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How do you guys use pentatonic notes in your bass lines?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MalcolmAmos, Aug 5, 2012.

  1. On another string Mac said:
    I understand about the F, and where Em fits into the picture, what I would like to know more about is how do you guys go about using the minor pentatonic notes in a bass line.

    I'm Country - which is assume a I IV V progression and play root-five of each chord then get to the next chord with chromatic runs. However, I do not play Country all the time and see where pentatonic notes could be used in a jamming situation.

    My question deals with how would you use the E minor pentatonic notes in your bass line. I'm assuming (R-b3-4-5-b7) over the entire progression. Little something on which notes and in what order......

    I'm a pattern guy, after the key is called I assume a I IV V or i iv v progression, until proven wrong, and use root on 1 and 5 on 3, if there is room the 8 is safe, still room the correct 3 and 7 will work, if I have room for them.

    Little help on using pentatonic notes in the bass line. How do you guys use pentatonic notes?

  2. funkybass


    Oct 19, 2006
    I use them for fills mostly. I do like using the 6th a lot in my lines, but I'm not thinking pentatonic when I'm using it. Now if I'm playing a funky tune, I'll use the minor pentatonic fairly often.
  3. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    Even u use pentatonic, u have to make sure you play the chord tone at the downbeats of the bars. Otherwise it just sound noodling around
  4. Yes to noodling, I do use the tonic pentatonic when I get lost in a song, but, as soon as I find my place I'm back to root on 1, five on 3.

    What else.......
  5. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    Scales are not
    Meant to play ascending or descending fashion, they just show what notes are available on that chord. If you like to play pentatonic, listen to blues players, steal their licks. It is the music language. Plus if you can find the nearest chord tone to connect each chord, you should get pretty close

    The most important is you have to able to hear the lines before you play it, just like use your instrument to sing.
  6. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    First of all, if the tune was in E I probably wouldn't use E minor pentatonic (unless I was working for an employer that did really basic, inside, normal tunes). I tend to like a bit more bite to my tensions, lines that are more piquant than tonic-centered pentatonics are capable of providing.

    I might however play a line that uses some Eb minor pentatonic before resolving to E.
  7. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada

    I wouldn't be thinking or using pentatonics for a bass line ....i'd be thinking chord tones and passing tones ....then when you get to rest on a static chord i may play a lick or fill from the pentatonic scale..

    for example - Hey Joe - C, G, D, A - E7

    i would be thinking chord tones for C, G, D, A, then when you get to E7 for 2 bars ...you can play a E minor pent or blues scale lick ..

    Now if you have a bass line that is all based on one chord ...like An E jam ...say E is the home base or root and you have a G and an A also ...in some kind of repetitive pattern .....in this case you can embellish with fills using remaining notes from the E pent scale - Bb, B, D

    hope that helps
  8. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Like this:

    Ba doom doom doom doom ba doom doom domm bidaldoom...


    Honestly I don't know - I'm a wanker...


    To answer you question about Little Wing - as another poster noted - there's so many chord changes going on that need to be defined and established I end up using lots of root / 5th / octave. When the guitar player is really going I noodle around some more trying to see what works safe in the knowledge that no one is listening to me.
  9. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Take a look at the partial transcription of the Steely Dan song "Don't Take Me Alive" I posted in a prior thread. Measures 7-8, 15-16, 25-26 and 33-34 use G minor pentatonic. Measures 11-14 are C minor pentatonic, except for the Ab in measure 12.

    The first few bars of the Beatles' song Dig a Pony are a good example of the use of the major pentatonic.
  10. For Little Wing I'd use chord tones. You can't use Em pentatonic over the F and probably not the C chords... at least I never would. With the wankfest the guitar player is going to put down I lean on the roots a lot in Little Wing, some 1-8-7-5 patterns grooving each change seem to keep things moving while keeping the harmony open but clearly defined. Definitely play the chromatic passing tone from the Bm down to A- the Ab.
  11. Thanks, guys. Needed to hear your thoughts.
  12. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Hello Malcom,

    Since you are a country man ;) i would suggest using the major pentatonic instead. Which is the relative major of C# minor pentatonic.
    You can turn it into a E major blues scale by introducing the minor third or augmented second (just for the purists :D) G for more options.

    The major penta is essantial to country and many styles. The 9-1 and 6-5 are the most use bass fills perhaps.

    The first 4 bars of What is going by Jamerson is a great example of the E major pentatonic.

    Good luck and hope this helps
  13. Yes, everything we do is Major, in fact only one song on our list is in a minor key. Even when jamming other styles, no one around here calls out a minor key. http://mineolabuzz.com/BUZZ/TX/MINEOLA/music-on-main-street/

    So if I do lean toward a pentatonic it is the Major pentatonic. R-3-5-6 finds itself in my bass lines quite often. I just like that sound. I very seldom, if ever, use the second octave 9. No reason I just don't get up there. Something to think about.


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