Harmony for bass players

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by F Clef, Aug 24, 2016.


  1. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    Hi to everone,

    I am playing bass for six months only and need to advance my theory while practising. I need to study on harmony but i want to find a special harmony source for bass players. To act toughtfully i need your help and advice.
     
    MalcolmAmos likes this.
  2. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    The reality is that there is no special 'bass-only' harmony theory. However, some elements of harmony might be of more interest or benefit to bassists than other elements. For example;
    • How diatonic triads are built from major and both flavours of minor scale;
    • How different chord inversions, as defined by the lowest note, sound;
    • How passing notes (generally non-chord tones) can be used to make the bass line flow;
    • How long ascending or descending diatonic or chromatic runs in the bass can influence the overall 'mood' or feel;
    • How melodic decorations and auxiliary notes used in higher registers can be reflected in or supported by movement (a type of counterpoint) in the bass;
    • How bass pedals (the same note, often the key-note, tonic or final, repeating or sustaining under changing chords) can build or sustain tension;
    • How suspension (holding a chord tone from one chord through the strong beat then moving to a chord tone of the new chord on a weaker beat) can interrupt the flow - suspension is as much a rhythmic device as a harmonic one;
    This is a lot to take in.

    I would start with the diatonic triads of the major scale then look at inversions of the primary triads (I, IV & V), looking for the chord tones they have in common with each other and how they relate to the key. For example, 5th of I is root of V; Root of I is 5th of IV, 3rd of V is leading note (half-step below tonic) of the key, etc.

    Learn the arpeggios that go with them and how they sound with the root, 3rd (1st inversion) and 5th (2nd inversion) played on a string beat.

    Learn the dominant 7th arpeggios and listen to how the inherent discord (the tritone between 3rd and 7th) can change the quality of the 3rd and how it wants to resolve upwards to the tonic of a new key. Allow this to happen and you go on a journey through the cycle of 4ths, e.g. C-E-G-Bb-G-E-F-A-C-Eb-C-A-Bb etc, led by the bass.

    Good luck, and hope this helps a little.
     
    seang15 and F Clef like this.
  3. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey

    Thanks for your reply SteveCS. I know that there is no "for only bass" harmony but like your examples there would be some special tips for apply harmony theory to bass. I will use your recommendations and try to find more because i want to learn not to memorise.
     
  4. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    You're welcome. I'm not sure what you mean when you distinguish learning from memorisation (and I don't know where you are with your current theory knowledge) but really they are one and the same thing.
    Study, learning and practice (conscious and deliberate) lead to understanding, which creates the (subconscious) memories that facilitate instant recall. It is no good knowing 'theory' if you don't know how it sounds as, after all, we are trying to make music. Playing through stuff like arpeggios slowly and deliberately creates connections between your sonic imagination and your fingers on the instrument. Some might call it 'ear training'.

    Knowing that the 1st inversion of a major triad consists of a m3 and m6 above the bass is one thing, but how does that inherent major/minor ambiguity actually sound?. Likewise, why might a second inversion of V add drama to the V-I cadence? Importantly for us as bass players, in both examples it is primarily the bass that creates that sound. You have to hear this stuff to really learn (take it in), but aural memory is what lets it out again.

    In terms of resources, I would get a good harmony book rather than rely on online (mainly unreliable) sources. You can leave it lying around or keep it in your pocket. Most self-respecting books on harmony will have a section dedicated to the bass and its special function.
     
    DanAleks and F Clef like this.
  5. OK 6 months in ---- dirt simple harmony ---- if the melody line (the treble clef) and the bass line (bass clef) have some of the same notes within a measure that measure is going to harmonize and sound good. How many notes per measure are needed. One. One gets harmonization, two will probably sound better and three per measure is probably not needed as one got you harmony.

    So how do you harmonize a melody?



    After seeing the video, come back with specific questions.

    So if the song writer has put the harmonizing chords into the song's sheet music all we need to do, to also harmonize with the melody, is play the chord's root notes - to the beat of the music. That one root note would get us harmony. The Root - five probably would be better and if you have room, before the song goes off and leaves you, you could add the third note of the triad which would be the 3. So the chord's triad R-3-5-8 for a major chord or R-b3-5-8 for a minor chord will go a long way. What's that 8 got to do with it? The 8 is just a Root note in the next octave -- two like notes harmonize even if in another octave.

    Just roots with simple songs go a long way. My dirt simple bass line starts with roots need more I add a five, still need more I insert an 8 for R-5-8-5. Roots and fives are in both major and minor chords, so the R-5-8-5 is a generic bass line that will harmonize with both major and minor chords.

