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bass progressions.. how?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by basseddie, Mar 7, 2001.

  1. Ok so I have been practicing everyday, going through lesson books and checking this board. Ihave been playing for about 1 month now and I need some clarification on playing basslines.
    If the song cords are ..say Bb, Gm, D, F would you play within the Bb scale, Gm scale, D scale, and F scale with those cords?Or could you play the notes common with these scales, maybe starting with the root for the cord changes.
    And how do you do it without sounding like a boogie woogie style bass walk? I need to know as I play in our church praise band and I want to do more than just play the root all the time.
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    This is exactly why in a lot of these discussions people say that you need to know about chords rather than scales. You may know every scale there is, but if you don't know which scale goes with which chord you can't use that knowledge in any practical way.

    You have to know the "function" that the chord in question is fulfilling in the sequence. So first - what key are we in? This may not be what the key signature says or you may not have a key signature. The key may change every bar! You have to decide from the chord sequence and melody at any particular point, what key we are in.

    So if we have decided the key, then what is that chord doing in the sequence? If it's a minor and we are in a major key - is it the II chord from the key - if so, you might choose to use the Dorian mode of the key rather than a Minor scale. But if we are in a minor key then you might need to choose a minor scale.

    Anyway, this is just scratching the surface - you would need pages and pages of this stuff - analysis! There are probably things I have said just in this short post that are controversial and worthy of long debate - it's a life-long study and not something with an easy answer!!

    The answer really is to begin a course of study with a teacher or look at some theory books like Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book" , but there is material enough in this one question for a lifetime of study, if you include applying this understanding to your playing as well
  3. Yvon

    Yvon Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    Bruce have an exellent answer, and that's the way I see it also. But lots of bass player, most of my friend, think "mode".
    You should learn them also.
  4. Ok so now I am more confused.....what is the difference between scale and mode?
    I only want to come up with some decent sounding bass parts for these simple praise songs. I thought playing bass would be easy, and it is , but also complicated too.
    ps. how do the guys that cannot read music do it?

  5. check this thread for a primer on modes:


    And as far as reading music goes, avoid the whole situation by learning to read it.

  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    well, the answer is...the listen. alot. and they play along with records to a) develop their ears and b) learn the styles.

    to answer your question, a mode *is* a scale. The modes seem to confuse so many young players I almost wish nobody new about them.

    the advice here is good: learn what the chords are (i.e. how to spell them) and learn how they function. Chords are the bricks for a bass player, scales are the mortar.

    Another way to think of this is that a chord spelled all the way out to the 13th is the scale spread over two octaves. Example: Cmaj13 would be C E G B D F A. if you compact that into one octave you get C D E F G A B - which is a C major scale. Another: C7 #11 would be C E G Bb D F# A which over one octave is C D E F# G A Bb or C lydian 7.

    Bottom line: don't get too hung up over modes. Learn major and minor scales for now, they'll help you improve your technique and dexterity. Listen to the kind of music you want to play. And take your advances (and retreats) one day at a time.
  7. Starrchild


    Nov 10, 2000
    The Bay.
    get you're fingering together,right & left hand coordination,also try using 1 finger per fret,for a nice little stretch there.relax,breath and you MUST
    practice at least 30 min's a day.
  8. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    not true. the key is to practice regularly. How long is somewhat unimportant. 15 min a day at first is great. As long as you practice regularly.
  9. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    Sheesh guys, let's not make it harder than it needs to be - he's playing church music, not "Giant Steps." ;) And his singers probably aren't Manhattan Transfer. It ain't changing key every bar. There MIGHT be a shift to an alternate key center for a bar or two, but that's about it. All of the advice is good (I esp like Pacman's - I never looked at it that way before), but it might be a little much.

    eddie, look at the key signature. If it's Bb major, stay in Bb major unless the chord obviously doesn't fit (e.g. that "D" chord. Sure it's not Dm?). All of your chords will be in Bb major (I = Bb, D, F; IV = Eb, G, Bb; V7 = F, A, C, Eb, etc). To get from chord to chord, use passing tones within the key of Bb major. Don't overdo it though, or it'll sound like you're playing a Bb scale. But if you use too many notes outside of the key, you're going to get that "boogie woogie" feel you're talking about.

