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Forest from the Trees(Chords vs keys)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by reel big bassist, Jun 22, 2001.


  1. reel big bassist

    reel big bassist

    Mar 27, 2000
    Maryland
    Hey Everyone,
    When I approach a song, I usually look at the chords,and
    try to play something over them that will compliment the
    chords, as well as give the song the feel I want. For example
    let's say my guitarist is playing C Major To G Major, I'd play
    something like this: C,C,E,G; G,G,B,D. That's just an example,
    I bassicly play the strong notes in the chord, sometimes I play
    a half step away from the root of the next chord on the 4th beat,
    but that's pretty much how I'm playing right now.

    I am currently taking a music course, yesterday we were doing
    keys, and it got me thinking. I approach a song by looking at the
    chords, and seeing what I can play over them to compliment them,
    by doin this am I focusing in on the trees and not looking at the
    forest? What I mean is this: A key is based on a certain scale,
    and chords are composed of the tones in a scale, so when I'm
    approaching a song, should I try to play with the scale, instead of
    each individual chord? In other words, should my main focus be the individual
    chords, or the key?

    Thanks,
    Greg P

    P.S. Also, should I try to play the strong notes of the key I'm in, or the strong notes of each
    individual chord. Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.
     
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Your instinct are right on. By far the most important thing you've got to think about is the chords. Because in many forms of music, jazz most noteably, the key signature is insignificant compared to the key of the moment. Keep on doing what you're doing, outlining the changes is your job.
     
  3. reel big bassist

    reel big bassist

    Mar 27, 2000
    Maryland
    Dear Jon,
    Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it. I've got another
    question. I've heard that in jazz a bass player has to
    outline the chord changes and help transition between keys.
    How would you transition between keys?

    What I'm doin right now sounds really good in my band, you know,
    outlining the chord changes. But some of our songs change keys, would
    it be benificial to our music if I tried to play something that helped the
    transition between keys, or should I just keep outlining
    the chords? I mean right now, our music sounds good, but I'm looking
    for ways to make it better ya know.

    Thanks,
    -Greg P

    P.S. I'm in a 3rd Wave ska band.
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Your question is actually quite valid. You should try to be aware of BOTH the chords and the scale at the same time. Even in jazz, where the music modulates fairly frequently, the "key of the moment" will also have a parent scale. Awareness of these scales can help you play in a more linear manner when desired. If you're only playing from chord tones, you'll be guessing what to play in between the chord tones when you want to play a scalar line to connect them.
     
  5. reel big bassist

    reel big bassist

    Mar 27, 2000
    Maryland
    Does "key of the moment" mean the key that your playing in at that particular
    moment? By parent scale do you mean the scale that the key is based off?

    Yea sometimes I have trouble connecting my chord
    tones from different chords together, i.e. making the chords lead into each other.
    Sometimes I play a half step away from the root of the next chord on the 4th beat, that works
    really well.
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    What you are doing is most commonly called "Chromatic Approach", which is one of the first things to learn when venturing into walking bassline technique. Typically, the chromatic approach from above tends to sound a bit more dissonant than from below, but sometimes you want that dissonance. When you become aware of the parent scales involved (I also sometimes call them "blanket scales"), you can also try adding diatonic approach tones into the mix.

    Remember that the bottom line in all of this is to play whatever sounds best to your ears at all times. Sometimes theory is a shortcut to that. Other times, it can be a detour in the wrong direction. Good luck.
     
  7. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    Sometimes, the "key of the moment" is the soloist(or horn frontline)venturing outside the parent scale. Now, YOU as the bassist have some choices-
    1)Venture outside with them, thereby rendering their out statement "void"(inside) or
    2)Stay "put" & allow them to do their thing.

    See, the bassist is loaded with responsibilies... ;)
    (Perhaps I'm getting a little ahead/confusing...sorry).

    ReelB-
    ...try playing a 1/2 step away on BEAT 3(upper chromatic) & a 1/2 step away on BEAT 4(lower chromatic). Play the root on BEAT 1 of the following bar.
    Ex: If you' re playing-
    /C-E-F-F#-/G-etc/

    Try-
    /C-E-G#-F#-/G-etc/

    Just food for thought...