So… today, I had a good day. In between shopping, laundry, having a meds-induced siesta, cooking dinner and clearing out the dishes, I got a whole day of studying music in! I managed to wrap up two b2b modules and one music theory module.
My music studying history so far:
I bought the B2B course in late January, and started it immediately. I had settled on the 3 months schedule, seeing as to how I’m recovering from an ailment that’s so rare that only one member of this forum (me) knows its name. The recovery process includes swallowing generous helpings of Prednisone, plus a couple pills to counter its side effects. One of the side effects is muscle cramps, and for some perverted reason, this seems to mainly affect my fretting hand, causing it to lock up completely.
So, three months seemed fair.
Then, I lost my job, COVID-19 hit, and I kinda spiraled into a period wherein I got nothing done, so the three month schedule went out the window. But I managed to pick myself – and the b2b course – back up – and I decided to go back to start and not collect my $200, re-taking the modules I had already done using my fretless bass as the course vessel.
I also subscribed to a music theory course, so my music studying effort is now divided between b2b and that.
After I was done studying today, I leaned back into my reclining desk chair while noodling some Billie Jean, and my thoughts went from “feeling the need to learn more” to “overseeing what I had already accomplished”.
If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve just done a lesson and you feel “Fornicate this excrement, I suck, I’ll never get this down”, you should do the same. Look back at where you were when you started, and measure up the ground you’ve covered since then.
When I started out, I could play very simple bass lines – using ONE picking finger only, and missing around 50% if not more at any string jump. I could play these by ear, after having figured out where the notes were… and (with considerable effort, and lots of trial and predominantly error) from tabs
Having listened to music – mainly classical and jazz – from a very young age onwards (thanks mom and gramps!) had trained my ear well, but that was it. Looking at sheet music would just make my brain shut off, and I wouldn’t have been able to construct a major or minor triad other than by playing it.
Today, I can confidently play much more complex bass parts, including parts with some complex string jumping. I can find notes on the entire fretboard without thinking. I construct, and write out, major, minor, diminished and augmented triads over multiple octaves for breakfast. I can’t read a score like you read this post, but I can decipher it, bit by tiny bit, and I can actually transcribe a short, but reasonably complex piece of music. I know how to use a piano keyboard for exploring ideas, and the music theory thing has given me an understanding of the piano keyboard that also helps me in understanding scales and how they work on a fingerboard!
So yes… all in all, I have come a much longer way than I had expected to come in 3 months.
If you ever hit upon a point where you’re frustrated with not getting something down, I would ask you to do the same: look back, see where you came from, and what you’ve accomplished since then.
Having said that, I would like to stress how much studying music theory is helping me getting the bass playing thing down.
I’m not sure whether or not this is easy for me to say. I am a software engineer; I like to build ideas out to tangible projects, and then to working software. That implies that I am, by nature, interested in why things work like they work, and my mind operates from the principle that, if I understand something, it doesn’t bother me anymore – I could dish that out if you’d wake me up for it at 3am (provided I haven’t killed you first). My mind works that way, and my mind cannot understand that it would be different for all of us.
So yes, I am here to urge all of you to see if picking up music theory would help you understand how to play the bass better. I know @JoshFossgreen implies that theory is boring – I say it’s fun! If you’ve ever taken something apart to figure out how it works and liked it: music is no different!
Will be continued…