Quite Firm by Laurence Cottle – Bass Practice Diary – 1st May 2018
This week I’ve been working on a bass chart written by the wonderful British bass player Laurence Cottle.
The first time I heard Quite Firm was when I was a teenager. I can still vividly remember it because it completely blew me away. Years later, Laurence Cottle was kind enough to give me his bass chart for it. It’s a piece I dig out every now and then when I want to work on my finger style chops and my time keeping. It’s a roast trying to keep up with Laurence’s recording which features his incredible band including some of the cream of British jazz musicians.
Lydian Sounds for Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 24th April 2018
In this practice diary I’m demonstrating lydian sounds over major chords using my fretless Warwick Thumb SC. My inspiration for this is Jaco Pastorius’ composition Havona from the album Heavy Weather by Weather Report.
What does Lydian mean?
Don’t be put off by words like lydian and mode. They’re much simpler than you might think. You can think of modes as types of scales. Lydian is the name of one of the modes of the major scale. In fact it’s only one note different from a major scale. The fourth note of the scale is a semi-tone higher than the major scale.
Jaco uses a lot of lydian harmony in Havona. I’ve taken four chords from Havona, E major, C major, B major and G major and played two bars on each chord.
Most jazz musicians prefer to use the lydian scale rather than the major scale when playing over major chords. The reason is that the natural 4th found in the major scale clashes with the third in the major chord. But the raised 4th doesn’t clash. In fact it creates a really nice sound.
For the first four bars I’m playing a seven note phrase using 16th notes. I’ve taken the phrase from Jaco’s solo in Havona, he plays it over an E major chord. The notes in E lydian are E, F#, G#, A#, B, C# and D#. Each time I repeat the seven note phrase, I move it one note up the scale. Using this method I explore all of the possible harmonisations of this phrase within the mode. After two bars on E major I switch to the notes of C lydian without stopping or altering the seven note phrase.
The reason I’m using an odd number of notes is so the phrase will start on a different subdivision each time I change the harmony. So I’m exploring every possible harmonic variation and every possible 16th note rhythmic variation of the phrase.
16th note and Triplet phrases
Another aspect of Jaco’s solo on Havona is the use of triplet as well as 16th note phrases. For this reason I’ve used a triplet phrase taken from Jaco’s solo for the next four bars. Starting on B lydian, Ive played the phrase and this time moved it down one step each time I’ve repeated it. After two bars on B the harmony switches to G lydian and the phrase continues.
Here is the TAB of what I played in the video
I’ve written the TAB for 6-string bass in standard tuning. You can adapt these ideas for 4 or 5-string bass. You could start by playing the phrase one octave lower. ie. playing it exactly as it’s written without the 8va marking.
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.
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-Ka. Ta 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The next example for you to practise is a funky bass groove that features lots of offbeats.
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.
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.
The piece is called Straight In Time because it features a straight eighth note feel throughout. Having said that, it isn’t a straight forward groove to play. There are tricky eighth note syncopations to negotiate and a technically challenging section in which you must play on every subdivision.
Straight in Time comes with a full track and a backing track with the bass guitar track removed. In the video I’m playing along with the backing track, just like you can if you buy the book.
In this video, I play my own arrangement of the jazz standard Autumn Leaves on my Warwick Alien Deluxe 6-string acoustic bass guitar.
Why a 6-string acoustic bass guitar?
I wrote this arrangement specially to play on my Warwick Alien Deluxe acoustic bass guitar. I’ve tried playing it on my 6-string electric basses and it’s easier, but I don’t like the sound as much. There’s something about the sound of a 6-string acoustic bass guitar. It’s somewhere between a baritone acoustic guitar and a double bass.
How does it sound?
I’ve tried to demonstrate in the video that the Warwick Alien Deluxe has a very clear sound across it’s entire range. From the clear low B-string all the way up to soloing above the 12th fret. It has a very clear and pleasant acoustic sound.
How good is the build quality?
Very good. Surprisingly good in fact. So, all of Warwick’s acoustic basses are now made in China. Even the more expensive Warwick ALIEN. The Warwick Alien Deluxe 6 features all of the standard Warwick hardware including Warwick Machine heads and Just-a-Nut III. It also features Fishman electronics including a piezo pickup and a Fishman Prefix Plus T Electronic preamp.
However, the most important thing about the build quality, and the thing that makes Warwick instruments stand out in general is the quality of the woods used. The Warwick Alien Deluxe 6 boasts a mahogany neck, a wenge fingerboard, a laminated spruce top and, as you can see in the video, beautiful back and sides made of laminated Bubinga. It’s the quality of the look of these materials and the tones that they produce that really makes you feel like you’re playing a high quality professional instrument.
The Warwick Alien Deluxe 6 is an outstanding, high quality professional acoustic bass guitar. It is fairly expensive, but not considering the build quality of the instrument and the quality of the materials used.
