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Chord/Bassline playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Cornbread, Jun 28, 2001.

  1. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Is anyone else really interested in playing chords and basslines at the same time? I know a lot of bassists use chords here and there, but there aren't many who can do both at once. My two favorite players in this style are Todd Johnson and Charlie Hunter. Todd is a great 6 string player who messes with midi and comes up with really cool organ chords over walking basslines. Charlie Hunter plays an 8 string guitar/bass(3 bass strings, 5 guitar strings), and he is really getting proficient at an instrument that no one else plays. I'm starting to practice with simple basslines with maybe two different chords, and I'd like to hear about other people's experiences.
  2. First of all, greetings to everybody, I have been a year-long lurker but a newbie poster. Well, I guess I've emerged from the black, expanse that is the void of the internet :D

    Regarding chords and basslines, I often try to do both, especially when soloing. Since I prefer and generally use a four-string bass, what I usually will do is walk a bassline with my left hand (I'm mainly a jazz player) on my bottom string. I then play hammer-on chords with my right-hand fingers on the top two or three strings while continuing to pluck the walking bass line with my thumb (on the neck). In conjunction with that, I slightly mute the bass-line string(s) to help distinguish the two sounds.

    I agree that Charlie Hunter is amazing, and I suppose it would all help if we had 8-string guitar... :D

    If anyone else would share their technique on such a topic, I'd be glad to hear it... I realize that there are many possibilities for technique in playing bass chords.
  3. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Welcome to Talkbass, Whisper!
    Your technique is different from Todd Johnson's. He plays basslines with his thumb and chords with his index and middle fingers while fretting basslines with his index and middle fingers and fretting chords with his ring and pinky fingers. In other words, Todd plays like Charlie Hunter only on a regular six string bass. Your technique is more like something Stu Hamm would do: tapping out the various parts. I haven't had much luck with that technique.
  4. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Problem with tapping chords/double stopping is that its hard to achieve enough power at the first few frets (about 1st to 3rd or 4th). So, generally, you will have to use your right hand thumb to play those notes, either using a strumming motion or slapping . Problem is this technique is only viable if you are tapping notes (RH) near the end of the fretboard (where it's easy to slap, and the movement for your right hand isnt too big).

    So, if I'm playing a first inversion Root-fifth-octave triple-stop on say F# starting on the low tonic (2nd fret of E string), I slap, or thumb the root, and tap the fifth-octave at my right hand one octave up, (12 frets up, where my right hand is)
    C# and F# .

    Otherwise, tapping out chords and sh*t shouldn't be too hard when youre above the 5th fret.

  5. Yes, I've also tried the Todd Johnston-style technique but find that it sounds too muddy on my passive four-string. I think that it is better suited for a six-string bass, because there is more pitch separation between the chords and the bassline. In general, it seems to work better in conjunction with a MIDI-equipped instrument, that way you can also shift up the chords an octave if desired (and get all those funky sounds).

    The drawback with the tapping technique, I find, is that it's harder to play faster or more complex chords, and sometimes it's more difficult to sustain notes. However, I still prefer it. I suppose that whatever you're comfortable is the best option, in general.

    Re: Lovebrown: You got it. :D
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    On my website http://listen.to/Jon.Packard there's a soundclip of me using a quasi-flamenco tapping technique. It's 4 note chords, very fast and I really didn't have any trouble getting the notes to speak. The biggest problem I had was getting them to speak evenly and clearly enough to get that fast latin feel.
  7. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Jon, that's an impressive bit of tapping! However the bass seems to get lost in the mix when the rest of the band comes in(probably just the realaudio quality). Just curious, why did you tap the arpeggios rather than play them fingerstyle? I suppose it would have been a lot tougher and not as bright sounding.

    And Whisper, you're right about the 4 vs 6 issue regarding chords. Playing chords using the thick D and A strings definitely has different(negative?) sound compared to using the G and C. Also, Todd has that midi advantage where he can have the chords sound like an organ. Otherwise the chords and bassline tend to sound too similar.
  8. 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 band does tend to bury me in that mix, but partially because there's like 20 of them and only one of me!

    There's now way I could've played that fingerstyle! :D If you listen there are two different rhythms going on, the 1-5-1 "bassline" of the pattern and the chordal top part filling in the blanks. Also during the solos you can make out some slight comping that I tapped, just because I thought it added a little dimension to the part.

    Oh, and thanks :)
  9. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I think the guitar is better suited to the standard chord/melody approach than the bass guitar. In addition to Hunter, I like Tuck Andress and Martin Taylor; they really manage to create the illusion of several instrumentalists playing at once.

    As far as bassist go, I think Victor Wooten, Roscoe Beck, and Stu Hamm do well using the tapping approach. Jeff Berlin and Colin Hodgkinson seem to get a lot of mileage out of conventional right hand technique.
  10. alistair

    alistair Guest

    Aug 29, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia
    I generally tap the root of the chord in the first octave of the neck(low octave) with my fretting hand then with my right I tap the 3rd and 7th or 3rd and 5th of whatever is appropriate.

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