Ok. I know my blogging has really slowed to a trickle for the past few months, with only one post for all of 2016 so far, and a bare handful in December. I’ve not been online too much for the past few weeks, and I just looked at a few blurbs in my feed and see that Shelby from Grrl + Guitar has merged her music blog and her art blog into Sound Waves & Spray Paint and Jack Flacco is dealing with health problems and leaving jackflacco.com until he recovers. (Godspeed on the road to recovery!) The Bass Blogs FB group is maintaining its pace, but there are probably a million blog posts I’ve not read yet that deserve to be shared there. Hopefully, people have been doing some of that – I’ll see if I can catch up on some of them and publicize them myself.
Last weekend, wifey, the Bopps & I drove up to visit a friend of hers and let Bopps play with their baby, who she hasn’t seen in a while and is only a few months younger. While we were driving, I was playing some Black Sabbath, and Bopps actually took a liking to N.I.B. She was able to sing the intro riff (the bassline, I’m happy to say) and throw in Ozzy’s “Oh yeah!”
Well, this AM, before my conference call with Development, I grabbed my bass. I’ve barely touched it this year. I was toying around with the minor scale and experimenting with some variations when I stumbled onto the intro bass part for N.I.B. I think I have it mostly down, but I need to listen to the song again to really confirm. Anyway, I played it a little after the conference when I was watching the baby, and she just jumped in, singing the harmony with me and adding in the “Oh, yeah!”. We did it a bunch of times. It brought a big, stupid grin to my face every time she sang along. I’m surprised that she remembered it after only hearing it once, a few weeks ago, and I’m surprised that what I played was recognizable enough that she was able to go with it. I have to video her and post it up on Black Sabbath’s or Geezer Butler‘s FB page.
…from the mouths of babes…
Anyway, here’s a recording of my laughable attempt at a tiny slice of N.I.B. I know I probably have the arrangement wrong and I’m likely adding in something that doesn’t belong (I just like throwing in that 5th & 3rd that sound like the “Oh yeah!” that Bopps so enjoys). That’s why I’m not asking anyone to enjoy. And no, the 40-second bass solo Geezer starts with isn’t part of it. That’s… for later.
I was going through ex. 42 (D-Lite) in the HLBM yesterday and got curious. I wanted to know what key it was in, and if there was an easier way to play it, although I’m still making myself do it from 1st or 2nd position, which is what we’re currently using in the book. I was fairly certain that its in D-major because the exercises in this lesson focus on the D-string. But, I wanted to know where the notes fall in the D-major scale.
So, I ended up counting the notes to get a tally of how often each appeared in the exercise, in case that became important. After analysis, I don’t think the frequency is what’s important. I think that each note’s position, and thus, role, in the song or exercise is.
There are only 5 notes in the exercise. This revelation should make it easier for me to play, conceptually, because it narrows down the number of notes I have to remember. I didn’t think about taking note of the actual number of different notes in a given exercise before. The notes are A, B, C#, D and E.
1. D major
I ended up writing out the D-major scale and highlighting the notes. They’re all in the actual scale – no chromatic notes. I believe that this means they’re diatonic. Here they are:
So, we can see that by scale degrees, we’re only using the 1, 2, 5, 6 & 7. Three of those are chord tones – the 1 (D), 5 (A) and 7 (C#). Two of them are passing tones 2 (E) and 6 (B). This was interesting to me because it let me look at something else – where were we using chord tones and when weren’t we? How did we transition from one chord tone to the next? This let me begin to understand their functions.
Also, with this exercise, I noticed that there are a lot of “waves” where what we play climbs up and then back down, with regard to notes/tones.
Here’s the exercise with the scale degrees painted on. This is in D-major:
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 didn’t get any actual practice done tonight. Instead, I figured out how to record my bass. I originally tried doing it from my phone. Its an LG G2 running Android 5.0.2, which is apparently called Lollipop. I actually plugged my bass into my amp, which is a rarity for me, and tried 3 different apps, Smart Voice Recorder, Audio Recorder and iRig Recorder. I’ve used the first 2 to record conversations with clients or the team at work when I needed to make notes later for development. The last one is something I grabbed tonight. None of them worked well. They didn’t pick up the bass at all, but got my fingers sliding on the strings with no problem. It makes me wonder if the internal microphone on the phone isn’t able to grab sounds below a certain frequency. I’ll have to look into that later. But it could also be that the volume on the amp was really low to avoid waking the baby.
What finally did work was when I went to the PC. I used my old Rocksmith cable. I haven’t touched it in maybe 2 years. It seemed to work with the Sound Recorder that’s built into Windows 7, but the levels were low. I turned to Google and it led me to Audacity, which I’ve used in the past for instructional stuff for work, and the LAME encoder, which Audacity needs to save files as MP3. Both of these (Audacity & LAME) are free.
So, I adjusted the volume level of the Rocksmith cable using the Windows Control Panel and tried recording. It worked. 😉 I’m not plugged into an amp, so its like I’m playing unplugged with my electric bass. This will, of course, affect the sound quality, but for practice purposes, its fine. Later on, I’ll see if it can use the cable while its plugged into my amp. That’ll be interesting if it works.
