Playing the "third"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by btrag, Nov 17, 2005.

  1. btrag


    Mar 7, 2005
    I am currently accompanying a solo pianist/songwriter. When there is a minor chord in a song, I will play the minor third immediately followed by the root. (If I'm playing quarter-notes, I will divide the third and root into eighth notes). He always gives me a weird look when I do this. It sounds OK to my ears, and, I'm sure it's musically "correct." Is it just a matter of taste? Is it normal to approach a minor chord this way? Depends on the conventions of that particular music genre?
  2. WillBuckingham

    WillBuckingham Guest

    Mar 30, 2005
    What kind of music is it? A more conservative approach in almost any genre would be to play the root. Maybe include the third if there is room for a line or a bass fill on that chord.

    If your pianist is playing a minor triad (A, C, E) and you play C (the third) in the bass, it will completely change the texture (may sound more like a C major with the sixth than an A minor) than if you just play the root.
  3. btrag


    Mar 7, 2005
    So, it depends on the sequence of the notes, right? As he plays the Am chord, if I lead in with the C then hit the A, it would imply a C with a sixth in it, rather than an A minor. Maybe I should strike the root note first, followed by the minor third.

    On a related note, I read a column in Bass Player about note substitions, or, not emphasizing the chord extension notes rather than the root. (for example, in a Am7, playing the G instead of the A). Is this a good idea, or will I get more weird looks?
  4. triggert

    triggert Guest

    Feb 5, 2005
    I can't help ya with that but I'd like to read that article too. Do you remember which month that was?

  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    No, this is not normal. It's distracting for your musical partner, obviously.

    Some might say that any note which is not "wrong" is okay. But "not wrong" doesn't mean "right" or "best".

    Generally, leading with a note which is not the root is okay when it's part of a line and *leads* you to the next note.
  6. si_fi


    May 4, 2005
    London, England
    by changing the note you are playing in the bass you are effectively "inverting" the chord by changing the note in the bass.
    for example: by playing the 3rd of a chord you are turning that into a chord in it's 1st inversion;by playing 5th it becomes a second inversion chord.
    so you are effectively changing the hamrony of what you are playing...i would suggest playing and emphasising the root of the chord and then add other notes of (and outside) the chord to add interest and movment between chords (using these 'extra' notes as passing notes)...this way the harmonic pattern while remain the same and allow you to crate an interesting bass line.
    just remmber to emphasise the rot of the chord(s).
  7. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    The way you phrased the question, it sounded as though you systematically do that-- without fail. Wouldn't it be better to play whatever flows at the moment?
    Playing the third of a minor chord is usually more acceptable as a passing tone because it makes the whole chord sound major, as you suggest (makes A minor sound like C major 6). Misleading and ambiguous.
    In general, if it makes the person you're supposed to be accompanying uncomfortable, don't do it!
  8. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Something that I like to do and works (for me) is playing the third on the first beat when there's a mode change on the same root. I mean, let's say that the piece you're playing is in the key of C and there's in your chord chart an F major chord followed by an F minor in the next measure. I'd play the F for the first chord and Ab for the second. Same when going from minor to major, which most of the times implies a secondary dominant chord (playing D minor and then D major in the key of C, for instance).

    Something I feel important to remark about this approach is that it shouldn't be done in the low register. In fact, and regarding tensions, musical theory says that they work the best when played the highest you can without surpassing the melody (when distributing a chord for a brass section, for instance). The third of the chord isn't exactly a tension, but played by the bass on the downbeat creates sort of an unresolved environment. For the example of playing D minor and then D major in the key of C, I'd play for sure the D on the A string, 5th fret for the first beat and use the other beats to connect the line to an F# on the G string, 11th fret. Not one or two octaves lower. This specific example is great because most likely after the D major chord a G major will appear, which I'd play with the harmonic at the G string, 12th fret (after playing the F# on the 11th fret), and take advantage of this harmonic to play the bass' lowest G note and give "balls" to the line again.

    Using this also depends on the tune's genre, which adds many variables, but for a jazz ballad (for instance) it works great. Again, this is just a personal approach and maybe some folks will disagree, but it has worked most of the times for me. Hope this helps.
  9. Pruitt


    Jun 30, 2005
    Danbury, CT
    Very interesting, Alvaro. I was just learning a song last night with that type of movement. Going from a D major to a D minor. I'll have to give that a try. Thanks!! :)
  10. Scot


    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Good question.

    I think a lot of it depends on why you're playing that C note. If you're just dropping it in on the "one" because you know that C is a theoretically correct note to play against an A minor chord it's probably not a good thing and you're not going to make a lot of friends on the bandstand. If you're really hearing the A minor tonality when you get to that chord and your instincts are telling you to play the C note that's another story. A lot of it has to do with what the rest of the band is playing. If the emphasis on that A minor bar is on the second beat it might sound great to play a C on the first beat and an A on the second. If there's a huge drum fill and the rest of the band is setting up a big landing on the one of that A minor bar and you play a C note on one and an A on two I could see how you might get a funny look. Try to play the A note first and then the C note and see if you still get the same look.
  11. Funkateer

    Funkateer Guest

    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    The nominal approach to walking bass lines in jazz is to play the root on beat 1 and use beats 2 3 4 to lead into the root on beat 1 of the next measure. Other chordal tones can be used instead of the root to make a line smoother, but predominantly, you play roots. When the piano player is playing rootless voicings, lik e they like to, if you are not there with the root, it sounds like a different chord.
  12. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    Wellington, NZ
    Using different chord inversions may help you to blend with the other instrument. Also, you could omit the 3rd's and concentrate on root, 5th, 7th, and 9th chord voicings, and leave the 3rd's to the other musician.
  13. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    IMO, not a good idea...
    I think if your pianist plays an Am7, and you lay on the G, you will definitely get a weird look...
  14. fsanfili

    fsanfili Guest

    Feb 5, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Yeah, the minor third on the bottom can make the chord pretty ambiguous -- the important thing here to consider is the context. You should experiment on a piano, and try out different inversions to get the sound of them in your ear.

    3rd on the botton of a major chord is a great sound in the right context. Even cooler in a lot of ways is the 4th on the bottom -- it turns a C chord, say, into a C/F which gives a bit of an Fmaj9 flavor (see Jeff Buckley's Mojo Pin for an example). The 7th on the bottom of a dominant chord can be very cool, and putting the 2nd on the bottom of the IV chord, say, acctually turns it into an interesting, Bacharach-style V9/11 voicing.

    "Tempted" and "Black Coffee in Bed" by Squeeze have some good examples of some of these techniques.

    Most importantly, you have to use your ear to choose your notes, not a theory book. Your pianist may have a better-developed ear than you, as they play with inversions constantly, so you may want to give his opinion some weight.
  15. Hookus

    Hookus Guest

    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Or perhaps use the flattenned third in beat four to transition to the minor root on beat one, rather than play the third on beat one. I would play the G on the E string (beat four), then using Alvaro's suggestion, the A on beat one.

    Unless you have a good reason, tampering with the chord root on beat one (and three, at times), is sort of taboo. Depending of course on the musical style.
  16. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    good stuff bro...