Category Archives: Bass Blog

Jazz Chord Extensions for Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 23

Chord Extensions on 4, 5 & 6 String Bass Guitars – Bass Practice Diary – 25th September 2018

I’ve done a few videos in the past about playing chords on the bass. This week I’m demonstrating a fairly simple approach you can use to playing jazz chord extensions. The system involves using two different voicings of 7th chords. Each using three notes, root, 3rd and 7th. Then adding chord extensions like 9ths, 11ths and 13ths as well as common alterations.

A Very Quick Guide to Jazz Harmony – 7th Chords

Chord extensions and alterations are synonymous with jazz harmony. 7th chords form the foundation of most jazz chords and I’m going to look at the three most common types of 7th chord. They are Major 7th, Minor 7th and Dominant 7th.

7th chords are four note chords, all of the chord types mentioned above contain root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. The root and 5th are the same in all three chord types, so the 7th chords are defined by the thirds and sevenths. Major 7th chords have a major 3rds and 7ths. Minor 7th chords have minor 3rds and 7ths and dominant 7th chords have major thirds and minor 7ths.

There are other types of 7th chords, but in this post I’m only going to look at these three types because they’re the most common.

When voicing extended chords it’s extremely important to know which notes to leave out. Regardless of whether you play 4, 5 or 6 string basses, you only have a finite number of strings. I recommend that you don’t try to cram every note from an extended chord into a chord voicing. It’s rarely a useful or practical approach.

The first note to leave out is the 5th, because it’s the same in each chord type. It doesn’t tell you anything about the chord. So, when I voice 7th chords, I voice them as three note chords, root, 3rd and 7th.

Assuming that you keep the root as the lowest note, that means you can voice a 7th chord in two different ways. The first way is with the 7th on top, as demonstrated in the three diagrams below.

Example 1 Chord Extensions
7th Chords: Root, 3rd & 7th

9th Chords

The reason that I’ve voiced these chords on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings is so that I can use the first string to add a chord extension. These voicings work well for 9th chords. The 9th above my root note A is the note B played on the 16th fret of the first string. You can add this note to each of the chord types and you get these chord voicings.

Example 2 Chord Extensions
9th Chords: Root, 3rd, 7th & 9th

There are two alterations you can make to the 9th in the dominant 9th chord. You can sharpen it to make an A7#9 chord or you can flatten it to make an A7b9 chord.

Example 3 Chord Extensions
Altered 9th Chords

Voicing 7th Chords With the Third on Top

I stated previously that there were two ways I was going to voice the 7th chords. The first was with the 7th on top. Now I’m going to make the 3rd the highest note. I’ll play the root and 7th in the same place, but I’ll move the third up an octave, from the third string onto the first string.

Example 4 Chord Extensions
7th Chords: Root, 7th & 3rd

11th Chords

In these voicings the 3rd string is not being used. So I can add a chord extension to the 3rd string. An obvious one to use is an 11th, because it sits comfortably in these chord shapes.

The natural 11th sounds good in a minor 7th chord. But, it doesn’t work so well on chords with major 3rds. So, for the major 7th chord I’ll add a sharpened 11th, which creates a lydian sound.

The sharpened 11th also works well on the dominant and minor 7th chords, and in these cases the sharpened 11th can also be described as a flattened 5th. So, I can create four new voicings by adding either a sharp or natural 11th to the 3rd string.

Example 5 Chord Extensions
11th Chord Voicings: Root, 11th, 7th, 3rd

Chord Voicings for 5 String and 6 String Bass

All the voicings I’ve played so  far can be played on 4 string bass. However, more strings means more potential chord voicings so I’m going to look at some voicings that will only work on 5 and 6 string basses.

First I’m going to take a couple of the 11th chords from the previous examples, and move the 11th up one octave. So, in the following voicings the 11th is the top note above the 3rd.

Example 6 Chord Extensions
11th Chords: Root, 7th, 3rd & 11th

13th Chords

Finally I’m going to look at some voicings for 13th chords. The 13th is basically the same as a major 6th which is a note that can work on major, minor and dominant chords.

The voicings below are all dominant 13th chords. In each voicing the 13th is played as the highest note on the 1st string. It can be altered by flattening it as I’ve done in the second voicing. And, it can also be combined with the 9th, as I’ve done in the final voicing.

Example 7 Chord Extensions
Dominant Chord Voicings with 13ths

One big benefit of playing chord voicings on a 6 string bass is that you can play multiple chord extensions as I have in the final A13 voicing.

