Chord Progression on 6-String Bass with Chord Diagrams – Bass Practice Diary – 2nd February 2021
This week I’ve been coming up with chord progressions on my new Sandberg Superlight 6-string bass. I thought this chord progression was quite nice, so I made a video of it. It uses mostly simple chord voicings, triads and the occasional 7th chord. Simple chord voicings tend to work well on bass. Too many notes in the lower register can sound like a mess.
I started out trying to play something in C major, and as you can hear, I ended up in Bb major. I wasn’t necessarily planning that when I came up with this. But that was where my instinct took me, and when I listened back, I liked it. I did think about including bass tablature in the video. But in the end I decided that chord diagrams worked better.
However, if you’re looking for a note for note transcription, here it is with tablature for 6-string bass.
If you’d like to learn more chord progressions on 6-string bass then check out my YouTube channel, Johnny Cox Music. It features a playlist of 6-string bass videos including several videos on the subject of chords and chord progressions.
Flatwound vs Used Nickel Roundwound Strings on a P Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 26th January 2021
Recently I did a video comparing the sound of flatwound bass strings with used nickel roundwounds on a fretless bass. While I was doing that comparison, I took the opportunity to do the same comparison, with the same sets of strings on my P Bass. Or I should more accurately say, my “P style bass”. As many of you know, this bass isn’t a genuine Fender Precision. However, it does have a Fender custom shop P bass pickup installed on it. And in my opinion, this bass sounds more like a vintage P Bass than my genuine Fender Precision which has the more modern sounding Yosemite pickups on it.
As I listen back to this video, the thing that strikes me most is how similar used nickel roundwound strings sound to the flatwounds. Once the nickel rounds get old, they lose their initial brightness and take on a very similar characteristic to the flats. I don’t think there is a huge difference in the tone.
Both sets of strings are made by D’addario. I tested the strings four different ways. First with tone and volume up played fingerstyle. Then with the tone fully off. Then I added some sponge under the strings by the bridge for a slightly muted tone. This was a trick that the legendary Motown bass player James Jamerson used to do. Finally I tested the strings while playing with a pick (the tone was still off and the sponge under the strings).
You can hear a difference in the video, but it’s not massive. I would say that the choice of flats or used rounds on a P Bass comes down to what you prefer the feel of. I know that a lot of P Bass purists won’t agree. The prevailing opinion amongst P Bass specialists (of which I’m not one) is that you need flats to get an authentic vintage P Bass tone. Personally I’ve always preferred the feel of roundwound strings.
The bass line in the video comes from a transcription of James Jamerson’s bass line on the Jackson 5’s Darling Dear. I was reading it from the book Standing in the Shadows of Motown and the transcription was done by another great bass player, Gerald Veasley.
Fretless Bass Strings: Flatwound or Roundwound? – Bass Practice Diary – 5th January 2020
Which make the best fretless bass strings? Flatwound or roundwound. It seems like every time I release a fretless bass video, I get asked at least one question about strings. I’ve even been asked questions like, “which flatwound bass strings do you use?” to which I then have to answer, “err… I don’t normally use flatwounds on fretless”. There seems to be this idea in the bass community that you’re going to somehow damage a fretless bass fingerboard by using roundwound bass strings. I’ve been using roundwounds since I first played a fretless bass as a teenager 20 years ago, and I’m yet to see any damage.
What’s the difference?
Flatwound strings are smooth to the touch while you can feel the coils on roundwound strings. So, if we assume that either set of strings is safe for a fretless bass neck, then the question becomes one of sound and feel. Roundwound strings have a brighter tone, especially when they are brand new, but they lose their brightness as they age. Flatwound strings are not as bright when they are new, but they do not lose their brightness so much as they age. I intentionally didn’t compare brand new strings in this video, because, I’m interested in hearing how flats compare with used roundwound strings. Do rounds really start to sound like flats as they get old?
In many ways it makes perfect sense to put flats on a fretless bass, because the lack of friction makes sliding between notes very smooth. Smooth in both sound and feel under the fingers. But the sound of flats is very much associated with a vintage bass tone. It was far more common for bass players to use flats in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s than it is now. There’s nothing wrong with a vintage sound, it’s a great sound. But if you want something more modern, then roundwound strings are the better option.
I didn’t give a verdict in the video. Mainly because I hadn’t yet listened back to the recordings to hear the strings side by side. Now that I’ve done it, my verdict might surprise you. On this particular bass, I prefer the flats. I’ve always used flats on this Sire Marcus Miller V7 Vintage bass. The clue is in the name. It’s a modern bass designed to be like a vintage fretless bass (a fretless Fender Jazz Bass to be specific). And to me, it just sounds right to hear this bass played with flats. However, it’s not a sound that I feel would suit my fretless Warwick Thumb SC, which is an modern fretless electric.
So, it’s not much of a conclusion I’m afraid. Before doing this experiment I was using flats on this bass and rounds on my other fretless basses. And that’s what I’ll continue to do, having heard the results side by side. I guess it’s just nice to know that my initial instincts were right. Or maybe it’s just that I’m used to hearing my basses like that so hearing roundwounds on this bass sounds odd to me.
The recording setup
For those of you who are interested, I was using an Electrovoice RE20 microphone on the speaker cabinet and I was mixing that together with a DI signal from the back of the Warwick Hellborg preamp. They were going into a Focusrite interface and then Logic Pro X. I added some light compression in Logic after recording. Other than that there are no effects used.
Both sets of strings are manufactured by D’addario. I thought it made the most sense to use the same brand for both. I have no particular loyalty or affiliation to D’addario. It was just that they were the only brand that I had both flats and rounds in my possession at the time of recording.
As I mentioned in the video, neither set of strings were new. The flats have been on the bass since I bought it. I generally don’t feel that flats need to be changed until they become visibly damaged or break. The roundwound set came off one of my fretted basses. I did clean them a bit before putting them back on the fretless.
6-String Fretless Bass Modal Improvisation – Bass Practice Diary – 29th December 2020
This is a modal improvisation on my Warwick Thumb SC 6-string fretless bass. What do I practice in the week between Christmas and New Year? Inevitably I’ve practiced less at Christmas than I usually would. Normally I would have been visiting various family members. But all my plans were cancelled at the last minute due to a COVID lockdown announced by the UK government on December 19th. However, despite that, I still have a wife and son at home, so my usual practice time got devoted to trying to make Christmas special for them despite the restrictions.
So, what should you practice at a time when you haven’t done much practice? For me, the answer is, just play! Play for fun, improvise, play for the love of playing music. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not. Just get the feeling of the strings back under your fingers. So, with that in mind, here’s a video of me improvising on a short modal chord sequence that I’ve been playing around with this week.
I’ve called this a modal improvisation. But how can it be called modal if I’m improvising over a chord sequence? The reason I’m calling it modal is because the chords are not connected by diatonic harmony. So I’m thinking of each chord as being a different scale or mode to improvise on. There is no key that connects the chords. They are simply connected by a bass note, each chord is played over an E bass note.
The chord progression in the video is very simple. It starts on an Eb major chord over an E natural bass note. That chord resolves upwards onto an Emaj7 chord. Then I raise the 5th and make that chord an Emaj7#5 before dropping back onto the Emaj7. These might sound like really small changes, and they are. But each chord change creates the sound of a new mode.
I think it’s an interesting way to think about chord progressions. Rather than thinking about chord changes. Think about changing just one note in a chord and see how that one note changes the overall sound.
Christmas Bass Practice Diary 2020 – We Three Kings – Bass Practice Diary – 22nd December 2020
Happy Christmas 2020! This is the fourth time that I’ve given a Christmas song the “Bass Practice Diary” treatment. You can find them all on my YouTube channel and JohnnyCoxMusic.com. This year I’ve decided to take on a Christmas carol for the first time. I’ve arranged We Three Kings for double bass and 6-string bass guitar.
The inspiration for this came because I was arranging Christmas carols for online church carol services. As most church services this year are taking place exclusively online due to the pandemic. I’ve been preparing performances of carols (mostly on guitar) to be streamed as part of online Christmas services. It was in the process of doing that, that I started to have some fun with We Three Kings. This arrangement is much to dark and uncomfortable sounding to use for a church service. But I was having fun with it, so I arranged it on bass, and here it is.
As I’ve already alluded to, this arrangement started life as a solo guitar arrangement. I originally came up with the chord melody arrangement for the verse part on guitar, while pedalling the open E string underneath. For the bass arrangement, I put the E bass note on my double bass and played the chord melody on my 6-string bass. The bass is actually in an altered tuning for this.
I very rarely play bass in altered tunings. But in this case, I needed to reach a high D to be able to play the entire melody. The highest fret on my first string in standard tuning is C. So, I tuned up a whole tone to reach the D. Having done that, I tuned the G string up to A and the D string up to F. This enabled me to play the chord voicings using similar fingerings to those I’d worked out on the guitar. The solos on the intro and outro are both played in standard tuning.
The middle section of the piece was arranged entirely on bass. If I’m being honest, I’ve never really liked this section of the song. So, I wanted to give it a complete overhaul and change the harmony entirely. I tried a few things, but nothing really grabbed me until I started playing the “James Bond” style chord progression that you hear in this section. I was obviously channeling something that I did last year, because I realised afterwards that I played something very similar at one point in last years Christmas Bass Video.
Let’s Look Forward to 2021 (It has to be better!)
This is, in some ways, a strange treatment of a Christmas Carol. It doesn’t sound like a celebration. But, on the other hand, this is a very strange Christmas. I am stuck at home in lockdown, unable to see my parents or any of my extended family. We’re all sheltering from the virus and trying to protect others. So it feels to me like this arrangement reflects the times we are living in. Hopefully next year will bring a more cheerful Christmas Bass Video.
6-String Bass Exercise – Diatonic 7ths with Approach Notes – Bass Practice Diary – 15th December 2020
I’ve spoken recently in my Bass Practice Diary videos about how the addition of chromatic approach notes to diatonic exercises can immediately create a jazz sound in your lines. This “approach notes” exercise is a development of that idea. I’ve featured a few 6-string bass exercises in my videos this year. This one involves playing descending diatonic 7th arpeggios, with a chromatic approach note before the start of each four note arpeggio.
Diatonic 7th Arpeggios
I’ve demonstrated this idea in the key of C major. Because it’s always the easiest key to demonstrate an idea that relates to diatonic harmony. The idea of diatonic 7th chords is simply that you build four note chords by taking the 1st (root), 3rd, 5th & 7th notes of the major scale. You can then repeat this pattern of taking alternate notes, but starting on different degrees of the scale. There are seven different notes in a major scale, hence there are seven different diatonic 7th chords in any major key.
In the example above I’m playing each arpeggio ascending, starting from the root. For the purposes of this exercise I’m playing the arpeggios descending, starting from the 7th and finishing on the root.
Chromatic Approach Notes
The term chromatic approach note simply means taking a note that is a semi-tone (half tone) away from your target note, either above or below. Then playing the chromatic approach note immediately before you play the target note.
In the case of this exercise, the target note is the 7th of each arpeggio, which is the first note that I’m playing for each one. I’m adding a chromatic approach note before the 7th each time.
There are two reasons why I’ve done this. One is because the addition of chromatic approach notes creates the sound of a jazz line, as I already mentioned. And the second reason is that it creates an odd number grouping of notes. The four note arpeggios become a five note sequence with the addition of the approach notes. The odd number grouping creates a rhythmic variation that makes this sound less like an exercise and more like a musical line.
Tapping Jazz Lines – Can You Play Jazz Solos With Two-Hand Tapping? – Bass Practice Diary – 8th December 2020
I’ve witnessed a couple of musicians in the UK playing improvised jazz solos with a two-hand tapping technique. However, I’ve never heard anyone talk about this idea. It seems to me that there is an obvious advantage to using two-hand tapping to play jazz lines. The advantage is that you can easily make big interval jumps in your lines. That is quite hard to do with a conventional playing technique. For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore the idea myself. So, when one of my advanced bass students brought up the subject of tapping in a lesson, I jumped at the opportunity to work through some ideas with him.
How I arranged the lines
We started by coming up with a jazz line on a II-V-I in Bb. This is a very typical exercise for learning to play jazz. The line we came up with was this.
We then tried to rearrange the line by moving some of the notes up one octave to be tapped with the right-hand. The remaining notes would be hammered-on by the left hand. This is the finished line.
We went through the same process again and came up with another line, which goes like this.
This idea of using two-hand tapping to make jazz lines is still very new for me. I hope I will revisit this subject in the future when I’ve had more time to work on it. At the moment, I’m still at the very early stage of working out lines and practicing them. I hope that as time goes by, I will develop the ability to improvise lines in this way.
Sire Marcus Miller V7 vs Warwick Rockbass Infinity – Bass Practice Diary – 1st December 2020
Sire created a sensation in the bass world when they released their Marcus Miller basses a few years ago. They are great sounding basses sold at an amazingly competitive price. However, while they are really good basses, I’ve often thought that Sire were not the first company to come out with high quality instruments for a budget. If you follow my videos, you know that I’ve been playing Warwick basses for many years. So, I’ve long thought of doing a comparison between Warwick’s more budget friendly Rockbass instruments and Sire’s Marcus Miller basses.
