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Bass chords/scales help

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by tyadams2006, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. tyadams2006


    Jan 2, 2012
    Hi, I have recently come across a website that has helped me to expand my bass playing with bass chords (Major triad, Major 7th, Dom 7th, Minor triad, Minor 7th, Deminished triad, Deminished 7th, minor 7th flat 5). Up until then I mostly played scales and always had a hard time playing the bass and coming up with good solid lines. I learn most of my playing through tablatures but I just feel like that isn't helping me enough or giving me confidence to go on my own in a sense. However, since learning about the chords I feel a bit better with my playing but not sure exactly where chords fit in with scales and vice versa and kinda confused on how chords fit in with the bass cause you don't play them like you do with guitars (You play the notes of a chord on bass individually (similar to a scale) not together like on a guitar). My thought is that chords are for use if your keeping a rhythm pattern to hold down the song just as they would for guitar. The scales are there for when you go into soloing mode. Am I right? Wrong? any Tips?

    lastly, I play mostly heavy metal/hard rock/rock/some blues and any other tips that could really help me to improve on being able to come up with bass lines on my own and be able to play like Cliff Burton, Jason Newstead, Geezer Butler, Duff Mckagan, Steffan Lessard, Gene Simmons, Rex Brown, Glen Hughes, ect would really help me. I don't really want to do any slap bass just basic rocking bass that all the pros play.
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Yes, IMO you are on the right track. Tabs are OK up to a point, but it is not good to rely on them completely. Scales are important in order to learn how chords are formed. Ninety percent of the time a bassist will play chords, not scales. You should also learn chord inversions, which is where another note besides the root is the lowest sounding. The link below shows some inversions.

    Jeff Berlin - A Comprehensive Chord Tone System for Mastering the Bass 1987
    Kubicki440 likes this.
  3. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    My advice is to find a good teacher who can teach you basic theory. Then, you won't have any questions like this. It's not hard to learn the basics. Also, if you want to play LIKE someone else, learn their licks just the way they play them through a whole tune. You'll also be training your ear while picking out the notes. Just don't try to BE like them.
    basskal77 likes this.
  4. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    Unfortunately theory questions bring out the snobs.

    There are some great books on applied Bass theory. The easiest comprehensive one I've found is an obscure one called EADG

    For bass it's not as critical as melodic or chordal instruments..

    Before answering a ton.. what exactly do you want to be able to do when done.... when discussing bass, theory can be right sized to the need... this isn't as easy on most other instruments.
  5. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    I'm sure to beat others to the punch... sitting down and having someone discuss theory at a keyboard sometimes makes sense.. other times it's learning R-3-5 for different chord voicings.

    Many of the guys you listed as your idols/mentors aren't heavily playing theory.. many of them are more riff players (nothing wrong with either route... unless you ask a theory snob)

    Do you prefer lessons, videos or books.
  6. I wouldn't get caught up in what a bass player SHOULD be doing. Learn some lines from songs you love, practice your technique, and DEFINITELY play with some other people. A teacher is always a good way to learn to play the bass because he will correct improper technique and give you good ways to practice (if he's a good teacher). Good luck with everything!
  7. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    +1 to the suggestion that you find a teacher to help you make sense of all this information.

    You are on the right track to getting your theory together. The short answer to your question is that chords are derived from scales. I posted a lesson on my site that explains this. I hope it helps you (though you may need a teacher's help to fully grasp the application of these ideas). Good luck!
  8. tyadams2006


    Jan 2, 2012
    I've been told all about learning theory. Even got an e-mail from David Elefson telling me I should learn theory. But with that said, Most bass players don't know a whole lot about theory themselves. Take David Elefson for example, I don't believe he knew much about theory before he left Megadeth. When he left I believe he took some classes and learned music theory. Now that he is back in Megadeth he is more refined, more polished and some would say a waaay better player. I think he was great the way he played before.

