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School of Bass - Day 4

Written at 1:44 PM on October 23, 2006.

Man, I was beat Sunday morning. I was too pumped after the performance to go to sleep. Apparently that was the common theme among most of the attendees.

Lynne Davis

The morning technical session was with Lynne Davis. She gave us some pointers or reading sheet music. I found it every enlightening. I, like a lot of other people, look at it from small to big. She encouraged us to look at it from big to small.

In other words, think of the key you're in and what that means (what chords are you likely to encounter). Of course, look at the meter and beats per minute. Then look at rhythmically. Using eighth notes as an example, there aren't many combinations (words) for a given beat: eighth-eighth, eighth-rest, rest-eighth. Just seeing that can give you feel for the song rather quickly.

Then look at the intervals between the notes. That will give you an idea of what's going. As you learn to recognize the intervals, you stop looking at the notes in isolation, making your sight reading faster. She used flash cards on us, and it was amazing that if you looked a relative intervals, how easily you figured it out.

Tip: Here's something I never knew and apparently plenty of others never knew. The bars that connect the notes do so to indicate a beat. For me, just looking that rhythmic patterns and intervals knowing this one simple fact is already starting to demystify sheet music.

The morning clinic was on "Power Practicing" where we discussed aspects of practicing. We have to remember that we need to work hard but also make it fun. Sometimes that means breaking up practice sessions into theory or technique, then just playing some songs. It was suggested that sometimes you get more benefit out of playing one song for five hours than you do playing five songs for one hour each. Obviously, that song will be with you for a lifetime, but you also learn to get inside of it and really understand what it's doing.

That was the final session. Everybody said their goodbyes and went back home. In case you were wondering about demographics, here's my unofficial take on the 40 or so people there:

* Maybe 7 of us were local to Arizona. 

* We had people from both coasts. 

* There were 4 women. One very much a beginner, two with some experience, and the fourth with a lot of experience (www.bassmaiden.com). 

* The youngest attendee was 12. There was another high-school age kid. Most of us were in the 35-45 age bracket. 

* Most of the basses were Fender Jazz. There were a couple of Sadowskys, Music Mans, Laklands, a Yamaha, a G&L, and me and Chuck had Spectors. 

* Most everyone had more than one bass, but not with them. 

* Some guys had spent part of their lives as full-time musicians. Others had never even been in a band. 

* While a lot of guys were all doing the speedy slap stuff when just sitting around noodling, many in my group seemed to struggle a bit when asked to play scale even when it was mapped out on paper. I guess I had a misconception that if a guy can do a speedy thumpa-wicka-wicka-th-th-thump-wacka-wicka then playing do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do from any position would be automatic. 

School of Bass Crowd

* Even though so many people liked to slap, I would say Ray Riendeau  was less well-received (he was still well received) than the other non-slapping performers. I would say Bobby Vega created the most buzz. Bass players dig groove. 

* Some folks knew a shitload of theory, some practically none. A lot had forgotten it since learning it years ago. 

* Some folks were obsessed with learning to do blistering solos while others were more interested in being better groove players.

One final observation: While every performer used one finger per fret and had the thumb in a good position on the neck most of the time, not one strictly alternated fingers when plucking. Raking was used at times. And the way each player slapped was slightly different in not only style, but in basic hand position.

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