 

 

 

 

How to Use Outside Notes In Your Basslines – Bass Practice Diary 19

Inside and Outside Notes – Start Using More Outside Notes in Your Bass Lines – Bass Practice Diary – 28th August 2018

Recently I made a video called Everything You Need to Know About Harmony on Bass Guitar. You can check it out by clicking on the link. In the video I talked about using inside and outside notes. Well I thought it was time for a practical video about how you can practice playing inside and outside notes. Here it is!

Inside and Outside Notes

The simplest way to explain inside and outside notes is that inside notes are notes that belong in the key you are playing and outside notes don’t. Hopefully you know already that I don’t believe there is any such thing as “wrong” notes. Simply because outside notes can make your basslines more interesting when they’re used in a musical way. You can use them to create tension within music, which is very hard to achieve if you only play inside notes. And the resolution of those notes onto inside notes creates a resolution of the tension.

How Can You Practice Using Outside Notes

This video is a practical guide not a theory lesson so I’m going to jump straight in to the musical examples. If you’d like to learn more of the theory then jump to my previous video which is linked in the opening paragraph.

I started with two chords, G7 and C7. And I created a bassline using only chord tones. The notes are G, B, D and F for G7 and C, E, G and Bb for C7.

Inside and Outside Notes Example 1
A Bassline Made From Chord Tones – G7 & C7

The first variation I played was to add a note one fret above or below either of the root notes. In the following example I’ve added the note Db before the C root note and Ab before the G root note. Both Db and Ab are outside notes on both G7 and C7 chords.

Outside Notes Example 2 Part 1

Outside Notes Example 3
Outside Notes One Fret Above the Root Notes

Notice that these notes always resolve onto the root note. Meaning that the next note after the outside note is always the root note. It’s that resolution that keeps the outside notes from sounding “wrong”.

Resolving Outside Notes Onto Chord Tones

You can resolve outside notes onto any chord tone. It doesn’t have to be the root. The following example starts on a Bb, which is an outside note on G7. The Bb resolves up one fret onto B natural which is a chord tone. The next outside note is Db which resolves onto the root note of the next chord C7.

Resolving Outside Notes Onto Chord Tones
Resolving Outside Notes Onto Chord Tones

Chromatic Runs

The final technique for incorporating outside notes that I looked at in the video is chromatic runs. I usually use these when leading into a chord change.

Starting three frets either above or below the root note, simply play each fret either up or down to the root. It’s a simple technique, but it sounds cool if you don’t over use it. The following bassline demonstrates the technique.

Outside Notes Example 4
Using Outside Notes in Chromatic Runs

 

Play Bass Grooves in Odd Meters and Time Signatures – Bass Practice Diary 18

How to Approach Playing Bass in Odd Meters and Time Signatures – Bass Practice Diary – 21st August 2018

This week I’ve been practising playing in odd meters and I want to briefly share my system for playing any unusual time signature. My system revolves around learning and reciting rhythmic phrases rather than counting beats, and if you use it properly it should make playing odd meters no harder than playing in 4/4.

What Are Odd Meters?

he term odd meter simply means any time signature that has an odd number of beats or subdivisions in a bar. Odd meters divide opinion amongst musicians. Some musicians (including me) love them and think they can flow and groove just as well as any groove in 4/4. Others hate playing them.

I want to share an approach that I use to playing odd meters. It’s actually not that different to my approach for playing in any meter, but I think that musicians who are not comfortable playing in odd meters often feel that they have to do something different when playing odd meters. And that might be the root cause of why they struggle with them.

Think About Rhythmic Phrases

What do I mean by rhythmic phrases? Every meter or time signature has a fixed number of subdivisions per bar. Check out my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove if you’d like to learn more about subdivisions and rhythmic structure.

The rhythmic structure of a bass groove comes from how you organise these subdivisions. I’ll use the examples from the video to demonstrate. The first one is in a very unusual time signature 15/16. Which means there are fifteen 16th note subdivisions in every bar.

Odd Meter Bassline in 15/16
Odd Meter Bassline in 15/16

The Method

In this example I’ve arranged the fifteen subdivisions into three groups of four and one group of three.

4+4+4+3=15.

If you’ve read my book or followed some of my previous videos you’ll know that I like to use Indian Konnakol syllables to recite rhythms. The syllables for a group of four subdivisions are Ta-Ka-Di-Mi and the syllables for a group of three subdivisions are Ta-Ki-Ta.

So, the rhythmic phrase for the above example is as follows.

Ta-Ka-Di-Mi     Ta-Ka-Di-Mi     Ta-Ka-Di-Mi     Ta-Ki-Ta

It’s actually a very simple rhythmic phrase, even thought the time signature 15/16 might make you think of something very complex.

