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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Fire-Starter, Jan 27, 2003.

  1. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    So, where does theory fit in in my situation?

    I have a basic understanding of theory as far as modes, progressions, the safest notes to play for chords (1,5) etc....BUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I play with a keyboadist who plays by ear, so if he is playing a 1-4-5 progression for example, he does not know if he is playing a maj, maj6, maj7, ma6+9 maj9 etc.....now add a guitar player who is learning the guitar, but really knows no theory yet, but just trying to play what he thinks the keyboard player is playing but is not, WHERE DOES MY THEORY COME IN AT!!!???

    I think I have a couple of ideas, but I need advice bad!

    1: I need to MASTER what different cords sound like on the piano to the point I can tell the keyboardist what it is he is playing.

    2: suggest that he start playing not just by ear, but put it to theory so we all can be on the same page and not trying to guess

    3: since I can see his left hand, just play what he plays, (which kills my creativity)

    4: when I cant see his left hand just ask him what is the root note for that cord, than play a boring 1-5 of the chord since thats suppose to be the safe route to go.

    Any takers on this??? could use some help, very frustrated
    :mad: :mad:
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    For one, this belongs in GI :)

    As for the problem itself...

    Developing your ear would be a good way to go. Learn to hear chord changes so that you don't (always) need to ask the piano player what the chords are. Do you play the piano at all yourself? Do you have a keyboard at your disposal? It's very advisable that you do. You should try to learn theory in conjunction with ear training. So while you're learning how chords and intervals etc. sound, you're learning the names for them etc. To do this, you need to play chords, and listen to them. If you know how to form triads, you're off to a good start. Start playing chords on the piano, and understanding how they are formed, and how they sound. Start transcribing songs from your CD collection. Work out the chords, and the bass and how the two fit together. Get a grasp of how basslines are formed - and what bass notes work with what chords, so that you can form your own basslines, and don't need to follow the pianists left hand. This means you don't have to stick to the 'safe' notes like 1 & 5 - so you know how the bass note will sound with the chord, and you'll know how the bass line complements the chord progression.

    To this end, reading some text on theory might be a good idea - I'm sure there are good books out there that people can recommend, I don't know any myself. However, the important thing is that you do this in conjunction with developing your ear, by getting familiar with the sound of chords, and transcribing them.

    As for the piano player - he doesn't need to start "not just playing by ear" - playing by ear is a very good thing, and he should carry on. But, what would be helpful is if he learned the theory to explain what he's playing. So that he knows when he's playing a maj, maj7 etc. etc. You don't use theory instead of playing by ear. It doesn't work like that. There seems to be this misconception among people learning instruments that you either play by ear or learn theory, and that they're two separate approaches. They're not!! They're really not!! That is a myth. Theory is just a way of describing in words what he is hearing and playing - giving it context. It doesn't necessarily change what he is playing - it just describes it. And as such, it makes it easier for him to communicate the chords etc. to you.

    I hope that helps.
  3. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    Thanks, this helps a lot, I thought I might be on the right track, but I was curious:rolleyes:

    I had played before with musicians and they just gave me a chord chart of the song, all in the correct key, time, etc! that was really nice because I KNEW what was being played and so I could just build my bass lines around the chord structure without having to guess what the chord was, I guess I had gotten a little spoiled from that, but going this knew route should make me a bettter player all the way around:)

    Thanks Moley!

  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Give him a beer for his left hand to hold.
    Seriously, in most situations, he should NOT play a root/bass note (which could clash with what you're doin').
    Same goes for a Barre-heavy guitarist who plays everything chord in ROOT position.

    There are exceptions, of course...

    Learning how the chords sound sounds sound.
  5. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    "Give him a beer for his left hand to hold.
    Seriously, in most situations, he should NOT play a root/bass note (which could clash with what you're doin')."


    You know, I told him that its had for me to play bass when he playes the bass lines of the chords he is doing, he said its just a habbit that he has to break, I replied, "you really dont need a bass player if you want to play the bass lines on the keyboard, all we will do is get in each others way"
    his reply " I will work on not playing the bass notes so I can do more stuff for chords with both hands," my reply "kool!"

    but he is still working on it:rolleyes:
  6. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Read Below! This will do in a pinch.

    Learning how the chords sound sounds sound. [/B][/QUOTE]
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    i have a simelar sutuation with many people i play with - where they have no idea what they're playing and i have to figure it out note by note in order to create more effective free-flowing basslines

    what i usually do is ask the guitarist what chord it is... knowing full well he wont know... then i'll get him to arpeggiate the chord... this makes it a hell of a lot easier for me to identfy the chord - one interval at a time.

    At this point I get all sorts of total bullsh1t... "it's like an E, but starting two up"

    AAA!!! - This bugs me because standard guitar chords are a million miles from 1,3,5,7 chord structures anyway! I mean there's God knows how many C's ina C major chord on guitar!

