Pentatonics Bassline

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Cougar, Dec 30, 2016.

  1. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    Hey Guys,

    Looking into constructing basslines using the pentatonic scales and have questions.

    Let's say you are in the key of G. When you are on the I chord, obvious that you can use the G pentatonic scale.

    1. However, when you go to the 4 (C Major Chord) and 5 (D Major Chord), is it Ok to sill use the G major pentatonic scale, or do you need to change to the C Major Pentatonic scale and D Major pentatonic scale for these chords even though you are still in the key of G?

    2. What do you do when you go to the minor chords (ii, iii, iv) in the key of G? Do you use the G minor pentatonic scale over these or can you stick to the G Major pentatonic scale?

  2. Yes.
    You can stay with the Tonic G pentatonic scale notes, for example: R-2-3-5-6 are the generic major pentatonic notes so any of them will work. You could use something like this:
    |R-2-3-5|6-8-8-6|5-3-2-R| or like you said - play the major pentatonic over each chord, i.e. G pent over the G chords, C pent over the C's and D pent over the D's.
    Major pentatonic over Major chords and minor pentatonic over minor chords. Minor pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7. Also understand you do not have to play them in pentatonic order.

    My stumbling block with pentatonic scales was with 5 notes in 4/4 time how do you split the pentatonic. That was a real problem for me. Ed Friedland book, Pentatonic Scales For Bass has this as an example of what could be done:
    |1-2-3-5|6-8-8-6|5-5-5-6|6-6-5-3|2-1--| or |8-6-5-5|6-3-5-2|1-2-3-5|6-6- you get the idea. Notes of the pentatonic and they do not have to be in pentatonic order. Don't forget the rhythm of the groove...

    Have fun.

    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
    tzn likes this.
  3. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    If the entire song stays in the key of G, you can play G major pentatonic the entire time and it will still sound good, although it might start to sound boring.

    The reason it might start to sound boring is because the function of all the chords in a specific key is to draw your ear towards the tonic, in this case, it's G major. All the other chords in that key function as chords that draw you back to G major. The "boring" problem arises when you stay on the landing spot of G major without taking the listener's ear for a ride using interesting tones from other scales or arpeggios.
    mambo4, Wfrance3, rujulian and 2 others like this.
  4. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    I second Malcom and Jloch above.

    What style of music?
  5. CaseyJ


    Jul 28, 2016
    Northern Indiana
    See, I wish TB was filled with more useful information Threads like this for players, rather than which pickguard to put on my P bass. Great advice you guys.
  6. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    In fairness, I see lots of useful information like the above, being dispensed on a regular basis. To access it, all a person has to do is perform a search...or simply ask. ;)

    The.."what pick guard for what bass.." topic has it's own separate forum.
  7. I think what would serve you better is to get your fundamentals of music theory down better. I can spot several misunderstandings of core concepts of music theory in your questions.
    Your concept of pentatonic scale usage is not right, and also the wrong direction to be headed in for building basslines.
    So, before you get too far down the wrong road, go back to the start of the music theory textbook and get a better understanding of everything.
    You are headed in the wrong way with your pentatonic concepts here.
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Hi Cougar, I am a bit late to the party, but I hope you don't mind if I put in my 2 cents. :)

    Number one rule of writing a song and coming up with a bass line, always know the notes of each chord!

    G Major (I chord) = G, B, D
    C Major (IV chord) = C, E, G
    D Major (V chord) = D, F#, A

    Learn to love these notes. They will serve you well as your "bread and butter" notes for a vast number of songs.

    But, our hypothetical song in this example has a G Major Pentatonic type of melody. How can we spell out the I-IV-V chord change, while still keeping the major pentatonic flavor?

    G Major Pentatonic = G, A, B, D, E, G

    Look at how the two concepts intercept. Which notes of each chord are also shared in common with the G Major Pentatonic scale? These can be our harmonious or "sweet" notes (that's not a technical music theory term, I'm just being descriptive):

    G Major chord + G Major Pentatonic = G, B, D
    C Major chord + G Major Pentatonic = E, G
    D Major chord + G Major Pentatonic = D, A

    Or, which notes of each chord are NOT found in G Major Pentatonic? These can be our distinctive or "flavor" notes that emphasize the changing chords:

    G Major chord - G Major Pentatonic = n/a
    C Major chord - G Major Pentatonic = C
    D Major chord - G Major Pentatonic = F#

    There you go, two strategies to write a melody or bass line that are true to the G Major Pentatonic sound, while simultaneously emphasizing the I-IV-V chord changes.

    The best exercise you can do right now is to study famous major pentatonic songs. Listen, sing, play, memorize. A really fantastic exercise is to play the chord tones on your bass while you sing the melody. Really try to understand how each melody note harmonizes with the chord progressions. The chords are so strongly implied that a good singer can perform an a capella version of the song, and our brains will fill in the harmony!

    Auld Lang Syne
    Amazing Grace
    Oh, Susannah!
    Camptown Races
    Old Macdonald Had a Farm

    You would never use the G Minor Pentatonic scale in this example, because it doesn't fit the chords!

    G Minor Pentatonic Scale = G, Bb, C, D, F

    ii chord = A Minor = A, C, E
    iii chord = B Minor = B, D, F#
    vi chord = E Minor = E, G, B

    See how G Minor Pentatonic clashes with the chord tones?