An even more simple arrangement of fifteen subdivisions would be five Ta-Ki-Ta’s. This creates the feel of a 5/4 shuffle.

Odd Meter 5/4 Shuffle
Odd Meter 5/4 Shuffle

How Can You Apply This System in Any Time Signature?

This idea can and should be applied to any groove in any time signature. Including the obvious ones like 4/4. It’s not always easy because there are much more complex rhythmic structures than the examples above. But the key is to understand firstly, what is the subdivision (8th notes, 16th notes, triplets etc.) and secondly how many are there in each bar.

Once you know the answer to those two questions you can work out rhythmic structures using basic maths and Konnakol.

Here are some more examples I’ve come up with for the purposes of demonstration. The first one is in 3/4.

Odd Meter 3/4 Example
Odd Meter 3/4 Example

3/4 is often not thought of as an odd meter because it’s been a fairly common time signature for hundreds of years. It crops up regularly in classical music and jazz as waltzes. But as you can see from my example. It doesn’t have to have a waltz feel. The addition of 16th note subdivisions changes the feel entirely.

Here’s another example in 5/4. This also has a 16th note feel and the rhythmic structure is slightly more complex than the previous examples.

Odd Meter 5/4 with a 16th note feel
Odd Meter 5/4 Bassline with a 16th Note Feel

The final example in the video features a more relaxed 8th note feel on a 7/4 time signature.

Odd Meter 7/4 Bassline
Odd Meter 7/4 Bassline

How to Practice Odd Meters

I would suggest practising this in three stages. You don’t need an instrument until the third stage.

The first stage is to work out your own rhythmic phrases. Pick a meter that you want to practice and work out rhythmic phrases that contain the correct number of subdivisions. An old fashioned pen and paper might be the best way of doing this.

Next, recite the rhythmic structures using Konnakol (or whatever system you prefer). My application of Konnakol involves using Da for one subdivision, Ta-Ka for two, Ta-Ki-Ta for three and Ta-Ka-Di-Mi for four. For more subdivisions you can just combine syllables. For example five could be Ta-Ki-Ta Ta-Ka. Six Could be two Ta-Ki-Ta’s and seven could be Ta-Ka-Di-Mi Ta-Ki-Ta etc.

The final stage is playing your rhythmic phrases on your bass!

Practice Playing Rhythmic Variations – Bass Practice Diary 16

How to Vary the Rhythm of Your Bass Grooves – Bass Practice Diary – 7th August 2018

In this week’s video practice diary I’ve been thinking about how to practice rhythmic variations. As bass players we often find ourselves playing repetitive grooves with static harmony. You can make those static grooves more interesting by playing subtle rhythmic variations. Here is how I would practice that.

We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve played a bass groove for a period of time. And during that period of time we’ve started to feel that it’s getting boring, not just for us but for the audience listening to us. It’s a dilemma, because if you change the groove too much it can affect the band and the performance in ways that might not be appreciated. So the key in that situation is to come up with subtle variations. They may be so subtle that your audience doesn’t consciously notice them, but they will still add to a feeling of movement and flow in the music that will prevent it from becoming boring.

How Do You Come Up With Rhythmic Variations?

It’s easy to say that the answer is to come up with subtle variations, but it’s harder to achieve it without becoming repetitive. So I’ve come up with this system for coming up with as many potential rhythmic variations as you can.

You need to start with a groove. You can come up with one of your own or you can use one that you know. I’ve come up with my own in the video to avoid copyright complications. But I did think about doing the video with a famous bass line to help illustrate the idea.

Here is the bass line I’ve used in the video.

Bass Groove for Rhythmic Variations
Bass Groove for Rhythmic Variations

The next stage of my process was to come up with a rhythmic variation. I restricted myself to only changing the rhythm of two notes. Because I want my variations to be subtle. I’m not trying to change the whole groove. The variations should sound organic and fit in with the original feel.

The Variations

Here is my first variation.

First Rhythmic Variation
First Rhythmic Variation

The last note of the first bar has been moved one sixteenth note later. And the third note of the second bar has been moved one sixteenth note earlier.

If you’re not sure what I mean then check out my lessons on rhythmic subdivisions and eighth and sixteenth note bass grooves.

I then came up with two more variations, I allowed myself to add individual notes and move notes by a single subdivision. But not many because I’m still trying to keep the core elements of the groove.

Here are variations two and three.