    IMO, modes have a place, but mainly for fingerings. If you're still not that familiar with the neck, if you know the fingering for Aeolian mode, when you hit a vi chord you know your notes are 1-3-4, 1-3-4, 1-3 without thinking. It's really only a temporary fix though. What you want to do is think KEY, not mode. A good exercise to do is to pick a key, and improvise in that key all the way up and down the neck. Don't just play a scale from the root; start from different notes within the key, jump around, but STAY IN THAT KEY. If you say the notes to yourself as you go along, that's even better. But it'll get your hands used to staying in key. And arpeggios, arpeggios, arpeggios until you projectile vomit (or 15 minutes, whichever comes first). Gotta know them chords.

    Also, stop looking at guitar charts for a while, and check out the piano parts if they're available. You don't have to read the lines verbatim, but it probably wouldn't hurt to sit down and compare what the bass line is doing in relation to the chord symbols. You'd be surprised how much you can learn by just analyzing a piece without even playing it.

    And don't get frustrated when the guitar players just slap on a capo and happily strum away without knowing a thing about theory. Despite what people think about playing bass, it's WAY HARDER than playing rhythm guitar. You have to know at least some THEORY, because you have to know what know individual notes to play - they don't. You have to know what notes make up each chord, and how to get from one to the other appropriately. You have the tough job.

    I know this is very simplistic, but if eddie can't make it through a I-IV-V chord chart, he's going to quit long before he gets around to figuring out C7#11 chords. For now, if you can stay in key and in time, and you'll get asked back. Plenty of folks can't even do that.
  10. aww come on lump, we didn't even tell him that he needs to wear puma sneakers and stand on one leg yet. :D
  11. Oh, Man, I thought that was ADIDAS Sneakers!!!
    Guess I have to go shopping tomorrow...;)
  12. Starrchild


    Nov 10, 2000
    The Bay.
    you're probably right pac-man about the amount of practice time being unimportant,but it's something i picked up from alphonso Johnson at a clinic.yes consistency is the key of course.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I don't want to be confrontational, but I think this is really bad advice - I think as a bass player you have to take each chord on its merits and function in the tune - if you just play in the key and don't take account of each chord, then it's going to sound like you don't know what you're doing (mush!) and will not give a clear message to the other players about where you're going.

    Come on - even the blues change key and a lot of tunes will thow in a chord that is not in the "home" key to match the melody. If you just stay in the key and don't take notice of the chord, then you are more likely to play a note that just sounds like a horrible mistake when one of these chords comes along. A lot of tunes have "turnarounds" that indicate we are going somewhere else (back to the beginning) but can often be out of synch with the key - if you miss these, because you're concentrating on staying with the key, then again it's going to confuse other players and probably sound "out" with the melody.

    I think that if this advice is followed it will lead to a situation where it is very easy to lose the "form" - cardinal sin for bassplayers! - and I have seen this happen to beginner bass players, many times - "where are we?" written all over their faces!! You have to play the chord sequence and learn to memoris ethese quickly or you will never progress - just playing the key hinders this process and has many pitfalls for the beginner.
  14. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    That's okay Bruce; I knew you were going to respond exactly as you did.

    Although I understand the concept you are trying to get across, IMO it's still making things harder than they need to be, at this stage, for this individual. Yes, eventually you need to understand WHY you are doing things, and what role the the chords are playing in context of the overall harmony. But you can't just sit out until you get all of the book work sorted out. And I don't think playing in the same key as the rest of the band is going to do any long-term damage.

