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Asus b9 [tuning chord]

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Stev187, Apr 23, 2011.


  1. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Toledo, OH
    Okay, color me curious....

    I noticed the following while doing some studying today:

    Some bass players prefer tuning their instrument to an Asus b9 chord, the Phrygian chord from the key of F, rather than an A, the traditional tuning note. Many a gig starts with the bassist saying to the pianist, "give me an Asus b9 chord."

    Mark Levine The Jazz Theory Book, p. 51​

    Can people fill me in? I can guess, but I don't want to--I want to know. Why is this preferred by some players?

    --Steve

    P.S. Here's Levine's voicing for the "tuning note" chord.

    asusb9.
     
  2. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Looking forward to this one. :eek:
     
  3. Me, too.

    Great book, by the way.
     
  4. BillyIVbass

    BillyIVbass

    Sep 24, 2008
    PA
    Gear Reviews Guitar World Online
    Never heard of anyone tuning to this. 99% I hear "Give me an A"
     
  5. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    For me, I like to tune to that chord when there is a real piano. If the piano is out of tune, and sadly many seem to be, it's a bit easier to get your A to sit nicely with the piano. In my experience.
     
  6. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Yeah, but why?
     
  7. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    What do you mean? I just said why. Because it's easier than tuning to a plain A. I use that chord because someone told me about it.

    Edit: Sorry, that may have sounded grumpy. I ain't had my coffee yet. I reckon the theoroy-onimics behind is that the Asusb9 has all your open strings in the chord. I guess the flat nine is just for spice or something. I just read about Lynn Seaton tuning to a regular Asus, so you could do that one and it would be just fine. Here is a link to his thread where he talks about it. Even if you think I'm bunk, Lynn definitely knows what he's talking about.

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f163/tuning-harmonics-348237/
     
  8. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Okay.

    I tried it and, for me, it made no difference than tuning to a single "A" from any source.

    It does sound "Hip n Cool", though. :cool:

    I also looked through some (first 100+ pages) of the aforementioned book. The author's obsession with a "susb9" is becoming annoying. :eek:
     
  9. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    Do you ever play with real piano's, especially ones that are out of tune?
     
  10. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    "Real" pianos, yes - a lot. Out of tune? No. At least not in last 30 years or so... call me "lucky". :hyper:

    Out of tune guitar players, constantly. I certainly do not need an Asusb9 from one of them.

    Besides, none of this explains "WHY" tune to this chord.
     
  11. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I told you why. Because it is easier for me. If it's not easier for you so be it.

    Which leads me to my "Why" question: Why are you so insistent on arguing about this? What point are you trying to prove? I wish you would just say it.
     
  12. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Because an Asus has the notes for all 4 open strings in it.
    So you can tune all your strings, not just A.

    He said it, perhaps you didn't see it.
     
  13. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    All FOUR open strings? Asus = A, D, E. Hmmm... Well, 3 of 4 strings, at least.

    Anyways, I'm interested as to WHY the Minor Ninth (Bb) added into this Asus chord helps. I'm looking for more than "Because it is easier for me".

    Something more "scientific"?
     
  14. I've never heard of the Asusb9 tuning practice either.
    In the written out voicing, would it not be better to replace the Bb with a G? Or ask for stacked 4ths of E A D G ? Or some other voicing of Em11 or Am11? I don't see or hear the use of the Bb being there to tune. (Tuning a D as a 3rd of Bb seems odd)

    In the end, it likely does not matter as long as you end up getting the instruments to sound good together. Whatever works.
     
  15. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Well Asusb9 implies the 7th (G) being there.
    What the Bb adds to the mix, I don't know.
    Except it makes everyone feel cooler by using a really "Jazz" chord :D
     
  16. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    I don't think that the 'prescribed' voicing...

    asusb9.

    ... does imply some kind of A Dominant. The example clearly does NOT include a "G".

    It's the "Bb" (b9) that is the apparent mystery.

    This "b9" doesn't occur until the 17th Harmonic and the "sus" until the 21st Harmonic. So, I am not 'getting' it.

    Now for making Jazzbos feel cooler tuning to this "really "Jazz" chord", may indeed be the answer. :cool:

    It's the ONLY one I can see.
     
  17. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Toledo, OH
    Thanks everybody, and especially for the link to Lynn's thread, which pretty much answers it for me. My guess was similar to what we've come up with here. For about 8 years I had a regular gig on double bass with an old-time string band. No piano to tune with, but lots of other stringed instruments such as guitars, banjos, mandos, and fiddles. It was always easier for me to tune the bass to a chord than a single note. Part of this was sheer volume--in a noisy coffee house, the single A string of a guitar or banjo was very difficult to hear, especially if you tune using harmonics and you're listening for the beating. I also had an unscientific theory that the sympathetic harmonies of the chord made it easier for me to hear the beating as I tuned. Could be bunk, but I can't remember accused of being out of tune!

    As for the Asusb9 chord, I can't play the chord on my piano and attempt to tune the bass at the same time, so... :smug: If I get a gig with a piano player, I'll certainly try it. Again, my wild guess was that this chord did a nice job of supplying the overtones that made it easier to hear the harmonic beating between the piano and the bass. Who knows if that's true?

    FWIW, I don't see any problem with there not being a G in there for tuning purposes. My lifelong practice has been to get my A in tune and then use the standard harmonics method to get the bass "in tune with itself."

    Thanks for playing along, everybody!

    --Steve

    P.S. Without getting argumentative about it, I'll just add that I am skeptical that the suggested chord is just a pretense to seem hip. There might not be a super scientific reason to prefer it over other A chords, but that doesn't mean it's just affectation.
     
  18. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    I asked Mark Levine about this, and he told me that John Wiitala, a top bassist in San Francisco for 20 years or more asked Mark to play this chord when he tuned his bass. John requested it, and since he had previously lived in Portland, said that someone up there recommended the tuning method to him.

    I like to use the A7susb9 . . . it sounds good, I can play a lot of different notes to check all the relationships. Of course, I also sometimes just take an A (harmonic 2 octaves up on the A string), or a G, or a D . . . or whatever.
     
  19. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Toledo, OH
    Thanks, John! My copy of The Jazz Bass Book is right next to my copy of The Jazz Theory Book. Both are really close to my bass. ;-)
     
  20. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I like an A or better yet, a Dm triad in 2nd inversion. That's often the chord you get in orchestra when tuning to a piano.
     

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