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McCartney's Counter Melodies

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassist15, May 4, 2006.


  1. bassist15

    bassist15

    Mar 6, 2006
    Indiana
    I ve always heard people saying how McCartney wold play a counter melody. I kind of understand , but I woudl like someone to explain it to . I would realy liek to do something like this . I play in a trio and I have alot of space to explore and would like to have a good role like McCartney and John enwistle had. Song examples would be great.
     
  2. dougjwray

    dougjwray

    Jul 20, 2005
    I don't think there's any "how to" advice I can give other than to listen to them a lot and start to hear your own ideas in the music you're playing.
    Some McCartney counter melody suggestions (all with the Beatles):
    "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (from "Sgt. Pepper")
    "Something" (from "Abbey Road")
    "Think for Yourself" (from "Rubber Soul")
    There are lots more... I'll have to come up with some, as will other people. Remember, counter melodies aren't just "busy playing", as in "Rain", or active basslines (like his walking parts in "All My Loving" or "Penny Lane"). Here is the definition given by the New Harvard Dictionary of Music:
    "In a piece whose texture consists clearly of a melody with accompaniment, an accompanying part with distinct, though subordinate, melodic interest."
     
  3. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    Counter melodies appear in classical and even Jazz walking bass sometimes is a counter melody. Key to remember is the fifth Beatle George Martin he was very involved in the Beatles in the studio and working up parts to tunes.

    Doug gave you great examples and reference. I would just say when I've wanted to create counter melody I would just start humming along with the tune. Usually a slow whole or half note line. That would start helping find the notes that work. Then just take from there and get creative just don't get too busy.
     
  4. LarryR

    LarryR

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Good advice from the others. I'll add the following. From my experience, if I hear something I like, I learn to play it. But it's like peeling an onion. I killed my vinyl collection listening to McCartney, Squire, JPJ, Entwistle, Noel Redding and others by listening to their part and learning to play it exactly. You'll soon realize (onion) that hitting the notes is one thing, and often a big big task and achievement. Then you listen harder and hear a slide, a quick figure, embellishments. Then you realize you're playing it in the wrong position because your D note is thin. Ahh!!! He played the low D on his E string - More Mass!!

    So, IMO, listen to parts and duplicate them by rote. The purpose of this is five fold: develops your ear. Develops your fingering. Opens the door to melodic ideas. Opens the door to plagiarism. I joke not. As the great jazz guitarist Joe Messina once said "he who steals from me, steals twice".

    Listen and let your brain open up to other musicians' ideas.

    The mind can be trained to think melodically, harmonically, and copping parts is just one more road to that end.

    Good luck with it.
     
  5. dougjwray

    dougjwray

    Jul 20, 2005
     
  6. bassist15

    bassist15

    Mar 6, 2006
    Indiana
    Bump
     
  7. Here's a perfect example of Macca at work- Think of Lady Madonna- the melody of the song is the piano part (as well as the vocal). The bass line starts off the A and is ascending while the main melody is descending. The bass line is good enough to stand on it's own as it's own riff- as is the piano part.
     
  8. dougjwray

    dougjwray

    Jul 20, 2005
    The major appeal of McCartney's bass playing (to me, anyway) is that while it's very imaginative, creative and key to every song, it always sounds informal and spontaneous. To do that, you just have to be a melodic genius like him... he could probably take a canopener and make something musical out of it. He sounds like he's "playing" (in the "playful" sense), yet his instincts and grasp of musical language are so profound that they make his "offhand" bass contributions extremely cool.
     
  9. bassist15

    bassist15

    Mar 6, 2006
    Indiana
    I definetly get so much out of his lines. they are very simple sounding but I bet they are prtetty complex to play . THey sound so great for the music. I definetly wish I could come up with lines like he did.
     
  10. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001

    Jun 17, 2004
    Ireland
    The oxford definition didn't do much to clarify my understanding. When is a bass line melodic and when is it just a bass line. (I get the feeling thats one of those unanswerable questions)
    and why counter melody? What melody does it oppose or counter and how does counter said melody?
     
  11. dougjwray

    dougjwray

    Jul 20, 2005
    Well, it is hard to pin down, but the general idea is that it's melodic enough to compete with the main, sung melody (or "counter", or balance it). (I think "counter" is actually used here in the sense of "balance" more than "oppose" or "compete.")
    The line he plays in "Something" is a stand-alone melody, whereas the one he plays in, say, "I Saw Her Standing There" is a formulaic accompanying part that just outlines the chords.
    Hope this helps...
     
  12. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001

    Jun 17, 2004
    Ireland
    I've just listened to something there and I totally get what your saying. Thanks doug
     
  13. bassist15

    bassist15

    Mar 6, 2006
    Indiana
    in the last couple of weeks I am starting to really dig McCartney and the Beatles more. I liked them before but I borrowed the White Album from a friend and it really shows the mastermind of them. My basslines started to get repetitive so I started looking at classical stuff and alot of Macca's lines have classical influence. Im currently trying to learn Blackbird on acoustic guitar also . Great song
     
  14. paulraphael

    paulraphael

    Apr 13, 2006
    Brooklyn
    If you heard me play, you'd stop reading what I write.
    Yeah ... a simple way to think of it is to hum the bass line and ask yourself if it's an interesting melody by itself. That's as precise a definition of "melodic" as you'll get anyone to agree on. If it's an interesting melody, and it's being played at the same time as the main melody (and the two are different) then it's a counter melody.

    Now, a more complicated way to think of it: remember that it's supposed to function as a bassline at the same time. This means it needs to 1) be an interesting melody; 2) be different from the main melody but support it; 3) support the song harmonically, typically by following the root motion of the chords, and by emphasizing the other important notes of the chords; 3) support the song rythmically, either by locking with the drummer, or by playing counter rhythms (another can of worms!) or both.

    This is a lot to be doing! The good news is that musicians have had a lot of practice making musical lines that do this much. Many of the best early examples come from Barroque music. It's for good reason that so many bass players (and jazz soloists on all instruments) have listened so closely to Bach. He's everyone's teacher.
     

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