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Don't play the thirds?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by RoadRanger, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I was at a blues/jazz jam last night and the trumpet player told me that I shouldn't play the thirds as it limits what the horns can solo on. First time I heard this? This guy has toured with "A" list bands so I suspect he knows what he's talking about ;) . Anyone care to elaborate? Thanks!
  2. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    well as bassists we arpeggiate chords, right? that would include the third too.
    it will be interesting to hear what others say
  3. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Focus on the I and V for support. Use the III and VII for more melodic/soloing bits. That's been my general guidelines. Maybe he was trying to say that he was looking for a more supportive bassline?

    Honestly, I use thirds all the damned time to push a melody if I hear it. Not talking riding that third here. Just using it when it feels right. Sometimes a passing tone. Sometimes more. If a musician felt that was limiting him, I would personally question his ability.

    Given that you said this guy is presumed competent, I would guess that he was looking for a more supportive line when you were being more melodic. Probably felt it was distracting him and making him try to keep the chord structure more outlined. After all, someone has to play straight man at all times. If you don't hear that straight man, then it is supposed to be you.
  4. In blues, with the indeterminate third, if the bass is hammering one or the other (the III or the iii) too much it can crowd a soloist. I-V-VII-I will give everyone a lot of room (think "Messing With The Kid"). But you can't do that on every tune. The VI can also be useful: I-V-VI-V, or a descending Dorian thing: I - VII - VI - VII or V or I. Eventually you will have to pull a "She Caught The Katy" line, which is also pretty similar to "Rocking Daddy", and play a III. Or a slow walk, again where you'll probably have to play a III, or a minor chord vamp where you use the iii. Just don't do it on every tune, or even on most tunes. All IMHO of course. The best thing to do is know the original bass line on the cardinal recording of the tune and play that.

    As for jazz, I don't know. I remember my band instructer telling the jazz band back in high school that the bassist was responsible for the I and V and the pianist and guitarist should stay off of them and work the color tones and tensions. That was back when I was primarily a tuba player, and had only been playing bass for a couple of years- not good enough to be in the jazz band!
  5. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    i can't imagine he was saying to not play the third in your bass lines and stick to only root and fifth all of the time. perhaps you were riding the third too much or perhaps you were playing the third on the strong beats (1 and 3) ?
  6. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    That's bullcrap if you are trying to play a walking bass line that support s the harmony of the tune. Never heard of anything like that.
  7. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    If it was a straight blues, then he was kind of justified. I usually use the #9 to approach the third, if I'm going to play a third.

    With jazz . . . you gotta be playing thirds. It's often up to you to outline the harmony, since the soloist is going to be playing a lot of out-of-key stuff, and the piano/guitar player will probably be playing obtuse voicings that don't sound like anything.
  8. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
  9. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I do think he was talking about not playing them on the beats. I think I understand that would "anchor" the tune in the minor or major depending which one I was playing. I'm used to playing with less skilled players who stick to the minor. And thanks to all so far, that gives we some stuff to look up and analyse :) .
  10. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    If you are not playing them on the strong beats you aren't outlining supporting the harmony of the tune and implying a whole other set of changes if that makes sense


    Sep 13, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    It sounds like he wanted to have the freedom to play majors or minors at will.
    Kind of like being asked to play power chords in garage bands.
  12. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I don't have a problem with that :).
  13. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Aside from general harmonic considerations and not being too definite, if he likes to start phrases on the an of 1 w/ the third then you're softening his entrance if you play the third on the 1.

    I often play thirds on the one, but it's usually kind of an accident I've walked my way into. And then I will do it again or something to kind of make a pattern out of it.
  14. jellymax


    Nov 29, 2006
    SF CA
    play the third when needed. do not dwell on it. whenever possible, accentuate the
    root, fifth, SEVENTH, & ninth. he will be happier & you will learn/profit from the
    experience. horn guy knows something but not everything

    adapt to each band as you see fit bro....
  15. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    This is what I was thinking.

    I'm far from the expert, but when I read the feedback from the trumpet player, I was thinking that might be his way of saying that he was looking for the bass to define the chord changes more clearly.
  16. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    Laying off the 3rd is actually pretty typical on a vamp in either blues or jazz music. In both styles, soloists like to play around with tonality by blending licks from the the major scales and the minor scales. If the bassist sits on the thirds too much it prevents the soloist from stretching out.
  17. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    A vamp is something very different from playing through the changes in a solo context.

    I cannot possibly think of a note that defines the chord changes more clearly than the third. (My order of importance: 3rd, 7th, root, 5th.)

    So, it really comes down to clarification on this:

    Were you at a blues jam that had horns (and thus seemed "jazzy") or were folks calling jazz standards such as All the Things you Are, There Will Never be Another You, Solar, Footprints, etc?

    This is really important, because your question cannot be answered in a global sense; the answer depends upon the specific genre that was being played.

    For example, in a blues setting (especially over solos, where it would seem that this issue arose), the horns and guitar/keys want to be able to hammer that #9 without the bass hammering a natural 3rd. However, in a jazz setting, it's not as much of a big deal, assuming you're not playing Blue Monk and the solosit wants to hammer the #9 (although Monk wouldn't have cared...).

    So it's all about context - we need more info to answer your question to the fullest extent possible.
  18. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    My two cents --- I got out my Major and minor scale chart and thought about horns, sax, etc. liking the flat keys, but saw no reason to omit the three here.

    I think, as others have said, he just wants a generic root-five from the bass. No other reason than that.

    Which I see no reason, other than making him happy, in doing.
  19. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Roger that. If you don't like the guy, make sure to retain the 3rd...insert as frequently as possible preferably with a slide.

  20. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Yes, both :D.