Its been 13 1/2 months since I last blogged here, and its been just about that much time since I last practiced with my bass regularly. When I fall off the boat, its steep. In that time, we’ve grown the family a little. Bopps is now 5 1/2 years old, and she has a 4-month old sister, Kara. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen since December. I got my wife an air fryer for Christmas. We opened it about 2 weeks early, and I’ve been air frying ever since. In January, I added an Instant Pot to the mix, and now, while I’m no chef, I do manage to put food on the table that people can actually keep in their stomachs. Oh, and I discovered that I like moscato wines quite a bit.
I’ve been getting my music fix via Bopps’ piano class. Although we’ve missed some here and there, we go once a week and she’s able to read enough music (using solfege, not note names) that she can handle stuff that isn’t from class. I got her a 2-CD and 2-book set with nursery rhyme songs and other children’s songs, and she’s able to read most of the music and play it on her piano. Its great that the lessons are paying off, although we do need to get more disciplined with practice.
So, I got in a bit of practice today, with a morning session in which I went through exercises 18-35 from the Hal Leonard Bass Method, and then a night session where I ran through 36 & 37 – the two 12-bar blues exercises – a lot. In between I read some stuff on Talkbass and then after the blues exercises, I watched a fantastic video from Mark Smith of Talkingbass.net about reading music.
In Mark’s lesson, he said a few things that really stood out to me:
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).
Here’s a video that shows a bunch of bass amp options available in Amplitube 4. This is from one of the paid versions, so it has quite a bit.
Also, here’s a short thread on Talkbass that discusses going ampless for people who play mainly at home. A lot of it goes into recording options, but I found this particular advice/formula from Digitalman in response #2 good to know:
The products I mention are almost irrelevant. You just need a DAW, an interface, and an amp modeler that all work together and are Mac compatible/versions.
Here’s a new video from Adam Neely about transcribing music. Its a fascinating watch, not only because Adam is so coherent and fluid in his explanations, but because he actually transcribes a song using Sibelius right in front of us, so we can actually observe the process from someone who’s demonstrably good at it. It also helps that he picks “Just Like Heaven” from The Cure, which I dig. 😉
At first blush, it might seem that his method only applies to people who know how to read standard notation, but I think the principles apply more broadly – he speaks about transcribing in detail, leaving notes or cues to yourself that help you keep track of where you are in a song, when to indicate that a part repeats, and so on. Even if you write solely in tab, I’m sure that the ideas that he shares remain the same.
One important thing to note here is that Adam also has a good ear. He’s practiced and honed his ability, whether through relative pitch or actively recognizing notes as they’re played, so this process is going to be much smoother for him than say, someone like myself.
Here’s the Talkbass thread that he shared the video to:
So, a few nights ago, I came across an article in No Treble that discussed using the chromatic scale as an exercise. The scale itself is easy: pick a note and play the next 12 notes in sequence. Basically, play every note on the neck in alphabetical order. So, if we did this from the E-string, it would be E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#. We could then play the octave, if so inclined.
There’s probably a pattern that can be used to play it across strings as well. If you analyze the fretboard, you’ll see that moving up strings, the next note in sequence is 5 frets behind wherever you left off. So, the pattern would be diagonal.
Anyway, the exercise is written in standard notation – which I can read a bit now! I noticed something though: there were 2 notes being played at a time, which is called a dyad (its not quite a chord because chords require 3 or more notes to be played together).
I didn’t quite get how to run the exercise, so I asked the TalkBass folks about it, and chungweishan explained what I was missing at 3 AM. One of the notes didn’t change. It was played on an open string as a reference note while we played the chromatic scale on top of it. Basically, we let that note ring while we fret another one on a different string.
Armed with that understanding, I was able to run the exercise. I discovered something cool while doing it – a snippet of one of the bass pieces for Megadeth‘s Countdown to Extinction. It can be played chromatically while using a reference tone. I liked the sound of it a lot, actually.
Here’s a link to the exercise:
I was in bed, browsing the TalkBass forums, which I haven’t visited in more than 6 months, when I came across a thread from a person about my age who’s been practicing alone on his bass but hasn’t played with any other musicians. On the 2nd page of his thread, in which he asked for advice on finding others to jam with, two people mentioned online solutions that I just looked at and am frankly blown away by.
The first is called Wikiloops (which has apparently been in my bookmarks since April, go figure), and the 2nd is called JamKazam. They’re both online communities that share backing tracks, which are actually multi-tracked, so individual instruments can be muted, as desired. They also enable live collaboration and sharing. Videos from both follow. There’s amazing potential here.
Wikiloops is free and basically allows people to upload MP3’s of themselves playing instruments. These playthroughs can be added to other people’s sessions and used to build remixes which are organized in several ways including by instrument and genre.
JamKazam has a similar service as well as live online jam sessions and is in beta development for a physical interface which can be used to connect instruments to a router with low latency – this basically means they’re building a box that you can plug into and will let you play at blazing speed, so there’s little or no loading/buffering/processing or whatever it is that other platforms might suffer from.