A Beginning DBers Journal of Lessons: The Trials and Tribulations of a Newbie

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by jazzbo, Nov 7, 2003.

  1. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    As sounds from Brian Bromberg's Wood resonate from my simple computer speakers, I realize, even through this piddly medium, I have so very far to go. In my mind, I can interpret what I want to hear, what I want to express, where I want to go, but my body cannot yet respond, and probably won't be able to for quite some time. It's too simplistic to make this journey sound like it's only a matter of playing this or that scale or arpeggio for said number of hours per day, then per week, then per month, and voila!, we all know that that is not how it works.

    Bill Noertker, (www.noertker.com), has been my psychotherapist for over three years. Truth be told, he doesn't entirely realize that. He only signed on to be my bass teacher, but has been so much more over this time, and has helped me develop into someone that can challenge himself, recognize his positive attributes, and know how far of a journey lies ahead. Bill is now being called upon for a different task though. When I came to Bill so many years ago, I knew where to put this finger to make such and such a sound, and how to play this scale and how to move my hands real fast across the fretboard, in a fashion that would entice and entertain the general layperson, (while saying nothing musically). Now, I don't know where to put my finger, how to hold my hand, when to shift, what my knees should be doing, and why that pain is growing in my left shoulder.

    So, alas, this will be my journal of my lessons on Lady Alma, the newest member of my musical family. For more details, click me. I come to the DB as a BG player with several years experience, having played many different styles of music from jazz, R&B, soul, indie rock, country, blues, alternative, folk and anything else I've been called upon to do in the past. Every time I picked up the instrument, and even as my voice developed, I knew that there was something else out there. Some other voice waiting to be freed. This is not to diminish my feelings for BG, and instrument is an instrument, and all are there to help us voice something expressive and deeply personal, in my opinion, and that's how it will always be for me. But ... but, sometimes, you know something is still missing.

    Many images from Bill's website will show him playing BG. He has only been a DB player for around 3 years, and will be the first to admit that he is very much a beginner. (Don't forget how quickly a talented and driven individual can progress in a short time, I point to our own friend Durrl as a prime example). His teacher, a woman I will not mention by name simply because I don't know her, was, as I understand, (and may be mistaken), a student of Ray Brown.

    The lessons journal will include an idea of what Bill is teaching me. More the concept than the actual drill or etude quite often. First, I don't think it's entirely fair to give away all his advice for free. Second, it's better, I think to provide an outline of the beginner, rather than an actual play-by-play, as each individual is so different, and my past playing experience may begin to dictate what topic Bill approaches each lesson based upon my advancement. I encourage any bass player, of any skill level, and any technique or style, to very strongly consider Bill as a teacher. He is without equal, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

    I clearly understand the wealth of experience from the members of this board, and appreciate all input and guidance they provide; however, I wish to express the disclaimer than in most instances of apparent contradictory information I will defer to Bill. The reasons being several. First, with a medium such as this, it is possible that I have not adequately conveyed that which Bill was showing me, causing someone here confusion, due to my own error. Second, having Bill hands on and in person lends an amount of detail that is simply not possible over this medium. Third, it is possible that I fully do not yet understand that which was demonstrated to me. Fourth, perhaps Bill is showing me the foundation of principle that will be developed further as lessons continue. Fifth, and most importantly, I trust Bill unquestionably, and know that MY best interests are at heart, not his agenda, and I cannot put a price tag on that level of trust.

    So, after that diatribe, I think we're ready for the first lesson. What'd'ya think?
  2. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    As of this time, Lady Alma was not fitted with strings or setup in any fashion. This lesson was conducted using Bill's bass.

    Posture. Before any instruction I was allowed to naturally hold the bass. I held with with it's body almost perpendicular to mine, trying to get this huge chunk of wood and strings to fit comfortably. It's funny how such a simple thing as holding the instrument and doing nothing more can still require an expert hand to facilitate. Bill showed me proper, ergonomic posture, referencing the nut in relation to my body, as well as the correct height of the endpin, and how I can measure where the bass should be, using my arms and hips. He showed me how create a comfortable feel, so that my left and right arms could minimize overstress. Also, something I would have overlooked, he stressed how he felt my knees should be not be locked, as they naturally tried to do. It was right then that I realized how invaluable this would all be.

