Fractions, dots, and trying to stay awake while working with a metronome….

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.

4 thoughts on “Fractions, dots, and trying to stay awake while working with a metronome….

    1. It’s not as if I’m against computerized music as a learning tool, you’ll just never find it on my ipod. 🙂

      Thanks. I’ve given it a listen. It’s still not really that helpful, though, sadly. I understand it conceptually perfectly fine. I just have no idea how to count a fraction that isn’t in quarters or thirds within the context of a bar. It won’t be a problem with playing actual music, really, because you have context, and that context tells you how long the note should be without technical jargon muddying up the works, but I have no way to practice a fraction of a note. I don’t know how the heck I would count that off against metronome, for example. I really need to hear it in the context of a song, not just a bunch of the same note lumped together on a computer screen. It was worth a shot, but the video doesn’t sound like music to me, so it doesn’t really give me the “real world usage” context I need.


      1. I don’t know if this will make sense to you. When I count, I have 2 counts going on in my head. One is basically a 1-2-3-4 going at the tempo of a song or exercise. So, for slower songs, its a slower 1-2-3-4 and for faster ones, its a faster 1-2-3-4.

        I have a 2nd count in my head that’s specifically for note duration. That’s the one I actively count. The 1st one, I kind of feel most of the time. I might do something like tap my foot or nod my head to it. It keeps me in time. The 2nd one keeps me in rhythm.

        When I think about them, I think of the 1st one like the earth orbiting the sun. The 2nd one is like the earth revolving on its axis.

        Sometimes, they switch though. The 1st and 2nd counts. Sometimes, I’m playing something that I’m used to – like a string of the same kind of note (all quarter notes, for example) or an exercise I played enough to physically memorize. My hands know how to play it, with the right relative pauses. It knows that one note is held longer than another, for example. My ears are also used to those particular exercises or song parts, so it knows if I’m off. In those cases, the big orbit takes over as my counting one, and the actual thing I’m playing has to fit into an orbit.

        I don’t know if that makes sense, but its how it works in my head. It kind of just happened after practicing stuff and getting certain patterns and rhythms under my fingers.


      2. I understand, but it’s really all the same count for me. In my head, something like this happens:
        All notes same length. One-two-three-four.
        But, maybe the first note is longer. Then my head might tell me something more like: ooonnnneee-two-three-four.
        I don’t have a problem with it playing in rocksmith. The other instruments tell you what the song needs, and if you can’t follow on that intuitive level, rocksmith shows you how long to hold it. But, it doesn’t tell you what a half note is, what a dotted note is in context, and without some real world examples of songs I know that use them, this count is not something I’m going to be able to process in print.
        Which, I suppose doesn’t matter much at this stage, since once I hear it, I can replicate it, but the book really glazes right over this, which I find strange, as it’s the first semi-complex topic I’ve come across.

        The first 80 pages have been indescribably boring. Lol. So now that I’m touching on things that are less obvious, for the book to suddenly not include an example where there should be one is a bit annoying. I need to hear how a dotted note interacts with notes that are not dotted to give it context.


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