Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Don't Understand Animated GIFs...but

Duh...I'm sure I've seen this video before.

I'm forever surprised about the new things I notice after thinking I know everything there is to know about these songs. Admittedly I noticed her singing on the 2nd chorus months ago. But why did it take that long to notice? Maybe I noticed long ago and just couldn't pull it off with the moving line. Funny to think that this bass line once seemed really hard. I feel like I'm in fast forward with the bass these days.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ska Progress

So just checking in here because I think I tend to underplay the importance of accomplishments like this.

Tonight is the first ska rehearsal. I have no idea how it will go or where it will lead.

BUT prior to that first rehearsal I want to reflect on where I've been and how far I've come in a very short time period.

Late April: I get asked to play bass in an originals band
May-ish: Start playing and writing parts in that band
Early July: I have my first bass lesson, starting sort of on a whim. Start thinking about scales and playing in boxes.
Mid July: I get asked to play bass in a ska band
July/August-ish: Uncover or write ska bass lines for about 7 or 8 songs
August 18th: Sit down and try to play ska bass lines for 3 of those songs and feel like there's no way that I will ever be able to play that fast.
August 24th: totally have the parts in hand up to tempo
August 27th: First ska rehearsal

So let's say...that in about a months time I have become a ska bass player...with about a 3 month prep time of things falling into place to maybe make that possible. More than anything, I am amazed with my progress over the last week. It feels like many, many years of progress condensed into a week. I worked hard, yes, but I didn't work as hard as I could have. So that's pretty cool.

I am, of course, mildly terrified. The next song to learn! How long will I have to learn it?!? Will I be able to figure out the line?!? Hey gang, let's transcribe to another key for shits and giggles cause we're all pro musicians who can turn on a dime! Aaaaaaahhhhh! The house of cards falls to the ground. I'll just be over here curled up in a fetal position.

I must remind myself that no one else knows I'm faking it. They actually think I can play. Never let them see you sweat.  Just swallow the anxiety...shut your mouth...and go work it out. You can probably master anything in a week's time. Really you can. Too hard for a week? Ok...two weeks. Really. Shut up. Do it.

And then pause to feel good about doing it instead of feeling bad that you haven't mastered the next thing yet.

Ya putz.

UPDATE AFTER 1ST REHEARSAL: All went very well. Felt proud of myself for first time in a long time. And also, learned you can slap a capo on a bass in a pinch. Who knew?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scott's Bass Lessons

Happened across this website today. Pretty extensive and 100% free.

Ska Bass Players

Joe Gittleman is the bass player for Mighty Mighty Bosstones and has been since the start.  Joe plays a 1973 Fender jazz bass with Bartolini pickups and GHS strings.

Kelly LeMieux is the bass player for Goldfinger. He also used to be in Fear (). He plays a Gibson Thunderbird...but I've seen videos of him playing a 4 string Ernie Ball.

Pete McCullough (2006-present) and Josh Ansley (2003-2004) and Chris Paszik (2004-2006) have been the bass players for Streetlight Manifesto. Ansley played on Everything Goes Numb (and also played for Catch 22. He played a fretless bass when he started but later for Streetlight Manifesto he played a five-string bass.) and Paszik played on Keasby Nights. Paszik plays a Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 (a 5 string).


I've been slowly upgrading my cymbals for years now. At some point I decided that I liked the way Sabian AA's sounded...and so I've been looking to pick those up cheap. I think I've completed the set for the most part.  Last weekend I bought an AA medium thin 16" crash.

So now my best cymbals look like this:
-Zildijian 13" New Beat Hi Hats (bought used for $185)
-Sabian AA 16" Medium Thin Crash (bought new on sale for $139...had $30 in gift certificates)
-Sabian AA 17" Medium Crash (bought used for like $80)
-Sabian AA 18" Medium Thin Crash (bought new on sale for like $119...had $20 in gift certificates)
-Sabian AA El Sabor 18" Ride (bought used for like $60)

-Wuhan 12" Splash (bought new at conference for like $25)

I'm gonna take the 17" out of the performance lineup and use it as a backup along with my 16" Paiste Color Sound Crash and my 10" Sabian HH Splash and my 18" Paiste 302 Ride and my Zildijian Scimitar Hi Hats. The HH is a nicer cymbal than the Wuhan, but I really like the sound of a larger splash.

So essentially I now have two full sets of cymbals. I also have a set of brass cymbals that I probably should donate to GRC but I just can't bring myself to part with them yet. And I have a couple of cheap Zildjian crashes that are cracked that I use at TD rehearsals and that are probably ready for the trash.