    Then I can explain to him what the chord is and hopefully he'll remember next time?!

    What bugs me most tho, is that I want to play, not teach! I'm all for learning and sharing my knowledge, but some people just dont want to learn.

    If it bugs you playing with these people, quit !
  8. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Howard, what the **** are you doing in a band in which the guitarist doesn't know what chords he's playing? :confused: :D
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I mean he doesnt know Major/Minor/Dim/Aug/Sus/Add or whatever.... he can usually tell me the root ;)

    Well, I wont be in the band for much longer, I planto quit next time I see them (gotta do it in person).
    Thing is they're all really good mates and they will probably have trouble finding another bassist... which makes it harder, but still, it's gotta be done!
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    You mean standard Rock guitar chords (or possibly Blues/Folk?) - a Jazz guitarist wouldn't voice chords like this!! ;)
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well, yes!

    Although I'd say that these basic chords are the standard.. and that way jazz players vioce the chords are more specifc.
    Purely because if you look at ANY 'learn to play guitar book' the first chords you learn are these bizarrely structured major chords!

    I've been taught chord theory 1,3,5,7,9, etc - stacking 3rds on top of each other... but these standard guitar chords more often than not contain three 1's and if you're lucky a 3 and a 5 of some variety?!

    It is SO frustrating actually. Knowing this theory, but having limited time to use it because the people I'm playing with can't communicate what they'e playing.

    Now I know a musician should be able to hear the chord itself, especially in a progression, but this mate plays fast, kinda chicken scratching over the chords... so he's not letting each chord ring very long... add to that the fact that the chords have an unquanitfable number of roots voiced and I've little chance!
    I can usually get there in the end, but it is frustrating having to go through the process I described before when it would be much easier if he just knew what he was playing!!!

    I really want to be a in a band with a keyboard player actually, I've never done that :(
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I'm not sure that would always apply - say if you were learning classical guitar, or if you wanted to start playing Jazz guitar?

    So - here is suggested material for Classical beginners :


    I'm not sure any of those contain chords like you mention!!
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Here is another suggested "beginner's" piece from the same site :


    Some nice 3-note chords there!!
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    ok fair enough!

    it is only rock that screws things up when it comes to theory. what a load of R's!
  15. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    2, in the standard C major shape. It's not a million miles from standard chord structures. The C major shape on a guitar would be C E G C E. You could play the bottom string as well, which would give you C/E - which is E C E G C E. All it means on guitar is that some of the notes are doubled. The standard G shape gives you G B D G D G -or- G B D G B G, depending on which version you use.

    Stacking 3rds on top of each other just shows you how chords are formed - not how they are voiced. Just because, say, a 9th chord is 1 3 5 7 9 - that doesn't mean you voice it like that, and it doesn't mean there's only 1 of each note. Standard guitar chords contain 1 3 and 5 - how many of each varies. It's only 'power chords' that don't contain 3rds.

    It might suprise you to learn that Jazz voicings can be equally 'bizarrely structured'. Here's a typical piano voicing for a C13 chord :

    E Bb D A A

    The second A is an octave above the first. You'd play the 9th chord (E Bb D) in the left hand, then the A in octaves in the right hand. There's a bizarre chord for ya - no root, no 5th - but two 13ths!! But it's not wierd, it actually sounds good, and that sorta thing is not uncommon at all in Jazz.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    But Jazz guitarists tend to play more triads - not make things complicated like pianists - that's why a a lot of soloists and bass players prefer Jazz groups with a guitar and not piano or no chordal instruments at all - even better!! (Jaco's favourite!!) ;)
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Thanks, I am aware of how these basic chords are voiced on guitar and how that relate to the notes in the chord... I was kinda exagerating to make the pont.. that voicing some notes several times ina chord doent make it easy to hear what the chord is...but getting someone to arpeggiate make's it a lot easier

    It doenst surprise me at all that jazz chords are equally bizarre... I was aware that jazz piano often loses the root as the bass picks it up (supposedly!)

    Essentially a musician can only play over/under chords if he/she knows what the chord is and what notes are in the chord.
    So I'm playing with a guy who cant even tell me what chord it is or what notes are in the chord.. let along how it's voiced!!!

    I need to get in a band with some vastly better musicians! ...and I need to learn another instrument, preferabley keys!
  18. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    So now you're dissing us piano players eh? You don't wanna do that, or they'll just double your bassline and piss you off :D

    Anyhow, you're just jealous cuz we can play more notes than you :p

    Oh, and Jaco did have Herbie play on both his self-tited album and Word Of Mouth. And In A Silent Way had no less than three pianists!
  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    so, you stinking pianist... do perhaps know where onlinei might a load of charts of jazz chord voicings for piano.. this sounds interesting :)
  20. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    'fraid not, no, you'll have to do a search. I know there are books with this sorta thing in. Failing that, get out your Jazz CDs, and transcribe!!! :)

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