Last night when I was reading, I came across this really interesting new electronic instrument called the Artiphon Instrument 1. Its an instrument/interface that has a fretboard kind of like a keyboard and flap/levers that simulate strings. Its able to create a huge array of sounds, from guitars, basses, ukuleles, violins and cellos to pianos (with 6 octaves), drum sets and even more.
The device got going on Kickstarter and has apparently started shipping recently. The goal was to raise $75k, but they were able to bring in $1.3M. It looks like it retails for $400 and has an interface that works with iPhones and maybe Mac computers. I don’t know if an Android or PC interface exists yet. I watched a few videos of it, and it looks really impressive. A jazz guitarist in the main video even commented that he’s able to simultaneously play 2 notes on the same string in guitar mode – something that’s physically impossible with real strings. That could be really fun for players of chordal instruments.
Here are links to the Kickstarter page, the main Artiphon page and their Youtube page. I can see this taking off in some circles, especially among electronic musicians who also play real instruments.
So, its been 5 weeks since I last blogged (and this one’s doing well – my other blogs have been dry for months, even though I have lists of stuff I want to write about!). An equal amount of time has passed since I’ve touched a bass, but, interestingly enough, while helping our daughter with piano lessons, I’ve messed around a little on it – in the bass register – and have noticed that its really fun to play basslines on it while she plays all over the rest of keys.
Also, I turned 41 a week ago, so there’s that. So, here are some updates, both musical and not:
Jeff is a teacher who plays guitar, bass and ukulele. He contacted me around the time of my last post asking that I add his website to the list of bass resources on mine. I’ve meant to review his site for inclusion for several weeks now, but only got to it now, so – sorry for the delay, Jeff!
For the rest of you, here’s a blurb from his website:
Jeffrey Thomas makes his living as a music instructor. Lessons are taught in person or through webcam. Accepting students of all ages and levels has exposed him to vast genres of music. Traditional Classical to Punk, Black Metal to Praise & Worship, Flamenco to Radio Disney Artists, Blues of many forms, Hip Hop, Reggae, Folk, Shred, Bluegrass, Motown, Rock, Grunge, Indie, Pop, R&B, Funk, Rockabilly, Latin, Country, World Music…
There are links on his page to in-person lessons, Skype lessons and more. The key section he wanted to share here was his bass tablature, but there are sections for guitar and ukulele tab as well. The bass tab is dominated by classic rock, but there’s a smattering of jazz, pop, reggae, light metal and even some theory exercises. Go have a look!
Here’s something interesting from a cultural and musical vantage that I found when Jackie from Lindsey Tree Music posted in the Bass Blogs group on FB. Its a trailer for The Girls In The Band, a documentary with and about women from the jazz/bebop scene who were excellent musicians, but because of the influence of patriarchy, were marginalized and not given the credit they were due as amazing players – something that has repeated since in other styles of music, as well as areas outside of music. Some of the women were also black, so they had a double-whammy to deal with as this predates the civil rights movement in America.
So, yesterday, Bopps, wifey & I went out to eat with one of wifey’s friends after they got back from some librarian thing hosted at Columbia. I suspect there was a lot of shushing and existential questions starting with “Dewey, or don’t we…” After dinner we made a pit stop at Barnes & Noble so Bopps could work off some sugar (she built her own sundae and was heavy on the sprinkles).
After a while of setting her loose in the kids’ section, I left her with the lady-folk and went to the music section. They grabbed her some Peppa Pig books that she didn’t already have and I found something else: Help Your Kids With Music, from DK Publishing. I have some of their other books, and they’re pretty informative.
I flipped through it a little and was impressed with the diagrams and sheer breadth of information in the book. When I opened it, I randomly started on the triads section, and its illustrations and concise descriptions got my attention. Those of you who have followed my ramblings for any length of time know I have a collection of music-related books which I’ll never really work through, but irrationally amass anyway. This one reads like an even-friendlier edition of Edly’s Music Theory for Practical People, which I also really dug.
So, later that night, I was going through the book in bed and Bopps comes into the room, because her sleeping habits are borderline mine – which isn’t a good thing. We looked through maybe the first 50 pages together, and she was really into it. The pictures drew her in. She used the piano diagrams to “play” and sing aloud Doe a Deer, Mary Had a Little Lamb and some other stuff. She was reading notes to me, and asking a hundred questions about other stuff she was seeing. It really had her engaged.
Wow. So, I didn’t practice for a few days on account of having guests at the house and not being in my home office during my usual hours. Sometimes when I skip a day or two I come back energized and rested and everything flows. Not this time.
My string-skipping warm-up was harder than usual. Luckily, although I had to take a minute to reacquaint myself with notation, my reading hasn’t significantly declined. I started with the latest exercises I got to in the More Notes on the D String lesson in the HLBM and then worked backwards from there. Although I tripped up a little bit I’m still able to play everything that I was playing on Friday, so yay!
Also, this Sunday, we got a piano from one of wifey’s co-workers who was giving it away. Its a Baldwin and has been in his family for a long time. He moved it to NYC from Pennsylvania but doesn’t have room in his apartment to keep it any longer. Judging from this webpage, its a full size/professional upright piano (its about 5 feet wide) and the cabinet style is Early American. The picture they have on that page for Early American is pretty spot on with what we have.
The baby loves playing it. Wifey is also getting familiar with notation again and was playing some nursery rhymes and carols from sheet music for the baby. I was looking at the sheet music and found that I can read the bass parts. They mostly consist of chords, which isn’t something I’ve really done on bass, but I might be able to improvise a bassline for some of what she’s playing. It looks like its going to end up being roots at the beginning of each measure. I’ll give that a go when we carve out some time for it.
Here’s a great video from Andrew Wasson of Creative Guitar Studio about developing your ear and internalizing pitches so that you can more easily play phrases that you have in your head. He demonstrates this using two short pieces on guitar, but its applicable to all pitched instruments.
I like the adage that he mentions towards the end, “the only musical instrument is the mind of the performer, joined with the mind of the listener.” It makes a lot of sense to me and transcends specific instruments, because virtually any song can be played on any instrument, and theory is theory regardless of what you’re making music with.
Ear training ties in directly with interval training, and one of his exercise recommendations, playing a phrase using only one string, is also something that I read in one of the first chapters of The Advancing Guitarist, from Mick Goodrick. I only read the first few chapters of that, but it really impressed me.