I checked out Talkbass today – its been a while since I’ve been there. A new member named Magnvm asked a question about where to start when learning bass. He provided a chart for guitars that he’s seen as a talking point. A lot of advice was given, but the first response, by MalcolmAmos, really struck a chord with me. He spoke about theory and what a bassist might need to know based on the type of music they’re playing. Then, he got into the Circle of 5ths (or 4ths, if you look at it backwards).
The 3rd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is about octaves. Dr. Worth begins it by announcing, “In this section, we’re going to look more at the vertical distances between notes.” He references the graph from the last video and reminds us that the line that goes up and down represented high and low pitches. “We’re now going to start quantifying those,” he promises.
He reminds us that octaves are composed of eight notes (7 notes in a scale + a repeat of the first note, or octave – see how that word gets throw around to mean different things?). He then points to Dr. Moir’s guitar and to the observation that there aren’t 7 notes on it. There are, in fact, many more.
Dr. Moir shows us that if we play an open A on the A-string, and then play an A on the 12th fret of the same string, we’ve played an octave. However, if we count the individual frets/pitches in between the open A and the 12th fret, we find that there are… 12 frets! Its only when we get to the 12th that notes begin repeating. So, physically, an octave isn’t divided into 8 notes, as per the name, but actually contains 12 distinct pitches.
They then show us this same idea on the piano, counting both black and white keys when moving from A to a higher A.
After this, Worth takes to the piano and shows us the difference in distance between a semitone and a tone. A semitone is one key away from another on the piano, or one fret on the bass. A tone is two keys away on piano, or two frets away on bass. Semi means 1/2, so its 1/2 a tone.
So, I did a bit of yard work yesterday, getting rid of some really pervasive thorn bushes and weeds. Then I did some work in the house before we got cleaned up and took the baby out to get her some stuff. Finally, around 9:45, I got to practice for a bit, until around 10:30 – which is when I started writing this, with a lot of… assistance… from the baby.
I ran exercise 35 (Rolly) and then exercise 36 (12-Bar Blues) from the Hal Leonard Bass Method. I’m happy to say that I’ve learned both, and I’m not as worried about them being saved in muscle memory as I was before, after talking to the folks at Talkbass, and to Bill, a drummer friend on FB who also plays guitar and bass. Basically, what I’ve learned is to not sweat memorizing the exercises. Just move on to the next one and read new stuff.
I’m glad I took that advice, because I liked exercise 37 a lot. Its another 12-bar blues called A Little Heavy. As usual, I ran it a few times for myself before listening to the CD track to see how I was doing. I had it dead on. 😉
This one differs from the previous 12-bar blues because, as Ed notes, it changes chords in the 2nd and 12th measures He says that this is a common variation in blues form. I like the way it flows more than the regular 12-bar blues. The variations add some interest to my ears.
Oddly, I didn’t care for the backing track on this one very much, and its much more rock-n-roll than anything up to this point. It was a bit busy for my taste. Sorry Ed! I would actually have preferred to hear a blues backing track with this exercise. Maybe a vocal track would have smoothed things out for me though, to deemphasize the guitar a bit. I think I know why Ed included it though – coming right after a straight 12-bar blues, it illustrates how the blues form can be dropped right into another style, like rock-and-roll. I know there are jazz-blues as well.
Here’s the text though, for those of you who don’t want to read the rest of the thread:
How to read music and how to sight read are two different things. Sight read implies… the ability to read standard notation sheet music fast enough so you can play from that sheet music and keep up with the tempo – i.e. the music does not go off and leave you. And then, from your question the following may pull reading music into perspective.
To sight read:
- You will have to read music some time every day for the next ____month/years. You fill in the blank.
- To sight read you first have to be able to read standard notation.
- My teacher had me start with recognizing the fly speck – in the same amount of time it took me to say my name. Flash cards or Internet aps work fine. Take some sheet music with you and read every chance you have.
- Once you can recognize, and say the note’s name, pick up your instrument and find the notes on your fretboard.
- Find them in first position first (first 4 frets). Then move up the neck.
- Start with simple songs. Happy Birthday, etc.
Here’s a great video by Scott Whitley that was just posted on Talkbass. It deals with subdividing a beat and arranging notes on certain parts of it to create interesting rhythms. Its mostly done using one note – in this case, G – but then Scott shows how to expand it using the pentatonic scale and offers ideas like mixing in arpeggios.
The important thing though is to subdivide the beat and place notes on specific parts to create interesting rhythms. If anyone has used a drum machine or even software like Taureg or whatever is out these days, it similar to that. I think Acid or Fruity Loops used to call it the drum roll or something similar, back years ago.
I saw an exercise similar to this in a video from Anthony Wellington a while back. I’ll see if I can find it and post it up. Its also interesting If you couple this with the bassline-building advice that MalcolmAmos often gives to new bassists on the Talkbass forums:
During the past week, while reading and looking at bass videos, I’ve noticed a few people comment on how their playing and creativity has improved by practicing with a drum machine or a looper. It seems to help with making exercises musical and with letting ideas manifest during practice. It also looks like it would be really useful in the absence of a practice partner.
In Evan Brewer’s video, towards the end, he speaks about it and says that a lot of his musical ideas come from practicing with a looper. He showed an example of how to apply different playing techniques to scale practice (slapping, tapping, playing in a particular rhythm) that could definitely be made musical if coupled with a beat or even a melodic partner.
Yesterday, I came across this post from MalcolmAmos on Talkbass:
In it, Malcolm said that he had just gotten a device called the KORG Beat Boy. He plans on using it to improve how he locks in with drum patterns. The responses on Talkbass have been encouraging. I was curious about the device, so I looked at it on Amazon, and the reviews there were very good as well.
I was just on the TalkBass forums while gobbling down lunch (yes, its 5:00, but I only remembered to eat a few minutes ago). While there, I read through a thread called “book of bass riffs: recommendations, please!“. In the thread, the OP, sjm2357, asks for the names of any good beginner’s books with lots of riffs.
He got a few responses, but the one that I found most interesting was this, from MalcolmAmos:
Bass Styles Made Easy by Chris Matheos $14.95
Quoting Chris Matheos; “The pattern is not that difficult. Playing a pattern in a chord progression takes a bit more skill. Now you are dealing with a moving pattern. Playing with a band takes the most skill. You have to focus on time, feel, and groove, as well as playing the pattern.”
Reason I put that in is; ask yourself how will you groove that riff. Knowing a riff or pattern is first, gotta at least have the pattern into muscle memory – then after that knowing how to use it is next. Locking that in with the drummer is also kinda important.
Bass Grooves by Ed Friedland $19.99 is also full of patterns and anything Ed writes has value.
Quoting Ed; “Most bass lines are constructed from the same elements – roots, 5th, octaves, triads – with varying connecting material such as scalar and chromatic passing tones. The defining factor in a genre is most often its rhythmic content ……”
Basic Reggae riff will/can use the R-3-5 notes. So will a Zydeco riff. And for that matter so will SKA. The rhythm sets them apart. My reason for pointing this out, on my first reading of Ed’s Bass Grooves I concentrated on the notes and missed the part about the groove. Play the riff grooving with the drummer. ………. Or a drum track, click track, something.