Category Archives: Bass Blog

Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series Bass and a Roland GR-55

For a long time I’ve wanted to try out playing my bass through a Roland guitar synth, and having looked at the Roland GR-55 I was convinced that the technology was good enough so I installed a Roland GK-3B divided MIDI pickup onto my new Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass a few weeks ago and bought the GR-55. Here’s a video of what I’ve come up with so far, hopefully there will be plenty more from me using this in the near future. So far I’m extremely impressed with the potential of the GR-55 and I love the Warwick as well.

Left Hand Techniques

Wednesday 30th April 2014

For me practicing techniques is all about learning to play in the most efficient way possible. Whether I’m working on my left or right hand technique, I’m always trying to find the simplest way to play the notes that involves the least amount of movement in my hands. As far as I’m concerned all unnecessary movement slows me down.
For my left hand I like to use the “one finger per fret” system. This can be practiced and mastered very simply by using the following exercise.
V5E1This is a very common exercise that bass players (and guitar players) have been using for decades. If you add the open strings to this exercise as shown in Example 2 then you can play the chromatic scale from the open E string to the B on the 4th fret of the G string without shifting position. V5E2Example 3 shows how to practice the “one finger per fret system” on a single string, and you can practice this way on each string individually. The benefit of this exercise is that it teaches us to shift positions up and down the neck whilst maintaining good technique in our left hand. V5E3You can alter this exercise by changing the order of the fingering. For example instead of playing 1st, 2nd, 3rd then 4th finger you could try 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th as in Example 4, or any other pattern you can come up with. V5E4If you’re not used to using the “one finger per fret” system then I would strongly recommend spending some time working on the above examples until you get used to it. Once you get used to the system, use it to practice some scales and arpeggios because they are great for mastering techniques. The following examples are just a few scales and arpeggios you can use. V5E5 V5E6 V5E7 V5E8V5E10If you want to take your left hand technique a step further then there is another thing you can do. As you get further up the neck of the bass the frets get closer together which means that the stretches needed to play “one finger per fret” get smaller. It occurred to me that I shouldn’t restrict myself to “one finger per fret” in areas of the fingerboard where my finger span could be much greater than 4 frets. So when I get above the 5th fret of the bass I use my 1st finger to cover 2 different frets while my 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers still play “one finger per fret”. This allows me to cover 5 frets in a single position which gives me access to the entire chromatic scale without having to change position. Example 9 demonstrates how I play a Eb major scale using this technique starting on the 6th fret of the A string. In this case my 1st finger can play the 6th or 7th frets, my 2nd finger plays the 8th fret, my 3rd finger the 9th fret and my 4th finger the 10th fret.




Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 4

Sunday 22nd February 2014

In Part 4 we’re going to look at chord extensions. Extended harmony is where chords get a lot more interesting sounding but it’s also where the theory gets more complicated. Extensions are notes that we can add to basic chords like triads. Having established how to play triads in Part 3, we can now look at adding extensions to them.
The most common chord extension by far is the seventh, in Part 3 we looked at how triads are made up of a root, a third and a fifth and there is an interval of a third between each of these notes. In order to make a triad into a seventh chord we just continue this pattern of stacking intervals of a third and we add a note that is a third above the fifth and we call this note the seventh. Seventh chords have four notes in them root, third, fifth and seventh.
If you watched my video about “Intervals” then you’ll know that there are two types of sevenths, major and minor just like there are major and minor thirds. Fifths however are not major or minor and so the fifth is the same in both major and minor chords. For this reason, it is the third and seventh notes of each chord that define what type of chord it is. For example if you have a chord with a major third and a major seventh in it, it’s called a major seventh chord and a chord with a minor third and a minor seventh is called a minor seventh chord. The word used to describe a chord that has a major third and a minor seventh in it is “dominant” and dominant seventh chords are very common. The chord symbol for a dominant seventh chord is just the number 7 (eg. G7, A7, C7 etc.) minor seventh chords are written m7 (eg. Gm7, Am7, Cm7 etc.) and major seventh chords can be written a number of ways such as with a small triangle or sometimes with an upper case M, but most commonly they are written maj7 (eg. Gmaj7, Amaj7, Cmaj7 etc.) These three types of seventh chords are by far the most common but there are others that I’ve also listed at the end of Example 1. For example, a chord with a minor third and a major seventh is called minor with a major seventh (min/maj7).
When we play extended chords we usually can’t play all the notes within the chord because we only have a finite number of strings on the bass. The more extensions we have means the more options we have, but it also means the more decisions we have to make in terms of what notes to leave out. In the case of seventh chords the decision is simple, I’ve already mentioned that the fifth is the same for major and minor chords so the fifth doesn’t fulfill a very important function in the chord (unless we alter it as in diminished and augmented chords). So if we leave out the fifth we have three notes left, the root, third and seventh. Example 1 demonstrates two different ways of voicing major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh and minor with a major seventh chords. The first way is to play the root on the A string, the third on the D string and the seventh on the G string. The second way is to play the root on the E string, leave out the A string and play the seventh on the D string and the third up an octave on the G string.
Video 4 Example 1Just because the fifth is the same for both major and minor chords doesn’t mean we can’t alter it. You can flatten the fifth (lower by a semi-tone) to give you a diminished chord or sharpen it (raise it by a semi-tone) to give you an augmented chord. In order to play a diminished or augmented chord you need to include the fifth because the fact that it’s been altered makes it a key element in the chord. That is why I have included all four notes in the augmented and diminished examples in Example 1.
Another common chord extension that we can use instead of a seventh is a major sixth. We can add a major sixth to a major triad or a minor triad. The chord symbol for a major chord with a major sixth is just the number 6 (eg. G6, A6, C6 etc.) and the chord symbol for a minor chord with a major sixth is m6 (eg. Gm6, Am6, Cm6 etc.) Example 2 demonstrates how to play these two types of chords. Again, I’ve left out the fifth in both cases.
Video 4 Example 2If we harmonise any major scale into seventh chords we get seven different chords, two major seventh chords (chords I & IV, three minor seventh chords (chords II,III & VI), one dominant seventh chord (chord V) and one half-diminished chord (a chord with a minor third, a minor seventh and a flattened fifth) (chord VII). Example 3 is a D major scale harmonised into seventh chords.
Video 4 Example 3After the seventh, the next extension we can add to a chord if we keep stacking intervals of a third is a ninth. A full ninth chord has five notes in it, root, third, fifth, seventh and ninth. Example 4, demonstrates how to play a few common ninth chords by adding a ninth to a major seventh chord, a dominant seventh chord, a minor seventh chord and even a major sixth chord. As before I’m leaving out the fifth in each chord.
Video 4 Example 4So if we keep up this idea of stacking intervals of a third we end up with an eleventh and then a thirteenth, and by the time you reach the thirteenth you have seven notes. Most scales have seven notes so a seven note chord would effectively be equivalent to playing all the notes from a scale simultaneously which is usually a bad idea. Also, you can alter (either sharpen or flatten) the upper extensions (ninth, eleventh and thirteenth) in the same way we altered our fifth earlier which gives us a huge amount of options in terms of extending our chords. So we have to exercise some judgement over which extensions we can add to which chords and that all comes down to what we think sounds good. For example, you normally wouldn’t want to add an eleventh to a chord with a major third in it (major or dominant) because the eleventh clashes with the third but you can add a sharpened eleventh. If you were going to add an eleventh to a major chord then you would normally leave out the third which would change the chord to what we call a “sus” chord which is a chord that omits the third and usually replaces it with the fourth, which is the same note as the eleventh. Check out my video on “intervals” if you don’t understand why the fourth and the eleventh are the same note.
Example 5 demonstrates some common extensions that we can play over major or minor chords on the bass.
Video 4 Example 5For Example 6 I’ve had to switch onto my six string bass to play some of these extensions. The ability to play more extended harmony is one of the main reasons I choose to play six string basses most of the time. If you don’t have a six string bass then many of these chord shapes can be adapted onto a five string bass.

Video 4 Example 6

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 3

Friday 21st February 2014

In part 3 we’re going to look at how to play triads on the bass. Triads are simple three note chords that form a foundation for a lot of extended harmony. Before we can go on to explore chord extensions it’s really important to understand triads.
There are essentially four types of triad, these are major, minor, diminished and augmented and they are written out here in Example 1. In this example all the triads have the root note C.

Video 3 Example 1Of these four, major and minor triads are by far the most common and will be the ones we use the most.

We can harmonise scales into triads. In part one we harmonised scales into intervals of a third and a triad is two intervals of a third stacked together, by which I mean you take a root note find a note that is a third above it and then another note which is a third above again. The three notes of a triad are often referred to as the root, the third(an interval of a third above the root) and the fifth (an interval of a third above the third and an interval of a fifth above the root). You will find that when you harmonise a major scale into triads you’ll get seven chords, three major triads (chords I, IV & V), three minor triads (chords II, III and VI) and one diminished triad (chord VII). Example 2 is a G major scale harmonised into triads played in root position (the root note is the lowest of the three notes).

Video 3 Example 2In the previous example we refer to these triads as root position because we’ve arranged each triad in a neatly stacked order with the root at the bottom and the third and the fifth stacked on top of it. If we change the order of these notes to make either the third or the fifth the lowest note then we have what we call an “Inversion”. There are only two possible ways to invert a triad. The first way is to put the third at the bottom as in Example 3.

Video 3 Example 3The second way is to put the fifth at the bottom as in Example 4.

Video 3 Example 4Example 5 is an E major scale harmonised in first inversion triads.

Video 3 Example 5Example 6 is a D major scale harmonised using second inversion triads.

Video 3 Example 6If you harmonise a melodic minor scale into triads you get two minor triads, two major triads, two diminished triads and one augmented triad. Example 7 is a G melodic minor scale harmonised using root position triads.

Video 3 Example 7