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BassCraft March 2001

 

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By Marty Straub

     BassCraft is a new column for the new millennium at GlobalBass.  Each issue we'll take you on a surf through the web to find a special site or two for honing your craft.  There are some excellent sites out there where players of all stages can find help, guidance, or just some fresh ideas to the approach of learning their instrument.  We won't get to all of them without your help.  So, if you know of a website that has to do with instructing students of bass, please send email us so we could check it out.  If we don't get to it right away, please be patient.  Right now there are a growing number of sites on the list, and there are many more out there.

     Before we embark on this journey we want to stress the importance of finding a quality teacher.  This should be mentioned at every stop throughout this bass odyssey.  There is absolutely nothing that will adequately substitute for the one-on-one interchange between teacher and student.  One resource for finding quality bass teachers is this page of the BassSick WebSite. 

      Our first stop was at PlayTheBass.com (No longer available), a site designed and maintained by bassist Sean McMillin.  He just started this site December the 1st of last year, so he barely has 2 months into it.  PTB will continue to grow into one of the web's treasures for aspiring and accomplished bassists.  When you first come upon this site you are met with an air of professionalism.   Not just of a musical, but of an artistic nature.  After you explore the site you learn that Sean is also a talented bassist with a flare for instructing and helping others.

     As it turns out Sean is a graphics artist, and his other (work) site was Z-Vertical Design (No longer available).  You can imagine our thrill when, while in the market for a new logo at Global Bass, we discovered this graphic below that was made by Sean and displayed on his site.

Of course you will immediately notice that Sean agreed to modify his EarthBass to come up with our new logo, first displayed on the cover of our January 2001 issue.  (I suppose we gave it a bit of an overkill in this month's issue, but Sean is not to blame for that.) 

 

 

     At PlayTheBass you will find many graphics and irresistible wallpaper for your desktop freely available for your own private use.  More to the order of why our BassCraft stops at PlayTheBass, you will find other freebies for the beginning and the accomplished bassist alike.  

     Have you ever needed some staff paper right away and couldn't find any in your mess?  PTB has a whole section of printable staff paper with about 20 different looks ranging from plain with 8 staffs to double-neck bass.  AND it's all free.  You can instantly print out regular staff copies, with or without bass clef, with or without margins, with or without TAB, even with bass neck and keyboard illustrations.  Reading music is fundamental to expanding your knowledge and appreciation of your bass craft, and the accessibility of these blank sheets is a very valuable gift from the creator of PTB.  

     Another useful learning tool that's already available on PlayTheBass is printable flash cards.  You can print out all the necessary ingredients for making your own flash cards, and quickly learn all of the notes and key signatures.  You will learn all of the major and minor keys and the relationships between them.  

     Okay.  The staff copies and the flash cards are cool, and they will definitely help in fueling the improvement of our bass craft.  But what about lessons, and exercises we can learn?  Well, the answers can be found on the About PTB page of Sean's site.  He writes, "...and I want to post some lessons and worksheets that I've developed when I can."  Another thing you can learn on that page is about the heart of the man who created it, and his reason for doing it, to "make the online bass world a little better place to be."

     Global Bass:  Bass players are giving individuals, supportive by nature.  You're certainly no exception to that rule, Sean.

     Sean McMillin:  Well thanks, Marty, and I think it's true what you say about the nature of bassists.  Since I've published my site, I've only reaffirmed that belief as I've gotten some really heartfelt feedback from fellow bassists.  That's been very rewarding for me.  I really just started the site because I thought, hey, I think these things are cool, why not share?  Give it up, and it all comes back, you know.  And look at you and Warren with Global Bass!  You guys are giving the bass community a tremendous resource -- it's really wonderful.

     GB:  How did you come to chose the domain PlayTheBass.com?

