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Question about playing "country" bass

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by PTBassMan, May 11, 2005.

  1. PTBassMan


    May 11, 2005
    Barberton, OH
    Only been playing about a year and am having trouble playing simple country riff's (east bound and down, etc...). I don't play by ear so I have trouble picking out the notes. Is there a good website that helps with playing country bass lines. I mostly play blues/rockabilly.
  2. A lot of these songs use the blues form 1-4-5 or some variation so you shouldn't have much problem with that. It almost always works to keep it simple and play root-fifths and maybe walk around a little through the progression. I highly recommend that you learn to play these by ear since it will help immensly when you are trying to play with the band. You can also just look up the tabs on this site to get an idea how all of this goes. Good luck.
  3. PTBassMan


    May 11, 2005
    Barberton, OH
    Still not familiar with all the terms yet even though I probably already know it. Root-5 ?? Working on the ears. It's getting better.
  4. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I don't know of any sites for bass lines. Go to http://cowboylyrics.com/ and look for chord charts. Then follow the root/fifth or just roots.

    To play country bass, you have to learn to play by ear. Since you are "only playing bass" you will be expected to pick up songs by ear. I have played three hour gigs where the only song I knew in advance was "Folsom Prison Blues" (which, by the way, you *have* to learn :p
  5. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    The requirements for a country bassist are: strong backup vocals, no more than three fingers, and a class B driver's license for the tour bus. It's not easy to develop a good ear and a good feel but you can get by with roots and fifths while you develop those.
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    After you get the root/five down, the other staple for country is the major pentatonic scale. Get those down, and develop your ear, and you can play 99% of the stuff out there.
  7. PTBassMan


    May 11, 2005
    Barberton, OH
    Thanks for all the input. As with everything else......practice, prctice, practice.
  8. PTBassMan


    May 11, 2005
    Barberton, OH
    Sorry about this, but back to the Root / Five thing. My first root note is "G". Then I need to go DOWN to root "A". Then from root "A" DOWN to root "C" then UP to root "D". The Root ->5 doesn't seem to apply here or am I just not seeing it. I understand the theory now though. Any help with these transitions? Thanks
  9. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    I'll try to explain this in very simple terms. Probably much simpler than really needed, please don't think I'm treating you like an idiot.

    Assuming your example is in 4/4 time, four measures with each chord being one measure, you should play the following notes:

    G on beat 1 of measure 1
    D (the fifth of G) on beat 3 of measure 1
    A beat 1 measure 2
    E (fifth of A) beat 3 measure 2
    C beat 1 measure 3
    G beat 3 measure 3
    D beat 1 measure 4
    A beat 3 measure 4

    You want to only play the root of the last chord at the end of the song, though; you DON'T want to end up with the fifth of that chord as your last note.

    Also some general tips: lay out your lines to avoid large leaps (like from open E to C on the A string; you will probably want to play that E an octave higher). It's also generally a safe idea to make the lowest note you play throughout the song either the tonic (G if the song is in the key of G, A in the key of A etc.) or the fifth of the tonic (D in the key of G etc.) That won't make for terribly exciting basslines but should let you play live with a band until you get the hang of it and start to hear what you really want to play.
  10. The above seems pretty straightforward and clear.

    However, if we are still talking about "Eastbound and Down" wouldn't it be:

    G D G D / A E A E / C G D A / G D G D ?

    or in fast cut time (playing on beats 1 and 3):

    G D / G D / A E / A E / C G / D A / G D / G D ?

    Another suggestion, it's somtimes better NOT to play the fifth right before a chord change, especially if you are coming from the 5 chord (or dominant) in the key, which would make the above:

    G D / G D / A E / A E / C G / D D / G D / G D
  11. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    "East Bound and Down" also changes key between the chorus and the verse. I believe it changes from G to E with a nice run down to the E on the E string and then a root-fifth-root up to the octave.

    It is not uncommon for country songs to change key. See "Five Feet High and Rising" by Johnny Cash. Changes key four times!
  12. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    One of the great country bassists is Jr. Huskey who appears on most old school country recordings. He also appears on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbriken." Check him out, and yes, practice, practice, practice!
  13. Gotta work on those ears dude. All the technique, theory and most especially TABS in the world are for crap if you don't develop your ear to some usable extent.

    Other musicians will get frustrated working with someone who can't learn a song during a jam session because they have to go hit the computer and look up tabs or something.

    < / off soapbox >

    OK, I play a lot of stuff in two different bands and one is a very wide range of country, blues, oldies, rockabilly etc. There isn't much difference in progression between blues and country usually. Typically you've got a three chord song that you either walk or play fifths. The vast majority of these songs you should be able to play by ear after faking it for a verse and a chorus because most of them are very similar.

    NOW... country music has a lot more subdivisions than most people give it credit for. Waltzes and country swing are very different tempos and use a lot more walking lines. Some of those are pretty fun to play and frankly I've found playing those every bit as fun and challenging as 99% of the rock bass lines I've learned and played.

    If you play blues, you know that predictability of progression frees you up to do more nuanced things. Country isn't that much different but it can be very easy to overplay the bass parts so be careful. Sometimes less is definately more with this music.
  14. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Yeah, Western swing means walking lines at pretty fast tempo and occasionally playing chunks of the melody in unison with the fiddle. Definitely challenging and fun! I'd recommend someone who's just getting into playing country to stay away from it for a while, though.
  15. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    Country bass playing, GOOD country bass playing, is one of the most under-rated things you can learn to do.

    I've played almost everything you can think of, professionally - jazz, latin, rock, metal, blues, motown (I use that now rather than "R&B" because that schumtz they call R&B now ain't nothin' of the sort... :p ), klezmer....and man, there is nothing tougher to NAIL than (all you country cats can join in here)...


    ...feel is king with this stuff, and getting it perfectly is an art that you can spend a lifetime working on.

    That said, listen listen listen listen, and don't forget to LISTEN to lots of this stuff to get comfortable with it. Start trying to work out the progressions by ear, then figure out what the bassist is doing. Keep it simple at first, get the outline, then worry about details. The "big picture" (i.e. correct chords in correct sequence, proper rhythmic placement) is MUCH more important than the exact notes/licks.

    Oh, and have fun! :bassist:

  16. daofktr

    daofktr irritating, yet surly

    Feb 15, 2005
    aurora, IN
    i play buncha different stuff, but i still like to practice country sometimes, because it makes me think about my technique. if it isn't right on, it jumps out at you... :( which makes you practice more... :bassist: ...which makes you better... :hyper:
  17. PTBassMan


    May 11, 2005
    Barberton, OH
    Thanks everybody for the help. I'll keep working on it, nad like always, it will all of a sudden come together.
  18. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    That's one of the only country songs that bring a smile to my face. Smokey And the Bandit is one of my all time fave movies and that song is all over it. Jerry Reed!

    That is all.