Today marks the first day of a quite sudden and quite severe spike in temperatures, as we’re in for 90+ degree heat for the next days, including one day above 100 degrees. Lack of central air as an amenity in housing in this part of the country normally isn’t a problem, except for when it is. Luckily I have my portable unit deployed and running, so at least the living room is staying livable.
Good thing too, as I am extremely behind on work at the moment and find myself in the position of needing to spend all weekend getting caught up on bug squashing. Imagine this – I have a team of four developers; one of which is busy conducting performance testing for the current release, while the other three were reassigned by the VP of software delivery to participate in regression testing as ‘contractors’ for the QA team to help speed those guys up. So who’s left to fix bugs? Well… uh, nobody. So in other words, I fit that in between meetings and emails and writing annual reviews and tearing various different teams in the building new assholes for putting on a circus act while we’re trying to get some serious business done.
What’s also fun is playing bass, which I had officially taken up as my quarantine hobby while others were busy learning how to make sourdough bread. After about four months of serious practice, close to 80 hours logged in Rocksmith, and once-a-week lessons at the local music guild, I’m seeing some pretty positive results. I’ve progressed to the point where if I set aside an hour or so on Rocksmith, I can bang out simpler songs start-to-finish, and I can usually get the structure (if not the nuance) of moderate-difficulty songs right as well. Then there’s Red Barchetta by Rush, which I’ve been working on for at least three months…
Here’s the full song: https://youtu.be/PjjNvjURS-s
And the bass part in isolation: https://youtu.be/OKtG9PUr3cM
In contrast to some of the other things I’ve worked on, this is less of a bass line and more of a melange of uniquely tricky phrases that all need to be glued together to form the entire piece. Part of what’s taken so long to learn this is actually just that I’m an idiot who’s focused on learning to run before figuring out how to crawl, otherwise why would I be trying to learn Rush songs four months into this endeavor? So the rate of progress has actually been gated by an overall lack of experience with the instrument, and the fact that I’m still seeing a lot of things for the very first time.
Rocksmith has been a fairly effective method of ramping up though, and although I didn’t really truly fulfill their 60-day challenge of an hour a day for… you guessed it, 60 days, it was a hell of a lot faster than sitting there with a method book playing whole notes and quarter notes would have been. The ability to dial in the difficulty (essentially taking notes off the chart and adjusting the speed until you’re able to follow along) is great for getting the “easy” rendition of a song down, then you start practicing individual passages and gradually increase the difficulty until you’re playing the full thing at full speed. One thing I’m finding more recently is that playing through a song once at about 30% difficulty is good for learning the feel of the song, but then I need to jump straight to 100% difficulty because how you locate things on the fretboard is very much based on context, and decisions need to be made about playing an C on the seventh fret of the E string versus the same C (albeit with slightly different intonation) on the third fret of the A string. So the speed slider is actually the difficulty slider for me, and I play things slowly until I’ve figured them out.
One thing of note is that while I haven’t devolved into full on guitar-collecting as it seems serious players do, I have already bought a second bass to park at the office. So to add to the Yamaha TRBX 505 that I daily drive at home, I’ll have a TRBX 174 at work to sneak in a few minutes here and there on days that I commute in. The choice of going to the Yamaha well twice is mostly based around the fact that I had a Yamaha clarinet in high school and it played and sounded great. Yamaha basses tend to grade out favorably in reviews for being good bang-for-buck choices, and my experience so far has more or less been consistent with that. A Fender jazz bass seems like a likely next step, although the Sugi NB4 is a rather striking option, even if it is $4000…