Roots on 1

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by dar512, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. dar512


    Mar 25, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Most books on walking teach playing the root on 1. My bass instructor (back when I could afford it) was the same way. And that's the way I've been playing so far.

    But Ed's book and a few other places show examples using other chord tones on 1.

    So, when is this a good thing and when not?
  2. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    I'm no jazz guru, but I was taught that you should use roots on the 1 during the head, or when backing a singer, but you can take more liberties when backing a soloist.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    It's not really about "rules" or when the "right time" is to use a note other than the root of the chord on the downbeat. The idea is to move the harmony forward with your line, I like to think of the accompaniment line as a "quarter note melody", so note choice isn't solely about the chord of the moment, it's also about the arc of your line through the phrase, through the chorus, through the whole tune.
    You don't want to make intellectual decisions on the stand, you want to make musical ones. But in practice or in informal sessions with folks you play with a lot, you can try some mechanical stuff - one chorus starting with the root, one chorus starting with the third, one chorus starting with the fifth, one with the seventh (or sixth or whatever the 4th part of the chord called for). If you use the chord line exercise, you can get a sense of how using shared notes and common notes between chords can convey the harmony without playing the root of every chord.
    Ultimately, what will best convey the harmony to the listener (either the other musicians or in the audience) is YOU hearing the notes you want to play in the context you want to play them, rather than arbitrary rules about what notes should go with what beats.
  4. Rob Palmer

    Rob Palmer

    Aug 29, 2005
    Suffolk, UK
    I also think that it is useful to remember that, sometimes, a strong root note can often save the day when things are starting to fall apart. It can also help the listener connect with the music and give them a strong reference point. Too many may be dull but too few can alienate. It is all about balance.
  5. HeadyVan Halen

    HeadyVan Halen

    Jun 11, 2010
    Good advice. I know we use them alot in Contemperary Gospel (slash chords). Sometimes they sound good, sometimes not. I do not like using them for the sake of being complicated, but rather as a different flavor. Most times for me I'll play them if the voicing in the chord is strong.

    i.e. A minor with a heavy 3rd you can play C.

    All else fails play what sounds the best.
  6. pbass888

    pbass888 Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    New York, NY
    Some transcriptions I'm doing now of Paul Chambers of 'stella ' in a few keys... he is usually using roots(say at least 3/4 of time) on the first beat of the measure and even repeating measures each time through the chorus. When he is not using the root, he is definitely keeping the flow of the line in a nice up or down hill or valley, using the third or the fifth (as mentioned above).
    A Sam Jones transcription also has a nice flow. One thing to note for example on 'there is no greater love', on chords that have two measures, say b flat major at end of the chorus, he uses the root on the first measure and then the fifth as a start to the second measure.
    Hope these examples help a little. As stated above by Ed , the flow of the lines is important.
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    QFT. I was in a Ron Carter clinic where he was focusing on avoiding roots on One, sometimes avoiding them all together through the rest of the beats. The thing he was doing that most of us weren't doing was to create a cohesive line that conveys the harmony as Ed describes. It's not so much about what you do or don't do with roots, it's more of how they fit into the bigger picture. I think it's worth pointing out that RC treats walking as if he's soloing - he's making melodic phrases, call and response, etc etc, all the while he's banging out the harmony and matching up rhythms with the rest of the rhythm section.

    You dont' just bang out a walking line like it's in a vacuum. You might was well be replaced by Band-In-A-Box at that point. Your walking line has to respond to everything going around you. Roots always on 1? It's all depends.
    Seth Miller likes this.
  8. Kamatori


    Jan 20, 2012
    I always just play the root on 1 whenever there's a chord change. This is especially helpful for your fellow musicians and listeners when there are rapid chord changes like in a bebop tune.

    If it's a chord over multiple bars, it's fine to play another note (probably a chord tone still) on 1.

    Although I do sometimes play passing tones instead of the root if I deem the root of the chord to be jumpy or just not AS important as the structure of the line.
  9. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Looking at a PC line on Bye Bye Blackbird with Miles, he starts the tune on the fifth and moves chromatically around it. I don't believe he hits the root (F) until maybe the fourth bar. PC would do that quite a bit.
    I played the exact line once and the leader told me to never do it again. "Go listen to some Paul Chambers".......................He asked me to play the root on one. With him I try to keep things simple and outline the changes with more clarity than I might with other people.

