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Grateful Dead bass question - please help!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Vincent Paul, Nov 9, 2018.


  1. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Hey Folks,
    I've been playing bass for about 18 months and have been focusing on developing a Phil Lesh-inspired sound/technique, without trying to copy him note-for-note. I use a semi-hollow bass with flatwounds, a heavy pick, and an older style amp/stack setup.

    The band I'm in recently performed live and a question came up about my bass line during the spacey/jammy segment within Playing in the Band. The improv jam begins at about 3:09 and continues for a few minutes. The lead guitarist commented that I was playing in an entirely different key than him. I don't hear it and I play by ear, so modes, notes, chords, etc. remain something for me to work on, admittedly.

    I am seeking constructive criticism here. Please help.
     

    Attached Files:

    Rock Salad likes this.
  2. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    The guitarist changed the key. He's right, but you aren't to blame.
     
    saabfender likes this.
  3. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Thank you LBS-bass. That's really helpful and thank you for responding. I guess I'm just not hearing him change the key. I'm essentially playing it the same way that I've been playing it for the past few months, but I aspire to improve (don't we all?). Our band has been together for a year.
     
    Rock Salad likes this.
  4. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    Well, he's rambling a bit, so it's not all that obvious. It's hard to tell what's going on and would be pretty hard to catch it on the fly like that. I don't know what I would suggest other than maybe have him call some changes to you if he's going to play outside the box. He may not realize he's doing it, though.
     
    Seanto, bholder and Vincent Paul like this.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    That's the missing piece of the puzzle. You should transcribe some Phil bass lines, note-for-note. (And for extra credit, transcribe what Jerry is playing, too!)

    This will build your skill set to follow your guitarist when he goes off on a musical tangent.
     
    Vincent Paul likes this.
  6. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Well, since posting this question earlier, my wife sat down at the keyboard and helped me to hit the Dm chord notes, rather than the Dmaj chord I was using. It's a subtle change on the neck, but makes a distinct difference in the sound. Thanks all!
     
  7. Seanto

    Seanto

    Dec 29, 2005
    USA
    First off, you are doing really well for the amount of time you have been playing. I think you are capturing the Dead sound nicely so keep on building on what you are doing. What i hear at 3:09 is you staying in the D majory modal thing, and the guitarist going off into an alternate modal tangent. I actually thought it sounded pretty good and not really a "mistake." I think your guitarist is a little off base with his critique, i'm not exactly sure where he expected you to go.

    I haven't listened to a Dead version of this tune in awhile, so not sure if a harmonic change is supposed to happen on the jam. If it's something that is normally done with that tune, then maybe your guitarist is right. Otherwise, i don't quite agree with him.
     
    Reedt2000 and cosmicevan like this.
  8. Seanto

    Seanto

    Dec 29, 2005
    USA
    Well keep in mind, a guitarist playing minor over your major outline is not necessarily wrong. Maybe try a dominant sound which plays better with a minor sound because of the minor 7th. I reiterate my last post in that the contrast between you and the guitarist is not necessarily a bad thing.

    At the same time, learning to identify the sound you are hearing from others is a very useful skill. I recommend you learn your major/minor scales in all keys, as well as your chord arpeggios in all keys too. Once you have that down you can start looking at modal/chord relationships to achieve the sound you want.
     
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  9. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Seanto, thank you so much for taking the time to explain all of this in an easy to understand manner. What you offered makes sense to me. I played bluegrass mandolin for 12 yrs and after a 4 yr break from music picked up a bass. I was more familiar with the mandolin and I'm beginning to understand more about the bass. I will strive to work on scales and learn note/chord locations. You all have been really helpful.
     
    Seanto likes this.
  10. iammr2

    iammr2

    Jun 10, 2002
    Tejas
    Agree with this assessment.

    Edited to add, when the other guitar comes in later, he sounds off. Listening as I type this. The guitars are off.
     
    Reedt2000 and Vincent Paul like this.
  11. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Thank you iammr2 for your review and comment. For me, I think I was puzzled about the initial concern brought to my attention. It is intended to be spacey, improvisational, and loosely relevant to what the lead is doing and I really couldn't hear the slight difference between the D and Dm until I went back and played a different scale against the recording with the Dm. In any event, I picked up a bass scales, arpeggios, and mode book today. Time to go backwards to move forward;-) Thanks again!
     
  12. iammr2

    iammr2

    Jun 10, 2002
    Tejas
    Vincent,

    I agree with Seanto. You sounded fine. The first guitar seemed to switch modes. Nevertheless, it sounded ok but he hit a some off notes. Later on, when the other one came in, that is when it was off. In my opinion, I think that other guitarist was the one that was off, not you.

    I'd keep the book and work through anyway, just to learn.
     
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  13. BrianB303

    BrianB303 Supporting Member

    May 20, 2018
    Denver CO
    The song is in D mixolydian. The jam goes to D dorian
     
    Lobster11 likes this.
  14. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Yep; I've come to learn that since posting the original question. That is helpful to know, for sure. Thank you much!
     
  15. Staredge

    Staredge

    Aug 7, 2010
    Germantown, MD
    Has your guitar player actually ever listened to the Grateful Dead?
     
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Sometimes it's cool for the lead instrument to hang "out there" on their own while everything else sails along on track. I used to do it back in the '70s on guitar when we'd jam for twenty minutes on just one or two chords in a song (In Memory of Elizabeth Reed was a good one for that). I could explain it better if you knew some basic theory.

    Just check with all the guys and see what everyone thinks of that spot in the song. Then you'll know what to do. Maybe someone needs to give a signal?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2018
  17. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I did hear an overall key change somewhere around 9:40 or so.
     
  18. Vincent Paul

    Vincent Paul

    Jan 25, 2018
    Yep. Good points and thank you for adding to the conversation. We're making improvements all the way around.

    Thanks again!
     
  19. BrianB303

    BrianB303 Supporting Member

    May 20, 2018
    Denver CO
    I've been thinking about doing a Phil Lesh video series for a while so I made this yesterday. First video ever! Playin in the Band -
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  20. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Great video -- I can't believe it's your first. Hope you'll be making more!
     

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