The newb needs some help.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Ticktock, Sep 27, 2003.

  1. Ticktock


    Sep 3, 2003
    Yeah, I just started playing about a week ago. I'm planning to play for the band for my church's youth group, but I have encountered a few stumbling blocks with the notes. Here goes...
    How do you play a minor note? The ones in particular the music calls for are Am, Em, Gm, and Fm. Also, what does it mean when a note is followed by a number? I.e., C2, D6, or A7. (Although that six might actually be a 'g'...the handwriting on some of the sheets is a little muddy.) Finally, what does it mean when a note is followed by 'sus'?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hi. Welcome to Talkbass. :)

    First off, those are chords you listed, not notes. Chords are formed from the notes of a scale. Using the ones you listed:

    Am = A C E
    Em = E G B
    Gm = G Bb D
    Fm = F Ab C

    Major chords are formed from the root, 3rd, and 5th of the major scale. Minor chords are formed from the root, flat 3rd (b3), and 5th of the major scale.

    If your piece of music is calling for these chords you would basically play the notes that belong to that chord (you can play more than that but I don't want to confuse you right now). It would be wise of you to learn chords and how to read a chord chart (which I assume you are doing for your band).

    As for the chords you listed that are followed by a number:

    C2 = C D G
    D6 = D F# A B
    A7 = A C# E G

    C2 (Csus2) is a suspended chord. The second note (D) is used instead of the 3rd (E). D6 is a major chord with the 6th note added. A7 is a dominant 7th chord. This chord is built using the root, 3rd, 5th, and b7 of the major scale.

    Back to suspended chords. There are 2 kinds: suspended 2nd like was mentioned already and suspended 4ths. Suspended 4ths (sus4) use the 4th note instead of the 3rd. (By the way, I'm a little 'iffy' sometimes on sus chords so take my explanation with a grain of salt LOL. Hopefully someone else will offer a better description.)

    Hope this helps,
  3. Ticktock


    Sep 3, 2003
    Thank you very much, stephanie. That helped quite a bit, although I do have a couple more questions. One, when it's just one letter without 'm' or 'maj' next to it, does that mean I just play that particular note? Y'know, if it just says 'E' or 'A' or whatever. And concerning minor chords, when you say 'flat 3rd' does that mean one fret down (in pitch) from the usual 3rd of the major scale? Also, how do you know how fast a chord should be played? Does it depend on the song, or is there any way to tell? And one more thing about suspended chords. What does it mean when you have a letter and then 'sus'? For instance, in my case, Dsus.
    Thanks again.
  4. Ticktock


    Sep 3, 2003
    Would Asus7 be the root, 2nd, 5th, and flattened 7th?
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    It seems as if you are still having some confusion as to a note and a chord. Stephanie did a nice job of describing chords for you, but I'm not sure you are clear yet.

    One of the things you need to do is learn the notes on your fretboard. Really make an effort to do that. Then you will know where the frets are that have flat notes, such as B flat, for example. You also need to learn that some frets have two note names, such as C sharp and D flat. (They sound the same, but have different names.)

    A chord chart, which evidently is what you are looking at, has the name of the chords that govern each measure and you can choose from the notes in each chord to play for that measure. If you are an outright beginner, you can almost always just play the root of the chord or the root and fifth or root and octave. When in doubt about note choices, stay away from the third and sixth, because if you are wrong, you might give your chord a minor feel when major is called for or reverse.

    If you don't know your fretboard very well yet, you will have your hands full just following a chord chart and playing the root of each chord, plus doing so with good timing. You also need to learn to play some patterns. In other words knowing automatically where the third, fifth or octave of a root are located without having to pause to think.

    This also means you need to learn how to finger common patterns or you will have difficulty keeping your timing while you make slight hesitations trying to finger or fret notes.

    All this comes with practice and time. I think what you are doing is very admirable, wanting to play for your church group. It is an excellent place to learn and I'm sure your other band members can help you. Many top musicians started in church groups.
  6. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Rather than trying to figure out what each individual chord consists of, it is much easier to learn chord formulas. Each chord is made up of degrees as you already seem to know. By learning the formula for each type of chord, you can then know the scale degrees of any chord by its formula.

    Here are the formulas for sus chords.

    7 sus chords: root, four, five and flat seven.

    7 sus2 chords: root, two, five, flat seven.

    There are twenty-eight commonly used chord formulas. That's a big bite to chew for a beginner with only one week of training. I suggest starting with the most commonly used chords at first. These would be the major, minor, diminished, augmented, and dominant seventh...just for starters. You can do it. I know you can.

    Then, later, add the major seventh, minor seventh, major sixth, minor sixth, and minor major seventh. These eleven common chords will take you awhile to master the formulas and patterns for fingering. Trust me, you will already know alot when you know all that.

    To get you started, here are the formulas for the first five chord types:

    Major: Root, 3rd, 5th

    Minor: Root, flat 3rd fifth

    Diminished: Root flat 3rd flat 5th flat, flat 7th (That's right, TickTock. The seventh degree is flatted twice making it the sixth.)

