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More than just roots for Satriani song

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mpderksen, Jan 3, 2014.

  1. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    I'm playing If I Could Fly, by Satriani this Sunday. (Cool church, right?). The sheet I was given is basic enough with mostly 8 beats of G, then 8 of F#. All I play is just roots. It's a great example of where I'm stuck in my learning, and I don't even know how to ask my question.
    So far, when I hit a song, I pull up a tab if there is a signature riff (like the line in Brown Eyed Girl), but when I'm just given a sheet with chords, I am lost what else to add. Obviously I could do more with it than just sit on the roots, but with my past as a Classical pianist, if it's not written, I have no idea what to do. Clearly I can't becomes awesome by Sunday, so I use it more as an example of where I want to improve. Speed will come with time, so I'm not worried there, but I have zero idea where to start learning how to add my own line, other than a 1-3-5-3 of a 12-bar style Blues.
    I have been working through TMBG (Teach Me Bass Guitar), and while that's helped me play better, I haven't found a way to create anything more interesting with I get chord sheets, generally. I have the same problem when I play Keyboard, so it's not a technique issue, but some fundamental understanding of getting away from just playing basic chords that are written.
    I guess while it may be nice to use the Satriani song as an example, some broader help on how to approach a new song that doesn't have a specific line to play would be great. When I watch other guys play, they add SO much, and I feel lame with just G-G-G-G-F#-F#-F#-F#......
    Does that make sense? Maybe it's time for lessons?
  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
  3. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Pound out roots this Sunday as anything you do Saturday would just confuse and make you hesitate. With Satriani's stuff I think you will find that pounding out roots will not be all that bad. Lock in with the kick drum and smile.

    OK how to compose a bass line. Ed Friedland's book Building walking bass lines would be a good place to spend some time. Scott Devine will have several video lessons on this. Google.....

    Less than 100 words that explain how music thinks:
    For the melody line - the part the solo instruments play and the bass line, that part we play, to harmonize and sound good both lines should share some like notes. The question then become which notes and how many? How many is easy; one per measure is enough, that is why just pounding out roots works. Two will be better. If you need more help yourself to as many chord tones as the song will allow before it goes off and leaves you. Now, which ones? The songwriter placed a chord at a specific spot so it would harmonize the active melody notes happening at that spot. If we play notes of that chord, we will also harmonize and sound good with the melody being played. Yes it's that simple. Read that again.
    While a chord is active, play the chord's root note on the 1st beat, and then as long as that chord is active help your self to some more of it's chord tones. The R-3-5-8 is kinda generic. All Major chords have a root and all major chords have a 3. All except a diminished chord will have a 5 and the 8 is just a root in the second octave. So--- R-3-5-8 makes a safe bass line for any major chord. The R-b3-5-b7 makes a safe bass line for most minor chord. When the keyboard guy/gals play; pinky-thumb-chord-thumb that's their safe bass line.

    Play as many of those chord tones as the song will allow. Roots first, then 5's then 8's and then if you still have room get the correct 3's and 7's into the bass line. As mentioned it'll probably be a bunch of power chords anyway and your root will function just fine. Flush tabs and learn how to compose your own bass lines, much more fun.

    Follow the chords and play chord tones to the beat of the song. Lock in with the bass drum and pound out roots this Sunday and shoot for roots and something more next Sunday. Little more on pounding out roots. Change chords on the lyric syllable they are to change on. Not before and certainly not after. Dead on. Concentrate on that this Sunday.

    Satriani would be playing his solo around a mode. Phrygian or something like that and here a two chord vamp will work fine. Don't get into modes just now, it'll just confuse you at this point, but, I wanted you to see that sometime less is more. The song dictates what is needed.

    Have fun. Use this memory peg next week to help with where those chord tones will be on your fretboard. Remember way back when you worked out on your keyboard; Major = R+4+3 and Minor = R+3+4. This is a little like that. Bare bone basic stuff.

    From the root note the.....
    2 note of the scale or the ii chord in the key will be on the same string as the root and over two frets. Always!
    3 note will be up a string and back one fret. I catch my b3 right after the 2 on the same string as the root.
    4 note will be up a string right over the root (same fret).
    5 note will be up a string and over two frets.
    6 note will be up two strings and back one fret. Right over the 3. Again always!
    7 note will be up two strings and over one fret. The b7 will be right over the 4.
    8 note will be up two strings and over two frets. Yep, always.
    Don't go higher than the 8 right now. Plenty to do with just one octave. Two octaves - later.
    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    Run your chord tones like you did your scales. The following chord tones in all keys.

    maj7 = R-3-5-7
    m7 = R-b3-5-b7
    Dominant seven = R-3-5-b7
    1/2 diminished (m7b5) = R-b3-b5-b7
    Get those into muscle memory so your fingers know what to do when these chords comes up.

