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The beauty of I-IV-V for beginners

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by HeavyDuty, Dec 10, 2001.

  1. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I have to say that the single most important thing I've done to improve my bass skills has been getting out and playing regularly with others.

    I see so many new bassists getting stuck in Riff Hell. You know the type - they can slam out wonderful fragments of catchy songs, but they're totally lost when it comes to basic timekeeping and interacting with other players.

    Lucky for me, my regular guitarist is quite skilled and not at all egotistical. He throttles way back for my benefit, and he's good at finding simple, catchy stuff for us to play that is within my meager capabilities.

    I know that when I came back to bass last year, I was at a total loss on what to learn how to play, and was well on the way to becoming a riff monster before my friend saved me.

    How 'bout we start a thread with simple songs that a beginner can handle when playing with a guitarist - I-IV-V stuff and staying within the box. It's the kind of stuff that teaches basic theory in a way that really sinks in.

    No tab needed, either - just your ears and the chord changes.

    Some easy beginner stuff:

    Tom Petty - Freefallin' (Petty is a goldmine for newbies, I've found)
    Cracker - Teen Angst
    Collective Soul - December

    Who's next?
  2. genious... that sounds cool cos, although i was tempted by the riff-meister dark side, i can feel the good in me, i just need someone to teach me how to use the force for good, not evil...

    but, for starters, in my riff building career, i have noticed that a lot of punk-ska stuff uses simple scales played behind ska chords... it's great fun to listen to, and cool to play...

    check out

    johnny quest thinks we're sellouts - less than jake
    superman - goldfinger

    (sorry if i ruined your thread by posting random nonsensical simon-style interpretations of your subject... if it's completely the wrong idea, just tell me, and i'll delete this gibberish ;) )

    simon a
  3. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    anything by blink 182.. j/k :)... If you're into praise music. most of that is simple chord progressions and what not.

    What a Good Boy : barenaked ladies
    Smooth Criminal: alian ant farm.. its really simple
  4. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    god, any 12 or 8 bar blues is good to get your head around the 1-4-5 stuff. it might be boring and repetetive (you know, that standard blues line that you hear everywhere), but it helps lots :)
  5. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Listen to the oldies station, there's some great 50's and 60's stuff and it's ALL I-IV-V. One of my old bands did a medly of Hang On Sleupy, You've Lost That Lovin Feeling, and Louie Louie because they're all following the same pattern.
  6. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I positively agree with Heavy Duty about the I IV V chord changes and the eight and twelve bar blues structure. Getting a grasp of those concepts helped me more than all the rest of the things I had been doing because for the first time I began to hear what was going on.

    Learning the typical I IV V, helped me to notice when there was a departure from that format and approximately where that departure went. Guess what I am saying is that it was terrific ear training.

    Frankly, I wish I had started off with the 12-bar blues and I, IV, V. It would have made everything else I was trying to learn make a lot more sense and come much more easily. Plus the 12-bar blues and 8-bar blues are foundations of much jazz music, old rock, blues, etc.

    Instead I jumped right into heavy metal, trying to learn songs bar-by- bar. That was really hard, because I just didn't undertsand song structure.
  7. Jiles

    Jiles Banned

    Nov 28, 2001
    I am so pleased to see this thread. When I began bass, all I did was read tab without having any idea what note I was playing or how the notes I was playing related to the key the band is in, etc. (Im not slamming tab. If you know the scales and notes, tab can be a good resource, because you know what it means, its not JUST numbers and lines...ok im getting off track).

    I IV V is the only way I got to be a good bassist and actually learn how to use the scales and make walking basslines. I can play great blues, though mainly I write prog. songs. I love the blues. I love waling lines and improving. 1 4 5 is the best way to learn improvisation!! I still can't make a cool riff to save my life......LOL.
  8. Or it's true the other way, you can learn scales off tabs. Scales are groups of notes, you can see groups of notes using tab, because you don't need the timing and rests when learning a scale.
  9. Well, unless you have the band teacher from hell like I do who makes even the simplest scale structure into a very difficult finger exericise.
  10. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I agree. 12 bar and similar blues is great for learning theory!
  11. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    1,4,5 is your bread and butter. You'll never stop playing it if you're a working musician. It's great because you can just come up with an on the minute jam. Usually when we are trying to get amp levels at gigs, our guitarist will tell me to play something in G or whatever, and we just go off on a jam with 1,4,5. I also like songs, such as "Ain't Gonna Give up On love" by SRV that throw in a 2maj.

    Anyways, some good songs for that progression are.

    Rock This Town - Stray Cats
    Sweet Home Alabama - Skynrd
    Black Magic Women - Santana
    Big City - Merle Haggard (great to work on country swing)

    Hey HeavyDuty, excellent song their by Cracker. We use to do that song, then on one gig our singer blew his voice out on it, and I think we're to afraid to try it again.
  12. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I would suggest that sitting down with Entwistle's work on "Who's Next" may be a little daunting to a beginner :D.

    I hear you man! I'll tell you what's funny, going to a music store and listening to someone trying out a bass showing off their "music store chops". When I try a bass in a music store I just groove on some songs' bass lines. Not slapping, soloing, and bull****, just songs. :)

    Anyway, beginners should rock out to stuff like The Police: Walking on the Moon
  13. I play along to CD's of boogie woogie, jump blues and swingin blues styles from the forties and fifties. Of course a lot of that stuff is I, IV,V. But just as much seems to be I,IV,ii,V. Are you guys hip to that jive?
  14. half the slasa tunes ever written!
  15. How about Today by the Smashing Pumpkins (I think it's in reverse order, i.e. V-IV-I but it's still good) and Knocking on heavens door, choose whatever version you like, I'm going with Guns n Roses live because it's around 8 minutes long. No rewinding. :)
  16. danqi


    May 21, 2001

    What does "1-4-5" mean?
  17. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I-!V-V is the most basic chord progression.

    For example, say you are playing a song in the key of C major and you want to use this progression.

    Your chords would be:


    Notice your V chord is dominant.

    Hope this helps,


    Nov 22, 2001
    Columbus ohio
    how about zz top Jesus Just left Chicago for an easy 1-4-5or everybody wants to go to heaven by Albert King or anything off of my web site
  19. danqi


    May 21, 2001
    What does it mean to be in the key of C major? Does that mean that the song is made up of the notes of the C major scale?
    Was does it mean when a chord is dominant?
  20. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    Look, orthanc. I suggest you learn all this from a basic bass theory book, 'cause then discussions like this would teach you a lot. No criticism, but this is easier learned from a book or teacher in person.

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