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bass in middle eastern music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by uethanian, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    so random topic, but i'm wondering if anyone here has experience playing bass in middle eastern groups (not so much pop, i mean the "orchestral" stuff). i'm in such an ensemble at my college and i've been playing in the percussion section. there's no bass player and the director wants me to play. mostly upright, maybe some fretless electric.

    enough background info. so i have no idea what to play...the director was kind of vague about it...in short "take the melodic line, and play the notes that lie above the rhythmic accents." but looking at this as a bassist, playing fragments of the melody doesn't make sense to me...it would seem almost easier to just play the melody in its entirety. i don't know. help?
  2. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    I play in a band playing traditional middle eastern and greek music. The bass in not really a traditional instrument but adds to the overall sound nicely. The band is Light of East Ensemble in my signature. There are no rules as such and the tunes that we play are continually developing. Sometimes I play the notes from the melody that are on the accents. For example in a 10/8 Samai piece accenting the 1, 4, 6,7, 8 keep the traditional pulse/groove of the tune going. There's another 10/8 piece with quarter tones that I play in unison with each of the other melodic instruments. In other tunes we work as a group to figure out what the harmonic movement in the piece might be and compose a root movement to enhance the piece. In other tunes a play a drone with the bow. Check out Amos Hoffman, an oud player who often works with Avishai Cohen on bass.

    Avishai and Amos

  3. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    hey i really like what your group is doing. it's not so much that i'm worried about what to do in general, its that we have SO many pieces early on and i don't know what would be appropriate for each. personally, i think it would be cool to play the melodic parts with a bow and act as another tone in the group (rather than be "the bass").
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Most approaches I have seen to world music where bass instruments are not "native" tend to have the bass mimic or accent certain elements of the traditional hand drum patterns, as opposed to the melody. I am fairly certain that is where the distinctive bass style of Cuban music originates.

    for example in the traditional belly dancing Baladi rhythm; you have the doumbek drummers playing

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
    (Dum, Dum, ...Bek, Dum ...Bek)

    And translated to bass lines would use the Root (Dum) and fifth (Bek) of the appropriate chord.

    There is actually a world of cool bass ideas hidden in the hand drum patterns of the other cultures...
  5. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    i think that's part of what my director was getting at, except that there aren't really "changes" to play root-fifth patterns over. what confuses me is when the melodic line is more complex or non-repeating...if you follow the percussive accents you'd land on a seemingly random sequence of pitches (or at least that's how it appears to me)...also it would seem difficult to pick out which note to accent when the melodic line has a run of sixteenths or syncopated rhythms
  6. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON

    It can seem random but that's our Western ears talking. It's great once you get your head or ear around 1/4 tones and the non symmetrical forms. Sometimes I am given changes but not often. The oud player and perfect pitch violin player and I have to spend some time together working out pleasing progressions.

    I very much enjoy Light of East. It's the most satisfying thing I do. I love the idea that we are all Western musicians, except for the leader on oud, playing music from other places and times. CD release is in November. Very excited about that.

    EDIT now that i see your myspace page I realize your ears are very much in tune with the music.

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