    Have fun.
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The great thing about Satch bass lines is the movement with in playing a root. Playing a root is a great option, why anyone thinks that they have to look beyond it when it will do the job....is missing the point of why a root is being used. At its basic point of execution if you cannot play the root line, then what would make you think you can play a more involved line.

    Look at it this way, in an orchestra of multiple same instruments you have chairs....first chair is where the glory is, second chair has a bit of glory but is either a counter or supporting roll, third and fourth chairs are minor rolls, important rolls, but minor ones....there may be a fair bit of sitting and waiting in those chairs.

    To get to first chair you really have to work up from the fourth chair, and learn the disciplines of each chairs part, how they support and move within the music. By the time you get to first chair, if ever, you will be suitably prepared for the job in hand.

    Se playing lots in this way, roots are your fourth chair options, roots and fives may be third chair, chord tones and movement could be second chair, and first chair is the melody and everything in-between.
    So learn how to support, understand why support has to be there, then you will better understand when you can move and where you can move to. It all helps you to understand where feeling goes within your playing, and if you do get to play more intricate lines, then you still hear the support that should be there....in your head, and play against that.

    Check out some live videos of the song and see if the bassist uses the studio line, that may show something that is not n a studio cut.
    The other point is, if Satch wanted a 'better' line for his song i am sure he would have gave it one......so who are we to question what the writer intended? :)
  5. cewillm

    cewillm #1 Adam Clayton fan

    Jan 25, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    Check out Stu Hamm's line on Love Thing. There are some artists, Satch included, where root notes are absolutely the right thing. The root notes in Love Thing sort of have a life of their own. They make a musical statement under Satch's soaring guitar part. I'd recommend playing with rhythmic variations to add some interest, but don't worry a thing.

  6. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    Thanks everyone.makes a lot of sense. For this one I can see that I'm fine.

    Malcolm, thanks for writing all that out! I don't want to add more than I should, and I'm happy with slow progress as long as I keep learning.

    In another song, I have a measure of G, then it resolves to a measure of D (the tonic, since it's in the key of D). If I want to play G on beats 1, 2 and 3, but then add two 1/8th notes on 4, to end up at D on 1, (called "passing tones"?), do I play the 3 and 2 of D, which is F# and E? That makes sense since those notes are also in the GMaj scale. But if I want to go UP to the D, it's B, C, D. There's no C in the D chord that I'm ending on, it should be C#.

    So the question, I guess, is if I make sure to stay in the scale of the chord within the measure it's written, and then land on the root of the next chord only when I hit "1" of that measure? I hope I'm explaining that.

    If that's the case, then I can see a whole new way to start learning. I have my Major and Minor scale patterns down (not fast, but clean), and I can just move within that box on the chord for each measure.

    In theory, that seems VERY easy, while I can see a lifetime of trying variations to create sounds that are interesting.
  7. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    I think I'm following you and if so yes. It is easy, we always want to make it more complicated than it really is.

    Chord progression is in D. The first chord is G for one measure and then D for one measure. This gives us a chord progression of IV - I.

    When the IV chord (the G) is active you want to play three G roots on beat one, two and three and then split the 4th beat with two 1/8th notes of D. Giving you a R-R-R-5-5. If you like that sound - go for it.

    I think this will answer your question. When the chord is active play it's chord tones - the notes that make-up the G chord can be R-3-5 or you could make this G into a Gmaj7 with R-3-5-7. Or stick with the R-3-5, but, up pops that 4/4 time signature so to keep the beat I play four note chords or just play the beats of 1-3 or the 2-4. How you use any combination of those notes is left up to you. What really happens is my internal metronome takes over and I just let it and it normally works out.

    Now how do you get to the next chord? Good question. We could do it this way. R-3-5-X and let X be the dominant seven (V7) of the next chord. As the next chord is D and it's dominant seven is the A (V of D) that dominant seven chord would pull you right into your tonic D. It's easy, but, there are a few things we can take advantage of.

    Or you could walk chromatically into it. On G pounding out roots - if you had two measures of G we could do something like this; G-G-G-G for one measure then walk to the D, i.e. target it (find it on the fretboard) then miss it by three frets. On G jump to the B, C, C# and land on D for the chord change. Going chromatic you left the key, but, used passing notes you ended up back in key.

