I just took a short break from practicing and watched the most interesting Ted Ed Talk video about rhythm, focusing on beats which play out in a circle, like a clock face, instead of linearly, like on a musical staff. It shows how many genres across the globe base their rhythms on a 2-beat sequence (the strong beat and weak beat) and then layers concentric circles with other beats on top of it to represent other beats and instruments – and shows their commonalities over different styles.
What really caught my eye is the idea that you can see the relationships of layered rhythms like this. Its more visually decipherable than reading notation or tablature – and its interesting to see how spinning a wheel affects rhythm in relation to other wheels or circles.
Take a look, its a thought-provoking, eye-opening 5 mins:
I did it. I can play exercise 45 at 92 bpm!
This morning, I had a 45-minute practice session. I ran the exercise in 5-minute segments at 50bpm, 54bpm, 60bpm, 66bpm, 72bpm, 80bpm, 84bpm, 88bpm and finally 92bpm. I’ll see if I can maintain this later today and tomorrow. If I can do it, then I’ll finally move on to the next one, a 12-bar test called “Crossin’ Three” that incorporates notes from the E, A and D strings.
I was commenting about this on Talkbass. I noticed that I “count” the notes legato at higher speeds. So, letters get sounded out for the duration that I hold the note on the fretboard for quarter notes. Half-notes get their name spoken for a quarter-note length and then the word “two” spoken for another quarter. Half-note accidentals get “sharp” or “flat” spoken aloud in place of the “two”, and I just rush their names when they’re quarter notes.
Also, that advice to practice slowly that I’ve read in so many places works. Its funny, I remember a video where Adam Neely mentioned that he tells his students to do this and when they do, its still not slow enough. Then he says “glacially slow”. I’ve had that phrase in my head since. I find myself murmuring it when I’m stuck behind slow drivers too now. Thanks, Adam…
Here’s a fun video from Adam Neely about mashups, or as 13th century composers called them, quodlibets. He goes into some music theory about them, initially, highlighting that its their tempos that really allow them to work together. He also speaks about the I-V-VI-IV chord progression, which is used in a lot of pop music, as illustrated by that old Axis of Awesome video that mashed up about 500 songs to demonstrate it. 😉
Some compositional attributes that allow a lot of this music to be melded together include their overall use of notes from the major scale, which – if I understand this correctly – allows them to be more readily transposed to the same key; 4-bar phrase lengths, which allows them to fit passages of the same length together; and cyclic chord progressions that repeat without a strong sense of resolution, so they can keep going without end. Enjoy!
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.
So, last night, instead of working through the Hal Leonard book, I experimented with chord tones. What I wanted to do was find all of the chord tones over a 2-octave range and see what kinds of sounds they bring forth. I ended up really liking minor chord tones over 2 octaves. There are some really nice, melancholic sounds available when you have a low root and travel up to a higher octave’s 3rd and 5th.
I limited myself to 4 strings and tried not to change position too much, so I didn’t have a way to easily incorporate a higher 7th chord tone, but the first octave’s 7 plus the second octave’s chord tones provided a lot of fun sounds to experiment with. 7ths didn’t get used very much though. I know they’re used more in jazzy lines, and my guess is that at this stage, my ear is drawn to more rock or pop lines & tones. I also found that, in general, when traveling upward, I was able to stick mostly to chord tones, but when traveling back down, I’d add in a passing tone from the scale.
Here are moveable fretboard patterns for major and minor chords over 2 octaves:
Anthony Wellington just blew my mind. Again. Garret Graves, on Talkbass, posted a link to a Fodera clinic he did just a few months ago. Its called “Modes for 4, 5, 6, and 7 String Bass“. The video is an hour long, but what he shared can be condensed into about 15. The rest are jokes, repetition and making sure the crowd is following what he says. In a nutshell – he shows 3 finger patterns that are used for all of the modes of the major scale and how to remember and play them all from one position on a 7-string bass. This is easily reduced for 4, 5 and 6 string bass – and then he has an audience member who has never touched a bass with more than 4 strings come up and actually do it on a 7-string.
I can’t believe what I just watched. I tested it out on the C major scale and A minor scale, because I know those patterns and know that those particular scales have no sharps or flats. They worked. I double-checked by confirming all of the notes on a diagram of a 6-string bass neck. It checked out. Anthony is right. Music is math. When we press frets on the neckboard, we’re plotting points on a graph.
He made a few really interesting points in his clinic about the modes – one of them being that there aren’t 7 modes. There’s really just one big mode. Seeing it plotted out on a 7-string bass really drove that home. Seeing how, with a 4, 5 or 6 string bass, we’re looking at a smaller section of that mode also makes sense. Knowing that from his one pattern, we can play any mode is just plain jaw-dropping. I can see how practicing it will eventually let us use the patterns to play starting on any degree of a given scale as well.
Here’s another amazing video from Adam Neely. This one’s about audiation, which is essentially imagining sound sequences with your mind’s ear. Just like we think using words in our mind, we can also conceptualize sounds and music there as well… or at least some of us can.