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Which Book For Chord Studies?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Sep 14, 2004.

  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I've been looking for a good chord book so I can finally look down at the chords I play and know exactly what they are, and I've found these on Amazon:
    Complete Book of Bass Chords by D. Roth

    Five String Bass: A Complete Book of Scales, Modes and Chords by Brian Emmel

    Does anyone have experience with either of them? They looked like the best of the bunch. Any other suggestions? I've already got Mark Levine's Jazz Theory book being shipped here, but I'm looking for something bass chord-specific as well.
  2. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    I like Mike Dimin's Chordal Approach book. I got it for Xmas a couple of years ago, and it pretty much confirmed the bits and pieces I was doing before, but put them together more conprehensively. It's a small book and a quick study.

    Chris A.:rolleyes: :bassist:
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    BRAIN TAILOR - chords is chords is chords. I'm not sure why you can't just either look at the notes you are playing or write them down and (with an eye to the function they are filling) know what the chord is.

    And sure playing a bass instrument you gotta be a little careful about chord voicing, but a D-7b5b9 is gonna be a D-7b5b9 no matter what instrument you play it on.
  4. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Ed's right, you can learn chords really easily by checking out
    some piano, guitar or even general theory books.

    Learn the formulae for constructing triads and 7th chords and you're on your way. Write a few exercises for yourself, learn the inversions, and figure out some fingerings that work for you.

    Good Questions:
    -how many triad qualities are there?
    -how many inversions of triads?
    -how many fingerings for each?

    -how many 7th chord qualities are there?
    -how many inversions?
    -how many fingerings?

    If you want it spelled out for you, which some people seem to prefer,
    check out:

    Chord Studies for Trombone (Joe Viola)-Berklee Press
    now called Chord Studies for electric bass.

    Bass Expressions and Explorations -David Baker
    this one is scale-chord oriented. Written for cellists, but ignore the fingerings and it's a great bass book.

    Fingerboard Harmony -Gary Willis
  5. josh_m


    May 5, 2004
    Davie, Fl
    I just picked up a book called "The Bass Grimoire" which is cool so far, it's pretty technical so if you don't like that it's not good, but it has done a good job describing things so far.
  6. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Brian, what are your goals ? To learn basic diatonic harmony ? If so, then you do not need a bass-specific book. as a matter of fact i would not recommend anything but a standard music theory book.

    Walter Piston's book is just fine to learn the basics.
  7. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Chord Studies For Electric Bass by Rich Appleman and Joseph Viola

    Berklee Music Study Publications/Hal Leonard

  8. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    As a music teacher and theory major I suggest (not that he asked ) that he learn theory in itself and then relate it to the bass.
  9. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    as a matter of fact Brian, I would be happy to write ALL of that stuff out for you and send it out there. From triads through 13th, inversions, substitutions, secondary dominants. you name it....Let me know.
  10. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Thanks for the responses, guys. Ed, the reason I just can't just write down my notes and know the chord is that I've had no formal theory training and often I'm not positive on how to write out exactly what I'm playing (for ex. I don't know about sus. 4ths). A book containing the information of how scales, chords, and modes relate to each other written by someone who has far more knowledge of the subject (and how it relates to my instrument) than I seems like a pretty good learning aid, particularly since I'm not able to get a teacher at the moment. I also work best with a visual reference.

    I'm looking to learn both how to determine every individual note in a given chord, and to be able to play those chords (or their voicings) on my bass. And my reasoning for wanting to learn this stuff using bass specific books? Well, why not? I have the option open to me. I also thought that bass-specific books could highlight the best way to voice a chord on four or five strings that would normally be played with more notes on say a piano or guitar.
  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Don, that's a very generous offer (another reason why TB is so great-the members). If you had multiple copies of this information hanging around, then I would gladly accept it, but please don't go out of your way to do it.

    My main reasoning for wanting to learn theory in a direct relation to bass is that practical application works far better for me. I could teach color theory all day to someone who wants to paint, but it won't be nearly as interesting (which encourages persistence). Learning something in a way that directly applies with what you wish to do with it works much better than separately in my experience.
  12. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I was decent enough for chord theory and stuff at the beginning of the summer. Since about June, I've been having half an hour guitar lessons once a week, and they've helped my chord theory education immensely. Not only have they helped my bass improvisation, but also when writing originals in a band situation -- our guitarist was stuck on the verse, and I used some of the chord theory from the lessons and now we've almost finished a sweet funk song. Have you considered doing lessons with a guitar teacher or a piano teacher? The best voicings on bass can be found with experimentation, but the all-around best option might be to get a teacher who doesn't play your instrument. As a bonus, then you can jam with them to try out what you just learned ;).
  13. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I'd love a teacher, but as I said in the 10th post, I unfortunately can't get one right now unless I found one willing to drive to my house and work for $10 a lesson :/ Hopefully I'll be able to get one in the next couple of months though.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    No, I mean WRITE OUT EXACTLY WHAT YOU"RE PLAYING. So if you are playing an open A string, a C# on the 11th fret of the D string and a G at the 12th fret of the G string you take a piece of staff paper and write a note in the first bottom space of the staff, a note with a # in front of it on the first line above the staff and a note 3 lines above the staff. I think what you are saying is that you don't know what to call that?