    Country does this all the time. The chromatic walk alerts the other members of the band that a chord change is coming. If I walk I use chromatics - as it's a no brainer. Easy to put into your bag of tricks, you just have to get the timing worked out so leaving early and landing the on chord change note happens together.

    You are on your way. Have fun.
  8. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    Perfect! Just the piece I was missing in my understanding. Some of the other bass players at church are crazy-skilled, and trying to do what they do leaves me lost. Like I said, I know speed and complexity will come, but I didn't know where to start. Now I can see why the boring scale practice becomes valuable, in that, I can hit the 3, or 5 in both Major and Minor chords without thinking. I just didn't see the point until now.

    So to summarize one point, the last beat of a measure before a chord change, I use the notes of the upcoming chord, not the current one ( in our example, a C#, not a C, since C# is the Major7 of, D, while C is the IV of G).

    That also explains why the F# transitions so nicely to G in If I Could Fly, which was my initial question. So then why does the Bm move so strongly back to G? The sheet has 8 x G, 6 x F#, then 2 x Bm. Sounds awesome, but I didn't think a Major third would move that way. I would it from a V7.
  9. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    The Bm chord is the relative minor of the D scale/key. Same notes.

    I's can go anywhere, but, when you go to a I tonic you resolve and loose any tension you are building.

    The ii is a sub-dominant chord, thus likes to move to the dominant chord (V).

    The iii is the median chord and likes to move. In doing so it takes the vi with it normally.

    The IV is also a sub-dominant chord, thus also likes to move to the V dominant chord. As both the ii and the IV have the same task in life they sub well for each other.

    The V is the dominant chord. Add a b7 and it becomes the V7 or dominant seven chord and I call it the climax chord. the b7 adds tension and because of that you reach climax and should start resolving to the I tonic very quickly.

    The vi is your relative minor chord. Has the same scale notes as the I major tonic. The vi and the ii are thrown into progressions I think willie nelly, just be aware.

    The vii is your diminished chord and it is also a dominant chord. It likes to move to something. So if you want to resolve and end the progression use the dominant V chord, however if you want to move, or start over, use the vii chord. As in this turn-a-round vii-iii-vi-ii-V7-I.

    Have fun.
  10. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    Play some small walkups, but keep it to no more than adding a fill every four bars. So instead of just G-G_G-G- F# F# Try going to open E and walking up to the F#

    Add the octave/fifth in on either the G or F#, but again do it tastefully, hit the octave note on some accents with the drummer. Another fun heavy thing to do is approach from the opposite direction so you would play the G------then hit A on the fifth fret before dropping back down to the F#.
    Try these you just may like them.

    But be aware there are some songs that just want a simple solid bassline, adding too much will ruin them.

    My band plays With or Without You by U2, and believe me after 21 years of playing I could shred all over that 4-note progression, but for the most part I play the eighth notes very steady, and every 2 or 4 bars I either throw in a walkup from the G Note back to the D, or play the G chord an octave up on the A string.

    The song really just doesn't want a whole lot more.
  11. jongor

    jongor Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    This is all good stuff...as long as the chord being played is known.

    I've been in many situations where all I know is | G | D |...etc.

    Any tips on how to evaluate what chord is being played at any given time.

    For example I'm learning the Tedeschi-Trucks band song Love has something else to say, I can easily pick out the roots but can barely tell if a chord is major or minor!
  12. oldcatfish


    Jan 8, 2011
    This says a lot, and it is especially true at church. If you are to "busy" your worship leader won't be happy. There are times when the bass line will be able to move more, but often, anything more than root playing, just comes across as wanking...it will be distracting.
  13. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    I got Ed's book. Great place to start! Starts simple and systematic from what I can tell. I loaded the CD into an extra iPod and stuck it on a dock on top of the amp. Seems like the logical step to connect my scale knowledge/practice with real music.
    One thing I am hearing is that just because you CAN play something, doesn't mean you should. That's where the ear comes in. I tried a few things, liked some, hated others. I can also see how getting comfortable with a pattern/sound will translate later to other songs, and slowly build my quiver so I'm not starting from scratch each time.
    It all seems to come down to practicing with intention, instead of just playing through the same song endlessly the same way.
    I was listening to Break Down by Petty on the radio last night. It was one of the first songs I covered when I started. I heard SO much more than I did the first time, but since I could only do roots when I started, I was stuck there, and never grew. Now I can see/hear more that I can add and if I spend some time, I could play it better than ever.

    Thanks for the tips.