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How to spot chances to use alternate bass notes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by phxlbrmpf, Sep 2, 2005.

  1. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    My current band's music is pretty heavy and I'm having a hard time finding places where bass notes other than the root sound good.
    I occasionally have success with pedal notes when the root of the next chord is higher than the anteceding chord. Say, if the first chord is D minor and the next one is F major, staying on the D will usually sound good. Think of the bass line for RHCP's "Breaking the girl", for example.

    One of our newer songs, while still pretty dark sounding, briefly has the progression "Bb Eb F" at some point which I'd like to tackle without sounding cheesy. I ended up playing a Bb over the Bb, staying on Bb for the Eb and going down to A over the F. I had failed, it sounded extremely cheesy. Could it be that playing the third over the dominant chord only sounds good if you have a descending sequence of chords, such as C, G, Am F?

    I also can't get over how cool Queen's John Deacon sounds at the beginning of the pre-chorus of Queen's "These are the days of our lives" whose chords are C/G, G, Am G. C/G at the beginning of a chord progression???? Yep, that's right, and it sounds awesome. I wish I had ideas like that.

    Has anyone got any hints as to how to spot occasions to create cool-sounding "slash chords" in rock music or does competing with heavy, low (C tuning, I use a 5 string tuned B E A D G) guitars mean that sticking to the root/the occasional pedal note always sounds best? Lots of thanks in advance.

    P.S.: fellow video game nerds, check out this piece of SNES music for an example of how alternate bass notes can sound pretty dang awesome.

  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Try it.

    When you're jamming around on the song, simply experiment with alternative choices from time to time and listen to see how they fit within the overall sound.

  3. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    In that progression, were I looking for alternate notes, I would choose D over the Bb chord. Why?

    The tension to resolve is higher when the notes are close. Therefore, D "wants" to go to Eb pretty badly.

    That, and scale-wise progressions are generally cool.

    The third of the dominant BELOW the root just never works. Don't ask me why.

    Here's another thing, especially for the kind of music you're doing. Hit the root but use the alternate note as a transition to the next chord. Pick notes close to the root of the next chord.
  4. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Great post, AGCurry, I'll give the things you suggested a try.
  5. the third below the root doesnt work because it makes it sound like your playing a different chord. like if the guitar is play a C major chord, C-E-G, and your playing an A (third below) it just makes it sound like an am7 chord rather than a C. i think thats what you were talking about?
  6. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Technically you're right, but it still sounds good to me. Listen to Faith No More's "Midlife Crisis", for example, which is pretty much only low Es over Em/ G / Bm / Am in the verse and Em / D / A in the chorus, but it still makes sense to your ears. I believe that's what you call a "pedal note". I did Genesis's "No son of mine" with a cover band aeons ago and it also had loads of pedal bass notes that didn't seem to have anything to do with the actual chord at times. Paul McCartney is also known for using lots of "strange" bass notes back in the day.
  7. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    No. You're talking about an inverted sixth. I'm talking about an inverted third on the dominant chord. Instead of playing the dominant root - F - on the A string, which would be the most likely choice, he tried the A on the E string, I believe. The only way I've found that the low third works in that situation is if it's used as more or less a passing note, with the next chord being Bb or Gm. I've never found it to be a usable *substitute* for the F root.

    Pedal notes are cool, but I don't recall hearing a 3rd as a pedal note.
  8. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    I was going to disagree about the third of the dominant below the root "just never" working, until you clarified in a subsequent post that it works as a passing tone-- meaning (in your first example) that if it resolves to the root of the next chord, it works. I can dig that.
    In classical voice-leading, we talk about "leading tones." 99% of the time, the E and Bb in a C dominant 7 chord resolve to the F and A in an F chord, respectively. This is because, as you said, they're close intervals (E to F and Bb to A) and your ear hears the dissonance and pull, and feels the relief when they're resolved. (Or so the theory goes.) In rock music, you can throw a lot of this out the window, especially when you have chord progressions where all the chords consist of just the root and fifth (C5 to Eb5 to F5 to C5). It also doesn't apply in the blues, where a IV7 chord resolves "backwards" to the I7.
    To get back to the original question, I'd say know all the notes in all the chords and think horizontally as well as vertically-- try to create lines that will stand on their own melodically. If this is *too* melodic for the style of music you're doing, correct as necessary! :) Use your ear and try everything. There are no tricks, really.
    Hope this helps.
  9. i think i know what your talking about now. thanks. i guess the only advice i have then is to turn your amp to 11.