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Help..when the guitarist can't tell you chord

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Batz, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Batz


    Aug 22, 2012
    Orange County, CA
    I’ve been trying to learn actually theory lately as apposed to playing by ear as I have always done. I’ve been studying walking bass lines, arpeggios, modes etc. The books I purchased are great, but I am having issues actually applying it. The books assume you (and the guitarist) know if the are playing minor, 7th, etc. I play mostly punk and all the guitarists I have played with are self taught and can’t always tell you what they are playing.

    I know you have progressions like I IV V, etc. and I vaguely remember a teacher talking about how a scale can be harmonized which will tell you which chords are which. Even if it is a power chord, the chord is a “implied minor or seventh”. Something along those lines.

    How do you figure out the “progression” and the “implied” chords? I would like to do scale runs and walking bass line type things in parts, but am lost at what mode, scale, arpeggio, etc to use. I'm replacing a rather well known punk guitarist (he played bass with this band) and he came up with great bass lines, but I have no decent recordings to learn off of so have to make my own. I spend so much extra time playing “bad notes” in an attempt to find the right one.

    Here are a some examples. I’m putting the root note the guitarist gives me when I ask the chord name...

    1. Verse: B / A / G# / G#
    Chorus: E / C# / D / D

    2. Verse: F / F / F / F / B / B / B / B
    Chorus: D / A / F# / F

    3. Verse: D / D / C / C
    Chorus: D / D / F / G

    4. Verse: B / G / A / B
    Chorus: E / G / A / B

    5. Verse: E / D / A / A
    Chorus: D / D / C / G

    Really basic songs, but if I try using a major key for all the chords, it doesn’t sound right.
  2. I run into this a lot even when the guitarists actually know theory. Most of the time, unless they are jazz masters or write the songs with specific chords in mind, itbseems most guitarists just play by ear. You will need to have him show you all the notes in each chord to figure out the correct scales. It may be easier to play walking arpeggios or pentatonic scales rather than a normal major or minor in this situation.
  3. Batz


    Aug 22, 2012
    Orange County, CA
    With walking arpeggios wouldn't I still need to know if it is minor or 7th to flat the 3rd, 5th, and 7th? And I am guessing use minor pentatonic since they go over everything...
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Yes knowing the chord spelling is important, i.e. knowing if the chord is minor or major, has a b7 or a natural 7, etc. But, for right now the band is not giving you that information, so let's make some lemon-aid out of this. The beat is the important thing, the actual notes used can come later. So. Root on 1 and 3 and let the song take you. Playing eight to the bar with just roots is OK, if the root note you are playing is from the chord every one else is using. Why? To harmonize the melody line and the bass line you only need to share one like note per bar. The root does that. Drum Roll.

    The Guitarist gave you the basic chord, play root on the 1st and 3rd beat and let the music take you.

    All that other stuff will fall into place the more you guys play with others, let it happen and enjoy the journey.

    What I would like to know from the guitarist is how long each of those chords stay active, i.e. I'd like to see some lyrics under or over the chord so I would know when to change my root. With out that, well, good luck.

    Have fun.
  5. Varcolac


    Mar 31, 2012
    London, UK
    A bit of help, which might work. It's hard to say with just power chords and no vocal line. Depends what type of punk if the vocal line even has a melody. I'll just give major/minor for now, no sense getting more technical than that.

    1) key of E major for the verse, I'd make those chords B, A, G#m. The chorus would be to my ear E, E, C#m, D. The E major in the chorus is implied by the G#m in the verse. If it's in E major that Dm should be a D#mb5, but hey, it's punk, a few accidentals are par for the course.

    2) verse, bit of a non-standard progression there. I'd say F, Bm. As for the chorus, Dm Am F#m F. This one's a bit mad with the key, as usually if you've got two chords a tritone apart (F and B, for example) then one of them will be major, the other minor with a flattened fifth. Power chords here though, so just say minor. The F# I'd treat as a borrowed chord rather than part of the main key of the song. I'd play it as a minor because I like the cadence of bii>I. Key of "mainly F, with a few accidentals and a borrowed chord".

    3) key of C major. Dm, C, G, F

    4) key of B minor, Bm G A Em

    5) key of D major, Em D Am G C

    It all comes from knowing your scales really. Play a scale that includes all the notes, then see what's a third up from the note of the chord you want. When stuff doesn't fit in one scale (your second song for instance) then it's time to flulb a few notes 'til you see what fits right. The relationships between chords also helps a lot. A lot of the time, if you see a progression that goes up (or down) three semitones, like A > C, the lowest chord's minor and the higher one's major.

