The Importance of Beat Four

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fretlessman71, Jul 21, 2009.

  1. fretlessman71

    fretlessman71 Still beats havin' a job Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2005
    FoCo, NoCo
    Okay, maybe this is a little heady, but here goes...

    Somehow it's taken me 26 years of playing to acknowledge the huge impact of the note you play on the 4th beat of a 4/4 measure.

    From a rhythm standpoint, it's important because it helps to set up the downbeat. That part I've known for a while.

    But I'm talking about the HARMONIC influence it seems to have.

    A rock bass line with a chord tone on the 4 seems to have a stronger melodic feel (notice I didn't say BETTER) than a bass line with something other than a chord tone or pentatonic scale tone. Even if you put something else on "4&". It's weird. And not weird at all.

    I've always gravitated towards "chord-important" notes on the 4, but never really acknowledged that that's what I've been doing until last week. Why didn't anyone TELL me?

    And a jazz bass line (walking style) often sounds TOO pretty unless that note on the 4th beat leads AWAY from the chord, and towards the next chord. Again, that 4th beat is somewhat of a determining factor in whether the line is cool or not-so-cool, or something else entirely.

    Who else knows this? Teachers, do you teach this? Is this a part of theory instruction that I never got? Maybe you're reading this and realizing that you've been doing the same thing too. I'm very curious to see who else feels this way, or if there's some precedent to teaching the concept. :bassist:
  2. thirtypoint87


    Feb 9, 2004
    Manager/Repairman: Music-Go-Round
    Yeah, I love a slightly dissonant 4 that moves to a "resolving" chord tone on the one. If your note on the 4 is a half step away from your note on the 1, then so much the better
  3. rcarraher


    Dec 21, 2008
    "And a jazz bass line (walking style) often sounds TOO pretty unless that note on the 4th beat leads AWAY from the chord, and towards the next chord."

    This is pretty much how I learned to "walk". Approach notes is what I seem to remember they are called. I like to, in a walking line, get closer, then closer until it "falls" intothe next chord.
  4. fretlessman71

    fretlessman71 Still beats havin' a job Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2005
    FoCo, NoCo
    From a walking bass line standpoint, I agree. Quite the important little beat, that 4.
  5. daystcity


    Mar 23, 2008
    Where am I?!?!?
    It doesn't have to be 4 either in a walking situation, like someone else said you walk closer to the chord until you nail it. Like if it's going to Am I might play a C and B on 3 and 4. This is just how I do it.
  6. rcarraher


    Dec 21, 2008
    Thats it!
  7. Zombbg4


    Jul 15, 2008
    How I learned to walk bass line was root, chord tone(s), then chromatic to the next root, rinse and repeat. I still do this even though I can handle a walking line pretty well. Its a good tool to get the job done for something like sight reading though gets old if ever 2nd or 4th beat is a leading tone. I agree with you though, it flows instead of a bunch of chunks of chords put together.
  8. Vetchking

    Vetchking Inactive

    Mar 17, 2008
    President G.P.G. Co. "acoustic" USA
    Vetchking Here:

    4 is the turn around beat 423 ( triplet ) 4 &.

    Yes, it's what the teachers teach.

    1 is god though............

    Tell all the young guys, take lessons, also you older guys.

    Self taught is fine, but the truth is a great teacher can teach you in a year what you can teach yourself in 4 yrs.

    WOW what a difference.

    My favorite musicians are street players that have some schooling.

  9. 'Cause you didn't ask ;) But.. you did now. And the great thing is: you acknowlegded something coming from practice; now you could do with some theory. That's the way I like it as well.

    Some theory about this, if you like. Someone correctly mentioned 'approach notes'. I add: 'alterations'. These are notes not belonging to the SCALE of the chord.

    Example: chord of Am going to Dm, 4 notes to walk, so you could go:
    a a b c | d (landing on d).
    Which you might think is dull. So you might like to put in an extra half step somewhere. Judging by ear only we will soon settle for:
    a b c c# |d (on the assumption there's no conflict with the melody or other important voices).
    And we're all set. Why bother anymore? But we would like to know WHY this sounds good. Somebody might start yelling at you: no, you can't play c#, it's A minor, you xxxx. What to say?