    Augmented: Root 3rd sharp 5th

    Dominant Seventh: Root, 3rd 5th flat 7th

    To answer one more question you had...if a chord is designated simply by a single letter such as C or A, it means C major or A major.

    I hope you can get someone in your church music group to show you the fretboard patterns for fingering each of these chords. Remember, when playing a bassline, you do not need to finger the chord degrees in exact order within the measure. You do not need to play EVERY chord degree either. So if the chord is G (major), you could play G, G, D, D (The root twice and the fifth twice)just as an example. There are many other ways you can choose chord notes or leave out notes.

    It would also be very helpful to you to have your church music group show you how to read a chord chart and make a bassline to go with it. At first, don't make your basslines too complicated, because it will be hard enough to read the chart, fret the notes and keep good timing. A simple bassline played with good timing is more effective than a complex bassline that drags behind the tempo.

    To stay in time, if you have a drummer, listen to the drums. If you don't have a drummer, listen to the keyboard. If you don't have a keyboard, listen to the guitars.

    Good luck to you in this new adventure in music. If you have more questions come back here to TalkBass. We will do our best to help you.
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    All spot on advice ...But to be completely honest I think telling someone so new to bass and apparently music about major and minor chords, 3rd/flat3rd (you what?!), let alone augmented and sus chords etc is just too much!

    Ticktock - I would recommend just consentrating on playing the "root notes" - that's the lowest note in the chord, the letter! - in time with the band first of all!

    Many great basslines are made up of little more than root notes and as the bass is a supportive rhythm instrument it's more important to keep time with the drummer and boost the chord played by the other instruments than it is to play a fancy bassline.

    Here's an article by jazzbo which clearly explains all of the above advice and more, is easy to read and funny in places too :)

    Then, as you start to learn about these things you can incorporate them into your player.
    The best thang at this stage is get used to just playing with the band in my opinion :)
  8. pbd

    pbd Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2003
    Metro Detroit
    owner Procables N Sound
    Howard K. this sounds right on! This is how I started with my church band. As I learned chord progressions, and all the other stuff listed above I could start incorporating it into my playing.
    Ticktock-the more you practice the more you'll be able to add. You should look into lessons, locally or by video tape. There are a lot out there and teachers or tapes can teach you about all the questions you have. Start with bass basics...
  9. Tick Tock... Take it from one who played for a living 20 years ago, never touched an axe for 20 years, and got back into it with our church choir a year ago. Begin your wonderfully enlightening journey into church music with the thought that you are there to enhance the musical part of the service. There are "show choirs" where it's okay to show one's chops. Use the chord charts on the music. Play the root note, C, G D, etc. Don't worry about the 7ths. minors. You've first got to learn the fretboard. It has to become second nature to you. Learn to use approach notes on a chord change. If playing in the key of B flat, and you are approaching a chord change from B flat to e Flat in the next measure go from the B flat note to d flat to D and then hit the E flat note on the first beat of the measure where it is written. It's simple but effective. Don't do it continiously, or it gets boring. Don't try to get any fancier than that until that fretboard becomes second nature, or you will embarress yourself many times in the choir loft. At church nobody is going to holler out "Hey You Suck!!" But you will beat yourself to death if you don't take it slow. In the beginning play simple but accurately. Even just hitting one note when that chord pops up above the staff sounds good. Start there and work your way up. After a year of being back with the bass, I am just now feeling pretty comfortable with a bit of fancy stuff. It takes time, and to think I use to do it for a living many years ago, but it was country and three chord rock and roll. Church music is an entirely different animal. There is a lot of difference in playing the same repertoire of music over and over every night of the week, and a complicated gosel song that you may only play once every two months. You don't play each one often enough for it to really gel. Good Luck.
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    The only reason I gave TickTock some advice about advanced chords (as I would categorize sus chords) is that TickTock asked about sus chords. I assume that TickTock (love the name, by the way) asked about such chords because he/she was given a chord chart that had such chords.

    However, I totally agree with those who say that for the first several months just playing root notes with maybe an occasional approach note transition to the next chord is the most practical and easiest way to go for starters. It is so important that TickTock learn to navigate the fretboard. S/he must also learn to play in time with the other musicians.

    TickTock might also do well to get a metronome or metronome/tuner combo and work with it to help develop a sense of timing. But it might not be too much after a few weeks for TT to learn patterns of at least major and minor chords so that s/he can find the degrees of these chords without having to think out each note.

    For example if TT learns where the fifth is in relation to any root on a fretboard, TT won't have to memorize the note names and search for those notes on the fretboard until months later. (What I mean is TT won't have to stop and think, "Oh,let's see now, the fifth of G is D and the fifth of A is E," etc. That just takes too long for a beginner to learn that and try to find those notes while keeping up with the rest of the band.

    I do not underestimate the challenge TT faces as an absolute beginner to step up and play from the very getgo with other musicians. I couldn't have done it in my first month as a student of bass and maybe not even by the sixth month (at the rate I learned.);)

    Say, TickTock, if you happen to be reading all of these posts, don't get discouraged. Your band members must know you have just barely begun. They will be sympathetic and very helpful. Ask them questions and practice, practice, practice.
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