Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Train Your Ear and Learn the Bass Neck: Practicing Scales Are a MUST

If you are a newbie to bass, or even someone fairly experienced, practicing scales is a must.

By playing scales, you will:

1.  Train your ear;
2.  Learn your bass neck;
3.  Condition your fingers.

Practicing major scales means playing the "do re mi fa sol la ti do" sound, starting with each note in the scale.

For example, to play C major scale, you play C D E F G A B C.

To play F major scale, you play F G A Bb C D E F.

Memorize each scale so that you can play it forward and backward quickly and without hesitation.

Consult the chart on the right for the notes in each major scale.   Then play each one in the order shown above, which is in "Circle of Fourths" order (this will help train your ear).  When you play each note, say the note out loud - this will affix the location of each note in your memory.  Play up the scale and then down the scale (for example, CDEFGABC CBAGFEDC).

To find the location of the notes, consult the graphic immediately below:

Start simply.  Learn C scale first.  Play the notes as follows:

Remember, you count the strings from the bottom up.  The string on the bottom is G, the next up is D, then A and finally (on top) is E.

Finally, watch this video to hear the C Major scale and how it is played:

Some Thoughts on Playing String Bass

My Fully Carved String Bass,
a Calin Wultur Panormo
I have been practicing and gigging with the band herein for a year and a half.  During that time I have used my electric bass guitar exclusively.  I own two string basses, one a laminate and the other a fine carved bass.  My two string basses were only gathering dust in my music room at home.  Oh, I would practice on them from time to time, but the strings hurt my fingers too much and there seemed to be little opportunity to actually play them with the band.  For one thing, string basses are large and not easy to transport.

Here's how I started to actually use and play my string basses.

1.  I changed the strings from heavy gauge to medium gauge, making the basses easier to play and more comfortable on my sore fingers.

2.  I took the laminate bass to our practice room and left it there (on a bass stand).  Now it will be there for each and every practice, making it unnecessary to transport it every time.

3.  I started actually playing the string bass with the band, and this is an important point.  If you want to learn to play string bass, then play the darn thing.  It won't play itself, and once you begin, you start becoming familiar with the instrument and learning the best techniques for playing it.  (You won't bother learning the best techniques until you have a pressing need to do so, i.e. because you are actually playing the bass with a band.)

So I began playing string bass with "Stray Cat Strut," an easy song for bass and a nice starting point for my career as a string bassist.  Once you have begun, you can move forward.  I'm excited by the possibilities.

Note:  You really must amplify your bass in order to be heard.  I use a $90 simple bass microphone that plugs into my bass amp with a regular guitar cord.  You can order these from Gollihur Bass at this link.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Stray Cat Strut" With String Bass!

I finally tried out my string bass with the band.  It worked out better than I thought and the band loved it.  I will be using my string bass more for appropriate songs.  Meanwhile, check out these videos from our last practice (sound quality is limited due to use of a Canon hand-held camcorder).

Stray Cat Strut  (Kenny does a great job on vocals here)

Groovin' (Not really a string bass song, but this was an experiment)

Susie Q