An excellent exercise for the ear...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by thrash_jazz, Jul 8, 2002.

  1. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I once heard a story (don't know if it's true or not) about a professional piano player who went to prison for several years. After he was released, he was supposedly playing better than he was before, in spite of the hiatus. When asked how, he said he simply visualized himself playing.

    Now, I'm NOT saying this is a substitute for actual practice, because nothing is, but I've recently tried something similar and I HAVE found it to work (for those moments when you're away from the instrument) If a song or melody or whatnot pops into your head, or if you hear a song on the radio, try to visualize the proper notes being played on bass.

    It's a bit tricky at first, but as I said, I've only been doing this a short time, and I've noticed a difference already. I find that picturing the fingerboard of the bass helps to focus your attention on figuring the song out.

    Any thoughts on this?
  2. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I agree. I was just listening to a song yesterday (forget what it was) and I was listening to this simple little riff the bassist was playing, and I said, "By golly good sirs, that gentleman is playing a minor 2nd interval". Well, I didn't exactly say that. :D But you get the point. I think the more you play, the more you hear different phrases, intervals, licks ect. in songs you've never played. You even start to pick up on chord progressions and riffs that are the same from song to song.

    Also, since I've seriously began wood shedding on techinque and theory something begun to happen which never happened before: I would hear lines and melodies in my head before I even played them. I don't know if it's because I know more about music before I seriously began woodshedding, or if I just all of a sudden became receptive to it, but it makes playing a lot easier. I use to just play notes out of a scale corresponding to the chord. I got by on it, and I got a lot of compliments on my playing because of it, but it started to feel like I was playing the same stuff over and over again. Once I started to hear music in my head before it made it to the fretboard, I thought my playing began to sound fresh again.
  3. iplaybass

    iplaybass Guest

    Feb 13, 2000
    Germantown, TN
    Yes, I do that too. I took several years of Suzuki-style piano, and as a result I have a fairly good ear for intervals. The first time I realized this I was on a vacation listening to a solo bass part to a song and I thought to myself "That sounds like a fifth a sixth and a second." Sure enough, I got home and I was right. I think that by conjuring up melodies in your mind and then figuring out how to play them in your mind probably helps quite a bit when you are trying to think up bass lines on the fly. If nothing else, it keeps me from getting bored on long plane rides.
  4. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Do you mean imagine the notes, and then put them onto music paper in your head? Or do you just mean figure out the notes and then youve done it?

    I dont know if its just me, but this technique kinda sounds like you already need an established ear BUT that is going from what my mind has heard (and my mind aint too crash hot)
  5. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Sorta. What I meant was to picture yourself playing the line (correctly) on your bass, at the same time as you hear it. Actually visualizing your fingers on the fingerboard like. I don't mean just recognizing intervals and chords, but actually SEEING yourself playing it perfectly, in the correct key et al. can be just as hard as nailing it right down the first time you hear it!

    Still, I find this really helps, especially when you get ideas and are nowhere near your bass.

    Even if you don't think your ear is there yet, try it with songs you already know how to play. Even if you can't physically practice, you can do it mentally - that's more than half the battle!
  6. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    I get it now!!

    OK im listening to Papa dont preach (kelly osbournes version) and it is kinda working! hell, it IS working!!

  7. I have to agree. I think that is a great technique. I do that quite a bit when I am away from my bass. Another thing to mention also, is that sometimes when I imagine the melody or bass line and try to play it, it isn't always exactly correct. (don't tell my old theory teacher!) However, sometimes what I imagine is a nice line in itself. So I just change the rhythm or whatever, and voila! A new "original" bassline!
  8. I have always loved the challenge of doing what you suggested. However, I have always tried desperately to avoid "visualizing"....meaning:

    I learned how to play through tablature, which I think is not so good. By this I mean I learned visually, where notes were on the fretboard and seeing how to play them on the bass. I think this is bad because I wasn't *listening*, just reading and visually mirroring the notes. I wasn't listening to the notes, just kinda watching them.

    I like to think about it now as *audiolizing* a tune. Hearing the notes and remembering what they sound like. After doing this, I finally got it through my thick skull that it was what it SOUNDED like that mattered, and where you put your fingers was trivial (in a sense).

    I don't want to stir up trouble like I think this post will. This is not an attack on tabs, nor an argument that watching the fretboard while you play is bad. The point I wanted to make is that visualizing may not be the best, it's the SOUND that matters.

