Mixing chord tones/passing notes/scale patterns

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by mikejdexter, Mar 23, 2014.


  1. mikejdexter

    mikejdexter

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    I want to get more interesting bass lines on 'walking'. A few questions for you knowledgable jazzers out there:
    For example:
    a)If one was confronted with say, 4 bars of a C major chord what percentage of chord tones / passing notes / scalelistic patterns would you use in those 4 bars?

    b) How often would you use the root note of the chord in those 4 bars?

    c) Would you start the C note on the 1st beat of the 1st bar?-to define the C chord

    b) How important is the pentatonic / blues scale in jazz?

    Recommendations on books on the above questions?
    Many thanks.
  2. Groove Doctor

    Groove Doctor

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    Hi Mike,

    You might want to tell us a little about your experience and ability with walking lines. It'll really help know how to best answer those questions.

    Also, do you currently find your walking lines interesting? Or just trying to learn more?


    Jazz books??
    - listen to the greats,
    - be able to sing their basslines in your head,
    - learn to play the bassline you hear in your head
    - play with other musos as often as you can.
  3. Groove Doctor

    Groove Doctor

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    a) chord tones / passing notes / scale patterns = 50/30/20 at a guess. Depends on the piece, the band, etc.

    b) it depends

    c) 90% of the time yes, unless I had a great line in mind & the tune didn't depend on it.

    d) blues patterns give a blues sound and are best in a 'bluesy' tune. I'll put blues scale notes and chromatic passing notes following each other in a tune like Georgia.... consider it a 'blues plus' scale.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    It's not about playing formulas or patterns. The thing that is going to make your lines more interesting and compelling is hearing the notes you want to play and the arc of your line as clearly as possible.
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  6. mikejdexter

    mikejdexter

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    Hi guys--Thanks for the good input. I have been gigging for quite a number of years--Gig with some pretty good muso's from time to time. I play pretty standard walking lines (Lets say I get away with it!). Most guys think I am OK but I want to improve my walking skills and want to go to the next level.
    Have you ever played what you thought was not very good and the guys quite liked what you played?--Do you think most guys on the front-line really listen to the bass?--My theory is that if you keep good time and have a fairly good tone that gets you a long way.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Jeez.
    Do you want to improve or are you OK as long as nobody complains? I can't answer that question, only you can. The thing that you're hearing in the playing of people like Ray Brown and Paul Chambers and Red Mitchell and Sonny Dallas and on and on isn't just "good time and good tone", you're hearing their meaning and intent, they are communicating their internal conception of the music and putting their voice into the musical conversation in that moment.

    Think of it like playing some sort of team sport; are you happy getting together at the park, drinking some beers and playing a little pickup ball? Or do you want to play with a local triple A team? Or try to get to the majors? It's all up to you, what you want. But hearing from the guys down at the park, after a couple of beers, that you play great isn't gonna get you to the majors. You can BET that any of the guys on the stand at Dizzy's, the Blue Note, the Vanguard; ANY of the venues where the folks at the small and pointy end of the jazz pyramid perform, "really listen". And hear pretty much every freaking note.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Formulas are the act of going through the motions musically. You just end up sounding like an mediocre Aebersold track.
  9. powerbass

    powerbass

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    Leaving aside more specific theory, take the root C and fifth G of the C major chord which are the strongest chord tones, you have a lot of devices for playing just these two notes over four bars. There are various neck positions (higher/lower pitch), open G string/harmonic), walking four beats of each, two beats of each. How about starting each measure w/C or G or mixing it up. Then there are embellishments like rakes and drops that may/may not be diatonic/chord tones, then there are other rhythmic options like triplets, jazz eights, straight eights. The real deal is what is the tune, what are you trying to do within the group context? I've worked through some Ray Brown transcriptions and the beauty of his playing is his ability to do so much with the fundamentals
  10. tcl

    tcl Gold Supporting Member

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    I agree with Ed and Huy. First, what are your goals? Second, the answers to your questions for me would all be: it depends on the circumstances - the tune, the band, the melody, the venue, the audience, etc.
    If you're just trying to get by I think we can give you some pointers to *mix is up a bit*. If you're trying to play jazz in the way the masters played it, the short answer is that you probably need to go back to training your ear and learning what was played before you, along with a big dose of useful technique. The long answer is more involved.
  11. Groove Doctor

    Groove Doctor

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    +1 to the others' comments.


    When I started getting serious I would 'explore' a specific idea and see how it would fit. Trial and error. Technical approach.
    eg. descending chromatic patterns, tritones, pedalling, root not on the 1, etc.


    I'd also grab a lick I'd just learned and try it in my lines in various guises to find where it 'sat' for me. Simple but helped break me out of a rut.

    Or I'd 'channel' a great I had studied - What Would Ray Play? :lol: Interestingly, I found this helped lock in with certain players. I guess they'd subconsciously heard and were shaped by the bass player learning their instrument.
  12. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U Supporting Member

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    Don't they use actual bassists that gig on Aebersold tracks? I'm sure those cats got paid to, so one could argue that at the very least you'd want to be able to at least play as good as them. :D
  13. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

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    Hey Mike,

    If you have several bars of one chord sound, it sometimes helps to imply a V chord every other bar, or every once in awhile, like this:
    CMaj7 / (Gsus) / CMaj7 / (Gsus) /


    If you put a root on beat 1 of all of the bars, then the line will sound very stable, but possibly too predictable. If you put another chord tone one beat 1 in a couple of bars, then the line could sound more melodic.