    And not to be confrontational either, but I think that's a problem with jazz musicians in general. Not all forms of music require that depth of analysis (making it inherently inferior, of course ;) ). Now, don't get me wrong - a lot of liturgical music can involve some pretty complex harmonies, especially gospel music (just pray you never have to attempt it with a Korean pianist who is about as funky as Celine Dion). But a lot of it is just I-IV-V too. And some of it is just pedal point - 37 bars of D whole notes, yee haw. You don't need to go to Berklee for that.

    But I think the first thing someone wants to do when they start playing is to a) not get stuck just playing roots, and b) not play obviously wrong notes (and we could argue the "wrong note" thing all day long, but IMO when the rest of the band glares at you, the note you just played was WRONG, no matter what YOU think). And think that's eddie's goal here.

    But in the future, I'll try to make my advice just "bad," instead of "REALLY bad." ;)
  15. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Poor BassEddie. Do you have any idea what to do now? Anyway, now you have an idea how many approaches there are to learning to play bass guitar and how controversial things can get here.

  16. yep that the main problem with the people trying to get Feildys sound. they keep buying Adidas but he wears Pumas. attention to detail

    i am assuming that you play Double Bass so i am sure the Adidas are just fine for your style of playing. unless you play a ibanez DB :D
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I must admit that I have never played in Church - only been in one two or three times in the last twenty years, for weddings an funerals! ;)

    But I think the "wrong note" thing is crucial - suppose you choose the 4th of a chord that is still in the key we are in - now this is a valid choice from your criterion of "play the key" but may sound horrible over any sort of dominant or major chord as it will be only semi-tone away from the major third and may either clash with what else is going on or make people think you are playing a minor chord there. My view is that as the bass player you need to be positive about the chord in question and about resolutions - if you don't then you will got a lot of icy "glares"! ;)
  18. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    OK, first off, that's almsot certainly got to be Dm there not D. That kind of change might make sense in a Poulenc piece, but I don't think you guys are doing Poulenc with a praise band. (Something also to note: Is that sometimes g*tar players writing out bass player charts will fail to note anything other than the tonic of a chord because they assume the bass player is only playing roots).

    First off, make sure that you've got rhythms down on your roots. If you're playing with a drummer or percussionist are the two of you locking together, playing like a single musician? Are you playing appropriate rhythms to the song? Most of your praise band music will probably be best with dotted quarter eighth rhythms and quarter-eighth-eighth rhythms. Do you have these down?

    Next up, is being aware of the key. We'll ignore modulations for now (they happen you should know about them, but for someone who's a month into playing and trying to move beyond roots, well, let's learn to walk before we fly). As a general rule you'll want to play only the notes of the key signature you're in. If we assume that the correct chords are Bb/Gm/Dm/F then I would guess that the key is probably Bb (check your sheet music to be sure).

    You know key signatures and basic scales, yes? Good. Then you've got a collection of notes that you can pick from.

    Next, for now at least, you'll want to hit the root of each chord on the change (we'll assume these are one chord per measure changes). One of the most basic things we can do is engage passing notes to move from one chord to the next.

    In the examples below I'll assume we keep a dotted quarter-eighth rhythm going (so if I write out, say ABCD, the A and C are assumed to be dotted q's, the B and D eighth's).

    To get from Bb to G, we have two possible routes: One is to go down:
    Bb Bb Bb A | G

    Another is to go up
    Bb Bb D F | G
    (actually I'd probably play the pattern above as dq-e-q-e-e with the first three notes staying at Bb then moving up the arpeggio on the eighths).

    Now, we want to get from Gm to Dm. Again, we're looking for ways within our Bb scale to get from one root to the next. One thing I should also point out is that you should treat chord tones with some primacy. Any note that's in the chord should be preferred to fall on the beat, especially 1 & 3. Non chord tones should ideally fall off the beat and be played as eighths. So if we wanted to use a scale motif going up from Gm to Dm, we could play:
    G A Bb C | D
    Note that with our dq-e rhythm, both the non-chord tones will be played off the beat as eighths.

    I hope that's enough to get you going and help you explore some of where you're going because that's all I'm typing today.

  19. LOL :D :D

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