Remembering Music Theory

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Justin Urry, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. Justin Urry

    Justin Urry

    Jan 11, 2015
    Hey guys, i'm a young bass player and I am having trouble remembering modes and arpeggios. Any tips for helping me remember these things? I feel like I could take my bass playing to a new level if I could remember theory.
  2. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Hey Justin,
    Think of notes as letters in the alphabet. Arpeggios are words, as they have a vibe. 1 3 5 is a major arpeggio and has a bright sound. 1 b3 5 is a minor arpeggio yielding a darker more somber vibe.. Now apply this to a particular key..let's take E ..
    The key of E has 4 sharps.. Why?
    To get a major scale, the formula is whole whole half whole whole whole half and now you are at the octave.
    So we have E F# G# A B C# D# E..
    Now to spell a major triad we take 1 3 5 or E G# B... Play it starting with the open E.. Try building the E arpeggio up the neck..even try building 2 octaves...
    From here you eventually recognize modes. To do this you start the scale on pitches other than the root, forming a new root. For instance the scale built on the second degree is called the Dorian scale. It's minor in nature.
    F# G# A to start...and the relationship between the F# and the A is that of a minor's lots of math if you want to look at it that way.. It's also shapes on the fretboard...however you assimilate the info, I recommend using your ear primarily as you have choices when jamming, improvising, soloing, and that's were the fun begins... Hope this helps..
  3. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    Theory is just names for how certain combinations and sequences of notes sound. Try memorizing these sounds without worrying about memorizing the names and the names will probably start to stick better.
    LedReign, INTP and mtto like this.
  4. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Ok...there are lots of names, note combinations, chord combinations, aka the harmonic structure of a tune, and sequences 1 3 5, 2 4 6, maj, min, etc.
    So why is it so frustrating to learn theory? It doesn't have to be. Harmonic and rhythmic knowledge and depth will broaden, strengthen ones musicianship. Go about your learning slowly, so you can understand each concept.. In that sense, I agree, "these are all names given to how certain things sound". In music education, there a many many methods out there engaging students to learn theory...Why learn theory? Why learn how to read? It's language, and language fluency will enable a musician to play, create, improvise with other musicians in an intelligible fashion... This is magical stuff, and being involved in music education has illuminated the fact that everyone learns differently. The goal, the prize is still the same. The musician who plays with a "sound" theoretical mind, and is able to express musically, artistically, what he or she is thinking, will become a successful artist. It all is a journey. Just don't forget to enjoy the ride!
  5. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Something that helped me is learning to play arps branching from each note of a particular scale, major or minor. Learn to play your major and minor scales in all keys. Once the sound and scale interval patterns are ingrained, you will have an easy time playing arps starting from any note in the scale. Then you simply need to learn how to classify those with words. For example, arp built from root of major scale is a major arp. Arp built from the 2nd note of the major scale in a minor arp. Arp built from the 5th note of a major scale is a dominant..etc.

    Also, simply reading jazz charts is a great way to become familiar with a large variety of arps and extensions. You will quickly form a relationship between chord name, sound, and interval pattern on the finger board.
  6. I found that playing scales and modes on the single strings helped me remember them more easily. I start by playing the G Major scale on the G string, the D on the D string, the A on the A string and the E on the E string -- this helps one remember how moving up a fifth adds a # to the scale on the 7th step. Then I play the F scale on the E string, the Bb on the A string, the Eb on the D string and the Ab on the G string; notice where this adds a flat each time you move up a fourth. This is a good way to work on your shifting, too. On fretless and upright, you're best off to use a drone to help you with intonation.

    When you've gone that far, you can start introducing the modes on each step of each scale. Obviously, this will take some time, and the slower you do it, the more likely you'll retain the motor memory of each scale on your instrument.

    I have actually used this approach with beginning students right away, once I've helped them establish good hand position and taught a systematic approach to shifting. It's worked pretty well for them.
    s2bs2 likes this.
  7. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    I always found that theory should not be an obstacle but a door. There is a connection between knowledge and awareness that often is experienced as a gap. The latter is a fountain for upcoming tragedies.
    Lacking of theory makes one feel stupid and unable. The better way is to built on what you already know and listening to that, taking this as a starting point. Recognizing and embracing where are and start building from there. With love not hate.

    I remember a quote from Miles Davis saying he could not play the higher registers until he 'heard' them.

    Exercising the brain and the body and the body will follow. Or vice versa. There are so many 'learning types' out there that it seems to be impossible to give the one recipe. Find out how you 'tick' and develop from there.

