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Slash Chords in Walking Bass

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by billface, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. billface


    Dec 3, 2006
    I am a relative newcomer to walking bass and was wondering about how to articulate slash chords. Eg. Dolphin Dance by Herbie Hancock. First slash chord in is Cm7/Bb. As i understand it this is a Cm7 with a Bb in the bass. Do i either play Cm7 with a emphasis on the 7 or Bb, or just Bb as i am the bass. Then later on there is a Am7/B so the bass note is now a second. Do i again either approach it as a Am9 or just be the B in the bass. Or maybe something else? Any input would be helpful about how to approach these chords would be most helpful.
  2. Roger Mouton

    Roger Mouton Supporting Member

    Aug 19, 2003
    Southern California
    As I understand it and play it, I definitely have to play the Bb as indicated for some, if not all the measure that it's writtten for. Cm7 isn't wrong I suppose but I get looks from a certain piano player if that Bb note isn't prominent and "out" there. If I do it repeatedly she'll stop, come over to my lead sheet with a pencil or other writing implement and make it so I know to play it. This same player however will tell me specifically NOT to play that lower note in the slash on a certain song. It all depends on the song I guess.

    I'll be interested in seeing the responses you receive from your initial post.
  3. JohnL


    Sep 20, 2000
    Grayson, GA
    I am not the most "theory-savvy" person to answer this, but I believe the Bb note is what makes the 7 of the Cm chord. Someone told me once that any time you have a m7 chord shown, you can actually play the major scale of the note one whole step down from the root. (ie: a Bb major scale works over a Cm7 chord) This may not always work in every case, but it was one of those lightbulb moments I had when trying to figure out other notes I could play other than just root-5-7. Again, others here can give you a much better explanation...
  4. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    The best thing is to play some ideas over the harmony and hear what is sounds like. Use the stuff you like and don't or do use the stuff that sounds bizarre.
  5. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    The bass is the bass. You're job is to articulate that bass note as the arranger intended.

    But you don't blindly follow the chart; it has to make sense. Where does the bass go afterward per the changes? That usually helps you figure out where you're supposed to go.

    But on that first beat of the measure, that "slash note" is yours.
  6. BusterHemphill

    BusterHemphill Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2008
    You should play Bb and see it in the context of the bars preceding it and following it: you are going from Cm to Am, the C-/Bb is a passing chord. It a -sus- sound, but as I said, is really harmonically ambiguous and a passing chord. Thus, playing the Bb is an important part of a LINE here. Especially since the appropriate feel for this tune is a non-strict "two" feel.

    Whenever you see a slash, as rule, play the note on the bottom. At least, on beat 1. If the tune opens up, or if you're soloing, or if you've made that initial downbeat feel really good, THEN worry about the chord on top of the slash.
  7. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Good question. The answer, as Phil and others note, is that there is probably more than one answer . . .

    If you're talking about those pedal-points toward the end of the song, my first question is, "Why are you inclined to walk at that point in that tune?" That piece has been recorded often by some of the great jazz bassists of all time. See what they do, particularly Ron Carter on the seminal original 1964 recording on Blue Note. I bet you won't often hear four moving quarters to the bar at that point in the tune. Analyze why and reap the benefit . . .

    Not necessarily. Some -- me, for instance! -- write it that way for that effect: If I write C-7/Bb I want my guitarist to play a C minor seven chord and expect me to be playing Bb a whole lot. Others use that notation as shorthand for a Bb sus chord with a 4 and 9. Some guitarists or vibe-players would play a G-7 sus4 fourth-stack chord, knowing that you would be playing the Bb on the bottom.

    It just goes to show that when playing over a slash chord it's all about context (both in terms of what precedes and follows the chord in song, and what the folks on the stand are doing) and your best effort to determine what the composer intended.

    I bet that this is the opposite of help! My apologies if so. If nothing else, the point is that communication is key. Actually saying, "Yo chief -- whatcha doin' a the pedal point part?" will go a long way toward making sure you're pointed in the same direction as the people you're ostensibly playing with.
  8. BassmanDk


    Nov 23, 2005
    Odense, Denmark
    Employee - 4Sound, Odense
    You are right! It means that while the guitar or piano plays a Cm7 you play a Bb! On the downbeat for sure anyway. If it's a two feel and for more than one bar then maybe the note G (the fifth of the Cm7) on beat 3 like ordinary alternating bass between the first and fifth but the first lowered to the seventh. If the chord is for just one bar, then play a passing note to the next chord.
    If you are walking 4 to the bar, play notes from the C minor scale (which minor scale depends on the key of the tune; if it's Bb then dorian mode or normal minor with a instead of Ab) and again use a passing note to the next chord on the last beat before.
    Remember to make a flowing line no matter what. I found that the best walking basslines don't have bigger jumps than a major third in 'em. The smaller jumps from note to note the more "jazzy" the line will sound. So almost linear lines sound really good to my ear when playing jazz!!
    Hope that helps!
  9. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    If the slash chord is used between two chords to get the chromatic/stepwise motion thing happening, I will use the bass note of the slash chord for the melody, but often times during solos it sounds better (to me) to just think the chord, rather than fastidiously obey the slash notation.
  10. BusterHemphill

    BusterHemphill Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2008
    dunno why I am posting again on this, billface, but i WILL tell you that of the above replies, some point you in the right direction, while others try valiantly, and still others don't even know which part of the tune you're talking about.

    a better idea: don't take ANY of our word for it. This tune is in kind of an easy key, and could be (also in other spots) a good lesson in slash chords/superimposed triads. So, find a piano, take your lead sheet and play these chords. Once you can get through the tune (take it SLOW if necessary) reasonably well, you'll already know what to play on the bass
  11. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    Correct. And that bass note is VERY important in establishing that "passing chord" feel.

    Slashes 'r' us.
  12. billface


    Dec 3, 2006
    Thanks Everybody. I was kind of imagining it wouldn't be a simple answer. In this example on the Herbie recording I have the bassist just holds the slash bass note and it certainly isn't walking bass. I was trying to use it as an example as these chords have confused me for a while when i come a cross them at jam nights. I like the idea of checking with the piano player in advance. Thanks again.
  13. BassmanDk


    Nov 23, 2005
    Odense, Denmark
    Employee - 4Sound, Odense
    +1:hyper: Context is everything!

    And yes we are all trying to give an answer. But we can only give out the basic rules estabilished by experince, by playing so long that you know what will sound good! That's how rules are made in music.
    BusterHemphill, i gave my advice as a general guideline for playing primavista, not to a specific song! You know; give a fish and he'll eat today - teach him to fish and he'll never be hungry again.
    As always there's no substitut for listening and playing what sounds the best to YOU! (and then the next time you'll have your own little "rule" on what to play)
  14. MurvintheWalrus


    Sep 21, 2007
    Play the Bb in bass, but in melodic minor for CmM7 is a B7 diminished. Go ahead and play the Bb, try t first as a dominant seventh chord and then toy around as a half diminished. Bt definitely play it as a Bb, try maj min dominant and the nhalf and whole diminished. So just try them all i would play it Bbmaj.

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