Breaking Strings

So yeah, that new bass I bought.  As I said, I went with a cheap one from Amazon.  As I also said, I have a somewhat musical background.  I opened the box, it was already strung, I just needed to tune it and play.  Luckily, a) there are a billion videos/sound clips out there that come with the notes to tune a guitar and b) I knew how to tune a guitar from when I was a kid.  So I tuned it and I played.  (Interesting side note, I found that I could tune it better if I sang the note and played the string rather than just listening to the note and comparing it to the string.  Weird, huh?)

However, something sounded a bit off and being the techie that I am, I thought it would be cool to get one of those tuning apps that uses the mic to hear what you’re playing and tell you (with SCIENCE!) whether it needed to be higher or lower.  Except, something was off.  It kept saying it was too low, so I kept tuning the string higher, higher, high- TWANG.  String broke.  Well, crap.  Looking on the bright side, I certainly felt more badass having broken my first string.

Back to Amazon I went and noticed strings varied from about $18 to $38.  Again, I had to wonder if more expensive was better or not?  But I also realized on my cheap bass, I probably had the cheapest and worst strings ever and probably anything I ordered would be an improvement.  I perused reviews and decided on these.  Sadly, I had to wait two whole days (but once again avoided interacting with humans!).  The string arrived and I had another first, re-stringing a bass guitar.  Pretty simple thing to do, but I can totally see how one of those windy tool things would be helpful.  Retuned it and HOLY CRAP WHAT A DIFFERENCE.  I can’t even imagine what those $38 strings must be like, the bass will probably make me dinner or something.  But for now, these $18 strings seem soooooo great over the cheapies that came with the bass.

I’ve now broken a string, re-stringed a guitar, and looked down upon crappy strings.  I think I’m well on my way to rock star status.

Finding a Book

As I said in my previous posts, I’ve decided to learn to play the bass.  With my background, I want to learn it “right”.  Meaning I want to actually learn how to play the bass, not just learn songs.  While it seems everyone learns everything these days by watching some Youtube videos, I can’t learn from videos.  My brain just works better when I read.  Also, I really want to learn to play bass, not just learn some songs.  I want to learn the notes and proper fingering and all the things it seems you don’t get in a Youtube video.  So I needed a book.  Once again, I turned to Amazon.  I ordered the Hal Leonard Bass Method “Complete Edition”, which is books 1, 2, and 3.  It’s a spiral bound book, which is a small detail, but lays open nicely while trying to read it and play the bass.

It’s exactly what I wanted.  It’s got all the basics, starting you out with open string notes, and then adding a few notes at a time.  Short “songs” to practice the notes you just learned.  It may be a bit boring, but I’m actually learning the notes and proper fingering.

Amusingly, the book came with CDs.  It struck me that I have no place to play them, other than my car.

In order to maintain my initial excitement, however, I did look up “easy bass guitar songs” and have learned the main riffs to Seven Nation Army* and Smoke on the Water.  Incidentally, learning a song from tabs goes against my every instinct in “properly” learning an instrument, but I can see how it’s tempting since it’s so fast to learn.

* While playing the “interim” bit between the  endlessly repetitive, but ever so catchy bit of Seven Nation Army, my 9-year-old son asked if I was playing Hot Cross Buns.  Sigh.  Everyone’s a critic.

Running Notes of a Different Kind – Part 3

As is my usual way, I went about selecting a bass all the wrong way.  (Spoiler alert: it turns out ok).

I’m sure anyone who actually plays bass (and all of the internet) will tell you to go to a reputable music store, preferably a non-chain store.  Well that’s all well and good, but I don’t really like people or interacting with them and there’s this awesome thing called Amazon which means with the click of a button I could have a bass delivered to my house within two days. Oh yeah, and it would be LEFT-HANDED. So I think you know what I chose.

The next decision was which one?  Of course, I could go cheap because I’m a beginner and who knows I could drop this thing like a bad habit in a couple of weeks, why spend a ton of money?  On the other hand, people will tell you to spend some money on a good instrument because it will be easier to learn to play.  Again, I probably made the decision that people will tell you not to do, I bought a cheap one.  Now it was on Amazon, so I made sure it was a well-rated bass, but I didn’t spend a lot.  I’m not some afficionado with a critical ear to how it will sound.  If I stick with it, maybe someday I can buy a more expensive instrument.  For now, I went with this.

It arrived two days later, much to my delight.  Now I just gotta learn how to play this thing…

Running Notes of a Different Kind – Part 2

Right, so we last left you on a heck of a cliffhanger, just how did she decide on the bass?

Well, I didn’t right away.  I liked the flute, but it’s REALLY hard to sing along when you play.  And since I like to sing, I kind of wanted to learn something I could sing with.  Ideally, I’d learn to play the piano.  I found a great app to help me learn piano, SimplyPiano.   It was featured in a Lifehacker article.  I like the app, with a mix of traditional songs and simplified pop songs.  It takes me back to basics and is somewhat “gamified” to keep me interested.  But, the piano is in the basement.  The basement isn’t heated.  Therefore it’s really hard to get motivated to go downstairs when it’s super cold.  Additionally, my kids like to sleep in the room where the piano is on weekends, so that was cutting into my practice time.  Plus, I just find piano really f-ing hard.  My brain doesn’t like to do two completely different things with my right and left hands, especially in different rhythms.

Guitar would be great.  But in my one act of girlishness, I just refuse to cut my fingernails.  Plus the guitar we have is right-handed and I’m left-handed.

So.  I’ve always thought bass players had a certain coolness about them.  And chick bass players?  FORGET ABOUT IT, they’re the coolest.  And you know, as a 42-year-old suburban mother of two, I’m just oozing with cool.  (Maybe I’ll start a band and name it “mom jeans”).  A couple of weekends ago I saw a band play and we were joking about band members and their personalities and anyway, I just wanted to play bass.  So that’s how I decided I wanted to play bass.  Very scientific reasoning, eh?

Running Notes of a Different Kind – Part 1

So I’m learning to play bass.  And yes, I’m probably gonna post about it like I’m the only person on earth ever to have done so.  If you play, hopefully you’ll find me endearing.  If you don’t play, maybe you’ll want to or you’ll learn something as I learn.  Or maybe you’ll just ignore these posts altogether.  As I do for my technical posts, I’m posting more for me to remember than for anything else anyway.

The background: I’ve always been around music.  As a young kid, I learned to play the flute and the koto.  (Here’s a link if you’ve never heard of it, new friends always asked if we had a weird narrow coffin in the house).  I also had a guitar, but I kind of sucked at it.  I’ve always had long fingernails and was never willing to cut them in order to press on the strings correctly, so I never progressed much beyond conceptually knowing how it worked, and how to tune it.  As an older kid, I got into musicals and singing.  I took voice lessons and had a crappy keyboard (I was good at the former and terrible at the latter).  In college, I actually got a degree in music, which consisted mostly of singing, some music theory, and some forced piano lessons (again, good at singing and theory, terrible at piano).  It also included dancing and acting, but those aren’t relevant to this post.  Anywho, all of that to say, I can read music (although I’m much better at treble clef than bass clef) and I get how a lot of musical instruments work even if I never even came close to mastering any.

Present day: I have two kids.  They’re in school and band is a thing.  So my daughter started off with flute and moved to the sax.  My son started with sax and moved to clarinet.  A family member purchased a really nice electric piano, but didn’t want it anymore.  So in my house I currently have two flutes, a piano, a sax, a clarinet, a set of drums, and a guitar.

Inspired by my kids, I wanted to pick up an instrument again.  In Part 2, I’ll bore you with how I chose the bass.

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