Fast and addictive: the Power of Focus in Practicing

PORA method for Focus

The Power of Focus in Practicing: PORA!

If you have been following my blog, my column on or read my book you have undoubtedly heard me talk about the powerful PORA process. PORA stands for Principles of Rotating Attention and is a fantastically fast and effective way to, for example:

  • change unhealthy or ineffective posture habits
  • remedy bad fingering habits
  • fix intonation issues
  • work on timing issues
  • right persistent wrong notes
  • get rid of fret buzz due to imprecise positioning of fingers

PORA is also super powerful if:

  • you have been trying for years to get your fingers to stay close to that fretboard without success
  • you have pain from too much tension when practicing
  • one-finger-per-fret has been eluding you? PORA can fix it

 Most powerful of all, however:

If you find yourself in a practicing rut, unable to focus, moving your fingers but not getting much payoff than burning a few calories – PORA can really turn things around.

And the best news of all is that just a few short minutes of this quite intense practice method works wonders.

Try it!

Here is a video I recorded for ISB Connect. Thank you for inviting me, Randy Kertz!

Click the still below to access the video on ISB.

PORA method for Focus

Download a four step infographic here

And also check out this related episode of Talking Technique!

By the way this video is featuring my new Marleaux Consat five-string bass!

Quora Question: Does the Major Scale Formula Work with Sharp Notes?

scales from sharps music theory

When I see questions like this I love to jump in. There is someone trying to piece it together on their own, typically using some bits of music theory that help somewhat but are not the complete picture. Probably this person had heard of WWHWWWH. But then, yes, the question arises – how to name the notes? With sharps? With flats?

Read my reply. This is why we have the cycle of fifths, by the way. It takes all that guess work out for you.

Does the major scale formula work with sharp notes?

I’ve tried this with A# and the scale I get is: A#, C, D, D#, F, G, A, and A# Is this right or wrong? If so, how? Any help would be much appreciated.

Read Ariane Cap‘s answer to Does the major scale formula work with sharp notes? on Quora

How to Solo Over a Blues?

blues solo accountable

A quick and easy roadmap for a good blues solo…

If you are looking to sound more bluesy, here are some tips… from the blues scale to telling your life story, these strategies will make you sound authentic and like you know what you are doing at the same time. Maybe you already know the blues scale, but did you know that there is a major one as well as a minor one? Which to use when and how… check it out, you got this!

I am a bit tongue in cheek of course with some of the things I say here…. but they work! A blues is all about telling a story, and as cliche as this sounds, here I am telling you very concretely how to do this with musical phrases.

Read Ariane Cap‘s answer to I am learning Bird’s blues “Now’s the Time” on vibraphone, and my soloing sounds corny. Can you give me some ideas to make my solo sound more bluesy? on Quora

The Natural Minor Scale – the Ultimate Shortcut!

Minor scale Ariane Cap Music THeory for the Bass Player

The Natural Minor Scale

Now that we have looked at my ultimate shortcuts for the major scale, look at the minor scale.

Make sure to check out this blog post on notes as well as this one on the major scale, in case you missed these posts.

Major and minor scales are related! Start a major scale on the sixth scale degree and declare that note the root – there is the relative minor. Relative scales share the same key signature (ie accidentals, ie notes, the same seven notes!), but they start on different notes. Take a look at the info guide below for a super useful shortcut on the bass – how major and minor scales are related!

My shortcut methods are much preferable to the usual WHWWHWW (which is the formula for minor. If you are looking for major go here). Points I made for the major scale hold true for the minor as well. Here they are:

Knowing scales is super useful for

  • reading sheetmusic (it is much easier if you know scales and know how to play them on the fretboard! Learn theory first, then reading)
  • memorization
  • song analysis
  • communication
  • your creativity (bass line creation)

Here again is why I don’t promote WHWWHWW.

  • Miscounting is prevalent
  • You need the notes under your fingers immediately, not after cumbersome counting
  • With this method of counting it is necessary to start from the top of the scale each time to know if a note is part of a scale or not
  • Counting whole steps and half steps will not tell you anything about the names of notes
  • Half step counting is not very effective when descending in the scale or improvising within it
  • W and H does not tell you anything about how individual notes will sound within the context of a scale

My Recommendation is…

  • to think of the notes in the scale as intervals with the root.
    • That way you arrive at a usable pattern on the fretboard – a shape you are playing with your fingers. (This is why knowing intervals is so useful!)
    • Each note is now accessible to you for improvisation – in the context of the scale!
    • Knowing a scale that way also allows you to make judgments about the sound of each note within it before you even hear the note.
  • to name notes correctly according to the formulas on the graph, because…
    • it helps communication
    • it shows you the inherent logic of the 7-note minor scale
    • it ensures that you don’t end up creating more accidentals than necessary (Avoiding double sharps and double flats)
    • it is almost faster than having the cycle of fifths under your belt (which – while important – does not click for some people while they could use scales very effectively)

Without further ado: enjoy my famous short cuts to minor scale mastery. I am also adding a few sample scales below the helpful graph. Then you try a few!

Apply the rules 1 – 2 – 3 and you can never go wrong.



To get more shortcuts and in-depth materials – please check out my book, Music Theory for the Bass Player

Sample Scale:
D minor: D – E – F – G – A – Bb – C – D – (Relative major scale F major)
G# minor: G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E – F# – G# (Relative major scale is B major)
Can you build:
A minor, G minor, C# minor


Exciting News – Music Theory Wall Chart shipping soon!

Music Theory for the Bass Player Wall Chart

You requested it – here it comes – the Music Theory Wall Chart!

