"Son of a Preacher Man" and Pentatonics

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DannyShem, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. DannyShem


    Jan 31, 2013
    Can someone explain what is so special about the bass line for "Son of a Preacher Man"? Various bloggers are pretty enthusiastic about this bass line, but I don't understand what they are excited about (I am a beginner).

    One blogger said this bass line by itself is a "advanced course in using pentatonic scales".

    The bass tabs relate that the line is "based around major pentatonic shapes".



    Bass tabs:

    Bass transcription:
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Let's see what Scott has to say on pentatonic scales.

    The 2nd measure of the song you listed has these notes:
    E-G#-B-B-C#. All of them can be found in the E major pentatonic scale. Notice the song is in the key of E (4 #'s) The E major scale notes are: E F# G# A B C# D# The major pentatonic will omit the 4 and 7 notes and end up with five notes. See below......

    Playing Pentatonics - following the chords and playing the chord's pentatonic scale notes over that chord does sound good.


    To sound good the melody line and the harmony line should share like notes. How many like notes? One like note per measure gets harmony, so just pounding out root notes does work, however, two like notes per measure is better. Three would be OK, probably not necessary as one got you harmony, but the more the merrier.

    The pentatonic scale will have three notes of the chord and then two safe passing notes -- so those notes ARE going to sound good if played as harmony notes over the chord.

    Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 -- E-F#-G#-B-C#
    Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 -E-G-A-B-D

    Major Scale Box.
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    So follow the chords and play the notes of the chord's pentatonic scale over that chord will sound good. As we probably are in 4/4 time - 4 quarter notes per measure - and you have five notes --- If that throws you, leave one out.

    Have fun.
  3. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    That seems like a contradiction in terms. Most bloggers are idiots.

    It's just a good grove and an outstanding vocal performance. As instrumentalists we like to forget that 50% of most music is the vocals and the remaining 50% is everything else.

    ^ Oh, man. I may have to reevaluate my percentages after watching that!
  4. TrevorOfDoom

    TrevorOfDoom Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    yes, killer groove, but i was having a hard time following the bassist. My eyes were prone to wander to somewhere else... :bag:
  5. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Man love that dress
  6. Red_Label


    Dec 1, 2013
    MT, USA
    Is that a dress, or just a blouse? :p
  7. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    It should read "advanced course on making a busy bass line totally support a song".

    It happens to use the major pentatonic scale quite a bit.

    Keep listening to it. One day it will hit you.
  8. jasper383

    jasper383 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC

    Tommy Cogbill on a P with flats. He used to keep a jar of Vaseline near and dip his fingers in it to keep them from sticking on the strings.

    If you learn Tommy's part here, really learn it, and be able to play it in a few different keys and understand what he does going into and out of I IV and V through the song using scales and pentatonic shapes, no pop song will scare you too much afterwards.

    This and a couple of Ron Wood's parts from Jeff Beck's first couple records might be all a rock bassist needs.
  9. Jeez- go back to the original, will ya?
    Dusty Springfield

    What is special about this is a style of bass playing that is busy, but percussive, emulating someone playing congas. Joe Cocker's "Feeling Alright" is another example, and Aretha's "This Is the House That Jack Built". It's usually done at slower tempos but the bass part has a 16th note feel. It is not easy to lay down, because all notes have to be on time and can't be pushed at all, for the part to swing. You really must know your rhythm patterns to make it happen. The fills that are used are simple, but doing things like landing on the 3rd of a chord where normally a root would be and knowing how to get to the root, make it happen. Tension / release and all that. Being able to improvise both notes and 16th note rhythm patterns and lay down that pocket, is what this is all about.

    PS- "
    It happens to use the major pentatonic scale quite a bit."

    Well, kind of --- to make this style work, chromatics and drops to the third, sevenths, leading tones,etc. bring out the harmonic complexities. Jamerson was very good at this style, but Motown's tendency towards straight ahead beats kept him from showing it. But he nailed it on Gladys Knight's (the original, before Marvin copped it) version of Heard It through the Grapevine. Also "It's A Shame" and Darling Dear by the Jackson 5, too. Get the "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" Book, for a great lesson.