    It's an alteration. In the A minor scale you just have altered c to c#. Remember that altered chords are 'stronger' than chords with original scale notes; they have more tension to them. They are best played after the original (so do not skip the original chord entirely) and as approach note to te next chord.

    In many cases (look them up in the Real Book if you like) these alterations already have been written down for you, like the very sexy b5 chords. A good note for the bass, because it often approaches the root note of what comes next. Same example, Am going to Dm, written as:
    Am A7b5 |Dm
    could be played:
    a b c c# | d (as before) but also:
    a c e eb | d
    Also watch out for add-ons to chord names between ( ). In many cases (but the ear is to be the judge) this is an important (altered) approach note, and maybe it's your job to play it.
  10. fretlessman71

    fretlessman71 Still beats havin' a job Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2005
    FoCo, NoCo
    Yeah, this part is cool and good and natural, and has been for quite some time. I guess where my recent "a-ha" moment is that it's the reverse in rock bass lines; what goes on beat FOUR makes a big difference to the feel of the harmonic structure of the line, almost regardless of what comes before it (or after it, between the 4 and the next 1). Almost every bass line I hear now that I like has something like that on nearly every measure. It's crazy... is there thoretical precedent for this OUTSIDE the jazz realm?
  11. As far as I know, there aren't many bodies of theory outside classical music and jazz (maybe for non-western music or specific folk music). Maybe that's why music students have to study jazz to create a solid theoretical basis for whatever style of modern music they wil go into. Much of jazz theory, though, was derived from classical theory. Everything of what I wrote before also goes for classical music.

    The phenomenon you refer to might, in classical theory, be called either changing note or (again) approach note. A changing note is outside the chord, but it usually returns to the chord. You'll hear much of this in, for example, classical guitar music.

    About the approach note: you have to realize that in classical music the concept of 'chord' is different from jazz. In classical compositions the basic harmonic system is to have four voices (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) moving alongside one another as melodic lines, on the basis of sequences (like I - VI - II - V7 - I). The melodic quality of the four voices is priority nr. 1. The chords are 'only' the vertical results of an essentially horizontal process. Approach notes adding tension to melodies, they occur a lot, not only in chromatic lines, but also as out of the blue surprise effects.

    This is what happens in rock music and other modern music also. So you can judge by ear if you like such an effect, ask your pianist/guitarist to notate a chord change (very common in jazz), and not let your band be bound by existing chord patterns.

    (Maybe in my last post I should have added that. generally speaking, change notes as well as approach notes occur on 'weak' beats! So it isn't a miracle that you met with this problem on beat 4. Should you play half notes, you might encounter it on beat 3. If there are two chords in every bar, it could already happen on beat 2. )
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    And in Cuban bass lines, the 4 is often the anticipated root of the next about playing ahead of the beat :)
  13. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Inactive

    Nov 5, 2004
    Here are some principles that can be applied to many styles of music:

    1) Root to Root. There is a lot of strengh to this,it reinforce the melodic sense of the chord progression. (Very important for a bass player).

    2) Diatonic note from below or above the next chord.

    3) Chromatic note from below. (The most used note from outside the harmonic content).

    4) Chromatic note from above. (Mainly used in a Jazz context,especially if it does imply a tritone substitution). In a more Pop context it does help if you prepare the chromatic with a double chromatic approach like this D-Db-C.

    5) Cycle of fifth approach. For an example going from C to A,play the E on the last beat and resolve to A which creates a melodic movement of a powerful cycle of fifth.

    These are the main approaches used by most accomplished bassists.

    Hope this helps,

  14. KPAX

    KPAX Inactive

    Mar 22, 2005
    Yes, I know this and I knew it before you - before anyone in fact. I don't teach it because I bogart knowlege.
  15. Johnius


    Dec 5, 2007
    I've been commenting lately to my teacher about how a seemless connection between 4 and 1 can absolutely make a riff. The example I use to explain this is the first 8 bars of "Money." the minor 7th A and then the B on 1 - to my ears - fits so well together that I originally had difficulty discerning the 4 and 1 when I first learned the line. That kind of blending, or "setting up" as Fretless has named it, can create the entire flow of a line.
  16. fretlessman71

    fretlessman71 Still beats havin' a job Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2005
    FoCo, NoCo
    Farthing bastige... ;)