Rhythmic Variation Example 3
Second Rhythmic Variation
hythmic Variation Example 4
Third Rhythmic Variation

Hopefully you can see that this system gives you the potential to come up with a lot of subtle variations for your bass grooves. It even gives you the potential to evolve your grooves into something rhythmically different without ever making an obvious change that an audience would notice.

If the music will allow it, you could keep changing the groove in two places each time you play it. Before long you can build a bass groove that is entirely different without having played an obvious change to the groove.

The Groove With Variations

At the bottom of the page I’ve put the bass groove plus the variations. I’ve demonstrated playing it all together in the video.

When I played it for my wife, who isn’t a musician, she said it sounded good but she couldn’t tell the difference between the variations. That is exactly what I was trying to achieve. Because the variations exist to make the music sound more interesting  without it sounding like I’m changing the groove. An audience will respond positively to rhythmic variation, if it’s done well, but they probably won’t consciously be aware of what it is that sounds good.

Bass Groove and Rhythmic Variations
Bass Groove and Rhythmic Variations

 

9/8 Time Signature Bass Grooves – Bass Practice Diary 14

Learn Basslines in 9/8 Time Signature – Bass Practice Diary – 24 July 2018

This week’s bass practice diary leads on directly from what I was doing last week. I’m writing and recording examples for an upcoming book. Last week I was exploring bass grooves in 6/8 time signature. This week I’m taking a logical next step and looking at bass grooves in 9/8 time signature.

9/8 Time Signature

While 9/8 is a logical next step from 6/8, it also enters a new world of odd meters. However you group the nine eighth notes in each bar you will inevitably end up with an odd number. The most obvious way to divide the bar is into three beats, each subdivided into three eighth notes. This creates the feel of a 3/4 shuffle as I’ve demonstrated in the video.

So, 6/8 and 9/8 can both be related to 3/4 time signature. 6/8 can be played as a straight 3/4, as I demonstrated in this video last week. And 9/8 is most commonly played as a 3/4 shuffle. You can also think of a jazz waltz as being 9/8.

Odd Meters and Time Signatures

I know that the subject of odd meters can divide opinion amongst musicians. Personally, I find odd meters fascinating and I love to play in odd meters. Technically, an odd meter is any time signature with an odd number of beats in a bar. So 3/4 and 9/8 are both odd meters, and technically 6/8 isn’t an odd meter. However, the term odd meters tends to get attached to any time signature that isn’t commonly used. We tend to not think of 3/4 as an odd meter because it’s fairly common. But an unusual meter like 10/4, for example, would usually be categorised as an odd meter, even though it technically isn’t one.

I’ve also come across an attitude from some musicians, that they think odd meters only belong in “prog rock” and “fusion”. Prog and fusion are considered dirty words by many musicians, and my own odd meter influences certainly don’t come from prog rock.

The term “fusion” is one that I don’t like to use. If you think about it, virtually all music is a fusion of different influences. Certainly jazz is a fusion of many different styles and musical cultures. Too often I hear the label “fusion” attached to music as a way of putting it down. Somehow implying that it’s not pure. Particularly within the jazz world.

9/8 in Jazz and Indian Music

My interest in odd meters comes mostly from having studied jazz and Indian music. A great example of 9/8 being used in jazz, is the Dave Brubeck composition Blue Rondo a La TurkWhat sounds like a very complex rhythm when you first listen to it, is actually quite simple. The melody is based around a rhythmic phrase where the nine eighth notes are arranged into three 2’s and a 3. I would recite the rhythm Ta-ka, Ta-Ka, Ta-Ka, Ta-Ki-Ta. After the theme, Blue Rondo a La Turk moves into a jazz swing feel, which highlights the connection between these types of rhythmic phrases and the jazz swing feel.

In Indian music, a Tala, which is a beat cycle can contain 3, 5, 7 and 9 beats or even 11 or 13. The Indian approach to odd meters has crossed over into Western music many times in the last fifty years. In jazz through musicians such as John McLaughlin and Trilok Guru and even in pop music. An example is All You Need is Love by the Beatles, who were heavily influenced by the Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.

How to Groove in 9/8

I’m trying to find ways of grooving in 9/8 time signature, that move away from a straight forward 3/4 shuffle. I’ve included three examples in the video. The first two use the standard 3/4 shuffle feel. But in both examples the feel is slightly subverted by rhythmic variations.

This first example uses a 3/4 shuffle feel in bar 1. But the second bar has a rhythmic variation. The rhythm in bar 2 is the same rhythmic phrase as Blue Rondo a La Turk.

9/8 Time Signature Bass Groove Example 1
9/8 Time Signature Bass Groove Example 1

Example 2 stretches the shuffle feel even further.

