Sunday, January 11, 2009

Touching Bass

It's time, I think, for an update!

Shirley Bass-ey

First of all, there are some new pictures on Flickr, including the one above, which serves a few purposes: to prove that I really DO have a bass, to show off my New Year's Eve outfit (theme: "red"), and to show that my cat is either still alive or stuffed...the former is true.

As a person who has never seriously tried to learn an instrument -- let alone the theory behind playing one -- my experiences might be useful to those who want to try it themselves. I bought some self-instruction books (and a cheesy DVD starring this guy), I hooked up an amp, I tuned the strings, and then I got down to business.

In order to learn a skill I need to understand what I'm actually doing, but in this case I'm forced to realize that the background information is so specialized and esoteric that I'll need to take some of it on faith. I've learned a lot over the last few weeks -- in particular the very necessary information about WHY the strings are arranged and tuned the way they are -- but I still have a long way to go. It's humbling to learn the major scale and then turn the page and realize that it's only one of many, and that all those wonderful rules and tricks I'd assiduously practiced no longer apply.

Who can we blame for the bizarre grab-bag that is musical knowledge and perception? Lay it on the Organ of Corti.

I'm playing the examples, over and over again. As far as I can tell it's much easier to learn your scales on a fretted instrument (as opposed to one with keys) because you're just transposing your fingering up and down the neck. I'm working on the major chords and trying to keep in mind the notes I'm actually playing, to lay the groundwork necessary for actual competence (as opposed to rote repetition).

It's thrilling to me how, by just doing the same thing over and over again, you are eventually able to refine your abilities. For instance, now that I can actually play my scales without thinking about them, I can concentrate on keeping the other strings from ringing, and I can even stop staring at the frets for a short period of time.

If you want to learn the bass I DO recommend David Overthrow's book & DVD, but it's disappointing how many errors and omissions they contain. A beginner should NOT be presented with an illustration containing the wrong numbers, or be forced to puzzle out why a number isn't where you expect it to be. Otherwise it's just fun watching Overthrow playing dead-simple reggae basslines which obviously bore him to tears.

In summary: if I can maintain my enthusiasm and discipline I'll actually be able to play the bass by the spring. I won't be GOOD necessarily, but I think I'll be able to hold my own.

Otherwise life is good. I've come through the holidays relatively unchanged after my initial (and sort of inexplicable) emotional snap, with the addition that I find myself simply caring less about my own behaviour in, I think I've suddenly stopped worrying about such things. This could be because I've done something terrible to my shoulder -- it crackles in the morning -- and this leaves me less energy for feeling silly that I dropped the contents of my purse all over the dancefloor steps last night.

It's all a matter of perspective.

And to Syd & Gary, the removal of the blog "comment" feature started out as an accident but soon became deliberate, just because I needed to realign myself to the world, and this blog is part of that. I've turned them on again! Life is good.

Oh yes, back to the cat: she continues to be fragile and skinny, yet alert and spunky. She's had a slight rheumatic limp for about six months which has suddenly gotten a lot worse, but it hasn't stopped her from catching more mice and devouring them at my bedside, always leaving a piece behind: a black organ which looks like an olive, a veneer of pinkish blood, a tiny back foot with claws and pads attached.


Kimber said...

You look great. I love this picture. And bravo to you for trying something new - the bass! Colour me impressed. The closest I've come is attempting that Rock Band game last week - holy make me feel musically inept, batman.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kimber on the points that she covered. Lookin' good...

About music: I have tried to learn piano (in a general sort of way) but never seemed to have the motivation to apply myself.

Perhaps that oft-repeated segment during the public television beg-a-thons, about almost-instant piano playing lessons, is something for me to explore.

Glad to hear that you and the cat are okay. Happy 2009!

Anonymous said...

Good for you!

Eli McIlveen said...

Hurrah, and welcome to the club!

It's definitely a fun experience feeling the theory becoming part of your unconscious knowledge and muscle memory. (If you haven't already, you might look for some ear training software too.)

Love the outfit too.