    Bass lines are only made up of: 1. chord tones, 2. scale tones, and 3. chromatic tones outside of the chord or scale (leading tones or passing tones). It's common practice to put a leading tone on beat 4, which leads into a root or another chord tone on beat 1 of the next bar. You can also have multiple chromatic leading tones into a downbeat. You can even lead into a note other than the root on beat 1 with several chromatic leading tones. The downbeat could be a root, or it could also be another chord tone, or even a non-chord or non-scale tone, depending on the musical situation. It depends how inside (or not) the line should be.

    Caveat: Any "rule" that I'm mentioning here can be broken in certain instances in favor of something that works better musically.

    As others here are suggesting, if you have a sound in your ear (the way Red Mitchell plays bass lines, for example), then your instincts will guide you to imitate that style of playing. But you need the tools to realize what you hear in your head and transfer that to the bass.

    There are lots of method books and transcription books on the subject, including Bass Notes Of course, if you use my book, then you might run the risk of
    as hdiddy suggests. :)

    The Jazz Bass Line Book by Mike Downes is a great comparative study of bassists through the history of jazz and how they have played bass lines on different types of tunes. You can see how Pops Foster compares to Leroy Vinnegar to Paul Chambers to Miroslav Vitous to Gary Peacock, etc.

    Of course, books are just books (I love books), and you also need to have the sound of jazz bass lines in your ear to successfully play them yourself.

    Good luck!
    mtto likes this.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    No, he said mediocre, not bad ass!
  15. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

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    "And bad means good . . . Doh!"
    Homer Simpson
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    :p
  17. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

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    I'm on ten+ Aebersold volumes. There are all kinds of great bassists on the recordings: Ron Carter, Sam Jones, Christian McBride, Tyrone Wheeler, Rufus Reid, Lynn Seaton, John Clayton, Lonnie Plaxico, Johannes Weidenmueller, John Patitucci, Steve Gilmore, Jay Anderson, and many others. Some playalongs feel better than others, but that's the nature of jazz rhythm sections. I think Jamey's attitude was always that the way the rhythm section plays a track (almost always on a first take) was the way a jazz rhythm section would sound live at a jam session.

    So to extrapolate on what Phil says, I encourage my students to "at least" play as good as I do. Hopefully—eventually—better than I do (or better than Ron, Christian, Sam Jones, et al). That's the way the music grows.
  18. HolmeBass

    HolmeBass

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    Very cool hearing from John Goldsby. Totally OT, but your column is the one of the best things in BP, and I don't even play jazz! Just a fascinating way to relate theory to music performance, and always interesting.
  19. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

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    Thanks, Holme - I'm just another bass player, like all of us here (although there might be a couple of rogue piano players lurking around).

    When I see a player like mikejdexter asking questions and trying to figure out what to play on 4 bars of CMaj7, then it takes me back to when i was figuring out the same thing. I'm still figuring things out :)
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    I should have used the word "wannabe" rather than "mediocre", but that still doesn't get to what I was getting at. "Poor imitation" would be more apt but it's kinda verbose.

    Or better yet, it would have been to say that one would simply end up sounding like a Band-In-The-Box generation.

    Sorry for the confusion John. No offense was intended. I should know better, TBDB is a place that is now a corollary of Murphys Law: If someting can be interpreted as negative as possible, it will. Thanks a bunch Phil.

    I hoping that Mr. Goldsby would know better considering my posts in the past that I only have respect for him and all the other bassists, like RC, Rufus Reid, et al on the Aebersold tracks. The last thing I'd call these guys is mediocre.

    Anyways, mixed chord tones, passing notes, licks, scale patterns are just tools and "nuts and bolts" as Mr. Goldsby points out in another thread. Coming up with a formula or strategy in which you employ them isn't necessarily jazz. Kinda goes against the definition of it.

    Time for a nice long hiatus from TBDB. Too busy anyways.
  21. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

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    No offense taken, hdiddy. Please don't take your hiatus from TBDB on my account. Your input is always welcome.

    I use systems right and left to understand music . . . systems are not music, but music can be analyzed systematically (and emotionally).

    You mentioned something in the other theory thread about "everything based on major scales can make a boatload of music." That's correct, but a major scale is also just a system.

    I like to learn all kinds of systems to get around the bass, and understand harmony, melody and rhythm. Then when I go to play, I'm freer to express myself than if I were just going on luck, hope, a feeling or a little bit of a system. If I know a system or formula backwards and forwards, then I'm free to forget about the system and just play.

    A lot of great players whom I've had close contact with through the years use systems and formulas, from Red Mitchell to Dave Holland. Scales, chords, chord/scale theory, triad pairs, metric modulations, metric subdivision, metric extrapolation, chord substitutions, etc. That doesn't mean that every system in itself will yield great music, but it does offer evidence that at least some great players do use systems and formulas to understand music and play the bass.

    Since the OP was asking what to do when he comes across 4 bars of CMaj7, I thought I would just offer a concrete answer.

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