9/8 Time Signature Bass Groove Example 2
9/8 Time Signature Bass Groove Example 2

In Example 3 I’ve moved away from the shuffle feel altogether. There’s no doubt that this example has much more of a feel of an odd meter, which some people will like and others won’t. I really like this bass groove, and I’ve combined it with some gospel style harmonies which I think makes a really interesting juxtaposition.

9/8 Time Signature Bass Groove Example 3
9/8 Time Signature Bass Groove Example 3

My Composition in 9/8 Time Signature

At the end of the video I’ve included a composition of my own. It is as yet un-named and un-released. It’s only a demo really. It’s one of many compositions I have compiled over the last ten years or more. Hopefully one day I’ll re-record it with a full band and release it. But for now I hope it can give you an idea of how these ideas can be applied to composing.

6/8 Time Signature Bass Grooves – Bass Practice Diary 13

Learn Basslines in 6/8 Time Signature – Bass Practice Diary – 17 July 2018

6/8 is one of my favourite time signatures to play in. And I know several drummers who feel the same way. In this post I’m going to share with you some of the reasons why I love 6/8. As well as some of the key principles you need to know in order to groove in the 6/8 time signature.

This week, most of my practice time has been taken up by writing and recording examples for a book that I’m writing. The book will be a follow up to Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove which was published earlier in 2018. So, instead of showing you what I’ve been practising this week, I’m showing you some of the examples that I’ve been writing. And specifically I’m playing examples in the time signature six eight (6/8).

What is 6/8?

6/8 simply means that every bar contains six eighth notes. But you shouldn’t count the eighth notes 1 2 3 4 5 6. The basic feel of 6/8 is two beats per bar with each beat subdivided into three eighth notes. A better way to count 6/8 is 1 2 3 – 2 2 3. If you’re not sure what subdivisions are, then check out this free lesson.

Rhythmic Subdivisions on Bass Guitar

How can you make 6/8 sound more interesting?

In my opinion, the 6/8 time signature gets really interesting when you realise that a bar of 6/8 is mathematically no different from a bar of 3/4. It’s important to understand that this is only true with a straight 3/4 feel. If you play 3/4 with a swing or shuffle feel, then it’s the same as 9/8. But I’ll explain more about 9/8 in next weeks practice diary.

3/4 and 6/8 both contain six eighth notes in every bar. So any rhythm that you can play in a straight 3/4 feel can also be played in 6/8 and vice versa. Once you understand this, you suddenly have a wealth of options for playing on and off the beat in two different feels simultaneously. The 3/4 feel gives you three beats and three off beats in each bar, and the 6/8 feel gives you two beats and a further four places where you can play off the beat in every bar.

For more about beats and off beats check out this free lesson.

All of these beats and off-beats exist in one bar of 6/8, and if you can learn to feel both the 6/8 and 3/4 feels simultaneously within the 6/8 time signature, then you can create some really wonderful grooves.

Play the Examples in the Video

The examples in the video are just a small selection from the book that I’m writing. While researching this section of the book, I’ve been listening to as many examples of 6/8 rhythms as I can. I’ve heard music from all over Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and India to name just a few. I’ve discovered so many different approaches to playing in 6/8. And I’m happy to share just a few of them with you here ahead of my book being published later in 2018.

I wrote this first example to illustrate the difference between the 6/8 and 3/4 feels. Bars 1 and 3 have a typical 6/8 feel. Whereas bars 2 and 4 contain the three quarter notes that could be defined as 3/4.

6/8 Time Signature - Example 1
6/8 Time Signature – Example 1

The idea for Example 2 is that I’m using the 3/4 feel over the 6/8 but I’m focusing more on the off-beats. Look in particular at bar 2. There is a note on beat one and then the remaining three notes land where the off-beats would be in a bar of 3/4.

6/8 Time Signature - Example 2
6/8 Time Signature – Example 2

6/8 is a very under used time signature in rock music. Example 3 is my idea for a rock riff in 6/8.

6/8 Time Signature - Example 3
6/8 Time Signature – Example 3

The final example features a rhythm called Bembe. Which has it’s roots in African music but is best known in Afro Cuban music.

6/8 Time Signature - Example 4
6/8 Time Signature – Example 4

 

 

Use This Cool Metronome Trick to Develop Superb Timing- Bass Practice Diary 10

How to Use a Metronome or Click to Improve Your Timing on Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 26th June 2018

In this video practice diary, I’m using a metronome to improve my timing. I learned this cool metronome trick from a great bass player called Michael Mondesir. I’m playing a simple eighth note bass groove from my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove. But, the trick is that I’m displacing the click by a sixteenth note.

