on July 6th, 2009 at 10:28 am
Bass Odyssey: Week 2-3
As I suspected, my practicing has been sporadic. Not a huge surprise, given that I didn't have any free time before suddenly deciding to learn a new musical instrument. Still, when I do practice they've been pretty solid. It seems the best time during the week is between when I get home after work, and dinner time. On a good day, that can give me a solid hour. Unfortunately, a late day at work, after work activities, or an ambitious dinner I've volunteered to prepare can nix a practice for a day very quickly. On the week-ends, I'm managing to get a solid few hours in on at least one day.
Week 2 I started attempting to play well-known songs (to me) from bass tabs found online - there's quite a wealth of community-crafted tab music. Even better are Guitar Pro files, which include tabulature, as well as the musical score, which I can fire up on my Eee using TuxGuitar. In theory, this is great, since I can fiddle with tempo, and add/remove parts, so I have other parts of the song to play along to. Unfortunately, the Eee really struggles to render Midi in software, so rather than sounding like tinny Midi music, it sounds more like strangled chickens half the time.
One of the problems with TuxGuitar is that I can't easily adapt different instruments to a 5-string Bass. There's an option to change the instrument, along with its tuning, but if I change, say, a Cello from a Bach Concerto to a 5-string Bass, then it keeps the fretting, and screws up the actual notes! It would've been much more useful if it kept the correct notes, and had a bash at adapting the fretting/tabs to the different instrument.
I think it was Week 2 that I discovered the joys of using headphones to practice. It means I can practice without annoying the family (or neighbours), and without being self-conscous about clangers. The down-side is that it's another cable in the mix. Using the Eee for accompaniment and guides, means that I have a cable from the Eee to the Amp, the lead from the Bass to the Amp, and a lead running from my headphones to the Amp. All in all it can get a bit of a tangle - especially if I decide I need to move more than half a metre.
Week 3 started with my first jam session with another "live" musician. I dragged my Bass up to Andy's place and we spent all Saturday afternoon butchering the classics. Most of the time we spent just picking through songs we both knew really well, trying to find easy stuff that we might have a chance of reproducing to a degree that it's recognisable.
I find it really interesting breaking down songs you think you know really well. Guitar Hero/Rock Band do this to a degree - when you're playing along to a guitar or bass line, all of a sudden you realise how simple it is, or how complicated it is. Doing the same on real instruments takes it even further, resulting in some surprises about songs you thought would be easy, and turn out to be tricky, or vice versa.
It's actually the easy ones that can be really impressive, and we found two such songs in our search. Second Solution, by The Living End, for the lead guitar, is pretty much the one finger pattern shifted around the fret-board (obviously the solo is a bit more killer). Are You Gonna Be My Girl, by Jet, is even easier, with most of the song being the one chord, with a bit of a flourish or two.
Not that we're anywhere close to playing either song in full yet...