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Learning vocal melodies on bass- anyone else do this?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by The Mock Turtle Regulator, Apr 9, 2003.

  1. I've always copied basslines (and sometimes guitar and keyboard melodies, on bass) off records, radio, mp3's (by ear, before anyone makes a quip about tabs;) ) but lately I've started learning vocal melodies too- and it's very interesting, and surprisingly easy on most pop records.
    it does sound a bit cheesy at times like canned elevator music, but enlightening all the same.

    previously I'd only very rarely worked out what the notes on vocal melodies were- when I've done backing or lead vocals I've just remembered the pitch.
  2. I was once in a band that had five singers which I arranged all the harmonies. I would record all the vocal lines to a demo and then learn them all on bass. That way if someone was struggling with there vocal part I could play the line on the bass while the sang along.

    The thing about vocals is that they are all about the melody while one the main roll of the bass is to establish the root note. Learning a lot of vocal lines helped me to add more melody to my playing.
  3. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks! In Memoriam

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    I have my students play vocal melodies to improve their "legatoness". I believe that if you "sing" through your instrument it helps connect the notes and gives you a more flowing line. What better way to get a flowing line than to play melodies?

    Chris A.:rolleyes: :bassist:
  4. I'm finding this particularly enlightening in discovering what kinds of melodies are catchy and "make" a song- investigated by holding the root note and seeing what intervals and patterns are used over them.

    having listened to all three much-hyped QOTSA albums and having been totally underwhelmed, I've been working out what I find so tired and uninspiring about their songs- it's mainly in the vocal melodies- Josh Homme tends to sing the same thing over every song.
    also the RHCP "by the way" album sounds tired to me- Anthony Kiedis uses the same vocal ideas (both phrasing and melody) on too many songs.

    there are certain tried-and-tested songwriters' tricks-of-the-trade to make a song stick in your mind- the only worrying thing is the danger that once I learn them all my favourite songs will appear contrived:D
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I agree completely. These days, practicing melodies takes up a large chunk of my practice time. Which makes sense, given that one of my main goals is to become a more "melodic" player. When you think about it, why would you ever want to be be a "non-melodic" player, even if you "only" play bass lines? Melody is what it's all about.
  6. the thread's going off-topic here- I meant specifically learning melodies of the vocal line in a song on bass, whether it's busy (ie. lots of notes) or not.
    seeing that the vocal is usually the focus of the song, I've been finding it's often surprisingly simple. yet catchy. which goes back to the "less is more" philosophy, as long as the notes left are well chosen.

    however, re. the point about "why would you ever want to be a non-melodic player", sometimes if the vocal, guitar, keyboard etc. part is particularly melodic or busy, it may be appropriate to stick to root notes for the bassline.
  7. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I often listen to CDs and play along with the vocal melody. I use it to work on my expressiveness, and, in the words of Chris, my LEGATITUDINOUSNESS. I also use it to work on my intonation above the 12th fret.
  8. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Being an antilegatotudinousarian, I only play staccato.

    Anyway. . .everynow and then when I'm playing along with some music I'll get bored and start playing the vocal part. I've found I have a few intervallic hang-ups, where I consistently try to move to the wrong "next" note - I can hear it, I know the melody, but am too stuck in my rut of bass lines.

    I've tried doing it a few times on fretless, to improve my intuitive pitch there. I figure since I can (kind of, crappily) sing, then I should be able to play fretless without looking, right?
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    My point was that if you build basslines to be like melodies, i.e. - "Simple, catchy, flowing, etc...", chances are you're building a good bassline most of the time.
  10. but vocal melodies often omit the root of the chord they're over- and there's a very limited context in which a bassist can get away with that, especially in a rock/pop setting.

    sometimes a vocal (or any lead instrument) sustains the same note over a different chord, and if the bass were to do this, the root would have to be provided by another low-frequency instrument- keyboards or another bass guitar, as with various New Order songs, The Cure's "faith", the Stranglers' "turn the centuries turn".

    the point of this thread was considering using the bass in a non-bassline type role, more as an ear-training/fingerboard-learning, songwriting analysis, and vocal analysis tool.

    a vocal melody may not necessarily work on bass as a bassline, if the root was not present, and the root would have to be added into the sequence of notes, or played simultaneously as a double-stop.

    a pet hate of mine is when bassists play the third of a chord and miss the root- eg. the chords being D, C, G;
    the bassist hangs onto the major third B and never goes to G .
    (eg. in "turn" by Travis, although i forget the key that's in)
  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I think Chris was speaking in more general terms, about the melodic qualities bass lines may possess - not in the specific terms you've outlined there.
  12. yes.....that's why I said the thread was drifting off-topic;)
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    My point - in which I thought I was supporting the direction of the thread - was simply that by playing melodies (whether they be vocal melodies, sax melodies, or fartstimme melodies), you help to train yourself to be a more melodic player in general, which will necessarily translate into better melodic bassplaying skills which may be used in any facet or context of the music....INCLUDING but not limited to basslines. I must have missed the part where I said, "It's a good idea when playing a melodic bassline to avoid the root whenever possible, because playing the root isn't melodic".

    If that's still off topic for what you had in mind, that's cool, and I'll refrain from adding anything more.
  14. I like matching the vocal melody for a short run, or harmonizing it up a third, here and there in a song or two. Fun stuff. Play what sounds good to your ear and you won't go wrong.
  15. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    What are "legatoness"?

    I play vocal melodies at times when doing a bass line. When I do its usually durring the chorus

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