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doing what sounds good and may not be "right"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Llama's Rage, Jul 26, 2005.

  1. Where do we draw the line between what is right and what sounds good? Or does it sound good because it is "right?"

    When I'm walking I always kind of freak out because I don't want to play any wrong notes whatsoever. When I'm soloing I use the very few scale patterns I know and don't stray from them because I don't want to play "wrong notes."

    And at this point I'm not sure where to take my walking skills, which are very limited already. I would certainly like to improve them but I'm always afraid of playing those "wrong notes" and having the drummer throw a cymbal at me. So little ol' me sticks to the basic chord structure and plays the arpeggios up and down and maybe adding in a tritone here and there, but...I feel so LIMITED.

    any ideas?
  2. Platypibri

    Platypibri Technician, Kaman Music

    Jun 28, 2005
    Riverside, CA
    This is not a flame in any way....
    have you considered private lessons. In my personal experience, the things that are technically wrong and yet sound good are few and far between. It happens, but not often enough to make it a good practice to be ignorant of the "right" notes. Not that I'm a theory monster, but what I did learn certainly helped.
  3. i was in my school's guitar class for 5 years, played guitar for 3 and bass for the last 2 years. i had kind of figured that i was on the "creative" side of learning to play now, and a teacher can't help with that too much. or at least my guitar teacher gave me that impression.
  4. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Do you play the "wrong notes" on purpose or by accident? do you know which notes you are doing and what degree of the scale they are as you do them?
  5. I do them on purpose, usually. Mainly its me trying to break away from a strict arpeggio patten so I'm just hitting a note in there that fits according to the shape of my had rather than a note that fits according to what is in the arpeggio.

    And I don't think of scales when I walk, only arpeggios
  6. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    blues walk or jazz walk?
  7. jazz. i've already got the blues thing down - play the arpeggio up then play it down. good, now onto the next chord :p

    to be honest, i can fake it pretty well in blues, so i'm not worried about that too much. but i like to jam with a few jazz players pretty often and don't like looking like an idiot in front of people that REALLY know how to play [real] music :|
  8. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I'd suggest a teacher. I hope to get one soon. I'm pretty much in your situation with the walking...I'm not able to walk over lots of changes, and I often end up doing the same thing over and over (when I get back to that part of the song) because I know it sounds good and I'm too scared to change that.
  9. If anything, it's the other way around IMO: it's "right" because it sounds "good." However you may define "good."
  10. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    I'd also suggest a teacher. I'm currently taking walking bass lessons and they really help.
    Here's some random crap that I've been told by wiser people that may apply here:
    As long as you hit the root at the start of each chord, nobody really cares what you play in between. You can do whatever you want as long as it keeps the crowd moving.
    There are no bad notes. The note that comes after will determine whether it's bad or not. (like a tritone, those don't tend to sound nice, but if you resolve them, they kick ass.)

    Chromaticism is your friend. I've found it's not always about the notes you play but how you play them. If you hit them with the right attitude, they'll work out. Look at some big jazz guys. They could go totally out of key in a solo, but it works because they know how to get back into the key.
  11. bassjus


    Mar 30, 2004
    What really helps me is play loud and confident, and if you play a wrong note, you'll notice quick enough to not do it again.
  12. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    True, but not resolving a tritone may create tension, and that could be the intended effect. Dissonance is just as an important part of music as connsonance. But I do understand your point. A note is meaningless without context.

    Theory is simply a guide for music. It's what one creates that truly matters. There are many roads to get there though. It's all about actualizing the music in your head.
  13. An old theory trick is this:

    If you hit a wrong note, move either up or down to the next fret and you will be in key.

    Obviously, it pays to learn your scales and modes so you have more tools in your war-chest anyway. When I play, I sort of subconsciously visualise the accurate notes on my fretboard all the way up and down. I guess this is because I studied and have played music for a long time. It gets easier, and you become more intuitive as you gain experience.
  14. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    Look for the book:

    Modern Walking Bass Technique by Mike Richmond. Also the Rufus Reid book The Evolving Bassist. That will get you thinking about note choice and making some interesting/wrong things work. There are many other books but those are good ways to expand the walking repetoire.

    On another note, the drummer won't throw a cymbal at you for playing notes. Maybe for messing with the time but nor for note choice.

