Hello! Over the course of the spring break and time between my last blog post, I made a lot of progress on my In-Depth. I had a meeting with my mentor over spring break since we weren’t available to have one the weekend getting back to school. I’d say the skill I worked on the most over the break was song-playing. I had a lot of free time during the last week of the break and spent around thirty minutes every day playing around on the bass. There were a few little ways that I changed how I played as I practiced. For one, I changed the way I plucked the strings. Originally, I had been playing the strings with my thumb, which was an easier way to begin playing. As I watched more videos of others playing the bass, I noticed how instead of having their arm over the body and using their thumb to pluck the strings, they had their arm resting on top of the body and their hand hanging over the strings to pluck.
“‘Are you using your pick or your fingers?’ ‘Oh I’m just using my thumb.’ ‘Oh yeah that’s how I used to play using my thumb, and then I switched to using my fingers. But I actually like using the pick better.’”
When I experimented with this method, I found that it was much faster to pluck one string after the other (like how using multiple fingers to hold strings on the fretboard made it easier to switch between notes). One of the other new ‘skills’ that I worked on this break was the song playing. At first, during the meeting with my mentor, we started with the song Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles.
“‘You know that song that I asked you to listen to?’ ‘Yeah, that Harry Styles one?’ ‘You know that song right?’ ‘Yeah I remember it was on the radio a lot.’ ‘It’s a really easy song, it’s only four chords.’”
We talked about how this song was easy to play because it was the same 4 notes replaying throughout the song.
“‘So after every bar after every four beats, you change notes, so it’s (2,3,4)~ and then start again, that’s the whole song!”
After this meeting, I was excited at the fact that I was able to play songs, so I had looked up a few tutorials for the song on youtube. After watching a few bass tutorials for Watermelon Sugar, I was able to play a slightly more complicated version. (What I was practicing with my mentor was a much simpler version
“‘These are like the bass notes.’ ‘Like if you were to play the chords, they would be the bass notes?’ ‘Yeah we’re just going to be hitting the notes. He does a bunch of other fancy things but for now we’ll use it as our practice song.’”
) After learning the Harry Styles song, I was opened to the possibility of youtube bass tutorials! Later I tried a Phoebe Bridgers song (Motion Sickness) and a Lou Reed Song (Walk on the Wild Side). In the process of learning these songs on youtube, I had to learn how to read bass sheet music. While this might not seem interesting, I found it to be one of the coolest ‘discoveries’ I made during the project. Because I have the experience of being able to read piano sheet music, I was able to pick up bass sheet music pretty quickly. There were many small differences between the two, like numbers instead of note values and 4 (string) lines instead of 5 staff lines. These and many other smaller details made bass music so interesting to me. One other big part of learning any sheet music for an instrument means you can play any song if you have the music for it, which is super exciting to me. Other than all the sheet music and songs, I ‘ve also been working on my scales this week. I did more research on the other scales and have been practicing all the other normal exercises (semitone scales, arpeggios etc.)
This is a video that was taken during the last week of spring break when I learned how to play Watermelon Sugar on the bass. I hadn’t felt comfortable enough to play with my other fingers at the time, so I used my thumb to pick the strings instead.
How to Have a Beautiful Mind
This year for In-Depth, we’re using the book “How to Have a Beautiful Mind” by Edward De Bono to guide us through the project. The book talks about how to have a beautiful mind (as the title explains) and how to have beautiful conversation with others. Over the course of a few weeks, we’ll learn about the skills talked about in the book and apply them to our In-Depth project. This week we read chapters nine and ten.
In Chapter 9 of De Bono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind, he talks about concepts. Concepts is a word that I throw around a lot or use as a synonym for other words, but De Bono talks about it in a way where it holds a lot of importance. Concepts are described as ‘parent’ or big ideas to smaller more specific ones. For example, the books uses the example of a parking meter. The ‘concept’ of a parking meter is to gain money from the need of car parks, but the actual parking meter itself is a specific way that the concept is carried out. The big takeaway from this chapter was that as we learn a new skill, there will be many big concepts that will require you to navigate and figure out. For example, there were a lot of new concepts introduced to me as I learned the bass. Concepts like ‘getting a sound out of the strings’ and ‘getting many different (note) sounds out of bass’ were some of the beginning ideas that I was introduced to. Recently, the concepts that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around are ones such as ‘playing bass along with a song’, ‘getting the right sounds/sound effects out of the bass’ and ‘getting faster and more accurate when playing bass’.
In How to Have a Beautiful Mind Chapter 10, De Bono talks about what alternatives are and how important they are to learning/living. As the word suggests, alternatives are extra/optional choices or ways of doing tasks. They give you flexibility and room to do your own yet still getting you to the planned destination. One of the important parts to alternatives is that none of them will be the ‘best’ way perse. Most of the time, the ‘best’ way is determined on what kind of person you yourself are and not the alternatives themselves. My mindset going into this project was very much based on my knowledge of learning an instrument classically, mainly because it was one of the predominant ways I had ever learned and instrument. My mentor, having learned the bass by himself, offered the alternative of a much more free and flexible way of learning. For example, when learning scales, we didn’t look at the structure of the scales or specific notes in the scale, but instead we learned the sounds of the scale and how close to do re mi scale it would sound like. I found this way of learning to be much more refreshing and free because it didn’t have a set structure to how you learned. If I were to look back to the other options I had for mentors, I can somewhat predict the alternatives to learning they would’ve offered. One of my possible mentors was a teacher, and I think the alternative they would’ve offered would be somewhere in between a classical and freeform approach. I feel like that also would’ve been interesting to experience. It wouldn’t have strayed too far from my original approach, but given enough room for freedom still.
For my final project, I’m planning to do a prerecorded online concert of some sort. I plan to choose 2-4 songs that I want to play/preform and practice my way up to a point where I feel comfortable playing them. In that specific part of the project, I plan to focus more on the playing songs/finger picking aspect of my learning rather than the scales/arpeggio and more theory/practical based parts. I also was thinking about the interactive and learning part of my final project. I want to put the online concert in a presentation where I can show and teach some of the theory/practical parts of my learning. I hope that when people see my presentation, they can see the different ways in which you can learn an instrument and what parts of learning an instrument can be exciting and worthwhile.
This week, I didn’t include as many quotes because most of the topics discussed in this post were about personal learning that quotes from a call wouldn’t back up/support.