Why does this bass line work?: Under the Milky Way

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Spectrum, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. This may be the first in a series of discussions about why some tunes work the way they do...

    I've always liked this song and recently I decided to learn it. Picking up my guitar, as near as I can figure the chord progression is this:


    The "Am10" chord is basically a strummed Am7 chord with your finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string, and the G sounds best if I play the high E open rather than fingering the 3rd fret (would that make it a G6?).

    I think I have that right, anyway, just doing it by ear mostly.

    Now it sounds like the bass line is doing this, with pretty much the same rhythm:


    All these notes are part of the chords in the guitar shown above, except for that Gb.

    Maybe I'm doing it wrong? Whatever the case, the bass line sounds great in that song and I'm trying to figure out what makes the tune tick.

    If you know I'm doing it wrong, let me know. I can take it! But also I really want to talk abut why this song sounds so awesome.
  2. Oh and for reference:

  3. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    HI, cruising by and thought I'd jump in (I love transcribing stuff..) Heres my quick take without headphones.

    You're on the right track, its the "musical grammar" thats may be tripping you up.

    the opening harmony is:
    Am |Am7 |Fmaj7 | G |

    For the Amin and Fmaj7 chords use the open E str, and the Am7 and G use the G (3rd fret Estr).

    Bass enters [playing the roots in the following progression:
    ≥≥≥≥≥(Gb) = that Gb is really named an F#
    Am |D/F# |Fmaj7 | Emin7 |

    D/F# = a D Triad in 1st inversion F#-A-D where the bass plays an F#.

    Hope that helps!
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  4. It helps, but I am still a bit confused.

    If the guitar is playing an Am7 chord, but the bass is playing the third of an inverted D triad, how do those two chords work together without sounding dissonant? I would think that F# bass not would clash with the G note in the Am7.
  5. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I don't know how to explain it technically but it is used fairly often in music.
  6. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    well, if the harmony in the guitar is constant (Am Am7 Fmaj7 G), the F# is just the an alternate bass note under a chord: The Chord Symbol would be Am7/F#

    The F# is the 6th note in the scale:
    A B C D E F# G A
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

    What makes it work is register. The tension (or rub) between the F# and G is lessened because of the distance between the two notes. The F# in the bass is 3 octaves below where the added G on the guitar high E str is located.

    Sometimes we dwell on the mathematics of music not adding up but in a true sense any two notes can harmonize and play together sympathetically. There will be varying degrees of tension, whether you prefer it or not is personal preference (or if it is stylistically, and culturally prevalent to the music you are creating).
    vvvmmm, InhumanResource and Spectrum like this.
  7. That's very cool. I'm not sure if I were the Church's bassist I would ever come up with a line like that except by chance noodling, but it really sounds good.
  8. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    This is only based on a quick cursory listen to the above video in post #2, but it sounded to me like when the bass enters the guitarist stops playing that second chord as an Am7 with the G note on top and instead starts playing a bog-stock D major triad...or possibly a D7, to retain the C natural from the previous Am chord. In either case I'm definitely not hearing that high G that was prevalent in the unaccompanied intro against the low F# in the bass; that would be really obvious I would think.

    Either that, or these headphones suck.
    JimK and Groove Master like this.
  9. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    Yeah it’s a really nice sound. The tension adds a little melancholy and mystery to the line.

    The “I-VI”, or in this case i-vi root progression is a standard in many styles. (Ie “rhythm changes” chord progressions in jazz; like the flintstone’s theme). So depending on the bassists influences there’s a good chance it was a premeditated pick. A very musical choice all the same!

    But hey noodlin’ has also created some great musical ideas as well!
  10. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    That was my take last night too. TBH, I haven’t gone back to listen to it again with headphones after the first hearing.

    If the guitar plays a D then the harmony is D/F#. If the guitar continues the same progression as the bass enters its an Am7/F#.

    I beg the mercy of the council on my lack of due diligence
  11. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Sounds like the keyboard part uses the F# too.
  12. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    HAH! this got me itchy so took a break grabbed some headphones.
    yes, once the bass enters its |Am |D/F# |Fmaj7 |Em7 |
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  13. FronTowardEnemy

    FronTowardEnemy It is better to go unnoticed, than to suck Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    Chicago Illinois
    Off topic but I love playing Reptile by them.
  14. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    I have loved this tune since it came out.
    I think the Am with an F# in the bass (not a G flat) is an F# half diminished chord. F# A C E.
    A G natural above that would be a chord I never heard about in music theory class, but I would call an F# half diminished 9th chord.

    the melody hits a D when this chord is introduced, so it's kind of like a D11 without the root.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  15. onamission

    onamission Supporting Member

    Wow, Haven't heard that one in a WHILE...... Nice pick
    Spectrum likes this.
  16. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Shout out to that band for usually using the bass as the base of their songs (Steve Kilbey is bassist, singer, and primary writer), and for extensive use of Bass VI, also. Some interesting trivia that the subject album was produced by David Lindley.
    Spectrum likes this.
  17. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 vaxx!

    Oct 31, 2006
    Western Hemisphere
    I've been playing this all summer long. At my gigs. No real point to my comment other than I thought this was a somewhat obscure song. I'm glad people still dig it.
    Spectrum and Groove Doctor like this.
  18. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    At the risk of sounding fanboyish, it's still a going concern, that band, with a huge catalog including an excellent release this year.
    Spectrum, OzzyGreg and Smooth_bass88 like this.
  19. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    the guitarist is strumming with an open D string ringing in the chord so the bottom up gtr voicing would be:

    E - 9th
    C - 7th
    A - 5th
    D - root
    A - 5th
    F# - 3rd BASS

    naming would be a D9/F#, but again the explanation of the (Gb) F# still stands as the 3rd of a D chord.

    Theory is fun :)
  20. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Yeah and the whole thing is based on a A minor triad also with a descending bassline up to the E minor.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018