Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassmonkey144, Mar 30, 2003.

  1. ummmmmm
    what do i do if someone gives me music with chords for guitar and wants me to play bass for it?
    im new at playin, but i was just wondering...:confused:
  2. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    My friend, you've just asked the $64,000 question. What you're asking, is the pursuit of almost every bassist out there, and cannot be simply answered here, at this forum. We can however, give you ideas toward building a foundation at this.

    The first thing, is that you need to understand scales and chords. The baby frog below will take you to a place that will help explain that.

    Let's take an example of some chords.

    // C maj7 / C maj7 / D min7 / G7 //

    Ultimately, whatever sounds good to your ear, is what you should play, but until you can develop your ear to the point that you can play what you hear in your head, which some of our most senior and accomplished members are still working on, it's good to have some direction.

    The first thing to note is the actual notes of the chords. Since you're not playing, traditionally, chords, I doubt you're asking about that, let's look at the individual notes that make up those chords. So here again is your chord sequence, spelled out as arpeggios.

    // C - E - G - B / C - E - G - B / D - F - A - C / G - B - D - F //

    Now you know some notes that are at your disposal. Any of these notes will traditionally sound good. Some are stronger than others. Some sound more pleasing, some create more tension, some blah blah blah. There are infinite possiblities.

    Before I go any further, let me remind you, as a bassplayer, note selection is almost always going to take a back seat to rhythm. Some of the best basslines ever written are relatively simple from a "note selection" standpoint, but rather the rhythm of the bassline is what makes it memorable.

    Listen very very very very closely to the drummer. Your job is to create a lock with him/her. To create a groove. You don't have to play fancy or fast. Simple is sometimes best. Just listen very closely to the drums, and start to feel a rhythm that matches.

    Now, all of these chords are diatonic within the key of C major. None of the notes of these chords do not appear naturally in the key of C major. So, in theory, any note within C major will work. But then again, that doesn't mean you can just run through the scale with reckless abandon. Playing the IV, F, on the downbeat of the first bar would sound interesting, to say the least. In all likelihood, it wouldn't be the best idea. Often, especially in rock genres, the bass works best when supporting the harmony of the tune. Creating too much tension may not establish that foundation of harmony.

    The next thing to consider is movement. Knowing where the tune is going is helpful. Looking forward is always the best advice. In other words, you know your first two chords are C maj7, so you know that you have two bars to play that chord, but looking ahead, the third bar is D min7. And knowing this, I can add passing tones, chromatic tones, that help move me to the next chord. These can be extremely strong in helping create that sense of movement from one chord to the next.

    Here's the chord sequence again, note for note, with leading tones in parentheses:

    // C - E - G - B / C - E - G - B - (C#) / D - F - A - C - (F#) / G - B - D - F - (B) //

    Also, remember that you have the whole fretboard at your disposal. If you play a Cmaj7, you don't necessarily have to start with that C on the third fret of the A string, and then play the E and G the next notes higher, you can play these as inversions, you can play octaves. You can add chromaticisms to create tension, or just for funky fills. You also don't always have to play the notes in any order, you also don't necessarily have to always play the root of the chord on the downbeat. You don't have to necessarily play the same rhythm the guitarist is playing. You can play with more space, or with less.

    So, the keys are to know the chords you're going to be playing. Look at their harmonic function, (i.e. are they all part of the same scale, or does it jump around). Look ahead to future chords, so as to help in leading tones. Listen to the drummer closely, and listen to everyone else playing.

    Sometimes the best things are simple in melody and/or rhythm. Just like a jazzbo faking his/her way through a chart for a tune they've never heard, it's best to start the song simple, get a feel forthe harmony. Then, as you become more comfortable with the rhythm and pace of the song, you can stretch out a little more.

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  4. man jazzbo, you could have given us a chance to explain;) that post was great though, thanks for the reference
  5. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    Yeah, thanx Jazz.

    I figured it would do better here than in Tabz.