In theory, I should not need to ever buy cymbals again unless one breaks. However, I would like to get a different ride. I'm not sure what I want out of  a ride cymbal though.

Ska Progress

It's been a crazy few weeks and so I'd gotten away from practicing bass. I put my nose to the grindstone this weekend though. I discovered two things much to my dismay:

1. 195 bpm is really, really fast for playing moving 8th notes, or even moving quarter notes
2. My carpel tunnel is back and really bad.

I think that either playing hand drums or moving lots of shit aggravated my carpal tunnel...and the fast basslines really are a strain. I'm stretching my pinky alot and also probably holding on with a death grip sometimes inadvertantly. I'm trying sitting down (no strap pressure on shoulder), icing, ibuprofen, and massive doses of B-complex. And also playing less than I'd like.

I can play one of the three songs for next Monday at full speed. The other two are closer to 90%...or even 85%. There's just no getting around that they are fast and there are shifts. I finally understand why you would want a 5 string shifting down to catch the G and F#. Brilliant. Of course, a 5 string bass has a thicker neck too...which probably slows you down.

I think part of what is messing me up and slowing me down is that the parts for these three songs are REALLY similiar. Same notes played in different orders. So I think the muscle memory is getting confused about which song I'm playing. I get way better after playing a tune a couple of times.

I've been starting slow playing with the 60%...and trying to work up to 90-100%. Also using the metronome to work short sections. It's weird that I've never really used a metronome before.

Anyway, it is getting better and I'm sure that I'm getting better...but it is hard work. And every single song is gonna be hard work.

This whole thing reminds me a bunch of learning the harder Blondie songs. Including the whole, "my body failing me" thing. Not just failing to play the part right, but literally going numb. In the end, with Blondie, I had to accept that there were some things that I just could not force my body to learn in the amount of time available. I had to do some cheats. Otherwise I was just going to permanently hurt myself. And maybe it'll come to that now. It is good to have been here before at least and to know that I have options when push comes to shove.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Repairing Snare Drums and Cymbal Stands Part Two

I took apart the two snare drums last night. The Ludwig was an easy switch out with the new throwoff/strainer. I didn't have a new throwoff/strainer for the TJ Percussion (buy one mid-day today).

I took a good long look at both broken parts. The Ludwig I'm really not sure why it didn't work. Maybe a pivot point frozen. It seemed like it should work. The TJ had a rivet that had sheered off. I kept thinking I could fix it, but I couldn't.

I was surprised that there are no springs inside these things. They basically amount to a two stage pulley with rivits at both pivot points. Lever goes down and pushes thing that holds the snare wires down (loose)...lever goes up and pushes the thing that holds snare wires up (tight). The big screw adjusts where your starting point is...tighter means you start higher, looser means you start lower.

The thing is...there's kind of a huge amount of pressure on the system. I'm shocked these don't break ALL THE TIME. Maybe the cheap ones do. Maybe that's why you guy a $60 one instead of a $20 one.

I also went to the hardware store in search of cheap wing-nuts and wing-bolts. Determined that 6mm and 8mm drum hardware is just takes 6mm or 8mm nuts/bolts. But there are other parts of stands that tend to be smaller...and I don't know what size. I assumed they were still metric (which might be wrong) and guessed 4mm (though I picked up some 5mm parts too). I had trouble finding wing-bolts at Ace. I got bolts instead that had these big heads with grippy stuff on them and an allen wrench hole in top. The wing-nuts were easy to find. Not as fancy as an actual drum wing-nut, but good none the less. The prices were steeper than I'd thought...because $0.55 and $1.80 per piece depending on the size. But at the music store two 8mm wing-nuts can cost $ $3.60 is still a savings. Not as big as I'd hoped, but a savings. I think that in some cases you can get a better deal at the music store...I'll just have to keep an eye out.

I ended up spending like $40 ($27 at the hardware store and the rest at the drum store) on parts. It'll end up saving two stands that were un-useable and sprucing up a handful more. I also have a goal to get cymbal sleeves on all of the stands. Stands without sleeves will cause the cymbals to keyhole and not last as long. It is an investment in protecting our cymbal stock.  I paid $5 for a packet of 6mm sleeves without bottoms.  I also wonder if I could buy bulk plastic tubing at hardware store and cut my own sleeves. That'll be a future project.