Advanced Metronome Exercise

Most musicians practise with a metronome at some point. If you find it easy to play in time with a metronome, how can you continue to improve your timing. There is a huge leap from being able to play in time with a click to having perfect timing, and the exercise in this video is designed to bridge that gap.

The concept is, that the metronome doesn’t have to always count on the beat. The example that I’ve played in the video features me displacing the metronome onto a sixteenth note subdivision. But there are so many potential variations of this idea that one post or video couldn’t possibly feature all of them.

In order to play this exercise you need to start with a bass groove that has a fairly simple rhythm. Preferably one that you know very well. When Michael Mondesir demonstrated this to me he used the bass line from Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. I’ve used an example from Chapter One of my book because it’s not dissimilar. Click here for more info. Here is the example.

Example for Metronome Video
Example 1i from Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove

Once you have your bass line, simply play it with a metronome as if the click is a sixteenth note off the beat. In the example in the video, the click is effectively playing this rhythm.

Metronome Displacement
Click Displaced by a Sixteenth Note

You could also play with the click a sixteenth after the beat, meaning the rhythm would be like this.

Metronome Displacement
Click Displaced by a Sixteenth Note

Another variation would be to play with the click playing once every three sixteenth notes. Like this.

Metronome 16ths in groups of 3
Click Playing Every Third 16th Note

More Advanced Metronome Exercises

There are so many potential variations of this that I can’t list them all. But an obvious one would be to do the same thing with triplets rather than sixteenth notes. You could play with the click a triplet before or after the beat. Or you could  play with the click counting triplets in groups of four.

If you practise in this way, your timing will improve. It’s so much harder to use a metronome like this rather than the conventional way.

The next step would be to slow down the metronome and play with fewer clicks. For example, If you’re playing a bass groove at 120BPM. You could set the metronome at half speed, 60BPM, so it would count two clicks per bar. Then, you could play as if the two clicks were playing a sixteenth after beat one and a sixteenth after beat three.

That’s just one more example and obviously there are so many variations. One step further would be to set the metronome to 30BPM and you would have just one click per bar. You could play with that one click on literally any beat or subdivision in the bar. If you can do that and still make it groove then you will have an incredibly advanced sense of time in music.

However, learning to keep such amazing time on any instrument is a lifetime’s work. Just like learning harmony or any of the other fundamental aspects of music. You need to start slow and gradually build it up over time.

How Long Does it Take to Get Perfect Timing?

Michael Mondesir first introduced these ideas to me about 10 years ago and I still practice them regularly. I don’t think I will ever stop practising like this because my timing isn’t perfect and it never will be. All we can do is try to keep improving each time we practice. Enjoy!

 

Marc-Andre Seguin’s Essentials to Expect from a Jazz Bass Player

Would You Like to Play Jazz Bass?

The following post is written by the superb jazz guitarist and teacher Marc-Andre Seguin. Marc is the founder of the phenomenally successful jazz guitar website JazzGuitarLessons.net. I asked Marc if he could sum up what he feels are the essential things that he expects from a jazz bass player. In this post he gives a brilliant overview of time, swing feel, walking bass lines, harmony and chord progressions.

Marc has included so much great information here, much of which I’ll be following up very soon with some posts of my own. If you want to learn more about time, swing feel, triplets and locking in with the drums, check out my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove. It includes a chapter on triplets and swing feel and another chapter on grooving with drums. But most importantly check out Marc-Andre Seguin’s wonderful music and his website JazzGuitarLessons.net.

Essentials to Expect from a Jazz Bass Player

The essentials for a jazz bass player range from basic to just about wherever they wish to take it.  

The jazz bass player does have a few essential tricks up their sleeve that other genres may not require.  

Let’s take a look at these essentials starting with a couple of the basics.

Time

An essential requirement is holding down the beat with the drummer.

As part of the rhythm section, you and the drummer are best friends.  

Lock it in.  

Listen, and be with that ride cymbal when swinging in the groove.

We’ll take a closer look at why and how further on in this post.

Harmony

The entire band is looking to you to lead them into the next chord and provide the necessary bass notes to compliment the current chord of the song.

The leading tone is critical when heading to a chord change, so stay tuned (pun intended) for clarification.

Let’s get to it.

Walking Bass Lines

One of the staples of jazz is the walking bass line.  It is also one of the more creative parts that a jazz bassist can play due to its’ improvisational characteristics.  You hold the groove down but can improvise lines.

