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Playing the Root Note

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by pbass40, Oct 23, 2009.


  1. pbass40

    pbass40

    Sep 16, 2004
    Notice at some casual jams,I have heard some people say just play the Root.Is that just playing the Root of the chord being played?I'm not suppose to play a bass line?
     
  2. JLP

    JLP

    Mar 15, 2008
    Right. EX. Tom Petty,s Mary Jane
     
  3. Yes.
    Well, playing just roots is a possible baselines you could use and in a jam session to songs you really have never played before it is a safe and acceptable way of laying down a base line. Granted not the most exciting.
     
  4. phxlbrmpf

    phxlbrmpf

    Dec 27, 2002
    Germany
    The idea behind a bass line is basically placing the root on the "heavy" beats (usually the 1 and the 3) and adding extra notes derived from the chord that's being played and the scale(s) that sound(s) good over it to make things more interesting. The root is the most important note, though, and it's best to think of the others of "extra notes". More often than not you will get by without them (although walking bass is a different story).
     
  5. PBass101

    PBass101

    Jul 3, 2008
    Illinois
    Sometimes, if you're not familiar with the playing style of the other guys in the jam or if you don't know the song, all you can do is play the root. It'd be a little embarassing to try to busy up a bassline when you don't know the music or the mannerisms of the guys you're playing with.
     
  6. There is no shame in the root note.

    It's not uncommon to "root note it" the first time through. Maybe the next time through you can throw in the 5th. By the 3rd time the chord changes come around you should be getting a feel for the tune and can do whatever.......
     
  7. Billnc

    Billnc

    Aug 6, 2009
    Charlotte NC
    Also, if you're jamming, others may not know the song and are relying on you to keep their place. We aren't allowed any mistakes!
     
  8. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    Keep in mind that a good, solid bass line depends on rhythmic choices as well as note choices. Arguably, rhythm is even more important. So look at sticking to the root notes as an opportunity to use your ear and artistry to serve the rhythm.
    It also frees up concentration to listen more deeply to what others are doing, also arguably crucial to a solid groove.
     
  9. It's called that because, if you play the wrong notes, you won't get a root after the gig.
     
  10. S. Katz

    S. Katz Guest

    Oct 24, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Pedaling the root IS a bass line. Sometimes the most appropriate bass line.
     
  11. Dano59

    Dano59 Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2009
    Charleston Illinois
    Not to hijack this thread but I was just going to ask a question which is somewhat on this so here goes.

    In the Praise band I have gotten to where I can do a "ok" job in my opinion by playing the root and using the rhythm of that note to dress things up and fit the song tempo and style instead of trying to be fancy with the notes. Using the right hand to add to the song seams fairly basic but don't want to make things too boring....

    But from what I am seeing here what I am doing is not as unacceptable as trying to be fancy and grabbing the wrong notes...Right?

    I will also say that I have started one or two note transitions like when going from an F to a D I will walk down with a single E to smooth things out.

    Any feedback would be great.
     
  12. Ain't no shame in the root note game. Especially early in a tune it's important that you and the drummer are solid and that everyone can tell where they are by listening to you. As everyone gets locked in and comfortable you can go further afield. The style of music makes a difference too of course- the right answer is different for Chicago blues vs bebop blues vs riff rock blues for example, but simple and solid will win you more friends than "creative" and hard to follow.
     
  13. E2daGGurl

    E2daGGurl

    May 26, 2008
    SoCal
    There are some extraordinary root-only bass lines. The genre is often alternative or punk. But not always.

    Still a bass line.
     
  14. ROOTS RAWK
    Low Calorie and tasty too. Rawk on!
     
  15. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    If the band I'm playing with is solid, I'll go further afield & play some thing other than the root or the beat. If the band I'm playing with needs to be held together, I'll play a steady pulse on the root. This varies from song to song, band to band, etc.

    In general, you should play the simplest thing you can that serve the song - and if the simplest thing that serves the song is some complexity, then that's what you play. But if it turns out to be churning out 8th note roots, then that's what you do.
     
  16. If you stay with chord tones - R-3-5 or R-3-5-7 you will not have a wrong note. Is there room for the 3-5-7 is another story.

    If you have access to the United Methodist Hymnal look at The Lord's Prayer on page 271. Has both chord names and the treble and bass clef shown. Notice there are two chords per measure, i.e. not enough room for a lot of fancy stuff, and notice the liberal use of the root note. It's mostly roots with a R-3 or R-3-7-3 (the 5th and 6th measure).

    My point, nothing wrong with root nothing, especially if you have two chords per measure. Basic beat first then if there is room for the fancy stuff go for it.

    Yes nothing wrong with chromatic runs to tie the chords together as far as I can see. I need to do more of that, walking between the changes has not entered my World.
     
  17. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    earth
    well all rooty :
     
  18. Man this thread makes me happy. I am "Root Note Rodney". I love the root and am not ashamed to use it. My band is now a 6 piece, (acoustic rhythm, lead guitar, bass, lap steel, keys, and drums,) there really is no room for me to be flashy. That's cool with me as I'm all about being solid and rhythmic anyway. I love using chromatic passing notes and some harmonics as accents, but I'll never be Victor Wooten and ok with that. Praise be to the simple and solid!

    H
     
  19. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    Speaking of V. Wooten, in his Groove Workshop he describes ten different components that make up a bass line with the actual note being only one of the components.

    That means to me that even when I'm staying on the root, I still have nine other variables. And if I'm not worried about note choice, I can give more attention to the other nine variables which sometimes leads to a more interesting bass line than if I'm all over the neck with different notes.

    Sometime I feel a little guilty when I'm "just" playing the root but if that's how I feel on that song at that time, then it's gotta be the right thing for me to play. If it's not, someone will let me know. :eek: ;)

    LeonD
     
  20. There's a time and place for everything. With some songs it is not only acceptable but preferable to thump on the root. Other songs, it is damn boring. The more you play, the better you get at knowing the difference.

    Sometimes, if the rhythm players don't know or trust you, they ask you to play it safe and ride the root into eternity. The ability to analyze a progression and know what can be done tastefully comes with time and experience.

    Many times I have heard a bass player all over the fingerboard and I wanted to shout "Just play the root!" I have found myself overplaying on occasion. Sometimes less is more.
     

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