Why do I so rarely hear a MAJOR 3rd in a bassline?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bioflava, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Ok theory heads, here's a question for you: Why do so few rock baselines ever have a major 3rd in them?

    I'm sure there are exceptions, but I've been transcribing a bunch of classic and modern rock tunes (Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Radiohead) and I NEVER hear a major 3rd in these kind of songs!

    And not only that, but when I'm comping under a guitar and piano, if I do try and work a major 3rd in, it almost always sounds like crap. OK, so I realize that I am answering my first question -- but, from a theory perspective, why is this so?

    Thanks for any insight!
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  2. Creep, which is probably Radiohead’s biggest hit, has a pretty glaring major 3rd.
    I don’t know who stone and dead are but I’ll say this, a lot of rock is in minor. From a theory standpoint the difference between Ionian major and aeolian natural minor is a minor 3rd, b6 and m7 I believe. The b6 and m7 usually don’t show up as much in rock as straight major and minor chords do, which are r 3 5 soooo, keep listening....you will find those major songs out there ...the usually start with a guns and roses feel with Dorian over major or minor or straight major over pop punk, or, in the case of creep a shift from
    Major to minor in the same chord.
  3. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Hey @Jrussblues thanks for your reply -- I amended the post to read Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead.

    So, yeah, lots of major chords show up in R&R -- but the baselines that I've been transcribing rarely, if ever, include a maj-3rd under those major chords... That's what I'm trying to figure out! Why are major 3rds so rare in rock baselines?!
  4. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Phil plays major thirds all the time.
    Perhaps the canonical use (reggae) is Bob Marley's "Stir It Up".
  5. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    No Major 3rd's - really ???
    RRR, Russtyslapnpop, wmhill and 14 others like this.
  6. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Heya @kesslari --> Thanks for your note! I play several Dead songs (Althea, Shakedown, Morning Dew) and there isn't a major-3rd to be found... But, to pick up on your point, you are finding the exceptions to the rule!

    I've worked on like 50 cover tunes in the last 2-3 years and I haven't come across a single major-3rd in a baseline... why not?
  7. Lots of 4ths and 5ths or do you have a specific example?
  8. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Virtually every blues/boogie has one. The standard 1-3-5-6-b7-6-5-1 is, again, pretty ccommon.
  9. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Can you find me a rock baseline with a major-3rd?

    Yup, tons of 4ths and 5ths -- but those aren't maj-3rds! Here's our recent set list (just the covers):
    • Rain (Beatles)
    • Cocaine (JJ Cale)
    • I shall Be Released (Dylan)
    • Shakedown Street (Dead)
    • Althea (Dead)
    • Wolfman's Brother (Phish)
    • Loving Cup (Stones)
    • Harder they Come (Jimmy Clif)
    • Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
    • Stuck in the Middle (Steeler's Wheels)
    • Edit: Thanks to those who pointed out that Stuck in the middle uses major-3rds :)
    Not a single major-3rd to be found AFAIK!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
    vvvmmm likes this.
  10. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Ok, good point -- but again, that bassline is very rarely used in rock tunes.

    Let me be clear: If we survey the entire corpus of Western ROCK (edit) music, sure, we can find a few basslines with maj-3rds... but those are the exception to the rule! So my question again is: Why do maj-3rds sounds like crap under even major chords in a rock context?!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
  11. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    I had no idea this was a thing. I use them all time. It's a nice mild inversion and goes anywhere.
    HolmeBass, SteveBass5, Duder and 5 others like this.
  12. Spaceman Ian

    Spaceman Ian MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2012
    Baltimore, Md
    Sweet child of mine - 2nd bass note is a major 3rd

    Sweet emotion - has a major third

    Shook me all night long - has a major third

    Good times bad times - has a major third on the D chord

    Long view (green day) has a major third in it

    Interstate love song (Stone temple pilots) - tons of major thirds

    All these songs are pretty rockin’...

    If there’s a major chord, playing the major third is an option.
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    It gets used as a passing tone frequently enough.
  14. I have to strongly disagree with you here. A very large part of "the entire corpus of Western music" is classical music. Western classical music from about 1500 to about 1900 literally abounds with major thirds in basslines.

    Which is why I am intrigued by your original question: why would it be so different in Rock? I don't know. I'm following this thread with interest.

    (I have a degree in Theory of Classical Music, so I think I fit your term "theoryhead".)
  15. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    There is no war on Christmas.
  16. Stuck in the middle is riddled with M3’s. If I remember correctly. Cocaine is a minor pentatonic song (at least the Eric Clapton’s one is) so it makes sense there aren’t any in there. I’ll see if I can listen to some of the other songs.
    bass12 likes this.
  17. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I hear them, and use them, all the time (even though I mostly riff in minor keys) - first a minor 3rd, then a major 3rd, or vice versa if major key, standard arpeggio on a chord...
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  18. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Hey @instrumentalist ok, good point! I was being a bit melodramatic... I should say "the entire corpus of rock music" ;)

    @Jrussblues Another good point! Stuck in the Middle actually has a major 3rd (F#) in the walk up to D and the figure played over A also has a major 3rd -- but again, that's just one tune out of many.

    If we survey a big enough group of rock tunes, especially those with lots of major chords, my initial point may not hold up as well -- but my ears don't lie... whenever I try to sneak one in to major jams, it just sounds wrong. Maybe this is a question of emphasis? For instance, in Stuck in the Middle, the maj-3rds are passing tones.
    instrumentalist likes this.
  19. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    I think I get what your saying, but I use maj 3's all the time; passing notes or otherwise.
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  20. stubborne


    Oct 22, 2009
    Rock Hill, SC
    1-3maj-5-1 is easier to play but 1-3min-5-1 sounds muy bueno (most of the time).
    Whousedtoplay likes this.