Technical question on playing with others

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Karenc, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. Karenc


    Jul 7, 2013
    Greetings. This is a technical question and hope to get a technical answer. I love the bass because I love the concept of picking one note at a time, in fact, I love playing the melody lines for myself. But I understand when it comes to playing with others, the bass is like a drummer, it keeps the beat. I am gathering that it really is not playing the melody line, but what is it exactly, that a bass player is playing? A root of a chord? And what is that exactly? I would love to know this basic in order to grasp it as I enter this new world of bass playing. For example, if the players in the group are handed a copy of lyrics with the chord over various words, what note are they plucking as they play? Can you see that I am having difficulty grasping the concept, as I play currently by sheet music, so I tend to play the notes on the clef staffs. Where do I go to learn this difference? Thanks so very kindly.
  2. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
  3. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    That video is one of my favorites
  4. BassyBill

    BassyBill Still here Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    You need to learn what notes make up each chord, often known as being able to "spell" the chord. A lot of the time bassists are playing these "chord tone" notes, or notes that link them together in a musical way.

    This link will take you to a thread where you can download a free book that will help you a lot:

    Once you start making progress in that direction, start learning (either by ear or from written transcriptions) bass lines from music you enjoy. Study these lines and the chord sequences for those tunes to learn how bass players follow the chords to create the sort of lines you like.

    There's a good variety of free transcriptions in this thread, some of them created by me and other members of the forum.
  5. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    This is the subject of dozens of threads and thousands of posts. As much as some people try to argue differently, there is no one answer. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve, the style of music you are playing, and a lot of other variables. There is no 'one size fits all' or any easy answers.
  6. St Drogo

    St Drogo

    Oct 9, 2009
    This might sound a bit easy and a cop out when you're asking for a technical answer; but play what you want to play. It's commendable you are trying to find your role in a band as a bassist, but be careful you don't get stuck with some idea that 'bassists have to play like this, while I really want to play like that'. Don't let preconceptions ruin your fun i'm saying, you can do a lot of things with a bass.

    On the other hand, don't annoy and waste everyones time by just wanking either. It's a fine line :D
  7. BassyBill

    BassyBill Still here Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I partly agree with this. There is certainly no "one size fits all". And there are no easy answers that are definitive and complete. On the other hand, a little bit of straightforward help in getting started can go a long way. I remember when I was first getting started picking up a few tips that moved me along in the right direction (mostly along the lines of what I posted above about learning to spell chords and learning how basslines are constructed around chords).

    I also like St. Drogo's remark about "play what you want" - yep, for sure this is what we should be doing. But again, when you're just starting out, you might need a little help along the way to being able to do that.

  8. We play the harmony. What is harmony? Its when the melody line and the chord line sound good together. What makes that happen? When the two lines share some of the same notes - harmony happens.

    So the songwriter puts harmonizing chords - that contain some of the same notes as the melody into his song at specific spots.

    If we play the notes of those chords we augment the harmony. How many same notes do we need to play? One per measure gets harmony - that is why just roots work. Two are sometime better - that is why root-five or root-three work. One gets you harmonization, two are better still and if you have room for more then bring in the rest of the chord tones. The R, then the 8, then the 5, the correct 3 or 7 give us the major or minor sound and that is the order I seem to use. No, the chord tones beyond root on one do not have to be in order. Fill the one beat first, then go to the 3 beat, then if you have room catch the remaining of the chord tones on the 2 and 4 beat.

    All the rest? I never go beyond the 8 and leave the 9, 11 and 13 to the solo instruments. I feel that we should take care of the bottom end and leave the higher notes for the melody guys. Of course that is IMO.

    Like notes harmonize, so we play the notes of the chord that has been placed by the songwriter to insure that we continue the harmonization.

