Yesterday, I was still struggling with Billie Jean. My right hand index finger was getting much more string time than it ought to get… and my middle finger was just idling, watching the index finger do all the work. Meanwhile, from a distance up north, my left hand saw my right hand making a right mess of things and decided to call it a day as well, and I was ready to take the bass off the strap and smash it to smithereens on the hardwood floor, convinced again that I must be a talentless hack.
So, today, I sat down, and did something for which Jeff Berlin would have a go at me with his verbal flamethrower – I used a metronome to get a tempo to stick to.
I fired up the Google metronome, set it to 50 BPM (yes, THAT slow), and started playing that wretched bassline – dry, without being distracted by Josh and his playalong.
It’s helpful at this stage to know that the slow workout runs at something like 65 BPM, and I knew I wasn’t capable of playing it like it should be played at 65 BPM.
That… actually went quite well. From the get-go, I was capable of alternating more or less properly. I found out that I still have a tendency to, when my right hand middle finger comes off F#, it tends to want to take on C# because it’s there anyway… but I decided to let that slide and alternate my way through it.
Another thing that bothered me a lot less was that, each time I transition up to play B-F#-A-B-A-F#-E-F# (too Close To The Edge?), I had a lot less trouble doing that.
So, I practiced that at 50 BPM for I think around 15 minutes until I felt I had it down.
Time to put myself to the test… crank up the slow workout again… and indeed, the slow workout now runs fine, reproducibly right every time. My right hand alternates, almost as if it’s never been different.
So, I advanced to the medium workout (which runs at 87 BPM) – and lo and behold, I got that one as well! Almost as easily as the slow workout!
It is as if a switch has flicked in my brain – something I couldn’t do at all yesterday now runs just fine. It’s not clockwork yet, but it’s good enough for now.
Ambitious as I am, just for kicks, I tried the full-speed workout (117 BPM) as well. Now that was asking a wee bit too much – but at this time, I’m sure I’ll get that down as well.
I have to admit I feel a lot better than I did yesterday.
I suppose it’s cranking down to a tempo that allowed me to get things right before proceeding to the next step that flicked that switch for me. Getting the right hand to work properly then prevented my brain to short itself, allowing the left hand to work properly too – and that helped me to build the confidence, and the muscle memory maybe, to make it feel more natural, and speed things up.
Maybe, just maybe, the slow workout at 65 BPM is a wee little bit too quick? Whaddaya think, @JoshFossgreen?
Anyway, I still have two bass guitars, and an intact hardwood floor in my study.