I used the short Ludwig cymbal sleeves with the bottoms and 2 thin felts on the stands with no "tops". Worked great. I'll add the wing-nuts I acquired today and should work great. I wish I knew what parts were in the storage shed and what parts I needed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Repairing Snare Drums, Etc

So I volunteered to take care of the gear for GRC.  We have about 1,000 pieces of gear. I'm not kidding. About 800 or so of those are things like cables, stands, etc. The rest are larger, basses, amps, pas, drumkits, cymbals.

Most of the stuff is in ok shape. Beginners instruments, but decent. I have some goals, like changing the strings on every guitar and checking the setup. That takes time. I'd also love to put a new set of batter and resonant heads on all ten drum kits...but that costs some bucks. So I'm triaging for now.

I note all this here because I'm learning some stuff. My first repair project is to install new snare throw-offs on two of the snare drums.  And this is where you learn that the spacing for the mounts is important. So far it seems like standard spacing is about 2.5 inches...but some are more like 1.5 inches. And there's probably everything in between. And there's the can buy anything you want online but can't really look at it and see if it is the right have coupons for brick and mortar stores but they don't carry every weird size thing that you might need.

With cheaper student instruments...things are built cheaply...and not always a standard size.  Another thing I'm taking on is getting proper cymbal sleeves and wing nuts on the cymbal stands. And, well, crappy drum stands don't always match up to the 6mm or 8mm standards. They get them as thin as possible. I may just go to a hardware store and see what I can rig up.

It's like the old 7/8", 3/4", 1" tom mount tube standards...which break down when you kit is none of those. So there are some challenges ahead in maintaining a fleet of el cheapo instruments for sure.

I'm also thinking about going to the SWAP and buying like a dozen power cords for amps. They are the same kind that computers use and I bet they are like a dollar each at SWAP.


Not strictly music...but related.  I taught a screenprinting class and I learned a ton. I wrote all that I learned down here...cause that's what I do (also linked at the left there now too). The photos of the results of the class that I taught are posted here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ska Progress

The ska bass stuff has been pretty challenging. I was sort of discouraged for awhile. But like everything really just takes dedication.

There are 8 songs on the list to learn. It is a lot for only 3 weeks of time. I have to figure out the part and then learn to play it. I'm pretty clear on the part for maybe 4 of them (though still mastering), have a start on two more, and a couple I haven't really touched. This stuff is fast...and very scale based. If I knew my scales better and had lots of scale practice under my would be easy. But I'm kind of starting from scratch.

The Transcribe software has been amazing. It has greatly helped with figuring out the parts, but also been a great way to master then with the speed slow down. I like it better than the Amazing Slow Downer interface because you get the wave you can precisely pin point where you're at...and you can loop. Maybe the paid version of Slow Downer does that too, I don't know. But it helps.

Much to my surprise...if I work hard for 30 minutes or so each day...the parts start to fall under my fingers. Faster and faster each day. It is work for sure, but work that is attainable. Terrifying work...but a little amazing too.

A side bonus to the software is being able to go back and check my Pixies tab. Songs like Letter to Memphis or Mr Grieves that I long ago gave up learning the real part and wrote my own...I can now check and revise. In the case of Letter...I like my part better...but I might change Grieves. There are a couple of others too that I should Lovely Day. is pretty awesome to be able to play just KiD's bass part and be certain what I'm hearing. Maybe in the pre-mp3 days everyone had such a clear shot at the low end. We live in an age of wonder, but we've lost some things too for sure.

I doubt that I'll ever REALLY feel confident about anything musical...but if I play this ska stuff for a year or more I will be in a totally different place in terms of speed and understanding scales and intervals. I hope that happens. I don't remember where my head was on day one with the Pixies. I remember Nimrod's Son coming to me out of thin air and thinking "yeah I can probably do this"...but I'm sure that I never could have imagined having 65 songs figured out, mastered, and memorized...with another 24 tabbed out and just waiting to be memorized. Looking back now it seems like it was easy and I discount it all. But there were so many, many hours spent. And now over two and a half years have passed. I've gone from "kinda maybe wanting to pick up the bass again" to feeling confident that I can reproduce note for note all of the parts of one of the most iconic female bass players in history. I probably shouldn't discount that so quickly. In three years I could feel totally confident playing any ska song you could throw at me...and then what? The mind boggles.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I mentioned Transcribe in my posting about my last bass lesson. I went looking for it. You can download a trial version here and buying the software outright is only $39. There are free products that are Transposer. Though I'm not sure it is worth skirting the issue if the real deal costs only $39. I'm also not sure that the free imposters do what I think is the best part...the whole guessing at pitch thing. That's cool as hell.