    BUT here is the reason all that technical, theory mumbojumbo is for the Jazz and Classical players. also for some Blues players and even some Rock players? In hard rock and heavy metal, all the technical, theory mumbojumbo just doesn't sound as good as that raw, unpolished, unrefined, untechniqued, untheoried sound. For example, take a look at Megadeth. Then take a look at any of the polished, technical, theoried players Like Malmsteen, Vai, Satriani, Blackmore, Les Paul, Eric Johnson, ect. With the exception of Blackmore All of the polished guys are solo acts. I don't think any of them have ever had a band. The theory is that no one wants a player like that in their band when they are first starting out. (However Megadeth now has Chris Broderick who is a classically trained, polished, theoried guitar player) Anyways, my question is this, who is the more popular act? Megadeth or the polished solo guys? Megadeth of course. And not many people site any of the polished guys as influences except maybe Blackmore and only because he was with Deep Purple and Rainbow of which are heavily influential bands. (Note: most of the famous guitar/bass player may be polished, refined, and theoried NOW but back in the day when they started in these bands they weren't polished, refined, and theoried. They were raw, unpolished, unrefined, and most of them probably didn't know theory from a hole in the wall)

    With that being said, I took music lessons when I was a kid. I started out on the trombone in school and moved to the French Horn and then quit music in middle school and took up the guitar. I did lessons for a few years and then kind of went on my own. I switched to playing the bass after I realized how terrible of a guitar player I really am. I am all self taught on the bass as I've never really had the money for lessons. So I just learn through mostly the internet and watching video's and finding lessons and sites on how to play bass and I find what I want to know like the chords. The BIG problem that I have is finding other people to play with and I mean just sit down and play with without the worry of having to be really good. I've tried out for a few bands but most of them want me to be this polished, refined, bass player that can play like I was Jimi Hendrix or something. I think most bands nowadays lose site of whats really most important when playing in a band. Which is just playing music. I personally believe that it doesn't matter how good you are, if you fiddle around with your sound and practice together as a band you'll eventually come up with something and get better and get tighter and become a good band. Most bands I have tried out for don't think like that. They want someone to come in that can play everything in 5 minutes. They don't want someone they have to work with.

    Ya know, I've read a lot of history on music and individual bands such as the Rolling Stones & KISS and what I have come to find out is that most rock bands before the 1980's were started because of the love of music. Didn't matter if anyone could play or not. They just wanted to play music. As long as you knew something, like a few chords on guitar or that you could hit one note on the bass, you were pretty much good to go. You got better as you played in the band and the band got better by playing together and practicing. But no one expected you to play like Jimi Hendrix or Cliff Burton. It was all about playing music and being in a band. Now days that attitude has gone out the window and in the trash. Never to be seen again it seems. I for one just don't like it. I really just want to play in a band and get better as a musician and not have all that technical mumbojumbo thrown at me right now. Is that even possible anymore?
  9. EatADeadGoat


    Aug 29, 2010
    Theory will always help. At the very least you will have a better idea of what you are doing and what notes work together well.
  10. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    I can understand where you're coming from, Ty. And as long as you're just doing music for fun, you're certainly not obligated to learn theory or develop virtuoso chops (and by the way, I think there are still lots of bands with exactly that attitude).

    But you have already acknowledged that the theory you have picked up so far has helped your playing, so if it's working for you, why not pursue it further? :) I think it's safe to say that nobody's playing was ever harmed by learning more about music. Music theory isn't a panacea, but it certainly doesn't take away anything that anybody had before learning it (except ignorance ;)).

    And why wouldn't good bands want a "polished" bass player? Good players always want to play with better players, and that's how to keep moving forward musically. IME, the only times that I've lost enjoyment/interest in music were the periods when I wasn't learning anything new.

    Go ahead, try studying some theory. I promise I won't tell anybody! ;)
  11. VSUBass


    May 27, 2014
    Closures are dumb, stupid & not very smart
    Do you happen to know where I could purchase this book...other than at Amazon for $590.72? I can't find it anywhere.
  12. $590 seems like a fair price for an '87 in excellent/mint condition.

    Le female is a complex species. I've learned about their behaviours from Game of Thrones and My Little Pony, so I'm kinda an expert. - Kohntarkosz
  13. You need not spend $590.72 on a theory book. I'm sure most of it would be over my head anyway - and I can wade around in belt buckle high theory water.

    For what I needed www.studybass.com and www.musictheory.net got me started. Main thing we bassists need to understand is harmony. Google can find several papers on harmony and harmonizing a melody line for you.

    Studying theory is best done IMO from an easy chair with a theory paper and a number 2 pencil handy for notes in the margins. Problem with theory is we have to understand the major scale first and a lot of people do not stick around long enough to accomplish that first chore so they keep running into stone walls and give up.