  1. A walking bass line requires the bassist to play one note for every beat of the measure, so in 4/4 time you would play a quarter note on every beat.  Play the root note of the chord on beat one for an easy line.
  2. For the second beat, play any note in the scale of the chord, or a chord tone.  
  3. The third beat can be the same or different note of the scale or chord.
  4. The fourth beat creates tension prior to resolving to the root, so play a dominant 5th or a leading tone a half step below the root of the next chord.

The leading tone into the next chord change is critical to nail as your band members are relying on it as a guide to the impending chord change.

Piano player asks, “Where’s the bass player?”  
Drummer, “He’s in the parking lot again.”  
Piano player, “We’re going to have to get him some walking bass line lessons.”

Don’t worry, with the information you learn in this post, you’ll be on stage the entire time, and if they announce that you have left the building, it will be a good thing!  “Elvis has left the building!”

A little trick is to make sure you always have a lick or two to fall back on when improvising a line.  It will help you find your way back if necessary.

See what you can come up with for your own walking bass lines using different variations of the scale notes or chord notes.

Swing

This is all about the triplet.  

When you are emphasizing each beat of the measure you will create a swing feel when the drummer splits those beats into triplets by hitting between every beat you play.

Listen to the ride cymbal as your center of gravity and let your notes ring as the ride cymbal does.  You and the drummer have it going, creating that musical space for the soloists and the rest of the band to play in, until it’s your turn to solo.

Know Your Progressions

There are some common chord progressions that jazz players of all stripes use.  One of the most common is the 2-5-1 chord progression.

If you know the scale notes and the chord notes to the chord being played, you can hold down the low end by moving the same line into different keys, which makes for a good default lick.

If you wish to learn more about jazz music theory, check this out.

The chords in the key of C Major would be:

  • Dm7 (the second chord of the CM scale)
  • G7 (the 5th and dominant chord of the scale)
  • CM7 (the root)

A great way to practice lines for this progression is by playing through the cycle of fourths in all 12 keys.

Cycle of Fourths

They look intimidating when you see the sheet with the big circle of notes and names around it, but it is pretty easy to use once you understand it.

Here is a link if you wish to learn more about the cycle of fourths.  The cycle of fifths is the same thing, just backwards.

How Does a Jazz Bass Player Acquire the Essentials?

As we progress in our playing more doors open presenting unique challenges and most of us usually have something that we are trying to improve upon.  

One way to improve our musicianship is to listen to other musicians, be they our favourite artists or our new favourite artists.  Listening to good music is not only inspiring but can really propel our learning as something to strive for.

There have been some absolutely great bass and drummer combinations over the years.  A notable rhythm unit is Jaco Pastorius and the drummer Peter Erskine who held down the rhythm section for the jazz fusion band “Weather Report” during that band’s heyday.  Check them out.

Sometimes deep listening is required, singling out the separate instruments in a band and how they interact with each other.  This deep listening is also an essential quality for any musician that plays with others in a band.

Summary

There is absolutely no doubt that a good jazz bass player can really take a band to new places.

The bass player holds a lot of power in their hands and forms an essential part of the very foundation of any band.  

I encourage you to keep on learning.  Start working on some new lines and seek out like-minded players, as getting together and playing with other musicians will really give your playing a boost, and it’s a lot of fun.

Enjoy!

About the Author

Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.

Jazz Bass Essentials
Marc-Andre Seguin

Rhythmic Subdivisions on Bass Guitar

If You Want to Improve Your Bass Groove, Try Thinking More About Subdivisions

What are rhythmic subdivisions?

Rhythmic subdivisions exist within all music. They are created by dividing beats into smaller sub-beats. In this video lesson I’ll explain why they’re so important and I’ll give you some tips on how to practise them to improve your bass groove.

Why are they important?

Subdivisions are the key to having great timing on the bass. Rhythms are created by playing notes on subdivisions. If you want your rhythms to be accurate and your bass lines to groove then you must place your notes accurately onto them.

How many different subdivisions are there?

Not as many as you might think. In theory you could divide a beat into any number. However, most music divides beats into either two, three or four. If you can execute these three subdivisions accurately then you will have a great groove in virtually all musical situations.

How can I practise subdivisions?

I’m going to use some examples from my book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide to Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar. The first example features an eighth note subdivision, meaning each beat is subdivided into two.

eighth note subdivisions
Subdividing beats into two

Two is the simplest subdivision,  but this is not a simple rhythm. The rhythm features notes played on the beat and off the beat. In order to play the rhythm accurately you must be aware of which notes are on the beat and which are off the beat. Then you need to have a system for hitting the beats and the off-beats accurately.