    On the other extreme, a great sax player told me to never double the root or play the same note twice in a bar. "Go transcribe some PC and Ray Brown and learn how to play the bass"........................... I did and also found that they apparently didn't know how to play the bass. :rolleyes:

    I was listening to a great Paul Desmond record, Easy Living recently. Eugene Wright got a great sound on that and played exactly what the music required but it's root, root, fifth, fifth, etc. Very old school and he didn't call attention to himself. I believe if the root is the most musical note to play, play it.:D

    I tend to agree with Ed and try to play in a musical way.

    HeyDiddyDiddy, your comment about RC is insightful. Looking at some of his lines the notes can seem wrong when only looking bar to bar. Looking at the entire line shows that he's setting up what he's going to play in the next bar or so.
  10. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    I just remembered an RC line on Bag's Groove from his CD Dear Miles. Check out the second chorus and see that rules are meant to be broken:

  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Imagine that.....:D
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Well, I think it's safe to say that the chromatic thing in the 2nd chorus is arranged; it's also done going out so I'm sure the pianist was expecting it. If you did that at a jam session, the horn player would probably be annoyed at you. Kinda overwhelms what might be going on out front.

    I think it's safe to say that for the most part, roots are generally a safe move, and even playing them alot can sound musical. I'd certainly focus on banging out roots and 3rds on the first go-round with the head. After that then there's more room to slowly increase the number of chances and start veering away from playing it "safe" since the harmony has been established. I like to listen carefully to the soloist that as soon as he starts playing weird stuff or loses it, or the music starts to get vague, I immediately jump back to the safe stuff.
  13. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Agreed. RC is the leader and it had to be arranged. I wouldn't recommend that any bass player do what he did. However, the point is that each situation is different. Our job is to play the changes, time, help it feel good, mix it up, move the music forward, challenge the other musicians, make them comfortable, etc................... It's no secret that the many things we are asked to do are often in conflict. Developing big ears, really listening to what's happening gives us the best chance.
  14. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    As a relative beginner jazz UB player I hear what Ed is saying but I don't have the maturity as a player to confidently stray from root/V/passing tone type approach right now. It's like using colors to paint, starting out w/the primary tones red/yellow/blue etc, learning about blending colors, shades and hew over time. My teacher will talk through a Ray Brown transcription and I'm amazed at the variety of note choices and substitutions he used. Gotta start somewhere and root/V is a good place to start
  15. dar512


    Mar 25, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks guys. This was exactly the sort of discussion I was hoping for.

    As an amateur (and an older amateur at that), I don't have time to wander in the desert. This kind of discussion at least gives me some guideposts.

    Barbossa: And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.
  16. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Drew Gress --

  17. I'm not a strong jazz player, so take this with a grain of salt.

    One place where even an unsophisticated player like me can safely get away from "roots on 1" is when the chord changes from major to minor over the same root. For example, Gmaj7 to Gm6. Hitting the minor third on the first beat of the minor chord is arguably stronger sounding than the root.

    Your mileage may vary.
  18. Ben Wolfe

  19. SeaBassTheFish


    May 19, 2011
    Ed's prose is great, but it's only a fraction of what makes the book great!
    If you spend some quality time with the recording/transcriptions, you'll see him put everything he talks about into action.
    Think about the bassist's role of harmonic inflection as something dynamic that you are constantly in control of, and that you can be anywhere on a spectrum of deliberateness of harmonic inflection, from being very deliberate with the harmony i.e., root-heavy, to being much less deliberate, backing off from the roots and letting it open up a bit (usually by thinking more linearly).
    Contrast Ed's playing on Track 1 (Bb blues) at letter E (lots of roots!) with Track 4 (also Bb blues) at letter D (first four bars of that chorus). These are kind of at opposite ends of the spectrum of deliberateness of harmonic inflection.
    But that's not all!
    Also listen to how differently he plays at these moments in terms of feel (and how the rest of the rhythm section responds!).
    The more time I spend with the book, including the recording, the more I find these little things that help to put together a whole picture of musicality as applied to the bass.
  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    This thread is rather timely for me. I'd call myself a dedicated amateur. Despite having spent many, many hours with fine jazz teachers, I found myself in a bit of a rut as far as my lines went. So, I recently bought a copy of Ed's book and it's just what I wanted/needed! SeaBass is dead on. The book contains wonderful examples across the tracks of the principles that Ed discusses so clearly at the beginning of the book.

    Ed-- thank you! Your clearly written book and examples helped to force me a bit out of the comfort zones. Kudos! :)