Been spending some time with the Bass for Dummies book today. Since I am diligently working on painting things for a father’s day gift, I didn’t really have time to crack out Rocksmith, but I did have time for alternating instruments 15 minutes at a time, which made it a really good day to see what the book had to offer.

I’m taking my time working through it, so I’m only in chapter 4, and when I opened the book I find myself looking at a section titled “Using your Metronome”… Oh boy, this is going to be dull as dirt.

And, it was. I admit it. This lesson was educational, but DULL. AS. DIRT.  I got so bored running through the different note types with the metronome I started shifting Righty around the fretboard as I counted beats just to have something interesting to do. (The lesson basically says to just pick a note and try to keep pace with the metronome. The latter was not an issue, so I decided to switch frets and strings to see if I could keep pace while shifting. Still not a problem.  Even so, I worked through each type of note, and now I’m getting to the point where it’s introducing a bit about reading music notation.  Now, this is stuff I need to learn at last! …but it’s still pretty boring, so a lot of my bass time today has been noodling while I read.

I will say, of the various notes in the metronome, the half note was weirdly the hardest to keep pace with. The triplet took a second to acclimate to as well. What’s funny about that is that these are both things I have no problem with on Rocksmith, so that it took me a second to get the hang of them with a metronome I don’t think really says anything, since I can play them without problems when there’s a song. With a song, you don’t really need to fuss about the details of what things are called, and counting them out. It’s just obvious what you’re using where, because you’ve heard the song before, so you know how it’s supposed to sound. I’m not one to stress too much about defining things, but I do need to retain enough to be able to read music effectively, and these lessons are good for that.

It was when I got to “the dot” that things started to get a little wonky.

How the heck do you count out 1/5th of a note?
It wasn’t complex in concept. I understood what was being said. What I don’t know is how the heck to count this out. Quarter notes are 1-2-3-4. Eighth Notes are 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.  How the heck do I count 2/10ths (1/5th) of a note in my head?

What gets me about this is I’m sure I’ve probably played them, but it’s information I can’t readily conceptualize without an example, which the book doesn’t provide. This is a very similar thing – in terms of concept – to the problem I was having with the strum pattern on the Amanda Palmer song, where I was counting 1-2-3-4, but was apparently supposed to be counting 1, 1-2-3 (more or less). The difference is there, but it’s also a difference that needs to be HEARD, and this is one spot where Bass for Dummies doesn’t provide an example.

The next audio track it has is about rests. Still good information, but there are no dots in that progression, or ties (the next subject that the book discusses), so not inherently helpful for either of these. Bit of a ball-drop.

What’s funny about the rest track, is that you have to listen pretty carefully to follow. If you’re listening casually, it sounds like 1-2-3-rest, when in reality it’s 1-2-rest-3.  But, if you don’t hear that first note in the progression, the whole pattern shifts to a 1-2-3 1-2-3. Instead of a 1-2-3-4.  It’s a funny thing, the way the ears deal with putting sound and silence in to blocks. So, no matter where you start, your ear always hears the rest as a start of the next section, which may not necessarily be strictly true.

So, I’ve learned some technical things today, and I spent a good solid chunk of time with my bass. I also ran through the bass tab on One Headlight a few times – not to learn the song just yet, but to sort of vaguely familiarize myself with the progressions in the different spots.

I’m noticing a lot of people who write tab seem to get lazy about it, and just go ‘this for the chorus’ ‘this for the verse’, and not really bother to put the bits in order. On the one hand, I get it – they are giving you all the information you need. On the other hand, it’s kind of a pain in the butt to then have to take that data and put it into the order the song goes in so you can play it through sequentially. I haven’t bothered with that just yet, but I am starting to familiarize myself with the bare bones of the song, which I think is probably the best place TO start.

In Ukulele-land, the strum pattern and chord switches are actually going really well. Not perfect, maybe, but it didn’t take me long to nail down the best fingering on the fretboard to get from point A to B to C and back again, so I guess memorizing the note progression is the next step.

Until Next Time, learning to read, and trying not to bore myself to death in the process.