Why Students Really Quit Their Instruments

Here’s a great article for parents and music teachers alike.

Why Students Really Quit Their Instruments and How Parents Can Prevent It

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An Experiment – 2

I been using these copper-infused compression gloves now since May 29th. I’ve also done some  reading and research but there is little to be found. I found some comments from from former users and current users.

My first response is that they are comfortable. I’m glove generally except in winter. They do warm your hands up pretty well – I believe that is most the compression itself. I have had less nagging pain than before but some new pain points have started. I’m going to stick with them for a couple more weeks and see how it goes.

Still not sure if they are snake oil or not………

0528150819a

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An Experiment

I’m not one who looks at every alternative “medical” thing that comes along, at least now (I did when I was much younger). But in the last 7-8 years I have been having some pain when playing bass. It used to be very sporadic – months to years apart, but now it can be frequent. I have been searching for something to help out.

I ran across something in Target over the weekend. They are copper infused compression gloves with the fingertips cut off. I won’t mention any brand names but there are a few out there.

0528150819a

When I first tried them on, they were comfortable and I wore them for a couple of hours straight. I tried to play bass with them on but that didn’t work too well. I’ve been wearing them now before practice/rehearsal/performance time and then afterwards.

I’m going to keep a journal of sorts here on this blog as to the efficacy (if any) of these gloves. I’m turning 59 in a couple of months and I don’t plan to quit playing bass anytime soon. We will see if the gloves help……………………………..or it’s just snake oil.

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Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding – Footprints

Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding – Wow! Set back and relax and soak it in!

 

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Why Summer is a Great Time for Lessons

There are quite a few reasons for taking lessons in the summer, none the least of which is the fact that the weather is better. Having taught students with a wide variety of ages for a few decades now, it seems that most school-age kids tend to take the summer off from lessons. But there is a different way to look at it.

Granted, most school-age people that I teach are playing in a school orchestra, band or jazz band. In this situation, most have music that they need help with in their school ensembles. This is in addition to the already crowded schedules that most of them have. During the summer, their schedule thins out considerably. Although it is a “resting” time for most, the ones who are truly interested would love to have that time for lessons and practice without the pressure of the day-to-day class schedule.

The adults I teach generally do want some vacation time in the summer, especially for families. And so do I. But the schedule is less crowded, making more suitable times available for lessons.

So consider taking lessons in the summer – for yourself or your kids. To sweeten the idea, I’m having a first lesson free for all lessons, in-studio, Skype, etc. Just sign up for 4 lessons and the first one is free – in other words, 4 for the price of 3. See prices and further lesson information at this link. The fastest way to get in touch with me is email – dwightmabe@gmail.com.

Looking forward to seeing some of you this summer!

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The Importance of Warming Up

I went for a number years with little or no warm-up before practicing or playing a gig. It never seemed really necessary. Playing a lot of gigs for over a decade was a big help in keeping me thinking that way and I learned a lot from a bass teacher who was familiar with physiology.

But as the years went by, some pain began to creep in from time to time. It usually passed quickly but became a bit more frequent. This made me realize that I had to get back to warming-up or risk not being able to play as well or as often.

Serious as that sounds, the reasons for warming up are very simple. The movements in playing bass guitar are relatively small and with a well setup instrument, they shouldn’t painful.

In my case, I’ve come to the realization that it boils down to circulation. Keep this factor in mind – for the hands to function well when playing, there needs to be adequate blood flow.

Warm-ups are the best solution. But what, how and for what length of time are important. Here are some criteria:

  1. How much time do you spend practicing each day? At least ten percent should probably devoted to a warm-up.
  2. How often do you play live? I used to play well over a 100 gigs a year. During that time, relatively little time was needed for warming up. As that live playing time has decreased a lot, more warm-up is needed.
  3. What kind of/genre of music are you playing?
  4. What are your short and long term goals?

If you spend only an hour or so a day practicing, getting the most from that time is important. My warm-up consists of some dexterity exercises, some strength exercises, lots of arpeggio work, linear playing such as scales and then onto what I’m currently working on. The warm-up can take as long as 30 minutes. A major focus is beginning slowly and working to faster levels. A cool-down (here’s a great link by Donovan Stokes of NoTreble.com ) can also be helpful..

The first exercise slow dexterity. It isn’t terribly musical but it does help the blood flow get going to the hands and fingers and gets the small muscles and tendons going.

Random Finger Sequences

 

Click here to download a pdf version.

This a good, simple beginning to a warm-up. Work with it for a while and you will begin see a difference.

Finger strength is important. Trills are a good method for this. This article from NoTreble.com has a pretty good method for working on this. Spend a few minutes on this everyday.

The next part of a warm-up should probably arpeggios. I usually take arpeggios from triads to ninths. One of the best triad exercises is Jaco Pastorius’ 2 octave major triads from Modern Electric Bass (the link takes you directly to the beginning of this exercise in the video). This exercise is also about learning the fingerboard and covering it’s entire length. It is done by shifting on almost every note – not the most efficient method for getting around triads but it’s real purpose is knowing where every note is located. This is a quick transcription of the exercise.

2 octave major triads

 

Click here to download a pdf.

The next thing I recommend is basic scales and arpeggios. These should reflect the music you’re currently working on. I’ll post something later on a number of methods for scale and arpeggio warm-ups as well several practice regimens for them.

Please let me know what you think here in the comments section.

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New Students

I have a few spots open for more students. If you are interested, please fill out the form below (you will need to wipe out my info which seems to populate in the form no matter what) or email me at dwightmabe@gmail.com. These spaces can be for either in-studio lessons or Skype® (where you can be literally anywhere there is a high speed internet connection).

Lesson specifics are on the Lesson Info And Rates page.