     SM:  I had the idea for a bass site rattling around in my brain for awhile, because I thought it would be fun to share some of my teaching materials that I had developed, as well as some of my bass graphics.  When I finally got serious about it last summer and went to register a domain name, I was floored that my first choice was available.  To me, it was always about playing the bass.  Everything else, the gear, the talk, the web stuff, whatever, is all just secondary.  So playthebass.com was a natural.  The phrase to me has a special association, because it makes me think of a song on the Stanley Clarke album "Time Exposure" that I got when my bass teacher was first turning me on to fusion (I was like, wow, there are other great bassists besides Geddy Lee!).  Stanley does a wild slap duet with Louis Johnson, and there's a rap/vocal that says "Play the bass!"

     GB:  So give us an idea of your background.  When did you start playing the bass?  Who were your teachers and heros?

     SM:  I started playing bass in 1987, when I was almost 21, so I guess I'm kind of a late bloomer by most standards.  I had always been an avid music fan and wanted to be a drummer (I kept a couple of drumsticks in my room as a kid and I would air-drum along with Rush and Zeppelin records, memorizing all the fills!).  Then in college I took a music theory course for general ed, and I just absorbed it.  I ended up getting a minor in music.  I figured I should play a pitched instrument because I dug the harmony aspect so much, so I chose bass.  It seemed to fit my personality.  I was fortunate enough to hook up with a wonderful teacher, and one of my biggest influences, Chris Robertson.  My main hero is Marcus Miller, as he is just so tasty in his playing and his compositional skills are incredible.  I also love James Jamerson, Geddy Lee, Duck Dunn, Rocco Prestia, Gary Grainger, Eddie Gomez, and dozen other newer players - anyone who grooves in their own way.  And of course Jaco.  I always appreciated Jaco, but it wasn't until about 3 years
ago that something snapped inside me and I truly realized how deep his music goes.  One of the greatest things about being a musician is experiencing that awe, where it just chills you to the bone.

     GB:  With how busy your graphics design job must keep you, do you still have time to gig?

     SM:  A little! :)  Since having kids I've cut back on gigging a great deal, and it's fluctuated a lot, but I like to get out a couple times a month.  Playing live is the ultimate.  I'm currently working on an acid jazz project that I'm pretty excited about, as I think it will offer a lot more than the mostly formless jamming over a hip-hop groove that seems to pass for acid jazz these days.  The project is sort of an acid jazz with be-bop and pop sensibilities.

     GB:  You mention that you'll be adding lessons and worksheets to PTB.  Tell us something about the design.  Do you plan on categorizing exercises for beginners and advanced students?  

     SM:  Well, I don't plan on doing any sort of rigorous method from the ground up, as I think there's plenty of that available, but I do hope to put some unique stuff on there that I've developed.  So I guess it will be a haphazard approach.  Rather than categorize the lessons, ideally I'd like to show how each lesson could be applied regardless of a player's state of development. I know that may not always work, but I think for many lessons, there are aspects that everyone can learn from.  One mistake players make in feeling they've "run out of lessons" is not being creative enough with the lessons they've already got.  For example, you can always take an example and play it in other keys, sing along, change it from major to minor, play it at a ridiculously slow tempo with a metronome, stuff like that.

     GB:  Any idea on how soon we will see the lessons on PlayTheBass?

     SM:  Alright, now you're getting tough!  Seriously, though, I don't know when, it will just be as time allows.  I will probably clean up some of the things I already have, such as intervals and scales worksheets, and post them first.  I would like to emphasize what you so astutely pointed out at the beginning, and that is that nothing can substitute for a teacher when it comes to bass lessons.

     GB:  Anything else about PTB you'd like to mention?


     SM:  First, I've got a new Web Databass feature on there I'm pretty excited about.  It's a searchable, categorized database of over 900 bass links. It's basically a mini-Yahoo just for bass, and I know I find it pretty valuable. It will be very dynamic, and I hope to get lots of contributions, and make it a solid resource for all of us webby bassists out there.  Secondly, I'd just like to thank everyone who's visited the site and taken the time to write and to share with me.  It's been very rewarding.  There are a lot of wonderful human beings playing bass out there.  And thanks to Global Bass, for helping bring even more of that out!

Marty Straub is just another knowbody.  He does the website for Global  Bass, and maintains a few other websites including the BassSick WebSite.  He's been a bass player since 1964, and loves you very much.

 

 

                    

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