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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Kipp Harrington, May 23, 2019.

  1. Tommyc


    Nov 11, 2015
    I gave you a step by step formula for how the chords that are familiar to most are formed. It's quite clear. Read it again.

    Watch this Carol Kaye video and see what she says about chord tones in bass line playing. It's only 6 minutes long.
    You know it's not a matter of lifting the lid on a head and pouring something in, you do have to make an effort to understand.
    hopwheels and herndonbassist like this.
  2. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    Been there..I was just as confused at first, and it didn't help that the people surrounding me who played knew less than me and worse yet were not interested in learning. they just wanted to "jam" which literally meant make noise.

    Don't get hung up on all the scales. To be honest I don't even think in terms of "scales". I think in terms of target notes (chord tones) and passing notes (non-chord tones that help you get from one chord tone to the next or one chord to the next).
    lizardking837 and Bruiser Stone like this.
  3. What exactly is a key signature?
  4. Robscott


    Mar 20, 2017
    Tonbridge UK
    Dude, find someone who knows this stuff and sit down with them with a bass on your knee. Some people just don't get it off the page cos the words make it sound more complex than it actually is. But when they get shown it it's like "oh right, now I get it". You've learned to play riffs right? So a scale is just a riff with 8 notes in it. They come in a particular order and you can make cool stuff up from them. You can also play them in different positions on the fretboard so learning 12 scales is only actually learning 2 patterns (one for major, one for minor - ok 2 minors for the pedants) and then playing them from different starting points on the fretboard to get your different keys. That's it! Wanna play a rock n roll riff, that's just 1 3 5 6 8 6 5 3 1 on whatever key you're playing in. Don't do yourself down, you will get it for sure if you get shown it right
    hopwheels and lizardking837 like this.
  5. It’s just the terminology that throws me.

    Maybe ignorance truly is bliss. I’m happy being ignorant. Now I’m becoming miserable.
  6. I played guitar in several bands for many years and was clueless as to what scales were.

    When I switched to bass, I started learning scales ...for walking lines and then for improv. It was like the light was tuned on.

    I am still learning.

    Basically, everything I play is based on ear with occasional reference to scale theory to understand stuff I didn't understand.

    Today I am practicing using the major 3rd over minor scales: For Em7, E7#9 with no third is cool.
  7. Also Study: Pentatonic Major and minor scales and Then the lightbulb will come on brightly !
    lizardking837 likes this.
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's probably a good time to ask: Do you know how to read and write music notation?

    If your answer is no, the best answer I can give is, it's something you will learn someday when you decide to learn how to read/write music. (Hope that didn't sound snarky.)

    If your answer is yes, the "key signature" is the group of sharps or flats at the beginning of the staff, between the clef and the time signature. (Or in the case of C Major or A Minor, no sharps and no flats.) The key signature tells us two things at a glance:
    1. It tells us which notes are "assumed" to be played sharp or flat, unless otherwise specified. So for example if there is a Bb in the key signature, that means all B's should be played as Bb. If you need to actually specify a B natural for a particular measure, then you use a natural-sign accidental.
    2. It strongly implies the "key" or "tonal center" of the piece. For example, if the key signature has 1 flat (Bb) then the song is probably either in the key of F Major or D Minor.
    Returning to our example of "Sunspot Baby," can you hear that E Major is the most "important" or "special" chord in the song? Does E Major feel like "home"? That is how you know the song is in the key of E Major.

    Here is what a key signature of F Major or D Minor (1 flat) looks like (sorry it is treble clef, not bass clef, but you get the idea). It means that all B's should be played as Bb unless otherwise specified.

    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    lizardking837 and Nashrakh like this.
  9. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    As someone learning now what I should have learned earlier, the meat of this stuff is chord tones. The root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and so on in a particular key, and the chords selected for a particular song, be it a major, minor, dominant, augmented...the stuff bass lines are made of consisting of the chords the other instrumentalists are playing together, but that we as bassists usually breakdown into a walking or syncopated series of single notes depending upon the flavor of the song. I think of scales as a secondary template over the chords when there is space to fill, or for soloing. Important, but not quite as much as understanding intervals and patterns moving in and out of them.

