Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

A Journey into Sound (WARNING: Lots of videos)

by rg Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 08:27:21 AM EST

Music is a personal business.  What I like, you hate (maybe); and vice versa.  Finding a person who has the same tastes as you is rare; but the more I open my ears the more I hear the same kinds of things happening across musical styles; the more my ears are emancipated from their tribal affiliations the more they start to hear what's going on...

But what about a person who has never listened to music before?  They don't hold tribal affiliations, but also they don't know what everyone is talking about.  Music?

What's that?

Also, in my experience a lot of people's ears have been blunted to music through the constant background tunes that are used to (I suggest) hide the not-so-pleasant noises of modern life.

This is my attempt to build music up again from its elements, the first of which would be rhythm, but I want to leave that for now and start with musical sounds (pitches) that we can recognise but maybe haven't paid attention to recently.

Heh!  A journey into sound, as Eric B & Rakim said.


Part One -- Bass, Played on Strings

The bass strings are thick.  They make the deep notes, low down the requency range.  Also, not so low down.

The Bass -- On Its Own (Bass Solo)

Virtuoso:

Victor Wooten - Norwegian Wood

What rock bassists are doing while the rest of the band make a racket:

John Entwistle isolated bass

Why not make a bass out of cardboard?

Cardboard Upright Bass

Not all bass playing involves using your fingers

(for those fascinated by the technical aspects of playing music)

Andrew Anderson Teaches the Double Bass - Part 4

So that's the sound of a bass

Adding drums

You can play bass solo, but most of the time it entwines with the drums.

More virtuoso playing--a good example of how the drums and the bass work together:

Carter Beauford and Victor Wooten - drum bass solo

(Credits roll for a bit as this is the end of a longer film; the music continues through them and after)

Here's the RAWK! version:

Flea & Chad Smith Bass & Drum Solo

Right.  Space is the place!  The rockers like to fill the space with super-fast energy; others like to leave lots of space--

Adding an instrument over the top

You've heard the bass, heard how it works with drums to create the structure.  Most music adds a higher-tone instrument on top, to create balance and to give the bass a chance to play counterpoint

A lot of jazz uses this technique (the jazz trio.)  Here are a couple of examples.

Bass, Drums, & Sax:

Weaver of Dreams Rollins Sonny 1959

Bass, Drums, & Guitar:

(turn this one up a bit)

Trios are great for picking out the individual instrument--and for picking out individual notes, but most people want songs.  So get one of the trio to sing--or add a singer and...add some extra instuments, add some backing singers, and you get...

Music

Listen for the bass in each track

Blues:

billie holiday - lady sings the blues

Soul:

Try A Little Tenderness Live- Otis Redding

Psychedelic:

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Chile live

Rock:

Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love

Funk:

p-funk "Tear the Roof Off"

(The end of) Punk:

PIL - Public Image

Disco:

We Are Family - Sister Sledge

..............

I could keep going, but that's a lot of music, maybe forty minutes or more.  I'm wondering if ET readers and commenters have the time/patience/interest to click and watch, so this diary is a test run.

This would be a once-a-week feature (more or less!); the idea is that you can all add examples relevant to the topic (this week it's The Bass.)

My suggestion: just the one video per comment, maybe with some text saying what the listener should be looking out for.  Text isn't necessary, though, if the music makes its point (the beauty of music--you don't need to explain it---er....well, not always.)

I concentrated on stringed bass, but there are lots of other instruments that produce bass frequencies (didgeridoo; toned drums; the bottom end of a piano;  all kinds of synthesised sounds; then there's the human voice--the human voice!

A whole other diary subject.

Poll
Is this a good idea?
. Yes 92%
. No 0%
. Zzzzzzzz 7%

Votes: 13
Results | Other Polls
Display:
Not sure this is going to work.  Here's hoping!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 08:28:36 AM EST
I'm at work so I can't watch the videos til I get back but I have a question about music vs noise although it may be a little off topic here.