    Steve Tri tone Clark
  15. If it sounds good then it is good, end of story (for me anyway). I don't believe that teachers are supposed to "teach" you how to walk (or anything improvised), so much as help you create your own sound (plus technique). So I don't think a teacher is especially nessesary here. If you like how you sound then your doing well, and your willingness to do what sounds good even if it breakes the rules makes you a better bass player than 99 percent of people out there (that said don't break rules for the sake of breaking them). In fact, the way I see it, the less you think about rules (or whether or not your breaking them) the better off you are, because your creating your own sound rather than going by what people did before you.
    If you do get a teacher then make sure he/she's not the type you tells you, in absolute terms, what a walking line should and shouldn't be, rhythmically or musically, and instead gives you a vocabulary and a better ability to express yourself. If you get trapped with a teacher who doesn't do the above you may end up being just another bass player...
  16. Mr_McBride


    Oct 9, 2003
    Acworth, Ga
    I'll second what everyone else is saying....find a good instructor.

    However, I'd also like to add that if is sounds good, then it isn't wrong. Personal preference in style creeps in here, but depending on your goal, there are no wrong notes, it's all about transferring that sound in your head out through your hands.

    As for walking....knowing your scales and modes help, but don't just play one scale/mode at a time. Practice connecting the modes as you play up and down the neck. Also, a good rule of thumb for basic walking: always play the root/tonic on beat one and a chord tone on beat three (you don't have to do this way, but it's a good place to start) and use beat four to connect to the next tonic (a fifth below or a chromatic from above or below the tonic works well also).

    Hope this helps,
  17. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    There's no such thing as a "wrong" note. Theory is all about context, especially theory as applied to walking basslines. Chances are if something sounds good it sounds good for a reason. If you explore those reasons and understand the context in which a certain arrangement of notes sounds good, then you will know how and when you can use them and sound good. This is the essence of studying theory.

    A good teacher will help a lot with this, assuming they know the theory behind it. I don't think its ever possible to reach a point where a teacher can't help you, its only possible to outgrow what a specific teacher can give you. Hell I read an interview with Victor Wooten where he said he STILL takes bass lessons from session players who specialize in certain styles.

    There's always something to learn, and there's always someone who can help you learn it.
  18. Kk, these should be your priorities for learning walking bass IMPE:

    -Learn your scales and modes; only playing the arpeggios is not walking (no offense), unless it really suits the tune.

    -(as mentioned) Get a teacher.

    -Learn all of your intervals so that you can quickly know how you will "walk" from one chord to the next. (ex: you are playing a Bm chord for 4 beats into a G7: That is a maj 6th so you have to know how to spread your notes in order to reach and then approach the root of the next chord. You may consider descending chromatically like B Bb A Ab then G or, you may actually use an arpeggio such as B D F Gb then G, or replace the Gb approach note with an Ab or a Bb to mix things up, or play eights notes Gb and back to F then G because you are goin into a G7 chord, so using F as the approach note would, in theory terms, link the bars together.)

    -Your teacher will (aka should :D ) be able to tell you about tastefulness in when you decide to ascend, descend, arpeggiate (doesn't necessarily have to be the odd intervals either), add in triplet fillers, synchopations, start on a note other than the root, harmonize and/or copy the melody in your line, etc.

    -Learn and practice approaching one given chord from another. In theory terms, figure out 1.) the relationships between the first chord and and the second in terms of the distance between them (as I mentioned), 2.) the difference in complexity (Ex: walk using whole steps, half steps and jumps, rather than arpeggiations if you are going into a more complex chord so that you can spell that second chord out arpeggially and you won't be repeating yourself, or vice versa [not that repeating yourself is bad, its just that you want to be able to decide whether you want to repeat yourself or not is all]), 3.) Which notes of BOTH chords line up and use a common note as an approach note OR simply use a note that DOESN'T line up with the first chord but is part of the second as an approach note in order to define the next chord depending on the situation, 4.) meh, I dunno, there are a few other things.

    I started walking on DB and BG 3 years ago. The first year I only used written lines, but that gave me an idea of what a line CAN sound like. The second year I had to learn all of my jazz chords in the different keys and get my chops up and the third year was about ideas and freshness. It pretty much comes down to how well you know your theory. As what the cats always say: learn it and forget it. (seriously though, I had a hard time writing this because I consciously forgot about it.)