New to quarter notes, I always played half notes. (tips?)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by talkinboutpizza, Apr 28, 2021.

  1. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    Guitar player here, I just discovered how to get the Bob Wills swing sound that I always loved by playing the bass notes as quarter notes. On the guitar, boom-chick is taught as quarter notes which leads to the guitar playing bass lines as two half notes per measure.

    I have a lot to learn as quarter note bass lines (4 beat bass?) is completely different in regards to writing melody and progressions. Can you tell me your experience with quarter note type bass lines? I've studied Jimmie Rodgers who plays guitar with half note bass lines, but just recently discovered that most of Gene Autrys songs have quarter note bass. It sounds so much faster and makes me dance. It seems like half note bass lines are better reserved for slow songs? I find any experiences, facts, or opinions in all things related to quarter bass lines very interesting.
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  2. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Yes to dance to... Follow the chords and using 4/4 time play the chord's root note on the 1 beat and the roots 5th on the 3rd beat.

    Then shoot for a R-5-8-5 using chord tones. When that flows we can get into the other stuff.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
  3. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    I'm talking about root on the first beat, 5th on the 2nd beat, root on the 3rd beat, 5th on the 4th beat. Something that really moves. Holding the root for 2 beats and then the 5th for two beats is half notes, rather than quarter notes.
  4. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    That will be R-5-R-5 and will also work. Don't forget that rests count as a beat.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    There's thread in the double bass forums about Country walking bass
    When Malcom is describing Root on 1 , 5th on 3 he does not mean only play beat 1 and 3

    Another way to describe what he is getting at:
    You have 4 beats:
    1. The root of the chord
    2. other tone
    3. the 5th of the chord
    4. other tone
    It's what to play on 2 and 4 -the available other tones -that you seem to be asking about.
    Malcom is saying that you can choose any chord tone ( R 3 5 8 )and it will work

    they mechanics of quarter note walking bass are this
    • Beats 1 and 3 are considered strong beats , 2 and 4 are weak beats
    • (I prefer to think of 2 & 4 as tension and 1 & 3 as release )
    • strong (release) beats must harmonize more
    • weak (tension) beats can harmonize less
    • how much less depends on the style of music
    For diatonic styles like Country or bluegrass, you can consider your options the pentatonic scale : R 1 2 3 5 6 8
    so you end up with the chord tones plus 2 and 6 of the scale. The 2 and the 6 'count as chord tones' for walking purposes. So for what you seem to be asking:
    1. The root of the chord
    2. any pentatonic note (prefer something that leads into the 5th)
    3. the 5th of the chord
    4. any pentatonic note (prefer something that leads into the next root note)
    This basic framework should get you going, but of course there's no rules. Leading nicely into the next chord root note will almost always work no matter what 'rule' beak. beat 3 does not have to be the 5th. The root on 1 is the most effective, but depending on the context you can get away with other chord tones. Use your ears! Listen to what the songs you are emulating do.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2021
  6. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    What you describe as "half notes vs. quarter notes" I describe as two different time signatures, the former being 2/4 (or 2/2) and the latter being 4/4. If I'm creating sheet music for a piece that swings, I base the time signature on whether the bass plays all the beats (4/4) or only the downbeats (2/4).

    What you're describing as playing in quarter notes is commonly referred to as walking, and it's usually, but not always, in a swing context. Since you mentioned Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, consider "Faded Love." Is the bassist playing 2/4 or 4/4? The song works both ways, but a walking line takes it from "country" to "western."

    @mambo4 has given a pretty good explanation... but keep in mind that walking bass is a big subject! Creating good, interesting walking lines takes practice, thought, and good ears. It's the first step in progressing from tuba lines to swing-bass lines.
  7. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    With guitar instruction the 'Boom-chick' is usually taught as two boom chicks per 4/4 measure. I though Bob Wills might be counting 'boom-chick' as 4 boom chicks per 4/4 measure. But it seems with the fast songs even the 'chick' strum is counted as a beat.

    I'm basically trying to figure out 16 bars in regards to it being 'boom-chick-boom-chick' being one measure or 'boom-chick-boom-chick-boom-chick-boom-chick' being one measure.

    Even though they're fast songs 'Take me back to Tulsa', and 'Ida Red' count the 'chicks' as a beat since the melody only makes sense as 8 bars.
  8. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    Nevermind I can't find a single example of Gene Autry, Jimmie Rodgers, or Bob Wills playing '4 on the floor' bass patterns. It seems the 'chick' is always counted as a quarter note along with the melody.
  9. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Gene Autry and Jimmie Rodgers, maybe not, but Bob Wills?

