Not understanding chord progressions on bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by progrmr, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I am getting into blues and don't understand somethings about the 12-bar blues.

    I was reading a page on it yesterday and it said that I should "Understand what it means to play a I-V-IV chord progression". Here I am totally confused because I've never seen "chords" in any of my 10 months in playing the bass. I used to play guitar so that idea of chords makes sense. But on the bass everything I've learned has been plucking individual notes, not chords as I understand them.

    Most of the blues bass lines I've encountered so far don't involve chords either, just specific notes. So in reference to the 12-bar blues can anyone explain to me what it means to play a chord progression?
  2. It simply means that you should play the root of the chords that the guitar player is playing(usually).
  3. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    oh - haha, wow that's pretty simple. So just follow the guitar - but from the guitar perspective the I - V - IV is referring to the circle of 5ths right? IE the guitar picks 3 chords, the root being the basis then using the circle of 5ths to get IV and V ??

    Hope I'm not totally off base here, I want to understand the roman numerals and their significance in the process.
  4. ducknturtle


    Dec 28, 2006
    New Jersey
    When playing bass you almost always are playing single notes rather than chords. You should still be able to think about your note selection chordally and incorporate that into your conception.
  5. The roman numerals refer to the distance from the key, that's all. So if the tune is in the key of F, the 'IV' chord is Bflat- four tones away. Always think major scale, then go the correct number of tones(IV, V, whatever) from the key, and you're there.
  6. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    sweet! ok, so it's based on the major scale which is what I've been working on the last few days, trying to get 2 octaves in all keys. This makes sense now.

    Xthumpx likes this.
  7. DerBass008


    Jul 3, 2009
    Maybe the "understand chords" thing refers to building the bass line with the chord notes. Like an introduction for the walking bass.
    swooch likes this.
  8. True dat. Learning to walk is important in Blues, and Jazz. The chord tones give you hints on how to do it. Transcribe some walking lines to see how it works.
    swooch likes this.
  9. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    A chord is made of of (at least) the root, third, and fifth of the scale - a C major chord is the root (C), third (E), and fifth (G) of the C major scale. Try using those chord notes instead of just thumping on the root
  10. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I'd like to point others to this site I found - its a bit technical but it does describe intervals and how the music theory numbering scheme applies:

    Pretty thorough but read slowly - lots of big words lol :)
  11. Vanor


    Mar 25, 2009
    DrummerwStrings likes this.
  12. prog, take a very common blues song like hoochie coochie man or five long years. you will find that the bass line, if you listen carefully, is composed mostly of the chord notes:

    - if the root is 1 and the octave 8, you will often hear the notes 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 or alternatively 1,3,5,6,8 being played

    - usually this will be based on a 7th chord in the blues, for all three positions, I, IV and V, alternatively on a 6th chord

    - in the scale of C: 1,3,5,7,8 would be C,E,G,Bb,C and 1,3,5,6,8 would be C,E,G,A,C (note: most blues tunes will always use a 7b (flatted seventh) tone to correspond to the blues scale)

    - in the first case, these notes perfectly match the notes in a C7 chord, in the second case a C6 chord

    - in the case of a blues in C, apply the same principle (scale notes) to position IV (F6 and F7 chords) and position V (G6 and G7 chords)

    - important: ALWAYS play the root note on the first beat of the measure and USUALLY play the 5 (5th scale tone) on the third beat of the measure

    hope this helps.
    DrummerwStrings likes this.
  13. LMCA


    Jul 6, 2009
    Incredible help, really awesome. I've been playing blues for a long time and figure all that out took me a considerable amount of time. Listen to the man, he knows what he 's talking about
  14. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    Ok, first of all I can tell this is really good info because I've got to work to understand it :)

    I understand what you mean by the "flatted 7th" - C Major looks like:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
    C D E F G A B C

    So I understand that you mean to play flat on the 7 position in the scale.

    But what do you mean by the "blues scale" ?? I have to read up on that - did a google search but it sounds pretty confusing!

    "Therefore if any note in a particular scale is different than the major scale with the same root, you will show how it is altered by a (sharp) or a (flat) symbol."

    Does the blues scale only pertain to Minor scale??
  15. LMCA, thanks, appreciate it. i have been studying blues for some time... and it took me a while to figure it out too, so i guess we're all in the same boat!

    prog, you have the major scale correct as above
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
    C D E F G A B C

    this is the blues scale. two things to note:
    - there are less than 8 notes, this is intentional; many scales have 8 notes but definitely not all
    - notice that that the number always refers to the scale interval or position and not a sequential reference to note numbers; F will always be a fourth above C, therefore no. 4
    1 3b 4 5b 5 7b 8
    C Eb F Gb G Bb C
    - to your query above, the blues scale is the blues scale and the minor scale is the minor scale, not to be confused with one another

    to your original point above and reference to chords:
    -this is a C major 7 chord (abbreviated C maj 7); this is NOT used in the blues
    1 3 5 7
    C E G B
    -this is a C dominant 7 chord (abbreviated C7), almost ALWAYS used in the blues
    1 3 5 7b
    C E G Bb
    you are absolutely right that one generally does not play chords on the bass, however it is essential to understand chord STRUCTURE and the notes the chords are composed of, which are very often the individual notes you are playing on the bass in blues.

    but to be honest, don't take too much on board at one time. try to absorb what i gave you above and apply to a few songs... then move on to some scales. if you really want to know, in my opinion these are the scales that every bluesman should know:
    - major
    - minor
    - blues
    - mixolydian
    - major pentatonic
    - minor pentatonic
  16. Chipsonfire


    Jul 20, 2007
    Socorro, NM
    And the mixolydian mode is associated with the dominant chord, right? For instance, the 1, 3, 5 and 7 of the C mixolydian mode gives you a C7 chord?
  17. chipsonfire, yes. basically, the mixolydian mode is a major scale, but played starting on the fifth scale tone. that means in your example, in the key of F the mixolydian starts on C. playing all the scale tones in the key of F (as we all know that F has one flat: Bb), starting on C, would be:
    C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C
    the easiest way for me to remember mixolydian is a major scale but played with a flat 7.
  18. nortonrider


    Nov 20, 2007
    How I remember:

    (the major scale)

    Do = 1
    RE = 2
    ME = 3
    FA = 4
    SO = 5
    LA = 6
    TE = 7
    DO = 8
  19. {enter choir geek}
    Norton, The Major 7th is "Ti." (pronouned "TEE"), while a flatted 7th would be "Te." (pronounced "TAY"). For the 3rd, "Me" (pronounced "MAY") would be the flatted, the major is "Mi"
    {exit choir geek}
  20. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
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