    Rather, I would suggest that the minor chords of G Major (Amin, Bmin, and Emin) fit perfectly well with the G Major Pentatonic scale. You can repeat the exercises I suggested above, to find out which notes of the chords are shared in common with, or distinct from, the G Major Pentatonic scale. :)
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
  9. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    Not to sound harsh, but I don't think the intent of this forum is to replace a private instructor. I think it is more to supplement knowledge gained through normal course of study with an in-person tutor that can address your specific needs and guide you through all the fundamentals of music theory and practice.

    That being said, if you ask the right questions, you will get the right answers, and everyone on this forum is very helpful. They are also providing assistance free of charge, and out of the goodness of their heart, and if received with appreciation, I'm sure will provide you with many years of experienced guidance. It is also not easy to provide assistance to someone who you can't see or hear.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you are in the early stages of your musical journey. At this time it would be very beneficial for you to get a private instructor, which could save you from poor habits down the road, and also guide you on a path to understand the vast expanse that is music as quickly as can be done. If you cannot afford a private instructor, then I'd suggest listening as much as you can to the great bassists in music history and contemporary. James Jamerson, Pino Palladino, Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, so many more. Many successful musicians have made it solely by transcribing albums. However, it's a lot of work.

    I'm not posting this to make anyone feel bad. Just so the knowledge is out there to future and current students here on TB. Best of luck.
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Care to elaborate?
    It might be useful for the OP to be made aware of exactly what he is mistaken about.

    The only glaring misunderstanding I saw was in question 2:
    thinking that any of the minor chords in the key of G major might imply a G minor scale.

    anyhow, Malcom and Jloch, and Mushroo above really say all that needs to be said.
    matti777 likes this.
  11. CaseyJ


    Jul 28, 2016
    Northern Indiana
    Actually you must have misunderstood me. I have been playing for 30 years. I was just thanking the guys who gave help to the OP. I thought it was nice to see people being helpful, rather than discuss pickguards for the millionth time.
    SteveCS and Basstards like this.
  12. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    Yes, probably mistaken by accident due to internet conversion. Cheers.
  13. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    Hey Guys,

    Thanks for your responses - very helpful.

    Actually, been playing praise/worship for a couple years in a group of musicians. Not beginner at all. I do understand much and do contract basslines quite well with roots, 3rds, 5th, octave with appropriate passing notes on and to chords. Pretty good on constructing walking basslines to. I am simply now looking to expand in developing groovy/melodic basslines and looking to explore what pentatonics can do for me.

  14. I've just started using pentatonic notes in my bass lines for the Praise music I play. I'll move from roots to the beat and start using the tonic pentatonic notes in certain songs. Little hard to explain what I'm doing as it's still developing. It's a feel thing right now.

    Where are you with pentatonic notes? How are you using them in your Praise bass line?
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  15. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    First you have to know that pentatonics are "reduced" scales compare to the diatonic major scale (5 notes instead of 7). So to answer your first question, by combining the 3 pentatonic scales of G,C and D, you end up with a full G major scale! So even if you change your scale over the IV and the V you are not changing key.

    #1) You can play the major pentatonic of C over C and D over D.

    So here is a cool trick: To play a fill over the V or IV chord use the G pentatonic scale for a variation instead. By doing so, you are playing a fill in the key instead of over a chord. You also can mix them up.

    #2) Those minor chords are associated with the I-IV-V chords.

    So the II is an extension of the IV,
    The III is an extension of the I,
    The VI is an extension of the I also.

    If you encounter a VIImin7(b5), you can play your V.

    There are some considerations to take in account but this is a guideline. Use it with your ears ;-)
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
    MalcolmAmos likes this.
  16. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014

    We play lots of gospel songs with lots of rhythm. Many tend to have space between the lines, and between the verses and choruses. Can fit some some melodic bass fills in the spaces - pentatonic notes seems to work quite well.

  17. BPhillips

    BPhillips Ayatollah of Rock 'N' Rolla

    Oct 12, 2015
    Savannah, GA
    MYLOWFREQ likes this.
  18. CaseyJ


    Jul 28, 2016
    Northern Indiana
    Of course. Don't forget the flats...
    MYLOWFREQ likes this.
  19. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Hi Cougar, cool thread, Pentatonic's are cool ways to expand, link and create bass lines, but they are just part of the bigger lesson of 'harmonizing'.

    You can learn to harmonize by dealing with chord construction and chord quality.
    Pentatonic's are, for me anyway, is the first step in earning to harmonize, so you are starting from the right place because many bassline's are pentatonic based, especially in Rock and Blues.

    Check out the link for a basic introduction the idea, and if you have an Ipad, keep it handy.

  20. Lanky Tunes

    Lanky Tunes

    Jun 9, 2014
    There are sooo many variable to what you can or should play. I prefer to think in terms of norms than rules. Technically you can play anything depending upon the effect you're looking for.

    The most common thing you'll do as a bassist is outline the harmony, unless you are doing a very riff based song.

    I'd star with using the notes of whatever pentatonic scale matches the chord of the moment.

    G=G major pent, Am=A minor pent, ect.