So, after that metronome post from yesterday, I had a chat with Shel from Sound Waves & Spray Paint. She’s more finicky about what click sounds she can abide to practice with than I am, which proved lucky. In an attempt to help find a metronome with a click that she can tolerate, I discovered two that passed muster.
The first is a simple drum machine. It has 8 different drum sounds. Users can pick up to 2 of them to practice with. One of them plays at the beginning of a measure (lets call that, the “1”). The other is used to fill out the rest of the bar. Each measure can have up to 8 beats. It worked well in both Internet Explorer and Chrome.
So, this weekend brought some interesting bass-related activities that I haven’t gotten to write about until now. Chief amongst these is that I played with someone else – namely, my wife, on piano, and I tried to apply some of what I was practicing from the Building Rock Bass Lines book to a guitar & voice-driven song from Shelby over at Sound Waves & Spray Paint (formerly Grrl + Guitar).
I didn’t do anything fancy. With wifey, we’ve always talked about learning instruments and trying to write something together – we’re hoping for doom metal or post-metal once I know which is the pointy end of my bass. She took piano lessons when she was a little girl, but stopped when she was still small. So, its been more than 20 years since she’s really played anything.
I showed her what a chord progression is. We actually just used the one I’ve been doing exercises with from BRBL. Its [Am-C-G-D] [Am-C-G-E]. I tried to come up with something simple, on the fly, which ended up being primarily root notes, and at some point, an approach tone, as I’m trying to use them to kind of walk to the next chord, since reading more about them in that book by Joe Riposo. If I remember right, I started with the notes from an Am triad, and the rest is mostly roots.
What I found interesting, since chord progressions are new to her (I think she was learning more about reading music when she was small, than theoretical stuff like progressions) is that she seemed to also play single notes and root notes on the piano. I think that once we make time, and she gets to brush up more, it’ll be fun to see what she can do with piano chords with me supporting on bass. I’m also curious about moving away from roots and playing more 3rds and 5ths later on… but that’s for another time, and also, only if I can make it fit and sound decent.
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.
I’ve been spending way too much time reading and not enough actually getting my fingers on the bass since taking that Coursera class. So, this AM, I started getting my hands reacquainted with their job. I’ve been chatting with another blogger named Shelby Stronger who’s starting out on bass (and guitar and ukulele at the same time) and recommended learning the major scale and its basic chords (triads and 7ths) so that she’d begin to get a grasp of theory. Everything in Western music is based on the major scale.
So, anyway, here’s a warm-up that I did with the major scale. It basically consists of playing each note of the scale, and the next two notes as accompaniment, for each scale degree. Then we do it backwards to go from the octave back to the root. And we do it along the Cycle of Fourths, of course, with the roots on one string (the E string, for now), to keep our heads working and hands shifting.
This is what it looks like going up, starting in C on the E string (scale degrees are below):
Naturally, going down, its reversed, so instead of starting on each scale degree, you end on them.
Since its being done via the Cycle, we do it in C, then in F, then in Bb, and so on. I’ve only had to switch it up when doing it in E, because the usual pattern doesn’t work since the root is an open E, so I use pattern 2 there.
If its helpful, here’s the tab for the C major scale starting on the E string, without any additional stuff. The pattern can be easily moved into any key. Its not meant to teach theory, just to get the hands working. For theory, what you want to learn is the scale construction (whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half) and note names to start. I’m not too much past that, myself.
[edit 03.31.2015] 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: