Just like I would want to taste and know every ingredient I would use in my favorite chili recipe, I like to know what I play in my bass lines. It could be chord tones, scale notes, passing chromatics. All of these things are helpful in being able to identify. Why? These are our tools. Guitarists have chords (which I have on many occasions watched them share with each other their, latest and greatest finds) we have a much more linear exploration of tone, called intervals.
The week’s lesson will feature bass lines used in former lessons as well as a new one. I will analyze each note as to whether it is a chord tone, scale tone or passing note. As you are playing through these, pay attention to what you are hearing and to the way each new and/or different note reacts to your root.
If an interval is naturally occurring in the major scale then I label it as either the R (root) or I label it as the interval in the scale. When it is altered in any way I label it as being “compared to the major”. For example if a song uses the major 3rd, then I will call it the 3. If a song uses the note that is a half step below this note then I will call it the b3 (flat 3).
Below is a guide to the notated exercises. The letters correspond to each new example.
Ants Marching-Dave Matthews Band. This is an example of a riff using the major scale notes only.
Crazy Train-Randy Rhodes. This is an example of a riff using the natural minor scale notes only. I know typically bassists don’t play this riff, but I see no need in guitarists having all the fun.
Come On, Come Over-Jaco Pastorius. A one chord groove using chord tones from the C-7 chord along with chromatic approaches passing through the chord tones.
Old blues bass line using roots, b7’s and chromatic passing tones, as well as the 6th.
Funky blues line based off the G dominant chord. This line chord and scale tones, as well as dead notes. The scale tones 3 and b7 have a dual function and are being used also as chromatic approaches into the other scale tones. The dead notes add a nice percussive touch for funkier lines.
Old style blues/50’s pop bass line. I wanted to include this line because it uses the 6th degree of the scale instead of the 7 or b7. This adds a more pentatonic major flavor to the line.
Bassline from Indian Tabla bassist Jayen Varma. In this line we see the popular 4,5,6 and b7 scale and chord tones but also he uses the tension b9. This note is just the scale note b2 brought up an octave.
Excerpt from Funk #49 by The James Gang. This is such a great example of the use of a pentatonic minor scale, they include every single note. I will leave you with this bassline, I suggest you check out the rest of the tune. It’s a great one to rock out to and one of my personal faves.
If you are unfamiliar with any of these concepts, either scales or intervals please refer back to my previous lessons. All subject matter has already been covered and is taught in a step by step manner. Please feel free to email or comment with any specific questions.
Knowing what these notes are can help to identify what we play. You will start noticing all these kinds of intervals in what you are already playing, you will find them in all bass lines. That’s what we are all about, Intervals!
Enjoy your BASS!!!