Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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How to get “over the hump”

March 27, 2012

I haven’t posted for a few weeks, because I have been in a period of extreme concentration. The object of this focus? Why, my bass guitar of course!

Beginners to all instruments often talk about getting “over the hump”. This phrase generally refers to the period after the “honeymoon” of acquiring a new instrument ends, when making random noises soon becomes boring and it dawns that a great amount of effort is needed to progress to the next stage. The “hump” in this case, is the plateau, the learning curve that most of us face when learning a new skill.

My best advice for getting over the hump, progressing past the plateau, conquering the impasse, is to get professional tuition. This doesn’t have to be one on one private tuition – with the power of the internet, it is easy to get hold of quality video tutorials that are almost as good as a personal instructor, and cost a fraction of the price. Instruction is the only way to beat the hump, which is almost always symptomatic of the brain becoming bored of playing the same one or two (or 30) licks over and over again.

Now, what does all this have to do with my recent lack of blog postings, I hear you all cry. Well, I may have been playing bass guitar for over 25 years, but – and this may be a shock – I still hit humps in my playing every once in a while.

The difference with this musical rut for experienced musicians is, it tends to be much longer and deeper. It requires much more focus to negotiate through. With a newer player, learning a new riff or song is often enough to boost the motivation again. Experienced players are not so easily placated, and can play most riffs by ear anyway. No, a bass sage needs something much more substantial to take them to the next lesson.

I had hit a bad hump, so I decided to pick a “hole” in my bass playing repertoire and learn it – then master it. The technique that I selected, and now have down pat, is the Double Thumb Double Pop. If you want to try it for yourself, here is a good introduction:

 

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Self-Publish and Sell Your Music with PalDrop

February 18, 2012

I’m not usually one to plug and rant about commercial products on the web, but sometimes a tool comes along that makes you think “why has no one else done that before?” One utility that recently had this profound Eureka effect on me is PalDrop, an ingenious mechanism that adds a PayPal button to files and folders stored on Dropbox.

PalDrop - the Cloud Sales Tool

The web is changing. That golden, gluttonous era of using various types of P2P application to download anything and everything vaguely interesting are gone for all but the most foolhardy or technically savvy of users. Torrents, once hailed as the saviour of the peer-to-peer movement, are now too risky for users in most parts of the world. With lawyers in cahoots with one another and utilizing high-tech IP scanning software with integrated template mail-merging functionality that can demand up to a million dollars a year from unsuspecting bit torrent users (without the need to even hire a secretary), the act of downloading a torrent today is somewhat akin to breaking into a retail music store and leaving your wallet behind.

The future of one-click download services, also hailed as a revolutionary component in filesharing, also looks uncertain. Megaupload, along with its founder Kim Schutz, has crumbled, creating a precedent that has sent shockwaves around the net, resulting in many consumers going on a kind of forced digital diet consisting only of expensive downloads from Apple and Amazon à la carte menus. Buying content from these providers is much like visiting a local retail outlet – it is restricted to the local language, targeted at the local demographics and subject to local copyright and censorship laws. In short, these online stores are sanitised, generalised, “walled garden” views of the internet and the world. If you don’t fall into the target market, you won’t find anything that interests you enough to purchase it at the overblown prices. If you’re an expatriot that wants to buy content in your native language, you’re stuffed. As for selling your own goods on places such as Amazon and Apple – well, it can be done, but there are a lot of hoops to jump through beforehand. For many, it simply isn’t worth it – the system is protracted and at odds with what the internet was first heralded to deliver on.

Everywhere you look on the web today, there is mention of The Cloud and how it is (once again) revolutionizing the web and how we use it. More and more cloud services are springing up that are aimed at the individual, instead of businesses. Services such as Dropbox and Box offer generous free storage as part of the registration process. With mobilized clients for these services also available, users can access all their files at any time, even on the train. Files can be shared with other users, with just a few clicks. The free hosting space provided by cloud services such as Dropbox, if properly leveraged, makes it potentially an empty online store, as the publishing and sharing aspect is all handled capably. All that is needed is an integrated payment layer.

PayPal has long since provided anyone who wants to sell anything over the internet with an established mechanism for accepting payment via various methods. All the seller needed to worry about was advertising their services somehow, or signing up for a seller account on an auction account such as eBay.

What PalDrop does, cleverly, is to combine the payment gateway aspect of PayPal with the file publishing/sharing elements of Dropbox, using the open APIs of each. So anyone with a PayPal and Dropbox account can start charging access to their files and folders, with just a few clicks.

The potential for digital self-publishing here is what blew my mind. Musicians and writers have always struggled with traditional publishers in an effort to get their creations on to the market. When the internet was first popularized, many believed it would empower them to self-publish. It didn’t really happen, however – what happened instead was the digital retail world simply mirrored the real world – with large corporate bodies still calling the shots and dictating the same product at the same prices –  and an unfortunate by-product of this was the explosion in illegal file-sharing that began at the end of the nineties.

