Notation Software Community Users' StoriesSherry Crann, Bass player
Sherry currently plays electric bass at church and with the band Z.P. (zao psephos= living stones). She enjoys dabbling with lots of things musically related, whether it's the notes, or the instruments that sound the notes. Here she tells her story.
"My early musical memories are of my Mom's Elvis records playing on a portable RCA phonograph, my Grandma playing hymns and "parlor music" on a very out-of-tune piano, and the classical music that accompanied Saturday morning cartoons. In my head, I still see Bugs Bunny slapping Elmer Fudd with his ears every time I hear "The Barber of Seville."
When I was in 5th or 6th grade I helped my Mom save up enough Green Stamps to get a very badly made and nearly unplayable guitar that had a stick-on-decal rosette. But by golly, I was a guitar player from then on! I could only play 3 or 4 chords, but ignorance is bliss, and I strummed my way happily for many years.
It wasn't until I arrived at college that I was exposed to anything much other than the pop music on the radio. There, I heard more musical styles than I had any clue existed. I had a room mate who played french horn, and being a good roomie I attended most of her concerts. I ended up singing alto in the Women's Chorale. I fear my biggest claim to fame for that time was our finale for the Spring Concert, in which we sang a very fun arrangement of the Beatle's "Yellow Submarine." Unbeknownst to our long-suffering director, I and two other members of the alto section went to the physical education department and procured nearly every scuba mask and snorkle they had. Just prior to singing this finale, while Ms. Ward was facing the audience for a minute to introduce the song, we stealthily passed out all these combos to the entire alto section, and when she turned around and gave the downbeat, we all donned our gear. She laughed so hard she nearly fell off the podium, and had to stop the music and gather herself before finishing the number. We all got passing grades, probably just to get rid of us.
After my undergraduate career, I went to Ann Arbor, Michigan for graduate school (biochemistry) and then to work, and what a world of music was there! So many different ethnic styles of music, so much great music from so many genres. I listened to everything I could go to, and there were plenty of free concerts and venues to keep me happy. I sang in the church choir where we performed more "classical" types of music, along with some very intricate arrangements of a broader spectrum of music. Being involved with the college chorale and then this church choir gave me a better appreciation of how parts worked together to create movement and feeling in a musical piece. Instrumentally I was still a four-chord guitar strummer, but I was beginning to want to do more.
Then, I met and married Bill (my wonderful husband of 17+ years), and moved to a more rural area in Michigan. I was not involved with any groups other than occasionally playing solo, or with a small group, at church, but decided that I wanted to improve my own skills. I took up fingerstyle guitar after Bill blessed me with my first really nice guitar, a Taylor 812. I also do some woodworking and dabbled with making some instruments - hammer dulcimer, bowed psaltery, and various percussion/shaker instruments. Learning the physics behind such instruments has many advantages when trying to learn to play them, and it's fun!
When our daughter Mahala was born, I got the urge to begin song writing. Rocking her to sleep one night, and knowing how much she was loved but that she was so unaware of that love, helped me to understand a bit about how much God loves me (us), and it just had to come out in a song! I was fortunate enough that the friends whom I played with for some of the songs that followed are excellent musicians, and could play the lines that I hummed or sang to them, since I couldn't write out the notation. God and family were, and still are, my greatest song-writing inspirations.
I took up pennywhistle about this time in an effort to work on developing some sort of ability to sight-read music notation. Whistle is pretty easy to get the basics - it's diatonic, so I couldn't really play anything too awful sounding. It only has six holes, so I couldn't screw up too bad when trying to follow notation. I made some progress, and continue to enjoy playing, though I'll never be mistaken for L.E. McCullough, who wrote the "Tinwhistle Tutorial" that I used.
I got my first taste of bass when the music director at church asked me if I'd be interested in playing bass for the Christmas program that year. He had a brass section together, but didn't have a tuba. He needed a low end, and figured since I could play walking bass on a guitar, I should be able to do it on a bass. He borrowed a bass for me, gave me the tuba sheet music, and I tabbed out all four songs I was supposed to play (I only read treble clef at that time). What he didn't tell me was that one of the songs had some major bass solos - what a shock! It turned out all right, though, and I had no idea at the time that a year later, I'd be taking up the bass in earnest.
Our second child arrived (Aaron, who also got his own song), and suddenly our spacious two-bedroom house was cramped. So we moved to even more rural Bad Axe (was that an omen or what?) Michigan. The church we decided to attend already had 2 guitar players. So I thought it might be fun to take up bass, and proceeded to procure a viola bass to start on. I was largely self-taught for about a year before hitting a wall musically and deciding I needed some better instruction. About this same time I found out about the Church Bass email list, and hence about Norm Stockton's great bass instructional video series. I then had the dubious task of unlearning nearly everything technique-wise that I had to that point, but relearning it much better. It's been a worthwhile experience, as I really fell in love with the bass through it all.
I also started doing some arranging for our church's worship team to accommodate our sometimes quirky instrumental groupings, as well as arranging some music for some of the local rural schools. It was about this time that a fellow Church Bass member told me about MidiNotate. I ended up as a beta tester for Composer, and finally as a part-time employee for Notation Software, mostly because I loved the software so much. I use it for all my arrangements for sheet music, and for creating backing tracks for performances and for my personal recordings, which now include two more songs for sons Thomas and Joshua. Then Bill blessed me with a second Taylor K-14ce (mine has a spruce top), and so I had to write him another song as well :)
I was out rummaging around in the shop one day and came across a leftover piece of two-inch thick mahogany from our house renovation. I thought "Wow! That would make a gorgeous - and gorgeous sounding - bass body." The bug bit me hard, and with a gift of some purpleheart from a friend of mine, I ended up carving out a new body for my five string bass. You can read that tale on the forum. It's my main axe nowadays. I then defretted the viola bass, put in an L.R. Baggs active undersaddle pickup along with the two passive humbuckers, and have a great fretless bass as well. I've also added an inexpensive cello to the stable, but don't tell the classical guys that I've got it tuned like my electric basses, except two steps down. I'm too set in my ways now to learn new scale fingerings.
Our entire family enjoys playing and singing together. I've written songs for us to sing at church. I also teach some of the kids' classes at church, and write songs that we can sing about the theme for what we're learning, or to help with Bible memorization. My son Aaron especially has difficulty with reciting passages, but he can sing them! One that we had a lot of fun with was doing Psalm 23 as a rap.
Mahala has a bit of Mom about her, because she's already taken whistle, piano, and bass lessons (whistle and bass from me). The others haven't taken lessons, but enjoy "messing about" with various instruments and can pick out some tunes or "comp" by themselves. If I tune all the instruments to the same chord/key, we don't sound too bad when we all play at the same time. We do sing together for church at times, too, and it's great to be able to share our music with each other. We mostly just enjoy our music together, whether it's for a group or just for ourselves. I'm very blessed!
I've recently started playing bass for the local big band, the Bill Denbrock Big Band. For me as a non-marching band experience member, it's been a learning experience. However, the folks have been great, and I'm really enjoying playing with the band. Notation Composer has helped me immensely as I've entered the scores into Composer so I can see and hear them, then run Practice sessions to learn the parts. It's made learning much faster, and therefore much more fun!"
(L to R) Aaron, Sherry, Josh, Mahala, and Tom singing "The Promise" at Christmas.