IIB: Music Theory for the Bass – Lesson’s 3 & 4

Sorry for the delay on my reviews of the IIB Music Theory for the Bass Course.  It seems my life has gotten very busy as of late, guess it’s just that time of year.  Even with the delay in the course I am finding that it is too much for me to keep up with on a weekly basis.  I have decided not to rush things as that this is something I truly want to learn and get the most out of.  As such, it is going to take me more than one week to work through each lesson.  My plan now is to continue working at my own pace, while posting a quick review of each lesson as it comes.  In this way I can give you readers an idea of what each lesson holds, even though I may not yet be on that lesson.  If time permits I may post quick updates as to my status in the course as well as my insights.

Lesson 3 of Music Theory for the Bass is centered around Seventh Chords and how to use them to construct bass lines and solos over specific chord types.  Next we look at Chord Sequences and how they are used in music composition and improvisation.  There are only a limited number of Seventh Chords and Chord Sequences which we are instructed to break down and work on one a day until we have them all down.  From here we look at how seventh chords can be arranged into a variety of 4-note cells which are referred to as Chord Cells.  We then look at the different Chord Symbols to learn how to recognize the various ways Chords are written in music notation.  This leads us to a discussion on notation that is used specifically for bassists, such as the marking and symbols for slapping, tapping, bowing, etc.  Next we continue our note studies looking at the notes from the open strings to the 5th frets working through several choruses of the 12-bar blues to help us with note recognition.  Lesson 3’s Rhythm Studies have us working with Half, Quarter & Eight Notes, initially without our bass as that we are mainly focusing on the rhythmic recognition as opposed to note recognition.  We wrap things up with some Ear Training applying our 3-step exercise to seventh chords.  Lesson 3 also includes a set of MP3’s of Seventh Chord which we can use to play over and practice the seventh chords across the entire span of the fretboard.

Lesson 4 introduces us to the Modes in the Major Scale with a reminder that scales are the fundamental building blocks of music.  We are then presented with a collection of Scalar Exercises to help us internalize the sounds of scales as well as expand our fretboard familiarity.  Next we look at Scale Cells and how to utilize scale fragments.  On the notation side of things we talk about different Key Signatures and how to identify them.  For note studies we are presented with a collection of basic rock lines to aid us in recognizing notes on the fingerboard and staff.  Eighth Note Triplets are what is on tap for our Rhythmic Study exercises in this lesson, once again starting out without our bass to truly focus on just the rhythm.  As always, we finish up with a bit ear training focusing on the Modes of the Major scale by applying our 3-step process we learned in Lesson 1.  Lesson 4 almost seems a little shorter in content than the previous lessons, but believe me, there is a lot of information to absorb here.

Some of this stuff is still a bit over my head, but as I continue to work through the lesson’s it is beginning to make more and more sense to me.  This 12 week course may take me much longer than the 12 weeks to get through, but I am confident that once I do, my musical knowledge, and my bass playing, will be at a whole new level.

IIB: Music Theory for the Bass – Lesson 2

You ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do what you want to do?  I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately.  First let me say that I am really enjoying the International Institute of Bassists Music Theory Course, but I was totally unprepared for the amount of time, and work, that I would need to put into it.  Cliff Engel provides a wealth of information, in an easy to understand format.  I look forward to each new lesson and go to bed at night with theory concepts running through my head.  My main area of difficulty is finding the time to read through it all, work through the exercises on my bass, and keep up with my lessons in Teach Me Bass Guitar.  Okay, enough of my whining, on to Lesson 2.

Lesson 2 of Music Theory for the Bass introduces us to Triads.  What they are, how they’re used, triad sequences, and triad cells.  Coming into this I was familiar with the term, Triads, and had a basic understanding of what they were, but wow!  I had no idea what sequences or cells were, or how important triad are in music.  Definitely an eye opener for me.  I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the entire concept, but I’m getting there.  Additionally,  Signs and Terms are covered in lesson 2, which turn out to be very important when sight reading.  Next up is note studies on the fretboard between the open and 3rd frets.  Here we start to break down the task of learning the notes on the fretboard a little at a time.  This is followed by working through a series of rhythm studies and ends with a bit of ear training with triads.  A lot of information for one lesson to say the least.  I’m starting to get how the flow of this course is working, but need to devote more time to it if I want to succeed.

On a sad note, tonight I received an email from Cliff informing us students that he would have to delay Lesson 3 for a week or two as that his Father has past away.  Having lost my Dad this past August, I know, first hand, the emotional impact this causes.  My heart goes out to Cliff and his family in this very difficult time.

IIB: Music Theory for the Bass – Lesson 1

This past week I started the Music Theory Course on the International Institute of Bassists website.  At some point on Sunday evening I received an email letting me know that I could log-in to the course and download this weeks material.  After navigating to the site and clicking on the link to Lesson 1, I found a number of PDF’s to download.  I quickly downloaded all there was and then opened the first one, which was an introduction to the course letting me know how things are going to work and what to expect.  Also included was “A Guide To Practicing”, which gives tips on, you guessed it, how to get the most out of your practice sessions.  Some very useful information here to say the least.  Lesson 1 covers the basics such as, Notes on the Fretboard, Notation, Note & Rest Values, as well as Intervals, and Relative Pitch Ear Training.

When I first started reading through the material I must admit, I felt a bit overwhelmed.  There is a lot of information here, and this is just the first lesson!  Once I had a chance to read through the material and absorb it a little more I realized that I know most of this stuff already.  I have attempted to read music several times, so I know the basics, which is what lesson 1 presents.  I quickly discovered that intervals are probably my weakest spot here so I will need to spend a little extra time on this area.  Finding the time to work on my theory lessons as well as continue working on Teach Me Bass Guitar is going to be a challenge.  Most of my time this past week was eaten up with this theory course.  I tried to fool myself into thinking that as this is the first week of the course it is necessary, but I now realize that this course is only going to get more difficult for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for the challenge, plus the course is only 12 weeks, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Who needs sleep anyway!

As always, I’ll keep you posted as to my progress, so you can expect weekly posts from me on this subject going forward.  Thanks for reading.