My Path To Free Bass

August 21, 2021

It’s been a long time coming!

I’ve been trying to find some path back to playing Free Bass, but as with everything else, life and work are just always first in the way of my fun time… but I’ve snuck in a few minutes and made a few strong choices that have resulted in my playing with it a little and enjoying the process!

It’s a touch over 3 weeks ago that I placed my Hohner Morino VI N in the hands of a professional accordion repairer (Andersons Accordion Repair and Sales out of Burlington Ontario, Canada). There really isn’t much wrong with my Morino, just that is seeps a lot of air more than I am comfortable with and it bothered me a lot when playing. I tried to explain this to the lady who last worked on my accordion, but she either refused to see the issue or just didn’t want to take it all apart again to repair her poor workmanship. That ‘s ok, I was not going to place it in her hands anymore after that anyway.

And so the Morino sat there again for near another year, but this time I am getting a touch more serious about wanting it addressed, enough that I drove 625km each way just to drop it off with someone who really knows what they are doing.

In the meantime as I am waiting, I was just kind of futzing with the little Hohner FB36 Free Bass and finally sat down and literally started Free Bass from scratch. Well… it wasn’t 100% from scratch, but it was easily 99%. I knew the layout, but my fingers did not, and no, I could not play anything.

I just started out playing a small scale in C on the left hand, but thought “why not learn something musical? The effort would be about the same, no?”… and so I pulled out a book from Clementi, a piano book of his 6 most famous Sonatina works:

So, where to start? Well #1 seemed logical, though it is a multi-page and 3-part piece. It is also just easy enough to not discourage me… oh but wait, I keep fooling myself that I have the same skills as 40+ years ago… nope!! Ok, not only 1 page at a time, but one NOTE at a time and many times over! At the end of the first hour or two, this is as far as I got:

Yeah… not all that impressive… hahaha! BUT, I am playing Free Bass… so yaaay me!

I may add another video or two that shows my progress after a few more weeks. Who knows I may have page #1 with 2 hands!

Update Sept 10, 2021

Tentative plans were made to make a fast trip down to Burlington. Unfortunately, due to work, its going to be super tight. I’ll have to leave very early Saturday morning, drive there and back NON-STOP and complete part of an important update project at work. They are doing testing and adding many new tools, and since I am part of the operations team, I have to make it back home in time to catch the late shift… UGH. Looking forward to getting the Morino back… NOT looking to the grueling trip there and back and working too!

Update Sept 11, 2021

My mom and I zipped down to Burlington to pickup the accordion, did a fast visit at my dad’s cemetery and zipped back to Montreal in RECORD time! On the way there we did a quick stop in Kingston to pickup an accordion for Keith as a favor.

Getting the accordion back symbolizes that I can now take the next steps to start moving back to playing a little more regularly. I am stoked to get started and after a full day at work, I spend the rest of Sunday Sept 12 on the RCM website and in the syllabus doing a preliminary map of what is going to be my direction.

Oh, I wanted to show this… Keith threw in an absolutely beautiful wide wrist strap that perfectly matches my super-wide shoulder straps!

I will admit that the little time that I spent with the Hohner FB36 did contribute something small to the process and the last 5 days I’ve been playing on the Morino a little, perhaps 20-30 min in the morning and 30 min in the evening except the 17th, where I only played 30 minutes in the morning. The focus has been the C scale, chords (solid/broken triads) and the first page on Clementi’s Sonatina #1. As in the beginning of the movie “Dune” so truthfully states, “Beginnings are a difficult time”. All the skill I had decades ago is understandably gone, and it is understandably a bit of an up-hill battle.

The biggest hurdle, though, is not just lack of skill, it is lack of youth. Older fingers, older, slower brain. It doesn’t take 2 times longer to reach any tiny goal, it takes 3-4 times longer. Now, my hope is that once I build back some kind of skill base, that I will be able to start to make progress a little faster, but I am not placing any bets.

I think I just managed to scare myself… ha-ha.

This day there was a small but happy break-through. About 2 weeks of grinding on the C-scale gets me to the level of about 80bpm consistently and without error over a 3 octave range, repeated over and over non-stop, and so I started on the G-scale. Now it starts on the 2nd row, where the C-scale starts on the 1st so the pattern is different, but to my joy and surprise, in about 30 minutes I am close to the consistency of the C-scale! Tomorrow I will continue firming them both up and adding chords and triads to “G”.

Not much to add. A few more days of futzing brings me to the C-scale at a consistent 100bpm, the G-scale to a nice comfortable 80bpm and the A-minor scale was just introduced. It’s at 0bpm… haha!

So what am I shooting for? in terms of speed for the scales? I’m just not sure… I’d really want to touch 150bpm on all scales, but that seems like such a lofty goal at this time!

Well a small surprise for me today! I’ve not been playing every day, but in the last 2 days my scale speeds jumped up dramatically… I can play the C, G and A-minor scales at… 150bpm! Today was the first time that after a 40-45 min practice that I felt some finger fatigue on the left hand, but the results put a big smile on my face!