    But it's all semantics anyway, no?
  9. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I see what you mean Ishmael, but I find it to be different from thinking, "ok, now my fingers go here." It's more about thinking to yourself "how would I play this if I had my bass with me right now?". Hearing the notes in your head is one thing - an art form all its own. Trying to visualize what you would play is, essentially, trying to combine two concepts into one - two concepts that, I believe, are generally further apart than they should be.

    The point is this: so many seasoned pros make it a point to say that being able to play what you hear in your head is one of the ultimate goals for a musician. I think that this visualization technique leans toward that goal, in the sense that you are hearing the music in your head and translating it onto the fretboard.
  10. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I find that visualization is a GREAT excercise....I've been doing it on and off for a while now and I have finally learned some of the trickier parts to Donna Lee(without even listening to the recording...just thinking about it and imagining myself playing)

    I am the major 6th master!
    I can identify a Major 6th from a mile away :D
    something about that interval just stands out to me...I hear it and I instantly know its a Major 6th.....please don't test me on this :")
    I met a few people with perfect pitch recently....its crazy stuff....I would just sing a note to this girl and ask what it was and she would say "thats a Bb...only its very flat" HAR HAR HAR....and this other guy...I took a spoon and hit it against a steel pole and it produced an F(according to the tuner I had next to it)...I asked what he had to say about it and he said "that was an F"
    crazy stuff.
    this same guy actually had a photographic mind....he says that when he hears music he can instinctivly visualize a standard notation chart of what he's hearing in his mind.
    he also can remember just about every single tune he'ss ever played and this is for sure because I watched him play at least 50 tunes in 2 weeks and none of them required browsing throught the real book.
    people like that are amazing...but at the same time I'm glad I don't have natural pitch like that...cause it would probably drive me crazy....though my ear isn't to bad....its not perfect....with some training I could probably have near perfect pitch...

    I wonder if you could pitch so absolute perfect you could relate sounds you hear with more than jut notes...but with frequencies as well.
    like you hear an A and know that its at 10 khz or something like that....that would be nutty.
  11. Lady Jayde

    Lady Jayde

    Jul 17, 2002
    I am one of those people with perfect pitch.. I can pick out any note and tell if it is flat or sharp or on... It gets annoying after a while since i can tell when anything is out of pitch. That must be why i hate my piano.. It is really out of tune..
    The only reason i have such great pitch is because i trained myself for it... I've been around music and learning to sing and play an instrument since i was 5. that would be almost 12 years ago. I only wish mine was a natural talent.. and not self taught.
  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    why so you can say to your friends you have "natural" perfect pitch?
    it shouldn't matter....also consider this....a large percentage of people with perfect or near perfect pitch....have it not naturally but because they have been around music and learning and instrument(or singing) since they were very little(just like you)
    when my friend told me she had perfect pitch I asked "have you always had it" and she said "not really...I only really learned I had it and how to use it about a year ago"....she may have been born with it...but she also spent her youth learning piano and was ina few choirs.
    I think its really a cool thing to have perfect matter how you have it(natural or learned) the end result is practically the same anyway. thats a talent :D *

    * Wrong Robot *Identifiying major 6ths from a mile away since sept .2000 :)
  13. breeze


    Jul 25, 2002
    Bath, UK
    This is true.

    Research has shown that if you play computer games, you dream as if you're playing the game and improve at the same time.

    So, if you play bass (and im assuming you do if you're here), then you are likely to dream yourself playing and improve.

    So, visualising helps. :)

    We dream every night, we only remember it if we are disturbed in the middle of one (say, an alarm clock).
  14. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002 wonder I'm trumping tetris now :)
    seriously...whenever I close my eyes I visualize perfect situations in tetris...and not-so perfect ones...and what I could do to make them perfect.

    thanks to REM(rapid eye movement) what I do right before I goto bed is retained easy than what I did when I first woke up(thanks to REM I've aced spanish tests I didn't study for till the night prior)
    I do most of my bass playing late at night...cause I have these really nice headphones so I can play amplified and not wake anyone up(or even disturb anyone for that matter)
  15. Lady Jayde

    Lady Jayde

    Jul 17, 2002
    I guess i just thought that my "perfect pitch" was in some way odd to have.. learned. I thought "perfect pitch" was a natural trait.. or even genetic. since both my brother and I have the gift of perfect pitch.. (mine is better tho). Thnx tho Wrong Robot