You wanted me to call it a “cheat sheet” but I like Music Theory Wall Chart better…

A wall chart with the music theory foundation laid out in neat tables, formulas and graphs. Related to the bass fret board.

With everything neat and well organized in one place (on your wall!) you will never forget any of the Music Theory you learned in Music Theory for the Bass Player.


All your Must-Know Scales, including pentatonics, blues scales in major and minor, modes


Chords (never be confused by those sevenths again!)

The Cycle

The Diatonic Cycle

Even The Blues

and a few of my favorite bass mnemonics

After working on this for 8 weeks with my awesome book designer, my graphic artist now has it in the works. Holy cow this is going to be amazing, I just saw his first drafts! Want to be notified when it is ready for shipment?

Please subscribe here:





Maybe the Most Important Post For Any Musician: Your Hearing

Protect your ears Hearing Arisbassblog

Musician: If you are planning to make music for a long time, and hear the voices of the ones you love… please take heart and a set of earplugs. Your hearing is too important to toy with.

Did you know that…

Inside our ears live tiny hair cells. They are part of a truly miraculous machinery involving small bones, membranes, fluids, said tiny hair cells and the auditory nerve. These hair cells (called stereocilia) are responsible for translating sound into electrical signals which are then received and decoded by the brain. Loud sounds make these cells shrivel and die. They do not regrow.

  • A normal conversation is between 40 and 80 dB
  • Rock concerts are as loud as 140 dB
  • Headphones at loudest setting can deliver up to 105 dB
  • Hearing damage can start at or above 85 dB

There are many apps available that can measure loudness. Why not download one of them and take a measurement? I did and now I even wear earplugs in my car! The noise level on the highway is close to 90 dB with my car Since we are often talking while driving, we don’t even notice that we are actually yelling into each other’s ears. Not good!

Factors influencing the severity of hearing loss:

  • Intervals of exposure
  • Length of exposure at a time
  • Loudness (dB)
  • Distance from the source

Hearing loss often happens gradually, so you may not notice it until it is too late.

Maybe you have experienced transient hearing loss: immediately after a loud concert you may feel like there is a waterfall inside your ear; or you may have a much harder time understanding speech than usual. The worst of this phenomenon may be temporary and hearing seems to rebound after 20 to 48 hours. Unfortunately, newer research suggests that the hearing may not come back to its full prior level. And here is more bad news: loud noises can not only cause hearing loss but also the dreaded tinnitus.

All frequencies do equal damage, by the way:

  • high frequencies are a bit less insidious because we tend to feel pain when they hit our ears too hard: loud cymbal rings, guitars… they do damage but they are fairly easy to spot
  • low frequencies tend not to hurt that much but because low frequencies have so much energy, they can do just as much damage, if not more. So a low kick drum or bass sound may hit us in the gut and not immediately make us turn down or reach for the ear plugs.

What you can do:

    • When you are at concerts or shows: don’t stand right in front of the speaker at that concert. Instead, congregate around the mixing board. There it will probably have the best sound in the house anyways.
    • Use proper earplugs. Rolled up napkins or cotton balls are not sufficient.
    • Good options:
        • Custom-made Westone (or similar brand) plugs are great, but pricey and very easy to lose on a dark stage. I have several of them but lost even more of them. Also, ears change! My most favorite ones stopped fitting after about 10 years. What is nice is that you can get specific filters for various frequencies and dB levels. Truth be told, however, if it gets too complicated, I tend to not use them. Moving parts means losing parts. If you would like to get some, find an audiologist locally who will take and impression and have them made for you to then pick up and fit after several weeks.
        • Get a version of Etymotics. They look like little Christmas trees and the good ones come in various sizes with a string attached so you can hang them around your neck. A little container keeps them safe on your key ring or gig bag.
          Here is an assortment of my favorites:
        • Etymotic high fidelity Earplugs

As you can see they start below $20.00. Isn’t your hearing worth that?

Friend of mine recently sustained severe – thank God temporary – hearing loss brought on by feedback during a sound check. He was nauseous for days, threw up, had bleeding ears and was miserable and understandably panicked. The noise exposure was just for a few seconds, but with such big impact!

Yes but…

Maybe you are struggling with the thought of wearing earplugs because

  • it doesn’t look very fashionable! Bullocks, yes it does – get cool colored ones or ones without the little stick sticking out: these literally disappear into the ear while providing full protection:
  • You worry about the sound on stage. Yes, it takes some getting used to. The highs will sound a bit muffled and you may have to get used to the balance and the feeling of being a bit closed off to the audience. You get used to it after three gigs or so. It is a small price to pay!
  • …“I can’t stand the feeling in my ear.” Trust me, getting used to the sensation of earplugs and the slight changes (if you use quality ear plugs) in sound perception , is much better than the misery you’ll suffer when Tinnitus sets in or you can’t hear the music you love no more.

How about In-Ears?

If you use inner ear monitors – set the level as low as you can tolerate and you will be protected.

Please protect your hearing.

And if you are apprehensive about being on stage with them: start with places like the car, the plane, the bus, the construction zone, the kitchen when the mixer runs. If you are in a club and have to yell to hear each other, you are slowly killing off this most precious miraculous machine that gives you the wonders of music, voices, and orientation in space.

Here are a few of the places I keep some spare ear plugs at all times:

Protect your hearing with etymotics on a key ring   Etymotics hearing protection on my gig bag









Recent sighting…

The Recording Academy supports and promotes the use of ear plugs for all musicians and concert goers…. recent sighting at the Grammy after show party of this sign next to a table of free earplugs!













Going to South by SouthWest 2017?

MusiCares offers Free Hearing Test Sessions + Custom Hearing Molds Sessions all week
See Schedule Here