    Right hand technique. One thing I love about Bill's instruction, is he doesn't simply command you to do something "just because." He always has good reasons. By showing me correct right hand pizzicado technique, and then having me contradict it with my BG right hand pizz technique, I was able to hear how the tone would differ, and how what was acceptable on the BG, simply wouldn't do for most of my DB playing. He had me begin by simply plucking the G string, as whole notes, and as is the case with everything we do, he did not let me escape the rhythmic pulse of the metronome. One side note, is that I love how he's preparing me for the future, by making the clicks of the 'nome represent 2 and 4, not the 1 and 3 or 1234 that most are comfortable with. He's already preparing me now, to understand the common rhythmic pulses of jazz.

    On to the D string.

    Next the A, then the E.

    Now he's careful to point out how I must really listen and realize that the attack must be different. This isn't like BG where the differences in string gauge aren't as apparent. This is an acoustic instrument which breathes how it so chooses. I quickly realized that the attack on the weightier strings must be different, they resonate differently, the tone "matures" more slowly.

    Next, string jumping. G to D. D to A. A to E. G to A, D to E, E to G, A to D, and at random, etc.

    If you'll pardon me, I'll continue with lesson in just a bit.

    (To be continued)....
  3. hey man, great thread! [​IMG]

    I also recently started DB lessons (in september) and I love it!

    I'm starting to get the hang of playing arco, and can even jump to "C" on the G-string and hit the correct note(more or less) ;)

    what book are you using in your lessons? I'm using some swedish(or it might be norwegian) book.

    good luck with your lessons! :cool:
  4. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    great idea for a thread! keep it up! -erik
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Half-Position. The emphasis here became half-position but only on the G-string. He stressed correct right-hand technique, alternating left hand fingering, and proper positioning of the bass, my arms, my legs, etc. After he was okay with all of that, we worked on intonation.

    This pretty much concluded the lesson. This would be the foundation upon which the next lesson would be built.
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    At this point I had just received my bass back from the luthier for an hour or so. I went pretty much straight from the luthier to the lesson, with just a brief stop at home to mess around.

    We spent some time inspecting the bass, learning more about it, identifying parts and the such, and then we sort of rehashed a lot of the things from the previous lesson.

    There really isn't too much to tell about this particular lesson because it was mainly half position, all strings. We started by working again with open string playing.

    He set a metronome at 60bpm, the clicks representing 2 and 4, and he had me play open strings. First G, then D, then A, then E, then adjoining strings, then crossing strings, then random. This started with whole notes, then half notes, then quarter.

    Then we did some work on playing chromatics in half position.

    During this time he stressed technique, tone and intonation. The point here was to make sure that ergonomically I was okay, that the tone was as full as possible, that my time was solid and that my intonation was acceptable.

    Two main exercises were presented. The first was simply the Bb and the F major scales in half position.

    The second exercise is the figure below.


    This form was played legato, starting at 50bpm, and then transposing it to Dm and Am and then playing at 60bpm and 70bpm, and so on.

    The thing I really liked about this exercise is that I got to practice half-position in an entirely musical way. I'm a big advocate of making practices musical, and playing minor triads using an open string as the fifth was a great way for me to keep my intonation in check without having to stare at a tuner.
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I've never been allowed to rest on my laurels, (truth be told, I'm not sure if I even have laurels, or really what they are).

    Enter lesson #3.

    "Hey Bill, how ya been?"

    "Good, nothing new."

    "Cool, me too."

    "Tuned up?"


    "Okay, Autumn Leaves. You remember the changes. 1 - 2, 1 ...."


    Yes, after about a month or less of owning and practicing this beast of a lady, I'm told that it's time to let her walk on her own, when the truth is, the poor little girl gets wobbly when she tries to sit up straight, let alone stand, let alone crawl, let alone walk!

    The fact of the matter is that I love Bill's blodness, his desire to make sure that I don't have an easy road, to challenge and push me, and most of all, most of all, to make sure that what I do is musical. Sure, he knows scales are important, and will have me work on them, but then it's time to realize that the goal is music.

    So, we played some Autumn Leaves. I did a chorus or two of just roots, whole notes on the bar, then half notes, (adding 5ths, the "Business Man's Two Step", then walked it. Let me tell you, several minutes into the song my left hand was pumping lactic acid like a speed addicted milkmaid 3 months late on her quota. But, it felt good.

    So, some musical application.

    Next, extended scales. He showed me C major started from the A string. We talked a lot about shifts. He showed me F major and G major from the D string. Good stuff. Lots of shifting.

    Then, we worked out some arpeggios.

    So, I know this post is short, but hey, that was our lesson. Not short, just the content required a lot of time to feel out.
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Okay, so I missed 3 lessons here. (I mean, I had the lessons, just haven't reported on them). But, it was the holidays, so I'm gonna get back to this.