bass lines based on scales

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Trist6075, Mar 25, 2002.

  1. Trist6075

    Trist6075 Guest

    Mar 6, 2001
    Hey I have some questions about forming bass lines. I hope some of you kind folks can help me out.

    what needs to be in a bass line that resembles a scale (progression wise)to make it complete. Root, 3rd, 5th i know, but can you use other notes from the scale? What doesn't work? Should it be all notes from the scale or can it simply be based on it:Do the notes need to relate to the scale? ex. F major scale using a B instead of Bflat. ARe there certain progressions for certain types of muzak

    I hope u can pick up on some of these and give me some feedback.

  2. Trist6075

    Trist6075 Guest

    Mar 6, 2001
    that face in the paragraph is supposed to be a D for 'DO.' I don't know what happened there.
  3. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Well... were to start.

    The short, short answer: If it sounds good, then it's OK to play it.

    The longer answer: Generally speaking, you will want to stick with notes that fit into the scale unless you are simply using an non-scale note as a passing tone. But, that's what it should do.. just pass. Generally speaking, if you hang on say, F# and the chord is an Fmaj7, things are going to sound very stinky. In most types of music, it's OK to play notes outside the scale as passing tones and it sounds fine (country music is one place I can think of where they don't dig on passing tones). The reality of it all is that as long as it sounds good, it's OK to play that note.
  4. Ditto. And what's more, as long as you stay on the scale, you can play different modes (start on different notes) to get a whole different sound out of the same scale. Scales are what it's all about maaaaan. :cool:
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - as beermonkey has mentioned - this is a lifetime's study - especially for Jazz musicians; in terns of finding scales which will fit with the chord sequence playing.

    My Jazz tutor say that basically if the 3rd and 7th of a chord are the same as the 3rd and 7th of the scale, then you should be able to use the scale in a solo. BUT - you have to be able to hear how it works and be convincing - you have to know how to resolve the tensions you create.

    For bass lines, though - you want something more stable and if you are not somehow communicating the "root motion" and using the functional harmony, then it will probably just sound like you don't know what you're doing or have lost your place! ;)
  6. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    As you say, root, 3rd and/or 5th are usually good places to start, and then build from there. The reason for this is that these are the components of a triad, which one can take as the basic building block of most chords. Scale tones, such as 2nds and 4ths are usually (but not always) good choices for passing tones. If you aren't sure of the chord's qualities, be careful about using chord tones.

    "What doesn't work" is highly subjective and also depends on what kind of music you're playing. For instance, if you're playing over a 7 chord, a major 7th is going to sound pretty dissonant, but that may be what you want so long as you know how to resolve it (as Bruce said). In this case you might try the b7 or octave to resolve.

    Do the notes need to relate to the scale? Once again, it depends on what you're trying to do. Sometimes raising or lowering an interval can help you say what you want to say. For instance, take a major scale and try a b7 instead of a 7 (Mixolydian mode) and add a b5 and you've got yourself a nice blues scale.

    As far as muzak goes, I'm not too sure about progressions, but a fair amount of stuff you hear on the radio is I-IV-V.

    Hope this helps :)
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    What do you mean by a passing tone?
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Quite often in walking basslines, you will approach the next root note on the first beat of the bar by coming from a note a semi-tone above or below - the chromatic passing tone, which will not be part of the key or scale. I think this is what was being referred to - although you can have passing tones which are scalar.

    So - you are approaching a strong chord tone/root and put another note on the weak beats of the bar which is the passing tone - the idea is to make the line smoother and to flow, rather than jumping about all over the place - so you "join up the dots" with passing tones!

    So if we're talking about four to the bar, then 1 and 3 are the strong notes and 2 and 4 are more suitable for passing tones. The chromatic passing tone can also give a very strong sense of resolution when changing chords - but anyway - it's all part of that subject that is a lifetime's study anyway! ;)
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Aah, I see. I thought that was it... for some reason I seem to know all this 'stuff', but have no idea about the terminology!

    So they're the non-emphasised notes in a walking bass line...

    ...but if you play them out of scale they often make the line sound appalling. Like if I played C,E,F#,G under a Cmajor chord. :eek: Nasty!

    The bass line to 'If You Want Me To Stay' by Sly & The Family Stone... would be a good example then. Hitting the wrong passing tone in that line is baaad!
  10. Another thread where I don't know what anybody is talking about.

  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Straight up... I had to sit there counting intervals in the major scale on my fingers to get my head round my own post... and my example is super-obvious (he says, worrying that he got it wrong!?) :rolleyes:

    ...less than a month ago I'd not have been able to understand that. I've had one lesson and it felt like somebody had removed a very large pair of radioactive metal blinkers that were crippling my view of the field of music... (which makes me a pony bassist... boom, boom!) :D

    My 2nd lesson is next week and I'm really looking forward to it. I thoroughly recommend it.

    ..and dont worry about it, Bruce-L regularly confuses me... mainly because I keep trying to run before I can walk.
    All this info is here and I wanna understand it all NOW!!! - the main disadvantage of not being an android a suppose...
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But if the chord in the next bar is some kind of F chord you might well want to play F# on the 4th beat of our bar of C Major! So you could have C,D,G,F# and then walking down your F chord...
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Actually I kind of know what you mean! -I can sort of hear it!

    The F# would kind of pre-empt the next chord...the F-whatever... rather than emphasising the previous chord, the C.


    Whoops, that's me, gotta go and change my coolant module... ;)
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Part of the beauty of playing bass is the fun you can have breaking the rules. I can think of a LOT of lines over a C major chord that use the F# and it works because IN CONTEXT your ear accepts the note as OK.

    Great example is this run, common in 60s soul tunes not to mention a common turnaround in blues:

    C E F F# G

    The Led Zeppelin tune "Lemon Song" (itself a cop of Howling Wolf's "Killing Floor") uses a line like that (with some notes repeated of course).

    Another example of a bass line using non-scale notes is the intro riff to Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused":

    E G F# F E E D C# C B

    I hope I'm not confusing you !!!!
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    That F# can also be quite lovely in bringing out the "super major" tonality of the Lydian sound. It would imply (or reinforce) a Cmaj7(#11) tonality. And in contrast, F is actually nastier over a C major chord than the F#......
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:

    Actually, the dazed & :confused: example helps... mainly cause i love the song (& naturally the bass intro).
  17. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    As a general guide... in order for your basslines to sound firmly rooted in a key, the seven notes of its scale should prevail. If the five additional foreign tones become too prominent, the key feeling can become somewhat vague; however, your ear should be the final judge. If it sounds good, it is good.

  18. We in the heavy metal community have made dissonance and C5dim intervals our stock in trade (D isn't low enough any more). Of course, we never play major chords. ;)
  19. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    do you mean a C add #11? I assume thats it.

    if you played a cmajor triad with an F# as a cluster, you hear a tritone between the C, the root and f# and a minor second between the f# and g (the 5th). That can be a gross sound unless you voice it correctly.. but i'm getting off subject.. anyway..

    All I have to say about good bass lines is that they don't really have to follow a scale.. many times non-chord Tones are used to add texture to a piece. Non-chord tones are notes not in the chord being played but are used to get to the next note or chord change...
  20. This might be a bit off the topic but recently I've been using a "2-5-1" change which uses some nice passing tones.

    For example, a 2-5-1 in G would go something like this: a-b-c-g(2), f#-d#-d-c(5), b(1). You end up on the 3rd which allows time for a nice walk down to the root by the end of the measure.