    That's my two cents on why we do what we do.
  9. Harmony is a great thing to study, and as soon as you think you have it licked, you discover somebody who breaks the rules, and forms new ones. With each person contributing something to a 'chord' deciding who gets what is what makes great arrangers great - but convention and preference kind of suggests bass supports the chord from the ground - I agree with Malcolm - and also do not like playing high. Playing a low G, or the octave up sounds really different. The 5th not in a chord is kind of a safe note - it matters not if the chord is Major or Minor, so works well as a 'hop' between root and octave. Other intervals do weird things - and some composers and songwriters use them frequently, kind of a finger print. If the chord is C Major, and you play a root C on your bass, followed by the chord G major, but instead of root you play a B (the Major 3rd) you might say Elton John - he uses a 3rd in the bass very often, and it gives a kind of 'expectation' to the chord. Once you get the chord progressions into your head from loads of songs across genres, you can play a great game with new songs you've never heard before - trying to predict the next chord. If you find some songs with a different chord on each beat, and look at them as notes on a sequencer like display, you can see within the chords a movement. Chords for keys are rarely written in the I-III-V format, as few finger changes as possible keeping the spread of the notes in the same area sounds nicer and less abrupt. So just two of the three notes move if possible - then there is a run up or down concealed in the chord. The bass part can use these to do the single note runs up or down and they lead the listener into or out of a chord. Some people sadly just cannot hear these 'signposts' and improvising for them from top line and chords is very difficult. You can teach people to play bass from music - and with effort, everyone could do this - rather like tab has done for guitar, but the skill to know the next note without it being written is an aural skill that you cannot guarantee you will have. Some people just can't do it!
  10. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    You've gotten and will continue to get good advice and answers to these questions. But understand that the question you asked is determined by the style music. That is to say, there's a lot of great music out there where the bass is not 'keeping the beat' as its main job. Outlining harmony is true to a large degree, in many popular and commercial styles. But there are other things to do with a bass line. Playing the 'root of the chord' is musically the strongest thing a bass can do, but playing other chord tones can have a wonderful effect musically.

    It sounds to me from you post that you have a great interest in music in general and bass specifically. Its a long journey that will never be complete, and that's a good thing, because its a great journey. Keep an open mind and ear and have fun.
  11. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    Pretty much this. You can get as versed in jazz progressions as you want, and I fully encourage you to, as they will flat out make you a better player, but never forget the bass' primary function (and a lot of bass players have gotten by just fine on bare minimum playing) and when you start to play in band situations, some bands appreciate complicated basslines less than others.

    Sometimes even the stunt driver has to drive a corolla to work.
  12. Karenc


    Jul 7, 2013
    I am overwhelmed with all of your kindnesses in the advice, comments, and links, etc., that you all have provided me! WOW! This will keep me busy for a while. Grin. SO APPRECIATED!!!

  13. St Drogo

    St Drogo

    Oct 9, 2009
    You haven't been here long have you?

    Talkbass is kinda awesome like that. Stick around, you'll see. And good luck to you and your music!
  14. matthewzarder


    May 21, 2013
    I love this question! Roots, octaves, and arpeggios are where I started as a bassist (I grew up playing simple poppy-punk stuff that didn't require much more). Then I got into blues and started messing around with minor pentatonic modes. Lately I've been experimenting with minors and majors more. That only half answers your question though. I personally like playing a contra-melody. Take the melody, jumble the notes around creatively, and see what happens. If the melody is descending down a scale, try ascending and meeting in the middle. I wouldn't go so far to say that you never play the melody. Playing the melody sparingly can be a cool thing to do, because it is unexpected. I think people intuitively understand that the bass doesn't play the melody, whether they are musicians or not. One of my favorite ways to do this is to play the melody during the chorus or "hook". It tends to be the part of the song people remember the most, or are listening to the closest, and they hear the bass playing right along - this can stick out and be an interesting thing to hear. Another thing I like to mess around with is playing the melody pattern, but raise it to a third or a fifth (or other harmonic interval which the key allows). This can result in some really cool sounds on the whole, and at times, can be a total trainwreck :rollno:, but who cares? Experiment, and don't be afraid to break the rules or "mess up". Play on!

    Remember one thing though, if you are going to be playing with others often - I suggest that you don't become a ball hog. Consider how the WHOLE song sounds, not just showing off your bass skills. In this way, roots are not a bad way to go! You will have your times to show your technical skill. A well rounded bass player employs both strategies. In my experience with different bands, the real magic happens as a team. The egomaniac tends to get laughed right out of a solid band. These people tend to get a bad reputation in local music circles ("He's talented, but he's a jerk", this would be a polite way to put it). People pay to see a tight, well practiced band with good music, not 4 or 5 egomaniacs trying to out-shred each other simultaneously.
  15. Mousekillaz


    Nov 25, 2009
    Anacortes Wa.
    I would try to keep it simple at first. You are the link between rhythm and and the chord structures. Synch with the bass drum pattern and the root of the chord i.e; Fmaj7 ... play the F etc.
    Playing more notes is neither good or bad. It just depends on what the song calls for.
    I would also recommend learning a song that catches your ear, note for note. This process teaches a great deal and soon you will be incorporating what you've learned into what you play.
    But the most important thing to do is... practice.
  16. Just because you're not playing the melody, doesn't mean that your playing can't be melodic while still holding down the groove. Just listen to any "Free" album.