I was chatting to my friend about this - I can't pick out different harmonies in music, I seem to merge it all together and only hear the overall 'tune'. I assumed everyone did but my friend says he can pick out the separate harmonies and how they work together and he can't imagine how it sounds to merge them together to only one thing.  

To me, some frequencies I pick up better than others, so if there are harmonies like a choir, with people singing together, one harmony will over-ride the other to my ear and then just sounds stupidly out of tune.

So where does music - as in a pure note or a coherent assembly of notes working together, then become noise or a mess of stuff that doesn't sound right - or is that down to personal taste in music?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 12:22:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not back 'till late this evening.  I'll have a go at your question then.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 02:32:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are different kinds of musical hearing, and they're not related to hearing issues.

The order goes:

rhythm
rough outline - this is the 'It's a nice noise' level of listening
being able to pick out lines
being able to hear all of the lines at once distinctly and/or hear the chords as chords if they're not playing individual lines (depending on what's in the music)
being able to understand the complete structure built by the different lines

People with the last skill are incredibly rare, because they have a combination of listening, memory and intuition which doesn't happen often. Mozart notoriously was supposed to be able to do this, writing out an entire piece from memory - probably not by remembering all of the notes, but by remembering enough detail and knowing enough about music to know how the elements would be put together.

Most people seem to live in the first two areas. They can maybe pick out a line if asked to, or maybe not. Trained musicians should be able to, but people without training probably wouldn't.

There are also two different kinds of pitch hearing - perfect pitch, and relative pitch. They don't work in anything like the same way. People with perfect pitch can tell you the name of a note and the key a tune is by listening to it. People with relative pitch can name the interval between two or more notes, but not what key they're in.

You can't follow lines without some relative pitch ability. But... listening is easier than labelling and you can still experience a line as music without necessarily being able to write out the notes on paper. Learning to do that takes training and effort.

I put some time into developing my listening, and I found that when I practiced naming intervals my pitch discrimination improved. I could hear more detail and also hear when things were out of tune. (Not always a good thing.)  

I have a faint ghost of perfect pitch, but it's very undeveloped.

I don't have much of a memory for structure at all.

I can't sing for toffee without a line to follow, but I can improvise easily around a structure I've learned or know already. (A lot of music uses the same few simple structures, so once you've learned  them you don't need to be able to pick them apart from scratch.)

So it's not either/or. I'd expect your friend probably put some time into training his ears or had lessons. If you did the same you'd likely move in that direction, even though you won't be hearing the same things in the same ways.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 06:24:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's interesting, thanks.
I don't know if my friend has had lessons (he doesn't play any instruments) but he listens to music in great detail, so I guess through doing that he's sort of trained his ears.  He introduced me to a whole range of stuff that I wouldn't have been able to appreciate without him talking me through it.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 03:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My idea was to attune the ear to the bass.  First through the rendition of "Norwegian Wood", then seeing John Entwhistle--ignoring the band, concentrating on the unique sound.

My thinking is: the ear can pick up certain frequencies, and music is a way of organising them.

So bass frequencies: what are they like?

I wanted to show the bass guitar, electric and the double bass as acoustic, but there are lots of bass tones.

I can't pick out different harmonies in music

Most people (judging by sales) don't listen to music.  They listen to either the lyrics or the melodies.

The pulse behind can go pump pump pump pump, that's fine.  Listening to music involves concentration and luck--luck such that you have the correctly open ears to appreciate (for good or ill) what, acoustically, is happening.

So I'm asking: can you hear the bass?  Can you hear what its doing?  In particular, the Sonny Rollins piece.  Can you hear that Sonny is playing the sax melody, and that behind him and with him are the bass and the drums?  If you can hear that, it's just words, concentrate on the music (if you like it!)  But that's an honest question: can you hear that the sax is doing one thing and the bass is doing something else, and that they are complementing each other by making sounds that you find sonorous?  Honest question!  By sonorous I mean "soothing to the ear" such that the sounds bring you peace and calm--and other emotions--that the sounds create emotions, and the more you can individuate and the more you understand, the wider your range.  

