Thursday, 8 December 2011

TMBG - Lesson 2: A Student's Perspective

Roy starts off Lesson 2 by having the student do some warm-ups from Lesson 1. This puts you in the mind of where you left off and gives you a chance to relax and get your fingers going. When you start a new lesson by diving head first into new material, it might feel daunting to a newbie, so the fact that you get to touch familiar ground - ground on which you have (hopefully) tread with confidence for a while already - you face the new lesson from a zone of comfort. But the warm-up still keeps you thinking because Roy doesn’t call out the note names this time…I think we should know these anyway by Lesson 2. What the student learns here is the importance of limbering up with some basic moves before heading into the guts of the lesson.

After the warm-up, Roy goes into Time Signatures. Nothing too heavy here - just the 4/4 signature. Roy explains the meaning of the signature’s numbers, and then demonstrates how the notes that we play will fit into that signature, based on what we see in our sheet music. Learning to play in time is important for beginner musicians, especially for bassists and drummers, since they will be “holding down the fort” when it comes to driving the song along.

As the student goes through these steps, the excitement builds as you find yourself hearing that great bass beat you want to be playing in your own music! Boom, boom, boom, boom! It’s a feeling. It’s a heartbeat. It’s 4/4 time with quarter notes. This is where the new student is going to start making connections between the thunder and the discipline/structure that lies within. And Roy’s “open string” practice of whole, half and quarter notes has the new student smiling, bobbing his head, in the groove. The new bassist begins to emerge!

After Time Signatures - and hopefully plenty of practice with the available loops - Roy takes us to Key Signatures. This is the part where the student will merge his new understanding of beats and counts with the business of actually choosing the notes to be played. In other words, SCALES. Roy goes through examples of different keys and some light bulbs should be starting to go off in the students' heads as we start to recognise patterns (moveable shapes) on the fretboard.

The other thing we begin to work into our thought process is the Time Signature info from earlier in the lesson. I am playing a C Major scale…but is it whole notes, half, or quarter? Roy takes us through all three of these, and by the time we’re playing quarter note scales, things are really moving along.

It’s important to go very slowly until you are comfortable with moving your fingers and closing frets with clean, non-buzzing skill. Never rush through these practice scales. Use the loops and take your time. I know, I know, it’s tempting to pick up the pace once you can play different key signatures, but keep your eye on the prize - it’s about getting GOOD before getting FAST.

As Roy moves from scales to TRIADS, the lesson broadens out and the student realises this is a real brainful of new material to work on. In fact, you’ve been playing for about half an hour now, and might want to take a break. Whew!

Once you’ve taken your break, Roy is ready to continue. That’s another great thing about TMBG - Roy is ready to teach each and every time you are ready to learn! Pick up your bass, turn on the disc, and there’s Roy, refreshed and ready to guide you on your path!

The bulk of the TRIADS section is practicing I IV V progressions. Spend some time with the loops on this one.

Once you have mastered the triads…you’re done, right? Wrong! Then comes the tutorial for the Keep It Simple Blues practice song. It’s a very basic number that demonstrates the most common pattern in Blues music. Now we’re cookin’ with gas! There are more loops here, too, so you can drill on this until it feels comfortable. TMBG is all about learning at your own pace, and with Lesson 2 being so much more involved than Lesson 1, you’re gonna be glad for the self-paced aspect!

And what’s the reward? What’s the payoff? You get to play your new song with the TMBG band! Get on your feet and play along with Roy and the boys. Tap your feet, bob your head, and lay down the thunder. There are two loops - one to play slowly and the other to pick up the pace. And when you’re ready, Roy will step off stage and let YOU take the lead. Are you ready?

The next tutorial is for A New Key to Jamming. You get to switch up a whole step and run the same tune as Keep It Simple Blues, but with a new set of finger movements to test how well you remember the keys from the earlier part of the lesson. And then it’s back on stage for another gig with the TMBG band.

Lesson 2 is a heavy-duty workout for a beginner. I spent more than a month on this lesson before I was comfortable enough to move on. But it’s after this lesson that a beginner will know if he’s ready to get with the program and head in to deeper waters.

And I’ll tell you something else…when you take what you’ve learned here and apply it to a couple of simple mp3 songs you've been dying to try, the big grin that spreads across your face when thunder comes from your own hands will let you know…you ARE a bass player!

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