What PalDrop does is deliver the original promise of self-publishing to the seller by combining two well-established concepts – the cloud and the online payment gateway – to create a third platform. I am a writer and a musician, and for me the ideal situation is being able to sell my own art (in both the written and audible form), to whichever markets I choose, at the prices I see fit. I hope that this concept really takes off, as it provides real freedom to the artist – whether they are selling pictures, music files, eBooks or anything downloadable – to fully control every aspect of their online business.

For more information on PalDrop, the revolutionary “cloud sales tool” – go here.

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Tips On How To Play Bass Guitar

February 13, 2012

For those making their first steps with the beautiful instrument, I offer you these words of wisdom on how to play bass guitar. Take heed, learn, play, innovate… it is in your hands. Quite literally.

  • Getting a good grounding for the first few months is important, and one-to-one tuition from a professional is the best way to achieve this. If you know any accomplished bassists well, then perhaps you can get them to give you a few lessons. If not, you should bite the bullet and pay a bass tutor for lessons. Those first few steps are important, and you’ll come on leaps and bounds with a good teacher showing you the basics of bass scales, chord progressions, slapping techniques, rhthym, etc.
  • Another reason for getting tuition is so you can be taught what not to do, not just what you should be doing. Bad habits can easily set in when you don’t know any better, and these can be detrimental to your development as a bassist, and even damaging to your new guitar. Even things like restringing and tuning should be done properly and with lots of care.
  • Gather all the instructional material you can find – DVDs, blues backing tracks, guitar sheet music, online video tutorials and tablature. It’s all useful. Absorb as much of it as you can.
  • When practicing a long with a DVD or guitar tablature, keep your eyes on the learning material whenever possible. Feel the strings, don’t rely on your eyes. On stage, you might not be able to see your guitar clearly, and your audience will always appreciate it more if you don’t “shoe-gaze” during your performance.
  • Some bassists starting out make the mistake of practicing for very long sessions at a time. This can be a mistake. The bass guitar is a tough and physically demanding instrument to get used to, and newbies can easily strain their fingers, tendons and other body parts by overdoing it before they are ready. Practice frequently, but for short periods. Give your body a chance to recover.
  • Learning bass chord progressions and scales is an excellent way of improving your bass-playing dexterity and strength.

That’s it for now. Don’t forget the most important rule of all when learning bass, though – have fun.

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Ditching the Sheet Music

January 17, 2012

If there is one thing that can kill the motivation of a bass guitar learner, it is endless sheet music, notation, tabs and other learning resources. Sometimes it feels like there is more reading involved than actual playing, and if motivation is low in the first place, this can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Surely learning to play an instrument should involve more playing than anything else?

I agree with this somewhat broad assertion, however, there needs to be a strong theoretical grounding in music generally, and specifically as it applies to the bass guitar, beforehand. Otherwise, in my experience, bassists “hit the wall” far too soon, and end up losing interest or (possibly even worse) knocking out variations of the same generic bass chops for the rest of their careers.

To be able to really enjoy bass playing, and jam along to records or with other musicians, it is necessary to learn to play the bass guitar by ear. This grants the bassist freedom to just play, without peering down at endless sheets of paper – enjoy the sound of the music, and the fluid, creative possibilities of improvisation, instead of staring at rigid, unchanging quavers on paper. It is only when a musician learns to break away from the shackles of paperwork that he or she can think about playing with others, and perhaps doing so professionally.

Unfortunately, those early months of study are necessary. For some players, it may take less time before they are able to start recognising keys and playing along with records. Other players may need years to get to this stage. As with many things in life, it is a balancing act between hard work and pleasure.

There is an interesting article on learning to play bass guitar by ear here.

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Incredible bass-slapping technique

January 15, 2012

Through my usual weekend trawl of bass playing clips on YouTube, this caught my eye today. It’s a superb display of bass playing, using the “slap” effect:

Dal Farra’s virtuso playing (and I don’t use that phrase lightly) is truly marvellous. It is fluid and utilises a range of well-executed techniques, including slapping, bass chords, strumming, and pinched harmonics. In places, it almost looks like Dal Farra is playing a regular guitar, with his strumming attack style and use of barre chords.

Truly inspiring.

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Bass Legends – Phil Lynott

January 12, 2012

Phillip Lynott (20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986) wasn’t just a legendary bass player – he also fronted, and wrote most of the songs for, his band Thin Lizzy. His playing style, like his stage persona, was aggressive and underpinned with violence. With Lynott the violence wasn’t an act, however – he was renowned for being tough and street-wise, and these sensibilities filtered through to his songwriting and fuelled his feral vocals and staccato basslines.

Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy were a quinessential hard rock 70s outfit, and Lynott’s unique songwriting, vocals and bass style were a key factor in this. They were not afraid to poke fun at themselves on occasion, or take themselves too seriously, and the band’s onstage unpredictability served to make each show an exciting event, loaded with possibility and chaos. Lynott’s playing was never technically outstanding, but it was always exhillirating, anchoring the (often erratic) music produced by the band, and allowing guitarist Gary Moore to stretch out wildly. His tone was enviable for any bassist.

Lynott died of multiple organ failure brought on by drug misuse  in January 1986. Click here for one of their greatest moments captured on video.