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Bass (Chord) Questions From Guitarist

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SabreChris, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. SabreChris


    Mar 19, 2009
    Hi, I've played guitar for 20 years and would like to develop a modicum of talent on the bass. I am a "shredder", have a good grasp on theory and what is involved in developing sound technique with guitar.

    Over the years, my guitar playing has gravitated towards arpeggio/chord shapes. Most of my licks and improvisation are based around chord shapes or intervals.

    Because a guitar neck is small, I have alot of freedom to play intervals in differnt ways. For instance, I can stretch across 5 frets to play a major 3rd. On a bass this would be impossible for me without lateral movement. I would need to play it across two strings.

    I was wondering, while playing bass, are most basslines constructed around arpeggio/chord shapes? Can someone point me to a good refernce that shows the correct way to "organize" ones technique on the bass?

    I plan to learn by doing -- just playing along with songs and using the sequencer to slow down and study difficult parts, I just want to make sure I am choosing the correct movement.

  2. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    IMHO, bass tends to be much more about line/scale rather than chord/arpeggio.

    Yes, we think about chords, and a few of us can spell and play any of them :D --yet, I think that you have forgotten that we generally don't sustain multiple pitches as the guitar does. I am sure you know that, but consider how dramatically it changes your view of the underlying harmony. Chord tones become seen as only a part of the picture. We are much more about how time passes and how passing tones are timed.

    But since you are asking about what amounts to a hand position question, I'd say it is time for a new way of thinking about the fret board, too. All IMHO. :cool:
  3. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    I think the best basslines hit the chord notes with the other scale notes used just for embellishment. You don't hit the 2 on the downbeat, but 3 ain't bad a lot of times. Most of the time I only do chord notes
  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Yeah, most of my bass thinking is along the lines of chord tones, and I pretty much eschew scales (and try to avoid thinking in modes at all unless I'm actually playing a modal compostion without tonal chord changes). But I'm not trying to play fast, and I'm not trying to hit every note available in a two octave arpeggio.

    It's a totally different function. The bass is supposed to DEFINE the harmony, not dance above it. So, pretty much my function is outlining the basics of the chord (e.g. the root, 5, and whether it's functioning as a dominant chord or not, and maybe whether it's minor or major). Then it's about telegraphing where the harmony is going. All this while simultaneously tying the drums to the rest of the music.

    So, I don't need to reach across five frets to play a major third. It's right there on the next string one fret lower.

  5. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    With bass you generally have to think opposite of shredding. The basslines that really make a song work are generally tied in with the drummer rhythmically and tied into the vocals melodically (usually contrary motion works best)

    Of course this is all depending on whatever type of music you're playing. The above is just a good approximation of the role of bass and a starting point.

    I'm sure you'll find this out as you start to listen to what your records tell you
  6. SabreChris


    Mar 19, 2009
    This is kinda the answer I was expecting. Thank you.

    As a guitarist my improvisation has evolved from playing scales/modes to being organized around chord shapes or fragments and only playing a subset of the notes. A fast scale run is more about adding texture or energy and the "in between" notes dont really matter that much.

    As a guitarist I will be the first to admit that with the exception of metal music, guitar is more of a rhythmic texture or harmony(chordal) instrument. Its really not that relevant in most arangements.:crying:

    I really think they should start out teaching guitarists arpeggios so they think in terms of the chord, and not in terms of scales. but most methods on soloing and improvisation will get the player working on scalar runs and sequences which are largely non-musical. Of course sweep arpesggios are very difficult for beginners so I guess its a catch-22.
  7. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City

  8. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    chording is where 6 string basses become helpful.

    Bass is more starting with gluing the groove together.

    I do dabble in guitar.. the bass difference is that you have to plan and think a bit more.. you have to be thinking at least 10 seconds ahead of where the song is going to help with the transitions.

    I find guitar to be tons easier to be OK at..

    focus on the 1234 beats.. this is a good start.

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