1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Beginner discussions

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Jaydublyew, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    Hello All,

    Before I bore you guys to death, can anyone direct me to a place where I can talk to folks playing for less than a year?

    Believe it or not, I am having the devil's-own-time locating such a BB. I've found lots of good sites like this one, but I am looking for folks my own level. There doesn't seem to be any.

    I bought a new double-bass and I'm enjoying it a lot. I don't have an instructor (which I must remedy) but I am practicing with books and tapes and disks which I bought online.

    I'm no kid, so I feel a little funny as a beginner. Believe it or not, I'm a life-long music lover who never played. I am retired now and find I have the time. I've been playing for about 6 months and I practice religiously.
  2. There are many beginning and/or lower skilled folk who hang out and post here. But I am not sure what is to be gained in an exclusively beginner forum.

    I believe one of the best ways to become a better musician is to play with superior musicians--you will strive to move up to their level. By the same token, if you really want to learn about playing the bass, you should spend time talking and listening to guys who have been where you are and have moved to the next level.

    Many of the discussions here are so far above my head that the subject might just as well be quantum physics but I can usually glean something from those discussions. That is what I need to hear in order to progress beyond what I am.
  3. Hey, welcome to the board! Lots of fine players/teachers and fabulous wealth of resources - you'll have a blast.

    …but I can guarantee that the first advice that most people will give you is -


    …there is no other way, believe me!

    Good Luck!

    - Wil
  4. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    OK...here goes:

    One source I downloaded "scales" material from stated that the way one knows whether an accidental is to be refered to as sharp or flat is that each scale has ONLY ONE note for each letter designation, i.e. if you are in the key of G, the 7th note is F#, not Gb, because you have already played a G natural. In F, the 4th note is Bb, although A# is a half-tone higher than A, you can't use two "A"s.

    I thought this made perfect sense and then I came to the key of Gb! It has two "B"s. Can someone explain this elementary theory.
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    K -- this is one that I love to answer!

    Here's my rundown on why some keys are 'flat keys' while others are 'sharp':

    I start by demonstrating the contruction of the C scale, as this is the one scale that has no flats or sharps.

    A major scale is a combination of half and whole steps. The C has not flats or sharps because of the 'natural' half steps between E and F, and B and C. On the piano these are the white key combinations that have no black keys between them.

    So, the C scale: C D E F G A B (C)

    With the natural half steps, we have the combination: WWHWWWH

    It is this combo of whole and half steps that make the major scale sound like the major scale. Now, let's grab the next note in the cycle of 4ths from C, which is F.

    First, fill in all the notes from the musical alphabet from F to F:

    F G A B C D E F

    and then figure out the hald and whole steps:

    WWWHWWH (Play this scale to hear what it sounds like)

    It sounds funny and the WH formula is wrong. Where is the issue? Between the 3rd and 4th note of the scale (A-B). The B is too far away from the A, so let's lower (flat) it. Now the scale looks like:

    F G A Bb C D E (F)

    Figure out the WH string and play it and you'll see that it sounds right. Let's go one more click around the cycle and grab Bb and do the same. We'll write out the alphbet again, using Bb's, though as this is our starting note:

    Bb C D E F G A (Bb)

    After playing it and figuring the WH combo


    We see again that we need to do some fixing. The first issue we encounter is, again, between the 3rd and 4th. (D-E). Lower the E to Eb to fix this and look again

    Bb C D Eb F G A Bb


    Start to see a pattern? Now, let's go back in the cycle from C and take G:

    G A B C D E F G


    Again we have an issue, and this time it's between the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale. E is too close to F, so let's move F away a bit:

    G A B C D E F# G

    Now, figuring out the scale (WH) and playing it everything sounds right.

    Go around the scales (all twelve notes) with this same method and see what you get.
  6. two "B"s ?

    Gb Major: Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb (there is only one "B" - so where is your problem?)

    - Wil
  7. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    It's just that i had never heard anyone use the term "Cb."

    I had heard of C#, which is just strange-sounding, but no Cb.

    ALSO...in their listing of the notes in the scale, THEY listed Bb, B!


    PS...Please remember one thing: as a late-in-life beginner, I want to be careful to not look "foolish." Such as saying "Cb" out-loud in a group of musicians (in whose company I am constantly) since I can't ever recall hearing the term used.
  8. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    Wasn't that a great old tune played by someone?
  9. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Just wait until you have B double flat and C double sharp.

  10. Hey, don't worry - nothing wrong with asking questions, and so-what if you look foolish? It's far more foolish to sit back and pretend to know everything. The stupid question is the one which never gets asked. You should never be ashamed to ask a question if you don't understand something. More often than not, most of the others in the group or audience don't know either, and by you taking the lead and asking a simple question, it is answered for others as well.

