Strong and weak beats, passing and chord tones

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by DuluthDank, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. I've been transcribing a lot of jazz solos over the last few years, dates ranging from the 1910's up through the early 60's (skipping over modal jazz so far). I've gotten to the point where in my mind I pretty much conceptualize everything in terms of passing tones and chord tones and how they relate to the strong and weak beats of the bar. The funny thing is that I started playing bass guitar in a punk band (haven't played bass guitar in about 15 years!) and I'm sitting here transcribing Matt Freeman (of the band Rancid) bass solos, and still I'm able to conceptualize his lines in this same way. Do others here find that they take the feel (of strong/weak beats, passing/chord tones) developed from creating bebop-style lines and employ them in non-jazz styles? I expect that this can give a person an advantage moving between styles of music, as I get the impression that it relates to something somewhat universal in lots of music, yet many people in other styles are never forced to internalize it in to the degree that jazz improvisers usually are. Does this makes sense to anybody else?
  2. Rompin Roddy

    Rompin Roddy

    Jun 29, 2016
    No, but you've certainly piqued my curiosity haha.
  3. This is just about how I look at playing any style. Theory is theory, no matter the genre!
  4. Walking bass is certainly a staple of jazz, blues, and country, but I wouldn’t have thought it had any presence in punk.

    I have spent a lifetime playing jazz and Top 40/Pop/Rock, and I feel there is little crossover between them.
  5. I'd argue that statement. To me, I have the same thoughts going through my head be it; walking bass, a rock bassline, a solo, or what have you. And that thought is just chord tones and passing tones,all day and all night.
    mtto and DuluthDank like this.
  6. Rompin Roddy

    Rompin Roddy

    Jun 29, 2016
    I had to google these terms, but yeah I agree. This is a big part of how I navigate a song via bass.
  7. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    It makes sense to me.

    Creating a bass line for a song means, as I hear you saying, being aware of the many aspects of song. Strong and weak beats, chord changes, places where being a bit busier might make more sense, places where stopping seems right - there's probably a pretty long list of things we could come up with. And you're right, the rhythm and the changes are the things you have to mind all the way through.

    I start students creating their own bass lines using a collection of old-time country songs because they're simple and the chords usually don't change rapidly. We use the _guitar_ version of something titled The Parking Lot Picker's .... - can't remember the full title at the moment, but it's a few hundred tunes. FWIW, I'm not especially a fan of country music (or not - it's fine, I like it). We start by playing roots of chords in whole notes in 4/4, then roots and fifths of chords in half notes in 4/4, and then the next thing we look for is places to "fill" with quarter notes, and those fills come from the same conceptual place as walking jazz bass lines, IMO.

  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Yes. I'm at the end of the semester with a Jazz Analysis class I teach every two years, and part of the curriculum is the study of how melodic outlining of harmony has been a staple of western music for hundreds of years. In one assignment, students are asked to analyze and compare the outlining content of the following pieces: 2 Bach inventions, 2 Charlie Parker bebop heads, and guitar solos from David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Elliot Easton (The Cars). All snap into the same melodic/harmonic paradigm. It's a great topic to explore.
  9. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Chris, can you post links to the six pieces in question? Sounds like a great thing.

    Perhaps in a new thread?


  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    They can all be found on youtube. Over several weeks, students are asked to analyze Bach 2 part inventions 4 (Dmi) and 13 (Ami) for harmonic content and create chord symbols as in a lead sheet over them. Then they are asked to reduce the inversions created by the counterpoint to what would be more typical of a jazz lead sheet. At that point, they can then compare the following pieces for melodic outlining content and resolution of non-chord tones. The pieces used (including some in-class examples not included in the assignment) are:

    Bach inventions 4 and 12
    Randomly chosen preludes and Fugues from the WTC

    Randomly chosen Mozart/Beethoven symphony themes.

    Donna Lee

    Rock guitar solos (from supplied transcriptions):
    David Gilmour: Mother, Time, Comfortably Numb
    Elliot Easton: Just What I Needed
    Brian May: Bohemian Rhapsody
    Neal Schon: Lights

    The upshot is that all genres tend to land on chord tones on strong beats and resolve non-chord tones in similar ways (i.e. - 9-8, 6-5, 4-3, #4-5, etc.).
    marcox, Steve Freides, mtto and 2 others like this.
  11. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Yes! and this thought has occurred to me as well when looking at punk basslines. The concepts of walking bass definitely apply although obviously in a different rhythmic construct.
    Quinn Roberts and DuluthDank like this.