To help us understand this better, let’s look at learning music as a language. At a beginner’s level you are still learning the meaning of individual words- how to spell them correctly; the shape of the letters and the sounds that they make. Eventually, you would have learned enough useful words to start playing with other like minded musicians. Metaphorically, this would be akin to talking, then debating and ultimately be able to argue specific points of view in a conversation with others. But if you are stuck by shouting out single words; sometimes unrelated words, you will become ineffective as a bass player despite having acquired a large vocabulary of single words.
In this lesson we are going to take a look at developing a new approach to building and controlling how we perceive common bass patterns, more notably the root/fifth combination on the fingerboard. Historically, the common approach to learning intervals on the bass is to learn a simple fingering by rote and then string them together – usually jumping all over the fingerboard while doing this. With this approach, you are not playing the bass, but the bass is playing you!
Blues for Alice is a Charlie Parker tune (also known as a Bird Blues) that is based on a traditional twelve bar (I-IV-V) blues progression, but starts off with a major 7th chord instead of the traditionally seen dominant 7th. I’m going to do a harmonic analysis here, but let’s not forget that this is just a basic reharmonization of a blues progression- now stay with me!
“Hey Joe, what are your thoughts on using tablature versus learning to read music?”
Watch out, there’s a rant coming:
Tablature, which is promoted by many teachers as being an easy to follow alternative to reading music, can cause serious problems for the developing bass player as it is set up to create a ‘motor movement’ only response system to playing music. It is for this reason that I present an argument against tablature in modern day music education.
One of the main preoccupations of bass players is how to develop finger speed by strengthening their individual fingers first. The dirty little secret is that everybody already possesses more than enough strength in their fingers to play fast. Think about this for a second- the fingers of an infant are strong enough to support their own body weight when gripping for support. People take it for granted that by strengthening their fingers will gradually increase their agility and work towards developing greater finger speed.