A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “International Institute of Bassists

Next Steps

The Coursera class is done. I think I learned a few things from it, but overall, I was underwhelmed. I was browsing through other classes on their website last week and accidentally enrolled in a Songwriting course, which ended on the same day as the Developing Your Musicianship (DYM) class. Because I enrolled in it so late, I couldn’t take the quizzes or complete the assignments for the previous 5 weeks – and honestly, I couldn’t go through all the material in that time anyway. So, I grabbed all of the video lessons, PDF’s and other misc. stuff that they had.

Then, I looked to see what else was available and found that there was an Intro to Music Production class running and an Intro to Guitar class as well. Both of them were scheduled for the same timeframe as the DYM class, so I signed up with a click and grabbed all of that material too. I haven’t gone through any of it yet, but just from a preliminary comparison, they’re much more detailed and involved than the DYM class was. So, its not Coursera overall that I found lacking when I went through that first class; it was the class itself.

I’ll write about those other courses later, as I go through the material. I needed to figure out where to go from here though, with the DYM class complete. All of these other aspects of music are interesting, but I don’t want to lose sight of bass. One of my goals this year is to finish material that I’d started a while ago, so I’ve decided that I’m going to work through the Hal Leonard Bass Method by Ed Friedland next. I’d previously started it, and can’t even remember what had made me stop. I liked it a lot when I had started. It was simple in how it progressed, and had me reading music right off the bat, which I really appreciate.

So, my next steps are still the first two objectives on my list to accomplish this year: (1) learn all of the notes on the fretboard, which I need to resume, and (2) work through a bass method.

If I manage to complete Ed’s Bass Method this year, which I actually think is feasible, then I’m going to restart the IIB stuff from Cliff Engel afterwards, as its a heavier course. Its a year for reboots, apparently. But, at least I’m going in with more knowledge than I had when I first started, and also completing the DYM class does make me remember that, even at this age, and with work and the baby, I can progress if I pace myself and put in the effort. Its funny though, blogging about it takes a chunk of time too. I might scale back a bit on how much I’m writing, but we’ll see.

Recommendations to Newbies

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.


Coursera – DYM Lesson 2 videos (2)

The 2nd video for Lesson 2 of Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class is a 2-minute review of Lesson 1.

2. Review (2:18)

The video begins with 50 seconds of Professor Russel playing an original song on piano called “Something in C”. Naturally, its name comes from the fact that its in the key of C major.  The Professor lets us know that that was the tonal center, or key the song was in. He promises more information about tonal centers and then moves on to a quick review of what was covered in Lesson 1.

He then starts the actual review by asking how many students remember the C major scale and how its constructed, then plays part of that “whole-step, whole-step, half-step song”, which illustrates the intervallic construction of the major scale. Next, he asks what an interval is, and onscreen, we see a definition (the distance between two notes) as well as a treble cleff that shows 8 intervals in the C major scale by name and with their music notation using whole notes.

C Major intervals

Coursera – Developing Your Musicianship: C Major intervals


IIB Week 3 – Monday chat (12/19/11)

The Week 3 chat with Cliff Engel from IIB was more productive than the first week’s. I think its because I had time to go over some of the material from the previous week (Week 2) beforehand.

The first five minutes was smalltalk, but then Cliff asked how the lesson material was going. I told him that I’d not gotten through everything yet, but that I had a few questions based on what I had read and what I was practicing. Here are snippets of the questions I asked and the responses from the chat log:


IIB Week 1 – Monday chat (12/5/11)

So I attended my first Monday chat for IIB tonight. It was a bit underwhelming. Cliff Engel was present. He was the admin of the chat. There were 2 other students with me. One of them is a beginner like I am, and is in the Jazz Bass Lines class. The other has been playing for 6 years and I don’t know what class he was enrolled in. Cliff let us know that he’s working on a sight-reading course which will be made available soon.

Overall, not much happened in the chat. The other students are pretty quiet. I did the most talking, and stayed on after the other two dropped off. The chat is scheduled to go on for an hour. I was on for closer to an hour and 40 mins. During the session, a little about the classes was discussed, but nothing really substantial.


IIB Week 1 – Lesson #1 (Introduction)

So, last night at 10 PM, Lesson #1 of Music Theory for Bass became available for download from the International Institute of Bassists (IIB). I didn’t realize this until later in the night, as I was editing a paper for wifey on Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection by Anna Tsing.

The initial lesson is made up of 8 PDF files. I logged into the IIB website at around 1 AM and grabbed them. These files have the following titles:

  1. Lesson #1
  2. A Guide to Practicing
  3. Notes on the E, A, D & G Strings
  4. A Guide to Notation
  5. Notes & Rest Values
  6. Intervals
  7. Relative Pitch Ear Training
  8. Lesson #1 Quiz

I’ll go over each of these a little during the week in separate blog posts. I’m not sure how detailed I’ll be about content, as I don’t want to give away IIB’s class. Tonight, at 10 PM (EST), there’s an optional chatroom meeting/discussion which I’d like to attend. Following is a summary of my thoughts on the sections of the first document (Lesson #1). Some of its parts have the same names as the 8 documents listed above, because it discusses them.


Quick finger exercise for ring, middle & pinkie fingers

I’ve not had much practice during the past week because I’ve been sick with this cold, respiratory tract infection, or whatever it is. I actually stayed out of the office today, because I’m pretty infectious right now. Wifey is catching what I had. Yay…

I did bumble around a bit on bass yesterday and today though, because tomorrow I begin that IIB class. I’ve not done anything substantial except for that scale thing I was working on recently. Here’s something I tired myself out on earlier. Its a simple exercise that I meant for the ring and pinkie fingers, but which ended up using the middle as well. Take it and modify it so that the less-used fretting fingers get a workout.

1. Ring & pinkie finger exercise

2. Middle & ring finger exercise