    Look for sheet music with chords and see what you can do. Roots first, when that is comfortable add another note........ Mary Had a Little Lamb Guitar Chords
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
    F Clef likes this.
  6. T-Funk

    T-Funk

    Jul 2, 2005
    USA
    +1

    Harmony and Theory: A Comprehensive Source for All Musicians is a good option for someone beginning to dive into the subject of harmony.
     
    F Clef likes this.
  7. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    The PDF link in my signature explains the basics of harmonizing the diatonic scale.
    Which is probably the 20% of harmonic theory you use 80% of the time.
     
    F Clef likes this.
  8. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    Thanks MalcolmAmos. I couldn't watch the video yet because of troubles of work but your answer helped me to understand the role of Root in the chord progression. I would love to study with Storytime Songs too.

    T-Funk the book that you advice has been written to my list to buy already. Thanks.


    mambo4 i have just found complate(basic, intermediate and advance) of the pdf. I will study on it too, thanks for help.
     
  9. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Any chance of posting some links to the other parts? :)
     
  10. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    SteveCS likes this.
  11. Music Theory Book - Free Download First 30 pages are great. It's the beginnings, those thing we have to know. The next 30 pages are what to do with what we learned in the first 30 pages. The last 30 pages, i.e. the advanced section deals with modes as something to draw melody notes from. IMO leave this section for later. How much later? Well modes are for melodic playing so when I start harmonizing the guitar's modal efforts then I should understand how to play harmony for modes. Playing modal melody and playing harmony for the modal melody are two different things. Hang on we are leaving dirt simple harmony and getting into the advanced stuff.

    I point this out as I spent much to much time on modes as melody and how to play the seven modes. Take a look at modes so you at least know what they are, but, don't spend a lot of time right now with them. Remembering you are 6 months into this bass thing....

    Guitar guys live and breath modes and will tell you they are the best thing since sliced bread. They forget that our main responsibility is not to know how to play melodic modes, but, how to harmonize their modal effort. When someone is playing a melodic mode they need someone providing modal harmony for that mode. If we do the old tried and true V-I progression their modal efforts are wasted as everyone only hears the tonal center not the modal center.

    Tonal music resolves back to the tonic chord, modal music sustains the modal sound. The V-I makes us hear the tonic chord. Modal wants to sustain the modal signature chord's sound, i.e. Lydian's #4, Mixolydian's b7 or Phrygian's b2. Long story......

    We sustain the modal sound by vamping the modal chord that has the signature note, #4, b7 or b2 in it's make-up. Modal Harmony will explain how to vamp and sustain the modal signature chord sound. This site has several pages, be sure and look at more than just the first page.

    If your solo instruments use modes then you should spend some time with how to harmonize a mode. If they do not move on.... modes are perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of harmony and if your band members are not using them no need to get into them.

    Did you enjoy building this clock? :cool:
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
    F Clef likes this.
  12. GastonD

    GastonD

    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Check out Joe Hubbard's Functional Harmony book. It is written with bass in mind, even though treats the subject as it is - music. The drills and exercises in the book are brilliant, as are the accompanying ear training tracks.
     
    F Clef likes this.
  13. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    Thanks GastonD, i will...
     
  14. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    I only link to part I for a reason:
    namely , once you reach the " I ii iii IV v vi vii " level of understanding harmony,
    I believe the best next step is to apply those basic intervals, scales, and chords
    to analyze stuff you are interested in playing.

    There have been times when I wished I had put aside my theory learning
    in favor of just getting more damn songs under my belt.

    Theory has many deep rabbit holes, accumulating knowledge
    must not be done at the cost not accumulating useful, applied, understanding and experience.

    It's great to know automotive engineering,
    but at some point you gotta hit the road drive.

    I'm not advocating ignorance by any means.
    But there is a long road to mastering in that first part.
     
    GastonD likes this.
  15. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    I understood your approach the matter mambo4 and you are right in this aspect too. I know the role of practice and apply in the learning process. So i would never try to learn theory without apply.

    I have started this thread to find out some functional methods with your contributions and now somethings are being clarified in my mind.
     
  16. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Do you mean methods of learning the function of notes in harmony? If so, you could read up on 4-part (SATB) theory...
     
  17. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    Maybe my english make hard to understand each :) I meant helpfully with "functional". I know that i can't learn whole theory without applying methods but i hope i will learn more comprehensively day by day.
     
  18. GastonD

    GastonD

    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
    F Clef likes this.
  19. F Clef

    F Clef

    Aug 22, 2016
    Turkey
    It looks useful, thanks. Indeed i have some different level sources with the help of TB and your advice will be in place on my study list. Ofcourse i would wellcome all kind of new suggestions to help.
     
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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