    To wade around in theory water up to my belt buckle it's taken me 10 years of study. I happen to enjoy it so it's not been a chore. To get your feet wet and have some idea of what you need to be doing will only take thirty minutes a day for the next three months.

    But you will have to carve out that thirty minutes and stick with it for three months.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  14. VSUBass


    May 27, 2014
    Closures are dumb, stupid & not very smart
    I understand a good bit of theory, chord construction, how modes are derived, basic harmonizing of a melody line (I think :)) and what I want to do is lock it all together, kind of put the final pieces in place...to the degree that one can do that, there is always more to learn. The ideas/opinions in this thread about chord studies and just focusing on the major/minor/harmonic minor make sense to me. I'm getting Chords for bass : the complete guide to understanding and applying chord structures on the bass guitar & Arpeggios for bass both Musicians Institute publications--though I find the MI books kind of dry but confusing, even when I already understand the subject!--from the library to see if they would, with appropriate work by me, fill the bill in regards to imprinting the ideas on my brain. The Berlin book appears highly regarded and that's why I want(ed) to check that out. But not for $590. :D
  15. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    AFAIK it is out of print. Speaking of "print"....why dont you do just that...i.e. download then print off the pages in the link.

    Should work out slightly less than $590.72. :thumbsup:
  16. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    Private lessons from a good instructor via live or skype is a very good way to spend your money and time.
  17. RayMan34


    Jan 3, 2014
    After a year of 'just playing' I've now moved on to learning some actual theory. After only a week of learning some of the basics I'm coming up with my own lines with ease and improvising over songs.

    Scales, what they are and what they do
    Chord Tones/Arpeggios (most important)
    Notes on the fretboard.

    I used www.studybass.com (Excellent and clear) and Scotts Bass Lessons on youtube (great tutor, if a bit indulgent).

    For notes, I bought a pack of sticky dots and marked the entire fretboard with them, using Yellow for naturals (with the note name written on it) and blue for flats/sharps. Just visually seeing the fretboard layout like that helped a ton.
  18. For what it is worth this helped me with the fretboard:

    From the root, or any note for that matter it's.....
    2 is over two frets same string.
    3 is up a string and back one fret.
    4 is up a string same fret.
    5 is up a string and over two frets. Or down a string same fret.
    6 is up two strings and back one fret.
    7 is up two strings and over one fret.
    8 is up two strings and over two frets. Once you are on the 8 octave a new pattern can start from there... Mark has a good lesson on two octave scales which I found interesting.

    Playing a I-IV-V chord progression; place the I chord's root on the 3rd string, the IV's root will be up a string same fret and the V's root will be down a string same fret.

    Each note is located at least three more places on the 3rd and 4th string, find them. C note @ the 3rd string 3rd fret. Again @ the 4th string 8th fret and then again @ the 3rd string 15th fret. Those same "spaces" hold true for any note.

    This "The X of Y is located @ Z" can be taken all over your fretboard, we just have to put to memory a few visual patterns.

    Have fun.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2014
  19. FerK


    Dec 11, 2011
    I can imagine many extraordinary bass players from "back then" who had a solid musical training. John Paul Jones springs to mind quite quickly. I wouldn't generalize.
  20. Wooly John

    Wooly John

    May 16, 2014
    The relationship between scales and chords:
    A basic chord is three notes, called a triad - the first, third and fifth notes of the scale.
    These are called chord tones. When you play simple roots and fifths, you are playing notes of the chord.
    Many players know these as patterns or shapes instead of individual notes - so they know the applied theory - it doesn't really matter as long as you know what tones go together for each chord.
    In C, 1-3-5 = C-E-G
    A minor chord is a triad with a flatted, or minor, third: 1-b3-5 (C-Eb-G).
    A seventh chord adds a flatted seventh to the major triad: 1-3-5-b7 (C-E-G-Bb)
    A minor 7th chord adds a flatted seventh to the minor triad: 1-b3-5-b7 (C-Eb-G-Bb)
    A Major 7th adds a major seventh to the major triad: 1-3-5-7 (C-E-G-B)
    Augmented uses a sharp 5th note of the scale: 1-3-5# (C-E-G#)
    Suspended is 1-4-5 (C-F-G)
    Diminished uses both a flatted 3rd and a flatted 5th: 1-b3-b5 (C-Eb-Gb)
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2014
    DBFIU likes this.

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