaces are smaller the higher up the neck we go, so it lets me gradually move towards wider-spaced frets as I warm up. Its basically 12-11-10-9 from the low string to the high one, then 11-10-9-8 from the high to the low, and so on. So, it goes across strings, in an up-and-down way and progresses down the fretboard until we end up with our fingers on the first 4 frets.
After that, I actually do continue with just my pinkie, ring & middle, then pinkie & ring, and finally just the pinkie on the 1st fret. I’ve noticed that those fingers have a tough time in the first few frets because I never use them there – that’s the domain of my index and middle fingers usually. It takes about 5 mins to do at whatever speed I’m doing it on the 6-string fretted bass, sans metronome.
I started late again tonight – at around 1:45 AM. Warming up wasn’t so bad, but I’ve noticed something that bothers me. Its been evident since even before I put the bass down for the past few months: I have a harder time playing in the first few frets than I do from the 5th-12th.
I think the width of the neck on the 6-string has something to do with it – especially as I’m playing it like a 4-string most of the time and ignoring the low B and high C strings. I’m only doing that because the exercises in the HLBM are written with a 4-string in mind. I always thought I’d go through the book again in different positions that use the additional 2 strings, but I’m not there yet.
Anyway, I worked on the exercises that I mentioned were giving me pause before – 21, 22, 23, 29 and 34. I’ve gotten much better at them simply by playing them more slowly. 34 isn’t hard to play. Its hard to read. Basically, the fingerings are written above the bars, where chords are usually written. This makes it easy to play mechanically, because it drills the “rolling fingers” technique which lets us play notes on the same fret and adjacent strings. Reading the actual notation is harder because my eyes are drawn to the fingering shortcuts.
In the past, I copied the exercise and removed the fingerings. Now, I find I don’t need to do that. I’ve gotten better at ignoring the fingerings while reading the notation aloud. Moving forward to new exercises but practicing from a list of older ones that I find hard is working well. In one more lesson, I’ll catch up to where I was when I had restarted the book this year – Notes on the D String. Then, its all new material again. I don’t know if I’ll complete the entire book by my birthday next year, but I’ll have made progress. I think I’ll finish the first volume (since its a combined 3-book edition).
I should be sleeping… its 3 AM. I made the mistake of picking up my bass after blogging about JamKazam and wikiloops and ended up running through that blues exercise in the HLBM again. Afterward, I had to go to the next one, because I remember from before that I liked the 2nd blues exercise more – and I still do.
Here’s a quick recording of ex. 37 “A Little Heavy“. Its a 12-bar blues but there are chord changes in the 2nd and 12th bars (to B and C#, respectively). It has less notes than the previous 12-bar blues exercise, but I like the flow of it more. I think the use of space makes the notes we do play stand out more strongly.
 Here’s the original post I wrote about this exercise:
So, I practiced ex. 21, 22 & 23 in the HLBM for about 20 mins this AM. Interestingly, I found that when I slowed down and focused (and it wasn’t 2 or 3 AM) only one of the 3 was difficult to follow – ex.21. I think its possibly because it has 6 bars of notes, as opposed to 5 bars for the other two exercises. All of them have roughly the same number of different note symbols (around 7ish) if you look at naturals, flats and sharps. So, having a relatively clear head and one less bar of music makes a difference.
Each of these exercises is also linear – they move up a few frets and then back down again. There’s no skipping notes and no moving across strings. And, if I think about the last one as if I’m leading with my pinkie finger, it also reduces the difficulty.
Later, tonight, I warmed up with an old exercise that goes up and down the neck and then that tiny snippet from Mother Man and worked on ex. 29 & 34. I found that they’re much smoother now. However, I think I’m also starting to memorize them again. I might look at playing the bars up and down instead of left-to-right, purely as a reading exercise, but in these particular cases, I think the actual sequence of the bars is important to the exercises themselves, so it’ll be… different.
After dinner, I ran through ex. 36, which is the first of two 12-bar blues exercises. I was a little shaky at first when moving strings, especially going from G# to A between bars 4 & 5, but I mostly have it now. Bopps came in and wanted to “practice her guitar” with me, so I grabbed her little Dora the Explorer uke and was actually able to play through the 12-bar blues exercise without referencing the book while she went all pyrotechnic on her uke.