    Bubbles in My Beer

    Roly Poly

    Across the Valley From the Alamo
  10. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Yes, old country is major key, I-IV-V --- dirt simple stuff. When the fiddles join the band we swing the beat --- took me years to understand how to swing --- simple as changing the down beat to 2 and 4, instead of 1 and 3.
  11. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    What? :cool:

    Lovesick Blues

    I Love You So Much It Hurts Me

    Ramblin' Man

    There's a lot more to "old country" than major key I-IV-V.

    The downbeat is always 1, and you can emphasize upbeats without swinging. What makes swing is that the rhythm patterns are divisible by 3 as well as 2.
  12. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    Bubbles in My Beer, has an AABA the first A section is 8 bars with the bass playing half notes. If the bass is counted as 4 quarter notes per measure then the 32bar form wouldn't work for this song. Roly Poly is AABA 32 bar form with 8 bar 'A sections' making half notes on the bass. Across the Valley is also 32 bar AABA with 8 bar sections and half note bass. Awesome songs by the way.

    The only example I can find is this.

    A 16 bar verse and an 8 bar chorus where the bass notes are all '4 on the floor' I guess it's just very uncommon to hear '4 on the floor' bass in bluegrass, western, country, or swing?
  13. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    I'm not sure why you're concerned with counting measures (all of those tunes are indeed 32-bar forms). My point is that you can surely hear 4-beat swings in Bob Wills's recordings. All three Bob Wills tunes I linked to have 4-to-the-bar bass lines, with quarter notes ... I don't know what you're hearing. ?

    In regards to Bluegrass music, listen to some Stanley Brothers. That bass player played quite a few walking lines - often in waltzes!

    And regarding "pure" country (as if there is such a thing), Ray Price was considered a bit of a pioneer in his "Texas Shuffle" rhythm : 4-to-the-bar.
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  14. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    I'm just trying to understand '4 on the floor' since it is rarely used in guitar riffs. Those 3 Bob Wills songs have an 8 bar A section. If you count 8 bars you will hear that the bass plays two quarter notes every 4 beats. '4 on the floor', 4 bass hits per measure is something that interests me but I now realize there is very very few examples of it.

    My interest in counting measures is because I like to write 16 bar verses and it is interesting when the bass line is very quick like the "In Dreams" song I posted. but it is hard to write melody to the rarely used '4 on the floor' bass pattern.
  15. ProbablyTooLoud


    Aug 1, 2020
    I think you'd benefit from listening to old jazz players and checking out some famous walking bass books. Ed Fuqua, who is on TB, wrote one. Ray Brown's book is good, as is Rufus Reid's. And if you listen to Paul Chambers play, you'll hear perfect execution of the rules all the other guys talk about in the previous answers in this thread.
    talkinboutpizza likes this.
  16. JKos


    Oct 26, 2010
    Surprise, AZ
    I can't help but think you have some sort of misconception about beats and measures based in how you are trying to describe what you hear.
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  17. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    It’s all relevant to the time signature.

    I generally think of walking bass lines in four four time. Four beats to the measure, the quarter note “defines the best”.
    Bass drum on one and three, snare on two and four (this is a very general description).
  18. talkinboutpizza


    Apr 28, 2021
    I'm speaking of 4/4 time sig. in regards to melody. Most verses are written as 16 bars. The verse in the "In Dreams" song is 16 bars and the bass line has 4 quarter notes per measure. Surprisingly the Bob Wills stuff has two quarter notes per measure. The in dreams song basically has 8th note strumming, and it sounds real quick. I was trying to find songs for examples of this 8th note strumming (4 bass notes per measure) so that I could study writing melody to it.

    If the bass line was written on the staff as 2/2 time sig. below a 4/4 16 bar verse I don't see how that would work.
  19. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Half notes sound good in country bass too. Some songs let you mix it up, sometimes all half notes on the verse and quarter notes on the chorus. Or mixed together in a verse. Depends on lyrics etc. Those books mentioned above have lots of examples.
    talkinboutpizza likes this.
  20. Al T.

    Al T. Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2006
    Richmond, VA.
    Check out Asleep at the Wheel , Josh Hoag on Bass and David Sanger on Drums do Western Swing right. They do a lot of Bob Wills songs really well.
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