Sire vs Warwick
If I’m being completely honest, this video is just a bit of fun. It’s not a particularly scientific comparison. The basses had different strings at the time of recording. The Sire was strung up with some nice new Overwater bass strings whereas the Warwick had a very cheap set of Warwick Red Label strings.
The pickup configuration is obviously different as well. With the Sire, I’m using both pickups in the video, but with the Warwick I’m only using the single coil pickup at the front.
However, I should say that both of these basses were a very similar price point when I bought them. Less than £500 at full price in the UK. The new Warwick Rockbass Infinity basses are being sold for considerably more. They’ve given the model a makeover in 2020 with a flamed maple top, but my one is the more simple looking 2018 model. There are Warwick Rockbass models in 2020 that can still rival the Sire V7 for affordability. You probably need to look at something like a Corvette or a Streamer.
If you want to see a proper comparison of Sire and Warwick Rockbass and what they both offer for the price, then let me know by leaving a comment on the YouTube video. If enough people want a detailed comparison, then I’ll do it.
Make Your Pentatonic Licks Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 24th November 2020
How do you make pentatonic licks sound like jazz licks? This week I’m featuring a jazz lick created using a D minor pentatonic scale with the addition of chromatic approach notes. This is a concept that I introduced last week in my video about making the major scale sound like jazz. Chromatic approach notes are a great way to create a jazz sound in your lines, no matter how simple the harmony.
My Pentatonic Jazz Lick
I came up with my pentatonic jazz lick example by first coming up with a simple pentatonic lick. I used only the notes of the D minor pentatonic scale.
I added a chromatic approach note before the first note D. Then I added further chromatic approach notes before the 3rd note, F, the 5th note, C, the 7th note, D and the the final note, A.
You can use licks like this in any improvised scenario when you would use a pentatonic scale. You can use the chromatic approach notes to bring a jazz flavour to your lines. Why not try coming up with your own jazz licks using this method. Once you’ve written down a few licks, you can try improvising with the same method.
How to Make a Major Scale Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 17th November 2020
If you study harmony, you begin to realise just how important the major scale is. Diatonic harmony in its entirety realties to the intervalic relationships of the major scale (also sometimes called the diatonic scale). So, it’s hardly surprising that a major scale is a popular choice for improvisation as well. But, how do you make a major scale sound like jazz?
Why use major scales in jazz improvisation?
I think that a lot of musicians learn to analyse diatonic chord progressions in jazz standards. They know the right key to play at every point in the progression. Each key is defined by the notes of the parent scale, which in the case of major keys, is a major scale. So, you can break a lot of jazz tunes down to playing different major scales at different points in the chord progression. But the problem is, that major scales on their own don’t sound very much like jazz. So, how do you use the major scale to make jazz lines?
I’ve noticed that a lot of people learning to improvise are looking for a scale or scales that will make them sound like jazz. I don’t think it works like that. I think there are a lot of different approaches to improvising in a jazz style. Today, I’m looking at two key concepts. One is approach notes, the other is outside notes. The concept of outside notes is simple to understand. There are seven notes in any key (the notes of the major scale) and there are twelve notes in the octave (the chromatic scale). Outside notes are the five other notes that are not in the major scale. If you want your lines to sound like jazz lines, you need to come up with some creative ways to use them.
A simple and great way to begin to incorporate some outside notes into a major scale, is with the use of chromatic approach notes. A chromatic approach note can be as simple as picking a target note from the parent scale, and playing a semi-tone (one fret) below or above that note before you play it. Of course, not all of these chromatic approach notes will be outside notes. If your target note is the major 7th, and you play a chromatic approach note above that note, you’re playing the root note. But some (most) of your chromatic approach notes will be outside notes. And that’s enough to bring a jazz flavour to your lines.
Play a major scale with chromatic approach notes
This is an exercise that I featured in the video.
I’m playing a C major scale in ascending thirds (root, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 5th etc). Each third interval is two notes. I’m then adding a chromatic approach note before and below the first, lower note. So, C, E (Root, 3rd) becomes B, C, E, a three note grouping. D, F (2nd, 4th) becomes C#, D, F.
It sounds good, but it sounds like an exercise. I want to make it sound less like an exercise and more like an improvised jazz line. Try mixing up the exercise by varying the chromatic approach notes either above or below the target notes. You can also vary whether you play your thirds ascending or descending. When you play a descending third you can play the approach note before the higher of the two notes.