When to NOT play the root?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by szvonek, Sep 26, 2001.

  1. This is kind of a strange and probably subjective question, but it's something I've been struggling with lately. Our singer/guitarist writes all our songs, and I usually start the measure(s) on the root of the chord he plays, unless he plays an inverted chord. But lateley I've started wondering if I play the root too often...Should I just play it by ear and experiment with different notes in the chord, or is there an easier more objective way to know when to play off-root? Don't get me wrong, I don't play only the root note, I write walking lines, etc., but like I said, I do usually play it when the chord changes. Thanks...
  2. 100th post! Yeah baby! (Sorry, I got anxious.)
  3. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    just experiment. sometimes root-on-the-one is perfect, othertimes starting on the 3rd or 7th helps to establish a more complex feel by developing/emphasizing the chordal character.
  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Sometimes you can create a really cool tension by "outlining" or "suggesting" a chord without actually playing the root note of a chord. There are some songs (unfortunately, none come to mind) where this is done.

    It's a tricky thing to do, depending on how you want to use it. I'd suggest that if you're going to venture off in that direction to give some thought to the sound you're trying to get in that particular song.
  5. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I LOVE this topic -- I play inversions whenever I get a chance. Spices things up.

    Think of the bass line as one note per chord. Try to make that one note move by single steps for two or three chords, by using notes that are in the chord. First one comes to mind is the progression I-V-vi-iii. You play 1-7-6-5. So the V chord has 7 under it (its own 3rd, or also called "first inversion") and the iii has 5 under it, also called first inversion. Bass line sounds more melodic, and the progression has a different feel than all roots.

    Another common spot for first inversion (3rd in the bass) is in a V-I progression when you play 7-1 (or call it 7-8). This gives the V a softer feel and makes the bass line more gentle. Best used after vi, so your line goes 6-7-8.

    2nd inversion (5th in the bass) is harder to sneak in, but works really nicely in a song (or section of a song) that ends IV-I-V-I. You play 4-5-5-1 (cooler if the second 5 is dropped an octave).

    Sometimes these things sound cool, sometimes they don't fit the song's mood. As always, let your ears be your guide.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Just food for thought-
    1)Bear in mind that you don't have to play the ROOT on BEAT 1 of each measure...consider playing across the barline. In addition, don't always think/limit yourself to ALWAYS playing ONE-bar phrases & figures. Experiment(as everyone else sez)with some "question/answer" exercises...Bar 1 can = "the question" & Bar 2 = "the answer".

    2)As far as "walking lines"...
    IMHO, I've heard enough records where guys have shifted the ROOT to Beat 3(it's improvin' with some thinkin'?). ;)
    Example over a ii-V7-I in G(ROOTs in BOLD)-
    /A-C#-F#-E/Eb-Db-D-Ab/G-B-C-D/ etc...
    Basically, they're approaching the ROOT with both upper & lower chromatics...Experiment!

    3)I know your guitarist is writing the tunes...is he playin' everything in ROOT position(Barre chord)?
    For Ss&Gs...have him play this chord-
    D-5th fret(G note)
    G-5th fret(C note)
    B-5th fret(E note)
    E-5th fret(A note)

    The chord spelling is, maybe, A-C-E-G...looks like Am7, right?
    Now, play YOUR "A" with that chord...then play YOUR "F" with that chord. You may even scratch your head 'cause the "F" isn't in that chord...doesn't matter, does it? ;)
  7. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    Reggae bassists often drop the bass note on the first beat (called a "one drop"), and reggae lines often emphasize the fifth. For an example using both these ideas, think of the first line of the theme to the TV show "Cops" by Inner Circle (I think...). No note on beat 1, then on the upbeat the line goes: I V I-VII-V-VII-I over a minor chord.
  8. Cool, thanks a lot guys, you've given me a lot to think about. I need to study more theory too obviously to really get everything, but I experimented last night at practice just going by ear, and it definitely helped a couple songs sound more interesting.