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

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

  1. Thread has me rethinking my rampant use of major 3rds in my playing
    Bioflava likes this.
  2. mflaherty


    Oct 9, 2001
    This is a voicing issue. Options are removing your guitarist’s low E and A strings and tying your keyboardist’s left hand behind his back.
    Whousedtoplay and Bioflava like this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    FWIW, I think Rampant Thirds would be a great band name....
  4. I would totally join that band.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  5. Here's a reverse example. Rebecca plays a minor third in her bassline, against a major chord. The first time is about ten seconds in.
  6. Bondobass


    Mar 14, 2014
    And to think, they push us to learn our major scales...."They" must hate Rock Music!
  7. I dont have time to read all 106 posts but #39 by Honeyiscool was on the right track.

    A lot of rock music borrows from blues which has an ambiguous third in between a minor and major third which is part of the natural overtone system. The scales of the overtone system are not transposable to different keys, so you would need to retune everytime you switched key. To get around this, western music around the time of Bach adopted Equal Temperment wherein the frequencies of the scale notes were tweaked to make all 12 keys possible without retuning. The 5ths are pretty close, 3rds are not. But the human ear works on the overtone system and likes the unadjusted "blue 3rd" which you hear when a vocalist or guitarist bends up a minor third. Also acapella and string quartets sometimes use non equal temperment because certain intervals sound more pleasing.

    So rock borrows from the blues and you have guitarists playing minor third pentatonic riffs over dom 7th chords so both the major and minor 3rd are present.

    IMO, there is no one scale set for the blues. It is a continuum going from the maj7th jazz blues of the 1930s big bands (with glaring minor 3rds and flat 5s) to pure minor pentatonic scales of delta blues. You can dial in anything in between as your ears see fit.

    To me, the minor Pentatonic is the basic scale. You can warm that up using 6ths along with dom7ths. You can couple the b3 natural 3 of country music or use the major pentatonic scale 1 2 3 5 6. You can push the envelope with maj 7 s if you want.

    However, please be advised some musicians and audiences have very defined expectations for scale notes, so dial in your selection carefully.

    Hope this helps.

    Ps, your decision to go with either minor or major 3rds is a big factor on which neck positions you work from. Minor third used the bar chord position , major third goes better one fret lower
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  8. That I find an interesting observation. Thanks!
  9. You can actually go a little darker by playing a b5 instead of a 5 in a pentatonic minor scale. Its effectively the diminished pentatonic (two stacked minor thirds). Dont overuse it.
  10. Enden

    Enden Supporting Member

    May 1, 2006
    Philadelphia, PA
    Phil uses major thirds all the time. Scarlet Begonias immediately comes to mind. Pretty heavily used there.
  11. MMiller28


    Apr 27, 2003
    My biggest takeaway from this thread is there's a guy on the forum who doesn't know who the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead are.
    Mushroo likes this.
  12. Seems he found out along the way.
  13. MMiller28


    Apr 27, 2003
    What a long, strange trip...
  14. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    May be you don't outlined the harmony enough :p
  15. Why dont rock bass lines have major 3rds???

    Because rock guitarists dont know much beyond the minor pentatonic scale - in E,A and sometimes G.
    joebar likes this.
  16. saeroner


    May 30, 2013

    This immediately came to mind.
    Groove Master likes this.
  17. Bioflava


    Feb 14, 2016
    Ok, that's actionable -- tell me more!
  18. jpmcbride

    jpmcbride Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    Well, in blues the major 3rd is played prominently in bass lines (think 1-3-5-6-b7 bass lines), even though the soloists (guitar or harmonica) are playing the minor 3rd in their solos. This is one of the things that gives blues its feel. I'm not sure why its not as commonly used in rock. My experience is the same as the OP. When I try to "sneak" a prominent major 3rd into a rock progression it tends to sound wrong (in many cases, not all). The exception is that it works really well as a leading tone to the 5th, or to another chord.
    joebar likes this.
  19. See post 107.
  20. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Well my comment was about outlining the harmony more which means playing the major 3rd on major chords when it is suitable which is most of the time. Unisson Riffs are something else.

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