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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jkmullet, Jan 27, 2006.
Can any one explain what this term means and how it is used or direct me to a lesson?
This is a very important term for bassists. In a nutshell, its a melody within a song that is not the main or principal melody.
A bass line that is melodic in nature could be considered a countermelody.
Walking bass lines, while usually not called countermelodies can be equal to the definition and as we construct our walking lines it pays to think of them in that context.
One bass player that comes to mind as an example would be Paul McCartney (although I'm sure there will be some other posts here with good examples). Check out the Beatles, "Something" for a great example.. or "Get By With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Lady Madonna". Even when he's thumpin' out a line that is very 'country' feel there is a quality of countermelody, like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".
Another good example might be Miles' "So What"... although it could be argued that the bass line IS the melody there. It all depends on how you hear it (whether you are the bassist or the horn player!).
Whether you construct your lines rhythmically or melodically has a lot to do with the style of the music and your abilities. If you are struggling with this, try going through a tune and NOT play the root of the chord all the time. You'll find that the other chord members have certain qualities and energies that will lead you to notes other than the roots. Its fun. Once in fall in love with melodies, you'll never turn back.
Chuck, thanks for the reply
So, I take it there is no substantial relationship or structure between the main melody and the counter melody other than the obvious one of key. It's in the ear of the beholder.
there was a thread a little while ago on counter point, was pretty detailed. im not sure if these are quite the same, since i dont really remember what was in the thread, but it had some good info.
You will hear a lot of counter point in classical music. Listen to these recordings I made with my trio of a couple of Bach pieces:
In "Rondeau" you will hear the melody shift around from guitar to bass. The whole song though, both the guitar and bass have a independent melody going on within themselves.
In the first half of "Bouree" the two guitars are playing counter melodies with each other. When you hear it shift to the "Bouree II" I am playing a counter melody against the 1st guitar while the 1st and 2nd guitar have a lot of counterpoint going on between them also. I think Bach is just a counterpoint master. He gets all these melodies going on at once and bam! they all sync up out of the blue and then take off again. Hope this helps with your question.
All the best,
Yes. The ear of the beholder is the guiding light (or sound as it would be). Exactly what the countermelody would be is dictated by the style. Also, it should be sub-serviant to the melody, in other words, it shouldn't be attracting more attention than the melody. And to, if you listen to a lot of classical music you'll pick up on the general traits.. such as, the countermelody moves when the melody is at rest, or has long notes. I suppose there are a lot of good examples of this... but it's late and the only one that comes to mind is a Diana Ross tune from the early 70's called "Touch Me In the Morning". BTW, some really excellent bass playing on that album.. Jamerson? I can't recall.
I forgot to mention - you asked about a lesson. I would suggest rounding up a copy of Bach's Invention #1 in C major. You can pick up a piano score or get Bunny Brunel's book "Fifteen 2-part Inventions for 2 basses". Learn both parts (the right and left hand piano). If you have a little multitrack record one part and then learn and record the other part along side it. The Invention #1 in C major is a pretty easy piece to learn, but a beautiful little diddy and an excellent lesson in counter melodies. I find it real fun to learn Bach's 2 part inventions because each half is a beautiful piece within itself, but when you put the two pieces together it's just pure genius.
All the best,
I always thought a counter melody was a bass line that resembles the main melody when it comes to rhythm and intervals exept that it's "centered" around the root. Guess I was wrong.
Maybe I was mistaken. I was thinking jkmullet was asking about counterpoint, as counter generally means a part contrasting with the main part. I appologize if I didn't understand you question properly and added confusion.