So, here’s my first recording, and my first upload to Soundcloud. Its just a test using the minor triad and the first 3 notes of the minor scale. I started on E (5th fret) on the low B string on the fretted 6-string and played a pattern/few notes on the 1, 4, 5 and 8, so its relatively simple. I tried using that “rolling fingers” technique from the Hal Leonard book as well, because it gives me problems, which are apparent in the recording. Its a little sloppy, but I only just picked my bass back up after more than 1/2 a year, so it’ll likely remain that way for some time.
I’d say enjoy, but… its not at that stage yet. So, witness the horror instead. 😉
Wow. The Soundcloud image makes me twice as ugly! 😉
Its day 1 of being a single dad until the wife returns from New Orleans. So far, the baby and I have both survived, but I haven’t gotten to practice with the bass as much as I’d like. Maybe tonight, when she’s asleep.
Here’s a quick warm-up variation for this week. Last week‘s basically took a common major scale pattern and ascended 3 notes at a time, using each scale degree as a root. This week, lets do that with the minor scale: We want to do it both ascending (root to octave) and descending (octave to root). This one won’t work the middle finger as much, because the usual minor scale pattern uses index, ring and pinky, so feel free to alternate with the major scale one from last week if it bothers you. There’s a shift in position around the octave.
This is what it looks like going up, in C on the E string (scale degrees are below):
Descending, its reversed, so instead of starting on each scale degree, you end on them.
Remember to play this in every key, but don’t just go up in sequence (C, D, E, F, G, etc.). Its better to mix up the order using the Cycle of Fourths, so play it in C first, then F, Bb, Eb, Ab, and so on. Basically, do the exercise in C. Then do it again with the root note on F, then again with the root on Bb, etc. When you get to doing it in E, you’ll need to use open strings. If you don’t already know the notes of the scale by their letter names (which I don’t yet, but can puzzle out as needed) focus on the sounds of the intervals/scale degrees. Once you’re used to the sound, you can figure out what to reach for with some trial-and-error. You can go up the neck a little to find the right note to continue on – you’ll know the spot when you get there.
Here’s the tab for the C minor scale starting on the E string, without any additional stuff. The pattern can be easily moved into any key. Like before, its not meant to teach theory, just to get the hands working. For theory, what you want to learn is the scale construction (whole-half-whole-whole–half-whole-whole) and note names to start.
Here’s the difference with the major scale spelled out in scale degrees:
- Major scale: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8
- Minor scale: 1 – 2 – b3 – 4 – 5 – b6 – b7 – 8
So the difference is that when you play a minor scale, in comparison to the major one, the 3rd, 6th and 7th are flatted.
 I simplified the tablature for the exercises going up and down by cleaning up some of the lines so they’re only divided based on the root note for each scale degree. I think it’ll be easier to understand & follow like this. Here are the original ones, if anyone wants them for some reason:
So, a student on the Coursera forums asked a question about notes/intervals – why are some major and some perfect? Why aren’t they all major or all perfect? She received a lot of answers to her question. Some were more lengthy than others, and some delved into science more than theory (vibrational ratios per second, etc.). Here’s how I think the question was best answered, and what made it clear to me:
Whether you play a major scale or minor scale, some intervals are exactly the same. Others change depending on if the scale is major or minor. The ones that stay the same are perfect. The ones that change are major or minor.
Here are the intervals that make up the standard major/minor scales, and whether they’re perfect or not. The perfect ones will stay the same, regardless of whether they’re part of a major scale or a minor scale. The others change to suit the scale:
- The root: perfect/unison
- The 2nd: can be major/minor
- The 3rd: can be major/minor
- The 4th: perfect
- The 5th: perfect
- The 6th: can be major/minor
- The 7th: can be major/minor
- The octave: perfect
So, whether you play a major scale or a minor scale, the interval of a 4th and a 5th are exactly the same. The 2nd and 3rd can change, which is part of the signature sound of that scale and its chords. If you ignore the root and octave, because those, of course, can’t change – the 4th & 5th are fixed and everything else can change to serve the sound of the given scale.
I’m still working on memorizing the notes on the E string using the Cycle of Fourths. Its gone pretty well. I can play them through without slopping it up until I turn on a metronome, then I can run it a few times before forgetting where I am or hitting the wrong note.
I’m going to mix it up a little bit though by running chords and scales along the cycle, and since I like the sound of the minor scales & minor chords more, I’ll start by using those. Here’s a fingering comparison of the natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor and Hungarian minor. It should work for any of the closed positions (positions where you don’t use an open string). If its played starting on the open E, the pattern is a little bit different, but shouldn’t be the biggest headache. I’ll do a separate write-up for that when I find time.
Also – a note about the melodic minor: when you play it up (1st note to 8th note) it uses the fingering provided. When its played down (backwards, from 8th to 1st) then just use the regular natural minor. There’s some historical reasons for this dating back a few hundred years, but I don’t remember them. I’ll see about possibly doing a quick post about that later as well.