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Bluegrass bass?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by chadwmit, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. chadwmit


    Nov 23, 2012
    In standard 4/4 time, does the bass alternate between the 1 and 5 chords on beats 1 and 3 or on all 4 beats of the measure?
  2. misterbadger

    misterbadger Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2012
    Northern California
    1 and 3
  3. Zoa


    Dec 28, 2009
    Root on the one and three, fifth on the 2 and 4. For example, in D; D A D A
  4. If I understand your question, you are asking about what notes in the chord structure you would be playing, and when to play them. Whether you play quarter notes (4 notes in each bar in 4/4 time) or half notes (2 notes in each bar in 4/4 time) will depend on the tempo of the song and how the band wants you to keep time. With respect to your question about "1 and 5 chords", the bassist would normally play the root note of the chord (G for the G chord the guitar player or banjo player is playing) on the 1st beat of the bar, and then play the 5th note of the chord (D) on the next beat. Playing these two notes provides the harmonic structure of the chord complementing the other musicians. So the 1 and 5 you are referring to are the 1st and 5th notes of the chord. Hope this helps.
  5. misterbadger

    misterbadger Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2012
    Northern California
    In 4/4, I'll typically play the root note of the chord on the first beat, 5th note on the third. Both will be quarter notes. Second and fourth beats are for the mando chop.
  6. And don't just do root/5th. Hang on the root occasionally, especially to launch into simple walks to the next chord change.

    Listen to Mike Bubb and Viktor Krauss.
  7. misterbadger

    misterbadger Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2012
    Northern California
    There are lots of instances where you'll not want to use the 5th note and will double on the root or use a walk. For example, key of C, when you're on the I chord (C), going to the V chord (G), you don't want to use the fifth note (G) of the I chord on the third beat of the measure because you're going to use it again on the first beat of the V measure.
  8. chadwmit


    Nov 23, 2012
    Thanks everybody for the answers and sorry my question is confusing. To make it simpler, i am asking if the bass player is playing half notes or quarter notes while alternating between the 1 and 5 chords.
  9. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    Either. It's up to you to decide when to use 1/4's vs 1/2's, or something in between the two. No joke. It really depends on the tune, tempo, where the meter, and rhythmic construction of the songs melody needs support. It's an art.
  10. jeepnstein


    Dec 6, 2013
    It's really up to you. I play with both newgrassers who generally see the rules more as general guidelines and traditionalists who believe with all their hearts and souls that anarchy would prevail if you stray off the path just a little bit. You really have to decide how you want to drive the tempo and go from there.
  11. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    OK, it's not always clear whether a given tune is in 4/4 or cut time 2/2. But. You will not go wrong if you play the root of the chord on the first beat; and either the root or the fifth on the third beat (in 4/4) or second beat (in 2/2); i.e., two bumps per measure, the first one the root and the second usually the fifth although as someone above said you may want to repeat the root if you are fixing to go to the V chord (e.g., D in the key of G).

    It's really not that bad to repeat a note. For example, take two successive measures the first in G and the next in D. A lot of people would play G-G/D-A and that's great. But if you play G-D/D-A that's OK too. What will NOT work is some fancy s**t that throws the beat off and it takes four or five bars to restore the groove.

    Remember (and I have trouble remembering this - my background as a sax player makes me tend to feel like more notes are always better) - the groove is the first through thirtieth things, stuff like constructing cool lines and interesting chordal textures come after Nos. 1~30.
  12. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    In 4/4 time the bass player is playing a quarter note ... on the 1 and 3 beats. Beats 2 and 4 are usually a mandolin "chop" (or a chop on whatever rhythm instrument the band has). Occasionally you'll play 1/4 note on all four beats, and when transitioning from one chord to another ... eg, to go from A to D you might play ABC#D. Just listen to some bluegrass music ... it certainly isn't complicated, and is easy to hear.
  13. A lot of people think I am strange for this one, but to get a good idea of root/fifth bass playing with many variations, listen to and master the first five Beatles albums. Please Please Me thru Help!, plus Past Masters One. All the stuff prior to Rubber Soul. Lots of two beat, walk ups/downs, triad and arrpegio walks - everything the bluegrass, or country bassist needs to get through a gig.
  14. Bassist1962:
    Better still....listen to Bob Moore. 18,000 sessions. Gut strings...old European carved bass....incredible taste,touch and musicality. He's the real deal.:D Or Junior Huskey. Or more recently, Mark Fain and Gene Libbea. Or Superman (Kent Blanton who is on this forum). Or Dennis Crouch and Mike Bub.They are all above the crowd IMO.
  15. jolok


    Nov 26, 2013
    Tacoma, WA
    And Dennis Crouch
  16. I meant no disrespect to the Bluegrass greats. I have played in a couple of 'Bluegrass' groups that didn't do any Bluegrass. We did do a lot of Beatles, Dead, Dylan, etc. The one Bluegrass tune we did was a Del McCoury tune, but was actually written by Richard Thompson, so I dont know if that counts or not. :confused: :p
  17. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    When in doubt, ask "What would Dennis Crouch do?"