Heh!

Hope that makes some sense!


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:22:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I want to add that "range" is the same for all humans.  It means "as far as I can".  Widening the range is something that many humans enjoy, others hate, the edge is the battle ground, but where there is pleasure there is widening.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't make it in til late last night and need to get to work now, so this afternoon I will go through the video and see if I get the bass.  I usually feel the bass but I don't know if that means I can hear it. I will let you know!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 02:57:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If possible, listen to the two Victor Wooten pieces first; 'Norwegian Wood' to tune your ears to the bass, then the drum and bass jam to tune them to drum and bass.  Then you should hear that Sonny comes over the top of those two with his sax.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 04:42:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Much of white pop music (and indeed classical music) kind of hides the bass ; it is just here to provide the hoomph, but not to be listened at. As a result many people haven't trained their ears to bass lines, and simply can't hear them properly...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 04:47:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it doesn't help that its lowest frequency component is felt rather than heard, and a challenge to most sound reproduction equipment sold these days. Many bookshelf speakers and portable devices will put out a 'hump' in the mid-bass to make up for their lack of deep bass.

You're clearly a dangerous pinko commie pragmatist.
by Vagulus on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 09:44:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, that's amazing. I don't think I have ever heard the bass alone before.  It's incredible.  I always wondered why kids would learn bass guitar when they could learn the 6 string but now I see why.

Victor Wooten is awesome, how does he do that?! Bass and drums together work well for me, both with lots of space and with more rock to it.

When the third sound comes in I find it harder because the higher frequencies on sax and guitar drown out the bass for me. If I concentrate really hard I can pick out the bass and drums for a few seconds at a time - easier when the clip moves to show those instruments.

If I were in a club I would switch my hearing aid off and just feel the bass and drums and cut out the sound of the music/tune/lyrics whatever.  I guess when I just listen (I don't get to feel the bass through my body when it is just pumping into my ear through the loop but otherwise I can't really 'hear' anything) the higher frequencies are the ones I can hear better compared to the lower ones. I don't hear it all equally to be able to distinguish the different sounds. Easier to hear the bass through the sax cos there are more spaces perhaps. Sonorous for sure yeah!

But wow, thanks. What an ear opener!

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 04:01:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Next week, the human voice!

If you like bass and drums then dub reggae from the seventies should be enjoyable.  Ceebs knows more about that than me.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:52:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the digital aid itself has a transfer function that is designed for speech and thus higher frequencies, thus artificially lowering the bass volume ; does it have a "bass boom" function ? :)

Maybe you can try to increase bass volume on your computer, see if it makes the bass line easier to follow.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:59:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The hearing aid is tuned to my frequency range. So I guess it ought to even things out but in reality it doesn't.

I can't see a base volume setting on here, certainly not for use watching you tube.  I can manipulate that with MP3s though and it does help.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 05:29:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How could you forget...

Jaco Pastorius?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 11:15:10 AM EST
Why did you have to post this while I am gone???? I was just sneaking in for half an hour and what do I find? your very interesting diary. Will look at it more indeapth when I am back.:-)

Okay, now I am out again for the rest of the week.

by Fran on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 11:51:39 AM EST
Nicely done rg. Bravo!

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 01:15:46 PM EST
Are you kidding? We all love music..click and listen :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 06:22:13 PM EST

Whamola - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Whamola is a unique bass instrument used in Funk-Jazz styles of music.

A direct descendant of the washtub bass, an American folk instrument popular with skiffle and jug bands, and its European alternative the tea chest bass, the Whamola consists of a double-bass style neck with a pulley-and-lever system and a single string, all mounted onto a square metal tube on a stand. It is played by hitting the string with a drum stick and either fretting the string with the other hand or altering the string's tension using the pully-and-lever system to change the pitch.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 07:00:57 PM EST
Excellent drummer!

