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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Alba McBass, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. Alba McBass

    Alba McBass

    Jan 5, 2015
    Hello- New to Bass here so I apologize if this has been brought up before and if this seems to be a sophomoric question. If your playing a song in a I IV V chord progression say in the key of E ( 4/4 time ), as a bass player you certainly are not going to be playing the first 4 bars (in E ) by just plucking the E note 16 times and so on with the next chords ? The reason I ask is because I see Bass players playing 2-3 other notes besides the E in each measure and I am wanting to know if those other notes are all notes that would be in the E scale? And, would you maybe do the same thing when it comes to playing the other notes in the other measures, in other words , A and B , would you play the notes in the scales of both the A and B as well ?
    Just a couple of tab books I've seen ( I know most tab is not completely correct ) seems to follow that pattern of notes in the scale being played to whatever the chord in that measure is. I hope I haven't confused you all ? Any and all help/replies will be greatly appreciated !
  2. Broadly, Yes.

    A common pattern is R-3-5-6-8-6-5-3-R, but that can be jazzed up with chromatic lead-ins.


    There's nothing wrong with straight-eighths either, IF it fits the song:

  3. oWow, good question. Where to start...

    OK let's answer this and then we can get to the other stuff.
    When the I chord is active we normally play notes of that I chord. If that is an E major chord the notes of that chord are the E, G# & B Those notes are the 1, 3 & 5 notes of the E major scale. We are taught right at first to call attention to the root sound. So playing the E note on the one beat is recommended. Normally the next note would be the 5 or B note. If I needed more I'd probably insert the octave 8 or E in the next octave for a bass line of R-5-8-5. Why R-5-8-5? Well that is about as generic as you can get. Both major and minor chords have a root, a five and an eight plus the pattern is easy to finger and drops into a groove fairly easy.

    When the IV chord becomes active (the A major chord) I'd do the same as I did with the E chord. And yes with the V or B chord I'd do the same with that one also. Nothing wrong right at first with pounding out just roots to the beat until the next chord becomes active and then pound out it's roots. That is safe and boring, so yes we normally do play more than just the root of the chord.
    Yes as I outlined above. But, not scale notes - chord tone notes. OK little theory - chord tone notes. Chords are made from are every other note in the selected scale, or the 1-3-5-7 notes of the scale would make a chord.. The 2, 4 & 6 are scale notes which - trust me for now - the 2 and 4 make good passing notes - lousy end or starting notes. Now I love the 6, it's neutral and does sound good as a R-3-5-6 over a major chord. I'm giving you a link below that will go into detail on which notes can be used in our bass lines, i.e. see a Fmaj7 chord and your fingers are already going to the R-3-5-7 notes of the F scale. Yes, the major scale box and I are old friends. See Below:

    Major Scale Box.
    G~~|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E~~|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    G7 chord coming up. Find a G note and put the box's R over that G note then play the spelling for the G7 chord. That spelling is R-3-5-b7. Which of those chord tones you use is your choice. Root first then the 5 followed by the 8 and if needed throw in the correct 3 and 7. Yes you will need to get the spellings into memory. Chord Formulas
    No you are on the right track. Go here How to get started? | TalkBass.com and after reading this string come back with specific questions.

    Good luck and welcome to the bottom end.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
    neckdive, tzdroik and Imaginary Pony like this.
  4. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Generally staying within the notes of the chord is a safe bet in that kind of music. How you string them together is the art form.
    Jon Moody likes this.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    As others have said - what you want are the chord notes. If you're in the key of E, I-IV-V means the chord progression is E major, A major, and B major. Those are the chords the guitarist or keyboardist will be playing. If you play just E for four bars, you're playing the "root" of the E major chord.

    To make your bass part more interesting, you can "walk" your bass line around the other notes in that E major chord. These will be the third and fifth notes of the E major scale, which are G# and B (fourth fret on the E string, 2nd fret on the A string). So you might play E - G# - B - G# and repeat. When the chord progression goes to the IV, do the same thing for the A major (A - C# - E - C#) and then for the B major on the V (B - D# - F# - D#).

    Deciding how to play the bass line depends a lot on the genre of music you're playing. A lot of punk-inspired rock music will just stick to the root. In country music, bass parts that are just root - fifth are common. In blues, you will sometimes "shuffle" on the root (bump - baDUMP - baDUMP - baDUMP...). Or you might have a "boogie woogie" bass line that "walks" up the chord notes and down pretty rapidly, often adding a 6th and a flatted 7th note (C# and D, for the E scale) before walking back down. (E - G# - B - C# - D - C# - B - G# - E....).

    Learn some of the basic patterns, then listen to recordings you like and you'll hear all kinds of variations and original bass lines. The key is threading a bass line out of the notes of the scale, favoring the ones that form the chords.
  6. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    That advice made me chuckle ...reminded me of way back when I was playing with Sam Lay, well-known Chicago bluesman on drums. BaDUMPin' on his gig might get you fired! I'll never forget, early on the job, he turned to me and said "Just one note, man, I'll do the baDUMP if you don't mind!" Moral of the story - be careful how much baDUMPin' you do :).
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  7. Alba McBass

    Alba McBass

    Jan 5, 2015
    Thanks to all who have responded !! I feel that all of you have given me a 'key' to unlocking one of the mysteries of playing the bass !! ( keep the information flowing !! )
  8. loucook


    Sep 23, 2011
  9. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    Until you are comfortable, there's absolutely nothing wrong with pounding the root notes. The order is feel/time then note choice. Playing in time with the correct feel is ALWAYS more important than the note you play; even if it's the wrong one. Playing the wrong notes all the time is painful to listen to, but it's not as big a sin as playing out of time. You play out of time, and you might as well go home because as a bassist, that is your job.

    I-IV-V in E, playing the roots is pretty much the basis for a lot of AC/DC and nobody complains that Cliff Williams sounds bad.
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006

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