    You, of course, can do exactly what you want. My somewhat informed opinion is that you're kinda going at it bass - ackwards.
  15. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    That is what I meant-I can play a chord, and write down what notes I play, but I'm not sure what chord I've constructed. Also, If I saw a chart that had the chords written above, I'd like to be able to know what notes I can play for that chord off the top of my head, which I most definitely can not in many cases. I respect your opinion very much, so please feel free to explain where you think I'm headed in the wrong direction. Is it that I am looking to use a book for aid that is bass-specifc?
  16. Since you are a self-described "visual-learner", you might consider buying a cheapo keyboard and studying chords on your own. A piano keyboard's linear nature could really help you to understand intervals and their relationships to chords (ie. tritones to imply dominant chords for example) as well as using modes to build chord voicings. You could play some chords you like and and then learn them on the bass (as well as you can with the limitations of a bass guitar). Write these chords down and create you own chordbook. I have played piano for nearly 20 years and nearly everything that I play on bass is processed through my piano experience.
  17. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    I would suggest buying a keyboard (even a cheap Casio- just something with keys that makes a usable sound) and going to the book store of a university to buy whatever books the Music Theory 101 class is using this semester.

    Work on it at home, and ask here for clarification of specific points.

    Once you get the first two semesters of Music Theory under your belt, you'll be ready for the Ted Greene books, which are excellent and relate to guitar/bass.
  18. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I actually already have a decent keyboard-a Yamaha PSR-550. I was able to plug it in for the first time since I moved back to Connecticut just last night (I've been back for 5 1/2 months). I guess what I'm wondering is why so many people are directing learing theory (or at least learning chords specifically) to either book study or an instrument other than what I'm learning the theory for. I understand that piano and guitar are generally far more 'chordal' instruments if you will than bass, and I did buy the keyboard with the frame of mind to have it play chords that I can practice over, but I still don't understand the resistance to learn how a specific set of ideas relates directly to the bass. I haven't heard of piano teachers advices their students to buy a cheap bass so they can learn how to best use their left hand ;) I'm not bashing anyone's ideas at all, I'm just curious.

    And stretchcat, do you feel that there is enough visual similarity between piano and bass where learning chords and chord structure on the piano would be useful? Bass always seemed to be a much more direct visual instrument; everything's tuned in fourths, if you want to play something in a different key, just move your exact fingering up or down the neck (not including open strings of course), while switching keys in piano is a different experience as the sharps and flats are not directly in row with the standard notes.
  19. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Lots of reasons.

    First, in order to use the proper chord for a melody, or the proper melody for a chord, you have to hear it in your head, know what it is, and reproduce it. Bass is very limited in how many notes you can play at once. So it's hard to learn how extended chords are supposed to sound when you can only play a few of the voices in the chord.

    Second, by learning keyboard, you can learn from other instruments more easily. Bach was a much better bassist than any of us here ever will be, but you have to be able to read treble and bass clefs for his lines to make sense.

    Third, and you may not get this point until you've tried learning theory on a keyboard, a keyboard is laid in such a way that it's really visually easy to see thirds, which are the building blocks of modern harmony. You can stack thirds on top of each other all day long on the piano, but on a bass, you end up really stretching just to play two consecutive thirds in a chord.

    Fourth, inversions, inversions, inversions. Not just that they're easier to see on a keyboard, but they're much easier to hear as well. Unless you're playing way up on the fretboard, basses aren't great instruments for playing dense harmonies on. Nothing against basses- few composers put difficult intervals on the lowest keys of a piano, either.

    Fifth, which is a follow up to the fourth reason, basses really aren't great chordal instruments. They excel at single notes, double stops, and the occasional 3 or 4 note chord, but that's about it. Even the greatest bassists imply harmony more than dictate it. By this I mean they will play the 2-4 notes that are most important to getting a harmony across, rather than playing full voicings.

    That last may be controversial here, but it's true. Every great bassist I've heard who has been able to incorporate complex chordal ideas in their bass playing has also had keyboard facility.

    Sixth, cause it's a new way to look at music, which is fun.

    Seventh, cause it will only make you a better bassist.
  20. Good answer.

    I saw the trumpet player Arturo Sandoval play a concert with an awesome band. After they played a burning latin tune, Arturo sat down at the piano and started to play solo. I was stunned to see just how accomplished he was on the instrument.

    Jack DeJohnette is a great piano player as well as a great drummer.

    John Pattitucci is a good keyboard player.

    I hear that Mike Pope can rip it up on piano.

    There are many more examples....