Oh!  Excellent move to the sax!  Take it out there!

(A slight freak out when I thought that I had started from the beginning again--)

What a bass solo!

"I will do what Simon says.  Of course I'll do what Simon says."

Excellent!  Perfect!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 08:57:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

WATCH FIRST BEFORE READING

Plus how could I let an article on bass playiing go without this track. A song about cats, Tom Waits, and some sparkling bass playing. (It would have been easy to put up a handfull of  tracks by this band to illustrate but the short solo was one of those pieces that was jawdropping on first hearing that I cornered the man with the stereo and had him play it several times.)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 07:13:50 PM EST
ARgh!  It goes black!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 08:57:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No music!  No picture, but...no music!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 08:58:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
does this link work ?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:11:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep!  Another intriguing choice.  For me it meets the boundary where rhythm and bass meet.  There's the rawk guitar, but that essential rock energy.  Head banging!

I feel I must offer something back.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:34:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]

No video, but listen to the sound.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 07:48:19 PM EST
Ah--the space!

I couldn't think of a video--I had a look, but...I turn to the connoiseurs in all fields, of course!

And yeah, I wanted to tune people's ears to the bass and you came through right through!  

(Public Image!)

I really missed this when I was in my teens.  I got it later, first through a hot summer (in the eighties, I'm sure.  Eighty six?  Eighty seven?)  And I always thought, "Wonderful music for a sunny desert isle."  I have all this cold to deal with!  Give me Bach!  But a lot of it is culture...all the communication...hey!  Augustus Pablo!

I'm hoping that....I'm thinking that there's a possibility of synthesis, where the good will out, and the electrons will move where they prefer, and music will be part of the strangeness, a medium, and lose the sound of....industrialised conformity--without losing all the benefits....ceebs, thanks!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to put in a load more but was worried about swamping the thread.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:13:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd enjoy watching the battle of basses between you, nanne, and DoDo!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:58:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here I am after battling Flash, Firefox, IE, and Flash again. Interesting musical education you started.

Being late, I'll violate the one video per comment rule, and offer up three.

The first is, what else, all-chello band Apocalyptica from Finland -- picking out "the" bass here is not always easy, but listen how one repeatedly separates out clearly:

One is not enough (here featuring Finnish 'Love Metal' band (and maybe emo godfather) HIM vs. the younger clones The Rasmus):

Next, Midnight Oil. I think Diesel And Dust and Beds Are Burning are two of three albums of theirs that stand out. I thought of them because of In Wales's question; because for me the songs on these two albums are special in that I hear two distinct melodies overlaid. Below, Bedlam Bridge:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 04:18:55 PM EST
Ah, found the other Midnight Oil I wanted to post: Dead Heart, from Diesel and Dust. This has some didgeridoo:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 04:35:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All excellent!

As you mention cellos (in case anyone doesn't know, it's...like a small double bass!--therefore slightly higher tones)...

In Wales, if you catch this, an example of classical music that doesn't dwell in the high registers.

No harmonies here, just one long melodic line.  Lots of movement from the deepest to the highest tones and back again with endless variations.

Next week, The Human Voice.  LEP suggested Wednesdays for this experiment.  Is everyone (who's interested!) okay with that?  I'm just wondering if everyone has the time to watch (my aim is that the diaries will be mostly about watching video examples, with small amounts of text to explain what the videos will--hopefully--demonstrate)--the diaries will therefore be half an hour or so long (!)

Would Saturdays be better?

Or could the diary be bumped up for the weekend?  (Assuming there's a front pager or two who think that's a good idea?)

Any suggestions?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 06:13:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could try out Wednesdays with bumping.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 06:15:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, we can easily bump the diaries over the weekends.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 02:43:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What a great piece of music!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 02:55:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bach!  What can I say?  Ah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:29:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm aware that often names are common to some but--not common to others, so...just in case--I mean Johann Sebastian Bach, often known as JS Bach, or just "Bach"

http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxjsbach.html

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:39:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]