If you’ve followed my previous posts then you’re probably already familiar with my system for counting beats and off-beats. I use the syllables Ta-KaTa is the beat and Ka is the off-beat. Try playing the example above slowly while reciting Ta-Ka. Make sure the notes played on the beat land on Ta and the off-beat notes land on Ka. If you’re not sure how to do this, refer to the video where I demonstrate this at 1m53s.

Subdividing into three

Have a look at this example. This is a bass groove with the beat divided into three. Listen to it in the video at 3m21s.

Triplet/shuffle subdivisions
Subdividing beats into three

When you subdivide a beat into three, there’s no longer a conventional off-beat as there is with eighth notes. When you divide a beat into three equal subdivisions you get a beat and two different places where you can place a note off the beat. The notes in this example that look like eighth notes are played with a shuffle feel which is a triplet feel.

The added off-beat subdivisions that you get when you subdivide a beat into three and four means that there are so many potential variations of rhythm, it would be impossible to even give an overview in just a single post. So please check out Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide to Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar. In it you will find over 140 audio and written examples featuring these subdivisions played in a variety of styles. There are also five play along pieces featuring subdivisions of two, three and four to help you put this into practise.

Subdividing into four

When you divide a beat into four subdivisions, it creates a sixteenth note feel. Here is an example.

sixteenth note subdivisions
Subdividing beats into four

It may seem odd that this sixteenth note example feels less busy than the previous example that is subdivided into three. You might assume that more subdivisions means more notes, but that isn’t necessarily true.

The example above is a sixteenth note rhythm because there are three notes that can only be played if you divide the beats into four. Therefore you must feel the sixteenth note subdivision all the way through the example in order to really groove.

The most important thing to remember about subdivisions is that you must always feel the smallest subdivision all the way through any piece of music you play. Sometimes that will mean dividing the beats into two (eighth notes) and sometimes into three (triplets) and four sixteenth notes.

Please check out the book, if you want to study subdivisions in more detail. And remember, if you want to improve your bass groove, you need to think more about subdivisions.

3D Cover Image Improve Your Groove
Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove

A Guide to Playing Offbeat Bass Grooves

A Guide to Playing Offbeat Bass Grooves

In this video lesson I’m going to explain why offbeats are so important. What is an offbeat and how can you improve your bass groove by playing them more accurately?

Where’s the one?

It’s a question I often hear when I’m teaching rhythms like the one below. It usually means that the bass line in question either doesn’t accent the first beat of the bar, or in this case, doesn’t play on beat one at all.

Cuban Tumbao Rhythm

Offbeat and On the Beat
Bass Groove based on a Cuban Tumbao Rhythm

The rhythm above is based on the Cuban tumbao rhythm. It’s a tricky rhythm because it never plays on the first beat of the bar.

Beats and Offbeats

Bass players shouldn’t define their grooves by beat one. All music with a 4/4 time signature (which is most music) contains four beats and four offbeats in every bar. Every beat and every offbeat is equal, and you must know how to place notes accurately on any of them if you want to have a great groove. Beat one isn’t more important than any of the other seven subdivisions.

The key to making the bass line in the example above groove is the ability to play the offbeats very accurately. Most people can play accurately on beats but playing on the offbeats is harder.

How do I practise playing offbeats?

The following example was written to help you practise playing on the offbeats. The first note of each bar is on beat one and the remaining notes are played on the four offbeats.

Practise playing offbeat bass lines
Offbeat Bass Groove

The next example for you to practise is a funky bass groove that features lots of offbeats.

Bass Line featuring lots of offbeats
Offbeat Funk Bass Groove

How do you improve your offbeat groove?

When you practise the examples above, make sure you play the offbeats very accurately. In order to do this, start by playing slowly in time with a metronome or drum beat. You can find these for free online. Then say Ta-Ka in time with the beat. Ta is the beat and Ka is the offbeat. If your offbeat notes land exactly on the syllable Ka, then you know your timing is good.

It often helps to record yourself playing slowly. You will often notice misplaced notes more when you listen back to a recording than you did when you were playing.

For more examples, check out my new book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide to Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar.

3D Cover Image Improve Your Groove
Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove

Containing over 140 audio examples featuring eighth and sixteenth note grooves in a variety of styles including rock, blues, jazz and Latin. It also features sections on syncopation, shuffle feels, triplets and swing. It has practical advice for grooving with drums and sharing a collective time feel in a group. And it features five pieces with play along backing tracks to help you put these ideas into practice.