    In the context of "Gb" "Cb" is a perfectly correct description of the 4th degree of the major scale. Check out the major scale of C# (using Ray's method as shown above) you will find that there are two notes (E# and B#) which look as if they're the same as F and C - they are enharmonic meaning that in a system which is tuned to a scale of equal temperament (piano for instance) they are different names for the same note. However on a violin or 'cello, or double-bass, or trombone they can actually be different depending on the skill of the performer.

    - Wil

    PS: I think they were plain wrong if they listed Bb and B in the scale of Gb major…

    PPS: If you've never heard Cb being used you haven't hung around with enough brass players… (particularly brass-bands…) ;)
  11. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    ...the "brass band" analogy, that is. It's true...I do not know any brass musicians. I am a member (support personnel) of a marching band in Philly, and the main criterium is NO BRASS allowed! They try to get the brass sound (when it's called for) out of saxophones.

    Thanx for the words of encouragement.
  12. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    ...one of the young kids in the band plays in his high school's jazz ensemble and he invited all of us to come out and hear them as they opened for Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau Band.

    I bought a ticket for $15 and witnessed the greatest musical performance I had ever seen, live. They were playing in Washington Twp. High School's beautiful auditorium, which Commerce Bank had built for them, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life! It was almost like having this band come and play for me in my back yard.

    I never knew about his playing the school circuit. When he was introducing the musicians to come out and take a bow he said, "What you just heard might well be the best trumpet section in music today!"

    I got goose-bumps!
  13. The only one who looks foolish to me is the horse's a$$ that presented B as a note in a Gb scale
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    JW, what type of music are you playing/learning to play?

    Maybe it shouldn't, but I think the answer to your question may be somewhat dependant on the circles you plan to run in.

  15. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    There are some personal circumstances which mitigate my case. I will be playing old songs that are popularly used for sing-along, marching, and nostalgia-themed concerts. Oldies is a term that comes to mind, but that invokes memories of the late '50s, 60s, and early-to-mid '70s. The songs we play are "real" oldies: Jolson and Sousa, on-up to WWII era songs.

    Also, and I don't mean to insult the serious bassists here, but I would not have embarked on this quest if it were not that it's a lot easier to learn to read bass-clef (when you divorce it from entire range of music) and learn to pluck notes, than to play chords on a banjo or guitar or a melody reed instrument.

    You see, I don't have all the time in the world. I'm not in perfect health and, although I don't think I'm going anywhere in the next few months, taking-up a musical instrument seems a little naive, given my age and health prognosis.

    For that reason, I skip-over the pages dedicated to bowing. I know bowing is crucial to development of intonation, but I really think I can get good enough to read the music and memorize the parts. I truly love the bass, and have all of my life, and I believe there are many levels of prowess which are more subtle on a bass than on a melody instrument.

    One example: We have a kid in the band who was a drummer as a child, and a pretty fair marching band one at that. We don't need drummers, though, and he was advised to switch to alto sax. He is a senior in high school, after having taken lessons for three years, now, and a pretty good horn player. I have a pretty good musical aptitude and maybe I could be pretty fair in three years ( I once studied sax ) but I don't really believe that I have all that much time left. I need to be sitting-in in one!

    I'd better clarify something: I got sick in 1999 and I thought I was a goner. I slipped into clinical depression after, as a complication of my cancer, I developed late-onset epilepsy. I was a mess. I didn't want to listen to music, or watch movies (which had been a big hobby of mine) and just plain lost interest in everything. Well, after a couple years I had struggled out of the mire aided by medication (whose side-effects almost crippled me) and therapy.

    Rejoining the band (that I had belonged to many years earlier) made a vast improvement in my spirits. My family even bought me a beautiful, shiny new bass so I could sit-in on certain concerts and rehearsals. I'd never be able to march (yes...they strap-on double basses and march with them) in parades but I could play and reap all of the marvelous benefits one gets when one plays a score.

    In conclusion, the word I'm looking for is SHORTCUT to playing bass. I know it is discouraged, but I believe I deserve a dispensation.
  16. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA

    I'm certainly not going to snipe at you for taking shortcuts, we all do. I hope that you turn out to be wrong about your prognisis. We should all enjoy music and our lives for whatever time we have, which none of us can be too sure about.

    So, my point was going to be ... and I think it's still appropriate ... don't worry about if it's a B- Natural or a C-Flat, learn the fingerings and sound of the intervals and scale. From a reading standpoint I suspect that you'll see it different ways. I certainly do with jazz charts. There is some classical "correctness" to when you use one notation vs the other, but not everyone who prints music follows it.

    The best "shortcut" you can take is to learn your way around the instrument and associate intervals with fingerings with sound. Sing and play it back. I won't give you the teacher lecture, but I will suggust that learning scales on the double bass is largely about learning fingerings. So if you downloaded scales and they don't have fingerings with them, you're only 1/2 way there. A teacher could help you with that, but you could probably find a print source for them too.