    When I started first learning scales, it was frustrating learning to fly through a sequence of notes without a discernible application. But when I was introduced to the idea of connecting certain combinations of intervals within chords that form the core of most music, I started thinking of bass in its foundational role, and not as just another instrument doing its own thing at lower frequencies. I realized this concept (for my brain) had to establish itself before I concerned myself with the muscle memory of repetitious scales and modal theory. They are important, but to me, they seemed abstract until I nailed down the what it means to flat a 3rd and a 7th, and how to connect these intervals across the fretboard in a seamless manner. I’m still a work in progress, but I think now I’m headed in the right direction.

    I enjoy listening to music through my headphones and aux cable to my iPhone and challenging myself to (1) establish the key, and (2) figure out the chords and play my own bass line, and not just someone else’s tablature. I won’t look up the chords or tabs until I’ve exhausted all efforts to figure it out on my own. Sometimes I’m close to the original recording, sometimes not, but it’s a great exercise for training my ear and my head to recognize what others are playing and how to make everything else sound good utilizing certain notes that will always work. After I feel good about that, I think about embellishing a little with scales and chromatic notes, or often, trimming back and adding rests when I think I’m getting busy fingers. But the good stuff comes faster when I’m learning and listening at the same time. Otherwise, I practice scales, get bored, start noodling, and time vaporizes.
    aprod likes this.
  10. Again, thanks for taking all this time to try to explain things. You’re very thorough at explaining. Problem is, I do not read or write music and have no interest in doing so. So I guess I’ll just have to play songs by memory.
    Mushroo likes this.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's all good. Since you've been playing 30+ years, you are obviously doing something right, and probably you've internalized the sound of these concepts, even if you don't know the vocabulary terms.

    For what it's worth, I'm jealous of your skill set, and I wish I was better at playing by ear. The grass is always greener!
  12. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    Absolutely know your scales, up and down the neck, in every octave and position; but also keep in mind that Paul McCartney probably wasn’t concerned about what scales he can apply when he wrote “Yesterday”.
    lizardking837 likes this.
  13. Tommyc


    Nov 11, 2015
    Don't get married to ignorance.
    Yes there are numerous 50 cent words. Dia- tonic. Diagnosis, diatribe, etc. Dia is a Greek prefix used in many words that means passing through. So it's simply passing through the tones. Some of the seconds in the major scale are 2 steps so 2 frets and some are 1 step , 1 fret. Moving through tones in that manner, as distinct from say pentatonic (5 notes) or chromatic Gr. chroma (color) or all 12 tones. Key signature or key sign is a way of saying this piece or section is say, 4 sharps, so the key is E major. So the major scale of it is that F,C,G and D are all sharp WITHIN THAT SCALE. Memorize where the intervals fall as the relationship is the same throughout all the major scales or are called transpositional. C to d is a whole step, 2 frets, d to e is also a whole step. E to f is a half step, f to g whole, g to a whole, a to b whole but b to c another half step. E is the same as C major except it starts on E.
    Learn C major and I'd bet you could learn the entire cycle of 5ths by the end of the day and know all 24 scales, major and natural minor. When you know what the the fifth scale degree of c is you have your next key, G. That key adds an sharp F. The next key D is 2 sharps. D is the 5th of G. That's how you know that D is the next key. To D you keep the F# and add a C#. How do you know which sharp to add? Simple, a fifth above F# IS C#. Get your guitar or bass and find the note D and use the shape to go a fifth higher That's your next key. Help me here and make the effort. Did you find it as A? Good. We have F# and C# already in the bag and we add a 3rd sharp to get the A key signature. We always take thy last sharp we added from before , go a fifth above that and we get G#. So A has 3 sharps F#C# and G#. You can find all the flat keys by going around in fourths. You know, 4ths, the interval of your open strings on your bass, right? This time we start at F major. F major has one flat, b flat. So what's the next scale? Up a 4th to B flat. To save my fingers go to Youtube and find a film with search terms such as learn Circle or cycle of 5ths. If it isn't clear choose another one. All I can say is when you see the formula you will quickly know that A flat major has 4 flats and what those flats are. To know them instantaneously as a reflex on your instrument, will take practice. Once again, Good Luck!
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    DJ Bebop and lizardking837 like this.
  14. Robscott


    Mar 20, 2017
    Tonbridge UK
    Lovin this, dead right, and the same experience many of us have had. All that blah blah blah is not always helpful, although always well intentioned. Gotta relate the theory to what you play. Good post dude!
    Bruiser Stone and lizardking837 like this.
  15. Hey Kipp,

    From reading your posts I think you already know a fair amount about scales, you just may not realize it. Theory helps with communication.

