3rds as beat one

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by jneuman, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. Is it kosher to start the 1st note of a bar in a walking line with the third of the chord, or is this something to be avoided? I tend to do this a lot, for instance starting a Cmaj bar with the low E, etc. But I tend to get the feeling that it throws off the horn players. I wanted to get some expert opinions from some experienced Jazzers.

  2. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    As long as you're not hamming it up too much.

    I think it helps to start the first bar of a section with the root. As long as the bassline defines the form of the tune and outlines the chordal structure, the horn players should not get confused. It shouldn't be a problem if the third falls at the first beat of a bar when you're walking. That said, I'll play whatever I need to in order to make the gig work.
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Start on any note that is the right note to tell the musical tale required by that band, at that moment. Anything else is noise in the guise of music.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    "...noise in the guise of music." That's going on my business card.

    Hear noise in the guise of music from guys in the noise of music.
  5. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    I agree - if it sounds good, it is.

    Only thing is that it happens/goes by so fast, and sometimes it's hard to tell if it's not cool until after it's done.

    A few years ago, I was lucky to study with the guy who designed Berklee's jazz theory curriculum back in the '70s. He was an electric bassist until carpal tunnel recently left him with only piano chops. He still has a lot of in interesting bass info though. He was disgusted with my walking lines, disgusted! I like using the occasional 3rd or 5th on beat one, and he found it outrageous!

    Then again. I'm a little more of an outrageous type than he is. :cool:

    My thought on it: Go ahead and do it, but be inconspicuous with it. Don't do it just to do it. ALWAYS BE MELODIC, above all else! And if a soloist glares at you, stop doing it, but chances are they won't even notice if you sneak it in at a point when it's going to make them sound badass. :D
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Theory can show you what there is to hear. If you're not hearing it, then don't play it.
  7. This is not strictly a Jewish art form.
  8. Hi ! In my life-lasting bass learning process (...), i tend to play the root on one quite often, and sometimes the fifth or the third. And with the third on the first beat, I often walk down to the second and then to the root on the third beat in 4/4.

    I feel playing the 3rd of the 5th can sometimes weaken the chord definition. That is even worst if the following chord is the 3rd or the 5th ! When I wish to play a really creative bass line, i tend to play the root on one, securing the chord, and the doing whatever harmonically and rythmically with the rest of the measure remaining.

    Creativity is great, doing the job is essential.
  9. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    Well said, Croc.
  10. Using the 3rd and the 5th on beat one all over the song can sometimes be good...

    The other day, I was playing "Automn Leaves", yes, the overheard and overplayed jazz song.

    Guess what, by using so many 3rd and 5th it sounded a little fresh ! In that case, the chord definition was really weakened but it sounded cool.
  11. Thank you one and all for your comments.

    I think I get the picture. What I have found through trial and error, is that with simple swing music, I can strat the bar with the third with few problems or chordal confusion, provided the line is mostly chord tones, since the guitar and piano are hammering out the changes. With more modern styles, sometimes it causes chord ambiguity and annoys the less experienced soloists. However, with modern Jazz, the emphasis on strict chord changes is reduced anyway, so I can feel free to step out a little providing the ii-V-I's are defined so people don't get lost. Walking bass is really an art and a science. I can see why people make their carreers learning how to do this well.

  12. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    If you are going to hit the root on beat one, why not just play arpeggios through the whole whole damn song. I feel it is ridiculous to do this. I have no qualms about starting on the third, seventh, sixth, whatever. Any way you do it, as long as you outline the chord (whether that includes the root at all), you are all set.
  13. pete27408


    Feb 22, 2005
    If you check out Paul Chambers for ex. you'll see that he starts on the 3rd alot. Ex. For C7 to F7 he might play E, Bb, C, E, F....
    Check out what the masters do. It's possible to start on any note ultimately, but you need to know what you're doing 1st or else it'll sound like you don't know what you're doing! The musical situation will dictate what you do also. Like for swing music you probably wouldn't want to walk a line like a bebopper.
  14. I can't stand generalizations, even though I just made one. FWIW, I've started many a bar with the major 7th because it sounded good. Nobody wet their pants or got lost or called the theory police.
    Don't ask me to explain my rules.
  15. Rabb


    Mar 2, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    As long as it sounds good. I suppose it might help if someone else is stating the root on another instrument. Too much of anything can be boring...
  16. I think yes, it's OK if it works in the context. The 5th works on one sometimes as well. Usually I'll take this approach if the same chord continues more than one or for several measures, or occurs two places in a song for difference musical reasons. It also works well on passing chords that might occur on 2 or 3, but I know that isn't what you're asking. I don't restrict this to jazz, I use it in rock and bluegrass, too. There are a good number of recorded examples.

    If it throws off the horn players, I might try it more often. Sounds like a good way to keep em on their toes and get some open string notes in when you're in Bb or Eb major.
  17. Anything after this statement is just noise.

    Play music on beat one, play some more music on beat two.
  18. That's truly profound, but this is the Music Theory thread. I was looking for some no BS practical tips from those who play walking lines day in and day out. I guess what I'm hearing is that it's OK as long as it makes musical sense, which is what I figured anyway. May be a better question is when should you avoid it, opting for 1 or 5 instead ie which are the crucial changes in a progression that really need to have their roots well defined?

  19. When should you avoid it?

    Well I wouldn't start off a chorus with it. You can though.

    It really depends on the situation and style of music you are playing.

    Generally, if you have any sort of (i'm going to use Solfeggio here, be prepared) Fa to Mi or Me realtionship, it's totally cool to play the third on beat one, in fact, i think after playing (assuming you are playing a ii V I (or i) the seventh of the Five chord on beat four it's almost nessicary to go down to that third.

    Or at least that's what I hear.

    The walking bassline is all about motion, so really it just depends on how you get there and where you are going. If you have more disjunct changes like in say... "the sorcerer" or "fee fi fo fum" you can still use voiceleading knowlege. If I were you I would study counterpoint. Counterpoint is awesome.

    I don't know if you've heard of Ben street, he's an amazing bassist, and all he studied in grad school was counterpoint, and his basslines and solos are amazing.

    But then, you have to keep in mind, the whole point of learning anything in music is to make music.

    Everything in theory is after the fact. Music is heard, not written. When you say "when is it appropriate" it's really compleatly dependant on your ear.

    If you do it enough it will start sounding right, and then it will allways be appropriate.
  20. wps


    Dec 7, 2001
    Georgetown, KY
    I'm curious what thought process people use when selecting notes other than the root on the 1st beat. For example, is E on a Cmaj7 chord "really" the 3rd of Cmaj7, or is it the root of an Em7 substitution (which may only last a couple of beats if the C is played later in the same measure)? Does it strengthen the "chord definition" to think in terms of clearly outlining a chord substitution rather than playing the 3rd, etc. of the written chord?

    I tend to think that the listener will tend to hear whatever is played on one as the root, although of course that's a broad generalization. One exception would be when a leading tone on the first beat resolves to the root on the 2nd beat, such as the 3rd of V leading to the root of I. It occurred to me while reading this thread that theory books (Levine for example) give much attention to chord substitutions, whereas I rarely see substitutions discussed on this forum.