    Feel the music, hear what you're playing and live in the moment. I do everytime I'm blessed with the opportunity to play with other people. I wish you many years of making the music you love.

  17. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    Thanx, Troy, for taking my point the way it was intended. I do see the need to be able to "hear" the pitch of a note by looking at its position on the fingerboard, before I play it. I fantasize being able to do that as I sit and listen to all of my recorded music.

    I already have an inherent sense of the notes that fit, from my thousands of hours of listening, but I need to be able to go to where those notes "live" on the instrument. I guess you call that "ear" training.

    I have gone to some sites and purchased little computer-games of applications designed to teach children to read music. I have some slight loss of concentration powers, due to my health history, but I can still memorize.

    I'll address health just one-last-time in case readers are puzzled: seizures erased my mid-term memory and my brain's ability to tranfer short-term data to my mid-term memory, so I don't remember anything from the last 40 or-so years. I have long-term (childhood) memories and short-term (up to about three months) recognition and I will remember things if I continually "renew" them as they reside in my short-term memory...in other words: if I keep practicing, I will retain all that I study. In OTHER-otherwords: If I don't read and reply and renew the act of writing this post, and do not revisit it for about three months, I could come back in a year-or-so and read it and would swear-on-a-stack-of-bibles that I did not write it...it's weird! But...it could be worse, and so I'll let it go at that.

    Let's move on to "tips" some of you skilled bassists might know that might help a guy like me. :help: :bassist:
  18. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Don't use the ring finger on your left hand. The spacing between the other 3 fingers are 1 note apart. Including the other finger will put you chronically between notes. There are people who can play that way, but I don't recommend it.

    Learn fingerings for scales, apreggios and melodies that you are learning. There are sources for this, a good teacher will save you a lot of time, but I'm sure there are print sources. I've noted that with less physical, fretted instruments, you can get away with fudging fingerings, but it's not a good idea on doublebass.

    Stand at about 45 degrees to the bass, not behind it, like it's a cello. A lot of people make this mistake when they start. Look at pictures of other bassists. The right rear shoulder of the bass should be on your left hip (around towards the front). Again, someone could show you this in a few minutes, but it's hard to describe. It will make all the difference in coaxing a sound out of your bass.

    Don't "clamp" down too much with your left hand to try to get a note. Keep your fingers arched and "pull" back towards the fingerboard with the weight of your arm. Your thumb can be on the back of the neck for stability and as a guide, but it shouldn't be doing much work. Imagine an egg or small ball cupped in your left hand with the fingers arching over it to reach the strings.

    As a rule or at least serious guideline, keep your right hand (or bow) near the bottom of the fingerboard or lower towards the bridge. Don't play it up higher like it was an electric bass, you won't get enough or the right sound this way. It helps to have the bass the right height, which as a guideline will put the nut at about your eyebrows (but there is some range).

    Relax, breath, stretch your hands before and after you practice or play. The double bass is a physical instrument and injuries are common, especially among people learning with perhaps not the best technique.

    Theory is good and helpful and necessary, but don't let it bog you down. C-Flat/B-Natural, I'd put that low on your list of things to worry about.

    Listen to the music you love. Sounds like you're ahead of the game for that.

    That's all I've got. I'm not the best person to ask, but those are the things that made a difference to me when I was getting started. Of course, we all just graduate to a whole other set of things that we haven't figured out yet. Mastery is an elusive goal for most people.

  19. Jaydublyew


    Jul 16, 2005
    Blackwood, NJ
    All good stuff, TK, thanx.

    I've got feelers-out for a teacher. The guys around the band would help, but I notice that they play a unique style with left hand: picture the bass hoisted-up and suspended with a large strap around your back. It prevents one from "fingering" as such. They play each note with a separate hand movement. Picture where your elbow would be if you held the bass this way and sort-of reached-up to grip the fingerboard. There is a lot of hand-movement as opposed to finger-movement. Some of the guys are pretty solid, though.

    I do not want to learn to play this way since I will play in the conventional stance, even seated, (my legs kill me) since I can't stand for too long. I guess an electric bass would have been ideal for me but I truly love, and have for all my life, "unplugged" stringed instruments. I love hearing the musician's fingers-on-his-left-hand moving from position to position on a recording. Amps have never interested me.

    I may buy an EUB though, so I can have one at home too. I saw a beauty on a website of a fella who lives not far from me. It was a magnificent looking "tool" that had a removable neck. I get a big kick out of fine engineering. I guess it's the German in me.

  20. Since there are no standard dimensions for basses or people, I don't believe in printed instructions as an absolute. The positioning and height of the bass are an accommodation of many variables and should be done with a teacher or experienced player present.
    As for where to pluck the strings, that's for the player to work out for himself by listening to the changes in tone quality, volume, and note articulation that occur in different places. It's his bass.
    Keep in mind that what the player hears from his vantage point is not the same as what's heard 10-20 feet away out front. Another reason to have another bassist involved.