    I would keep it simple for now and take only one bite. Pick a favorite song (Sunspot Baby), and therefore spend some scale study time on E major. Play E major up and down, then extend it at both ends to ascend beyond E, and descend below E, even if it's only one scale note further. Play in a couple or more places on your bass neck. Notice how the notes fall under your fingers. Play Sunspot Baby periodically while you spend time with E major. Repeat as desired today, tomorrow, next week, whenever.

    Sooner or later a light bulb will go on that connects the scale notes to the song notes. It might be a huge light, or could be sort of disappointing, like "that's all it is?"

    Good luck! It will click. After it clicks, pick another song preferably with a minor scale.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Here is a really good exercise anyone can do (you don't even need to know how to read/write music):
    • Choose a cherished song like "Yesterday."
    • Write out all the lyrics.
    • Listen to the recording and follow along on your lyrics sheet.
    • When you think you hear a note that is "non-diatonic" or "outside the key," circle or underline the corresponding words or syllables on the lyric sheet.
    • When you're done, find some accurate sheet music. Look for "accidentals" (extra sharps/flats/naturals not in the key signature) and compare them to your lyric sheet. If the accidentals in the sheet music match up with the words you've highlighted, then congratulations, you have a good ear for hearing when a song goes "outside" the home key.
    For example, just to get you started: "Yesterday" is in the key of F Major (1 flat, Bb). I listen to the first line, "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away," and highlight the notes that sound "outside," like this: "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away." Then I cross-reference the sheet music, and see there are accidental signs that confirm my suspicions. "My" is B natural (instead of Bb in the key signature) and "trou" is C# (instead of C natural in the key signature).

    As an artistic comment, I think it is cool that McCartney chose to go outside the key signature, at exactly the moment he is singing about his "troubles." (If you want to get technical, he is "modulating" to the sadder-sounding key of D Minor.) This song is a textbook example of how music theory is not separate from the emotional content of the song, but rather, intellect and emotions go hand-in-hand. McCartney can't read or write standard music notation very well, but he is absolutely a music theory master, and he uses his knowledge to write powerful songs. :)
    lizardking837 likes this.
  17. Pretty impressive. I’m just happy remembering what notes I have to play. Guitar was different. I improvised nearly every lead I did. I was good with guitar riffs... not so much climbing around on the fretboard of a bass. I guess I’m just too old and don’t want to be bothered with learning all this stuff. I’ll be content with just learning songs for now. I might decide to look into this stuff here and there. But I’m definitely not making it a priority.
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    Bruiser Stone likes this.
  18. I like McCartney. Brilliant musician, singer and songwriter.

    I think I’m going to bow out of this thread I created. It’s put me in a terribly insecure position with my bass playing.

    I appreciate all the attempts to help me out... I really do. You guys are WAAAAAYYYY past me with bass playing and I guess I have discovered that I have no interest in pursuing the bass like many of the TB members. Again, thanks to everyone who tried to help me out.
  19. I also played guitar by ear for many years. Picked up a bass about a year ago and decided to learn theory. You're getting a lot of good advice here, but people learns things differently. This book helped me a lot. I saw it posted here when I first came to TB last year. Wish I could remember who posted it so I could thank him/her. Anyway, just my 2 cents.


    Good luck!
  20. FenderB


    Mar 28, 2016
    Findlay, Ohio
    Sure you are, just give it time. Get some books, use the internet. A good site is studybass.com. There's also apps for the iPhone/iPad that are really good. One is called "Theory" the other "Tenuto" both are very good for learning theory. You can also download books from Amazon all you need is the Kindle app. The "Hal Leonard Pocket Music Theory" download is a great book. I didn't know diddley squat about music when I started playing drums about 5 years ago, took up the bass 3 years ago, but I stuck to it and now I understand the basics. Still get confused when I read some of these posts but if I think it though it or go to my bass I get it. I can read music now and have a general understanding of theory. Don't give up, you're just getting started. It is confusing for those of us that aren't musically inclined but you'll get there. Don't take the easy way out.
    Good luck.

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