    Punk's got a pretty high tolerance for outlandish accidentals though, so don't sweat it too much.

    Ever head this song? Rancid - Journey to the End of the East Bay

    The chords are a pretty standard pop-punk 4-chord progression, I V vi IV, in C. So, C / G / Am / F . The bass on the other hand, in Matt Freeman's inimitable style, is outlining the chords and playing a very nice walking bassline for the main riff, which happens to play the major third of A, C# instead of C. Doesn't stick out like a sore thumb because he's doing it on a weak beat and the guitars are playing simple power chords.
  6. Batz


    Aug 22, 2012
    Orange County, CA
    That is actually the only one I have a recording for and what started me on this whole thing. He is doing some kind of hammer on (I think) during the verse when he switches to the octave. Then the end is a scale run, but too fast for me to figure it out. Put the Sound Cloud of it:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  7. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    I also play by ear and work entirely from chords. The first thing I figure out for any
    new song are the chords.

    I would start by playing what you are resonably sure of, the roots. Work on getting
    the right root note for each chord, and even more important, getting a solid beat.
    A root will pretty much always work, musically.

    There is no easy way to know what the key of the song is, or whether a chord is
    major or minor, unless you can either hear it, or someone tells you. The first thing
    to do is get the chords. Ask here in the forum, even. Be wary of internet chord
    sites. They are often wrong.

    If you are working with scales, the scale will tell you (more or less) which notes you
    can use within the song. If you need a passing note, you wll normally find it in the
    scale for that song's key. Same for walking. Always know where your tonic or key note
    is. Everything is relative to that.

    Often chords are easier to think about relative to themselves if they are all major or
    mostly major with just a couple minors, for example. Everything in a chord is relative
    to the root of the chord. The root and fifth will give you the basic sound of the chord.
    The major third, minor third, and seventh will further define and modify the chord.
    Basically, you can always use the root and fifth, unless it's something like diminished
    or augmented (flat or sharp fifth in that case).

    Use only what you are sure of, add the new notes as you learn the chords or become
    able to recognize the chords. But maintan the rhythm first.

    A power chord itself is not implied as major or minor. It has only a root and a fifth. The
    type of power chord is implied by the song's key. If the key is A major, an A power chord
    will be implied as major, and sound major. And the bass would play a major third if it plays
    any third for that chord. If the key was Am, that same power would be implied minor. The
    bass would play a C instead of a C#, if it were playing the third.
  8. Already In Use

    Already In Use

    Jan 3, 2010
    I dont play 3rds if I dont know what the chord "is"...dont have lead sheets, player cant say, etc..Run box patterns above and below to cover the feel and go with it..using roots, 4ths...and 5ths..octaves. Still learning everyday! Knowing is nice as you then have a menu of flavor to add to your playing. Peace...
  9. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    What I do is play the root and then try the 5 to hear if it is actually the root or a slash, aug, or dim. then try 3 and b3, then 7 and b7 beyond that point it really doesn't matter to me at my present state of learning
  10. Sni77


    Aug 23, 2012
    Vienna, Austria
    Could this be Dorian mode of A major (A, B, C♯, D, E, F♯, and G♯)?
    Progression would then be ii, I, vii°, vii° for verse and V(7), iii, IV, IV for chorus; i.e. Bm, A, G#m7b5 and E7, C#m and D.
    If the guitarists are playing power chords for the G# try playing root and b7 (F#) and maybe the minor third (B). Makes sense?
    Don't have time to look at the other songs right now. Give it a try, hope this helps.
  11. Batz


    Aug 22, 2012
    Orange County, CA
    Thanks for the suggestions. I have the root root notes and rhythm worked out fine. Just wanted to add some of the flavor that I've hear. especially in the sound cloud track. I guess I can go ahead and say that it is Rikk Agnew from Adolescents playing bass on it so I have some big shoes to fill.

    I was wondering if that 2nd song was modal. On the sound cloud at :27, it sounds like a hammer on either one or two frets up. What really makes me wonder though is the scale runs that start at 1:33.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  12. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    The trouble I've had is with guitarist playing 'parts' of the chord and thinking that was the total harmony. In other words I'd ask what key a song was in and the answer would be Aminor, because that was the first chord the guitar played. Actually the key was C major and the harmony was C6. When he played Am7 and I played a C the correct harmony worked.