    The historic moment we are having favors abstract knowledge over experience. I do not find the 'scalar approach' very useful as such, but it helps to organize the sounds, finding new things ...

    Another, well disregarded, element of your sound is 'beat'. Maybe that is because it couldn't be pushed into elebarated systems by the academics ...

    Think and feel your sound from the inside and use the scales as tools, not as exams. And listen to the sound. This is the musical converged 'you' in development that you should be after ...

    -- did I get carried away on an otherwise simple question?
    must be the hour of the day, well so be it, it may help - it helps me ;-)

    otherwise the the simple answer would be:
    learn the sound of the scales and the harmony and it will stick forever!
    no abstract thinking required!
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
    JCooper likes this.
  8. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Ctrizjoness you bring up some hip concepts.. Love the Miles quote .. This should fuel the fire for folks who are looking for new ways to approach the bass.. Sounds are codified into names for this reason .. Modes, scales all good.. You have to assimilate them into your playing lexicon.. In terms of rhythm, it is something that can be worked on and it is often overshadowed by notes, tonalities.. Learning how to count and feel subdivisions, sub groupings of the beat are excellent for the musician studying groove ... Learning bass lines at a slow tempo, getting inside the rhythm, then subsequently working up the tempo to the songs intended tempo is a wonderful practice regimen that emphasizes the art of discovery in terms of furthering your groove concept..check out books and videos to help you get started with these practice ideas.
  9. I remember them easily by associating each mode with a song:
    Ionian - most major key songs

    Dorian - Back In Black by ACDC, Sweet Home Alabama.

    Phrygian - Caravan (jazz standard)
    Aeolian - many minor key songs, etc

    Even Circle of 4ths is the chord progression to I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor.
  10. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Groove Doctor, you are on point! precisely! the idea that a song serves as a paradigm for a sound, a mode, a scale, a melodic shape...yes yes yes!! this is exactly how the mind will remember it...right on Doc!
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  11. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Or rather how the EARS will hear/remember it...
  12. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Precisely Andy Mopley! Another good way to discover ear training is through new music. Every week in the Sunday NY Times Arts page there is a section called Play List. It's here that you can discover new music to check out. Within this music, I like to train my ear, learning new chord patterns, melody, story telling through lyric writing, etc.
    I also do this every month with Rolling Stone Mag, as it lets other folks pick disparate songs for me to check out. Some are cool, others take time to get into, and some are not appealing, yet all worthy of checking out for listening's sake. Funny how you can get stuck listening to a style of music, or a song, cd, and before you know it, years have gone by w/o checking out new material. So that's an idea for everyone; to check out music you wouldn't normally listen to. As Andy Mopley says, this will train your ear, and a song that you really get stuck on, will be forever ingrained as you become attached to it, as you need it in your daily listening, and the rest is history. Coming up with your own new material, writing, composing is another angle. For this, you need to think from a blank slate perspective. How to write songs? Just get started, stream of consciousness, use all the notes, use no notes, a rest, a tacit, as silence is music too...OK, getting philosophical here, need another cup of coffee.
  13. Sav'nBass


    Jan 18, 2009
    Virginia Beach
    Remember theory is a broad plate.. I found out the hard way that the only way to really learn all this stuff is the same way to get to Carnegie Hall.... (An old joke.. before your time.. ;) ) practice. There really are no tricks and shortcuts. Use all the resources you can find and do the work... I don't even play DB (although I have a line in an EUB that I hope to be able to buy as soon as I clear up some $$$) I just came here because I didn't know that there was a theory forum... I have been playing electric for some time and never really took the time to study the instrument or it's musical building blocks until relatively recently but I have found out that you will get out what you put in and there is no way around the work. Sometimes it seems like there is little if any progress then one day it just clicks and all the work becomes a part of you and more effortless and with less conscious thought.
  14. csrund

    csrund Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    Bloomington, Ind.
    My favorite lesson on modes—delivered by Leonard Berstein:

  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Remembering it is not the point. I know way more theory than I can actually apply in my playing.

    The goal is not to know you are playing a particular arpeggio but to get your ears to hear it and your fingers to play it without thinking. There are many "ear players" who know very little about theory but can play amazing stuff because they can hear it.

    For jazz in particular this is critical.
    s2bs2 likes this.
  16. Sav'nBass


    Jan 18, 2009
    Virginia Beach
    That is what I am beginning to realize.. and see happening.. and I am loving it! :)

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