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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Davidoc, Oct 23, 2000.

  1. Does anyone know how to write bass lines from scales?... good sounding ones?
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Well, I'm not as strong on theory as some, so it's hard to explain the how part of it, but 2 good scales to write melodic, interesting sounding basslines from are the major and minor pentatonic scales.

    Learn the notes of those scales and build from there, a lot of good sounding bass lines are built on one or the other (or sometimes both!)of those scales.

    Of course, after you get those down, boredom will set in, and then it's time to learn some more complex scales, like min 6, min 7, dominant 7, minor 9th, harmonic minor and on and on.

    I wish I knew how to explain relating a scale to a chord progression, I do it by ear, so with little knowledge of theory it's difficult to explain.

    Some of the theory guys will jump in here shortly.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Basically it's just a case of finding a scale that has the same notes as those implied by the chord - this means that you always have alternatives for every chord in a sequence. The notes of the chord that usually give it its character are the 3rd and the 7th so if you find a scale that has these notes in, then you can usually use it over that chord. There are some basic rules that help like knowing the function of the chord, so if it is a II chord in the sequence, then you can use the Dorian mode as this is the second mode. But really this is a big simplification - it's all too much to put in a post here - you need something like the Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine - or a good teacher!
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    One might ask what style of music are you talking about...jazz, rock, blues? There are stylistic cliches to each and you need to understand them in order to genreate good sounding lines.

    What is common to ALL bass lines is they link rhythm and harmony. Your choice of notes is as follows (in order of highest importance:

    1. notes from the chord

    2. notes from a scale implied by the chord

    3. "grace notes" that are harmonically unrelated

    In rock, blues, funk, etc. the emphasis is on a repetitive bass part (in classical terms, an ostinato) composed of one or more riffs. In most jazz lines, repetition is avoided like the plague and instead the bassist is supposed to make up an appropriate line on the spot, which requires a lot more knowledge of chords and scales!!!
  5. I appreciate your help but...

    I think I phrased my question poorly. What I meant to say is how do you incorporate them in basslines? Do you just write things that sound nice using only the notes in the scale?
  6. Player


    Dec 27, 1999
    USA Cincinnati, OH
    Just write things that sound nice. The chords/scales may provide some framework, but it's all in the ears.
  7. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Davyo: I don't believe anybody can tell you anything about scales at this point in your career that will make you more proficient in song writing. If there is ANY crutch that will help you it would be to have the melody in your mind before you even try to play a new song. If it sounds wrong when you try to play it, then it is wrong. If it sounds right ,then it is right. You don't need to know any theory to recognize clashing notes or chords.

    There is a lot to be said for understanding scales. To expect any improvement just because you learn the mechanics of playing scales isn't very realistic.

    Learn the scales, but more important, learn why you use particular scales for a particular reason.

    I am not a theoretically trained musician but a close scrutiny of the circle of fifths will help you to understand the relevence of the notes in all the scales.

    I stand to be corrected if this is bad advice.

  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Actually I tend to disagree with this and go along with Jeff Berlin in October's "Bass Player" (Beyond Chops)when he said "Jazz is one of the best styles for learning music, even if you don't plan on playing it as a career". I did play rock/pop for about 10-15 years and felt I got some good experience, but it didn't help me learn about music as such at all - in fact I felt I was going backwards in this period. From being able to sight read bass parts when I left school and being able to write music - years of playing in bands who wouldn't know a musical note if it hit them, meant I lost these skills. But in less than a year of studying Jazz, I felt I had learned more than in all my time in rock/pop bands!

    I now wish I had known then, what I have learnt from studying Jazz in the last few years, as I would have played some much more interesting bass lines!
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    You missed my point, you can know plenty about music and still write bad rock, just check out all those Hollywood arrangers doing movie soundtracks in the 60s and 70s with the cheesy fuzz bass and wah wah guitars. It helps to understand the stylistic cliches, even if you are going to break them.

    A good example is listening to Jaco Pastorious playing with rock singer Ian Hunter. Jaco was a monster on bass, but his parts just don't work as well with Hunter's songs as what Overend Watts played beyond Hunter in Mott the Hoople.

    A wonderful counterexample is almost anything Sting played on the first two Police albums, punk on the surface but with a serious musical intelligence underneath.

    I also agree with Jeff Berlin's quote...you can't ever know TOO much about music.

  10. Thanks for the help! I'll take your advice. I appreciate it.

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