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The Plateau – What Do I Now?

It happens to all of us – not just bass players but all musicians – when we feel stuck, stilted, stymied, etc., and just can’t seem to get beyond the point where we are now. Sometimes you lay down the bass for a while, sometimes for a long while, sometimes it’s a year or two, if ever, before you get back to playing and practicing again.

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Plateau

 

It’s no secret that I’ve done that many times. I hit a plateau a couple of times a year while in college. Of course, I couldn’t quit then except for practicing (still had rehearsals, etc.) Later on in life, I put the bass down for a year or more a couple of times. I always had a really great reason for doing it- day job stresses me out, gotta clean the house, I hate (insert music or musician), it goes on and on. But I had an epiphany about 15 years ago.

Okay, maybe an epiphany is a bit overblown. I went to a concert at a local club in my area. The band was a three-piece instrumental ensemble made up of several well-known musicians who had gotten together to explore some completely improvisational music.  I had met the bass player many years earlier in New York. This night I ran into him between sets at the club. We exchanged the usual greetings and pleasantries. He looked straight at me and asked what kind of music I was playing now, who I was playing with, etc. I answered with some of my typical pat answers – I had a young son now, I needed to make a lot more money, etc. He replied “How can you stop doing something that you are so passionate about?” The conversation continued until I realized he was right. His passion was to play music and to make it work out, no matter what.

The bottom line is that it takes deciding to make it work. There is this amazing thing that happens when you decide. Things start working out around that decision. Indecision leads to nowhere or decline.

Specifically, usually it just takes some inspiration. I sometimes search through lots of music, listening, transcribing (the best thing for me), watching live performances – and any other way you can seek out something invigorating.

There are a few ideas from others on the internet – this one is pretty good.

Those are my thoughts. Most successful musicians have some method for overcoming a plateau. This worked for me but search around.

Leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you on this subject.

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Random Finger Sequences for Warming Up

I started using these combinations way back when I first realized that scales didn’t warm up all the fingers and hands nor cover all the possible combinations. Since I was doing considerable sight reading at the time and never really knew what might come up in a rehearsal, I developed these by accident to cover the entire fingerboard and make it all more a bit comfortable from the start. It dawned on me when I saw both Tony Grey and Scott Devine showing very similar exercises in some of their online lessons that they are useful.

Fast forward 40 years plus and I have hand and wrist pain from time to time. Some of it comes from not playing anywhere near the amount of gigs that I used to and the rest is due to age. I don’t make any sort of claim that it will cure whatever pain you might have but they are a good part of a warm up.

So I have now re-instated them in my own routine at the initial warm up. The possible combinations are:

1234 1243 1324 1342
1423 1432 2134 2143
2314 2341 2413 1431
3124 3142 3214 3241
3412 3421 4123 4132
4213 4231 4312 4321

Start at the lowest frets and do the sequences across the strings up and down, then shift up one fret and continue all the way up and back down, one finger to a fret.

I recommend doing at least one of these per day as a step to begin your warm up. Do them the entire length of the fingerboard – cover all the frets and strings you have. Have fun with them.

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Reading Music, Tablature and Ear Training

One of the most common questions that I get asked by students is “Do I need to be able to read music?” Unless you intend to do nothing but play cover songs or original music that isn’t written out, then the answer is no. But if you want to continue your development as a bass player and get more gigs, the answer is yes. But it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Here’s some background on tablature, ear training and written music.

Tablature

the-beatles-if-i-fell-chord-tablature

Tablature is often derided by musicians who can read music. That has some merit, since modern tab doesn’t contain rhythmic information. But in reality, tablature came first. In the Renaissance era and before, there was little or no standard in how music was represented on a page. Tablature was one of the first attempts. It applied most to fretted instruments of the day: Lute, Guitar, Mandolin, Viols (ancestors to the modern violin family), etc. Here’s a link to some early tablature and it was done. Modern tablature has, for the most part, dropped out the rhythmic part and left only fret numbers and strings. Modern music notation begins right after this point. Modern notation is able to specify rhythm, pitch, dynamics, tempo, etc. But just as spoken English has nuances that are difficult to write out, in many genres of music, there are areas open to interpretation.

Music Notation

snylmyest

Music Notation began in earnest during the Renaissance and was refined over the next couple of millennia. Notes were assigned to a specific part of the five line staff, different clefs were used according to instrument range, articulation marks and dynamics were added and rhythmic notation developed. This gave us a very good representation of the music as it was to be performed.

I was actually fortunate enough to have started taking music lessons in the time when no one ever questioned whether you should learn to read music or not – you just did. But as music became more and more accessible to anyone, shortcuts like tablature appeared.

Playing by ear

Charlie_Parker,_Tommy_Potter,_Miles_Davis,_Max_Roach_(Gottlieb_06941)

Ear training is another vital skill in music. For the jazz musician, it is paramount. Look into the biographies of the jazz greats past and present and you will quickly find that they emphasize ear training usually through transcriptions of important jazz solos, tunes, etc. As Charlie Parker once said: “Learn the changes. Then forget them and play.” Parker was referring to being free to improvise but after you have internalized the changes and melody. The best way to develop you ear is by transcribing tunes and solos from the greats but any transcribing is helpful. I had a couple of large notebooks filled with transcriptions from my college days. Unfortunately, most of them were lost later. This goes for all genres of music – not just jazz.

In summary, reading music is important in all areas of music, not just jazz. The classical music benefits greatly from seeing the music and knowing what it will sound like just before he begins to play it. There were some notable musicians who learned to read after becoming very proficient on their instrument. The main one for bass players is Jaco Pastorius. And he remarked often that it was difficult learning after having played so long but he knew the only way he could advance his playing further was learning to read music.

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