If you are looking for a high quality, great looking acoustic bass with a clear sound across a wide range from low B-string and playable above the 12th fret then the Warwick Alien Deluxe 6 is the instrument for You.
In the video, I play the Warwick Alien Deluxe 6 through my Warwick Hellborg rig. The Hellborg Preamp is quite simply the best preamp for bass on the market and I use it for virtually all my recording. It’s so good that I use it when recording other instruments and vocals as well.
In this video lesson you’ll learn all about sixteenth note bass grooves. How they differ from eighth note grooves and some practical advice for practising them.
What’s the difference between eighth and sixteenth note feels?
I explained in Part 1 of this lesson that when you divide a beat into two, you get an eighth note feel. If you divide each beat and each off-beat into two, so that each beat is divided into four, then you will have a sixteenth note feel.
When you play eighth note grooves, you can place notes either on the beat or off the beat. On Ta or on Ka. When playing sixteenth note grooves you can still place notes on the beat, but there are now three different places where you can place notes off the beat.
There is still a conventional off-beat, as there was with eighth note grooves. This is the point in time exactly equally distant from the beat before and the beat after. However, there are now two other sub-divisions. The first comes between the beat and the off-beat, and the second comes after the off-beat. All four sixteenth note sub-divisions must be equal. None of them is longer or shorter than the others.
Learn to feel all four sixteenth note sub-divisions individually.
In Part 1 I explained that in order to groove in an eighth note feel, you must feel the beats and the off-beats. So if you want to groove while playing a sixteenth note feel, then you must also feel the other two sixteenth note sub-divisions. And, to have great timing you should be able to accurately place a single note on any sixteenth note sub-divisions.
Each of the four sub-divisions has it’s own unique feel when you place a single note on it. Just as the beat has a very distinct feel from the off-beat. So the other two sixteenth note sub-divisions have their own distinct feel.
How do I improve my sixteenth note groove?
First you need four syllables to represent the four sixteenth note sub-divisions, Ta-Ka-Di-Mi. I used Ta-Ka to represent the beat and off-beat in eighth note grooves. For sixteenth note grooves Ta is the beat, Di is now the off-beat and Ka and Mi represent the additional sixteenth note sub-divisions.
As with eighth note grooves, the key to having great timing is the ability to place a single note very accurately onto a sub-division. If fact that is the key to having great timing no matter what the feel or style of music. So begin by trying the exercise demonstrated in the video. Say Ta-Ka-Di-Mi, making sure you say itin time, with every syllable equal in length. Use a metronome or drum beat to help if you need to. Then try playing a single note on each of the four syllables. First Ta, then Ka, then Di, then Mi. This should help you to experience the different feels of the four sub-division.
Once you’ve done that, try playing this sixteenth note example from the video slowly.
Try reciting Ta-Ka-Di-Mi while you play it, as I’ve demonstrated in the video. Play it as slowly as you need to in order to place all of the notes accurately. Once you can do that, try gradually increasing the tempo. Don’t try playing the example fast until you’ve mastered it slowly.
Why you should always start by practising slowly
A good rule of thumb to remember is this. If you can’t play something in time slowly, your time feel won’t be good when you play faster. I’ve often heard students say that it’s harder to play something slow than fast. It can often feel that way. The reason is that playing something slowly makes all of the little errors of timing very obvious. They’re not so obvious when you play fast. However, if you want to improve your groove, you need to get rid of those little timing errors. Those notes that are placed slightly before or after the sub-division they were meant to be on. And that involves playing very accurately slowly, and then gradually speeding up while maintaining the same levels of accuracy. That’s how you improve your bass groove!
The book contains 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.
This is an important topic for bass players because most music has either an eighth note or sixteenth note feel. So, every bass player should know when and how to use eighth and sixteenth notes.
What are they and how do I master them on bass?
In this video lesson I’ll demonstrate the difference between bass lines with an eighth and a sixteenth note feel. Then, I’ll explain how to improve your rhythmic accuracy when playing these feels so that you will improve your groove.
Listen to both examples either by watching the video or by using the Mp3 audio tracks that accompany the book. It’s so important to listen to the examples as well as reading them. If you only read them without listening then you’re only getting half the story.
The first thing that I want you to notice about these examples is that they’re quite similar. The speed and chord progression are the same and they contain mostly the same notes. I deliberately wrote them that way because I wanted the only difference to be the rhythmic feel. The first example has an eighth note feel and the second has a sixteenth note feel.
What is an eighth note feel?
An eighth note feel means that every beat is divided into two. So each beat contains a beat and an off-beat.
The off-beat is the point in time exactly equally distant from the beat before and the beat after. The eighth note example above has four beats in each bar so there are four beats and four off-beats in each bar. Therefore there are eight different places in each bar where you can place a note either on the beat or off the beat. Hence it is called an eighth note feel.
It can only be called an eighth note feel if all the notes are placed on either beats or off-beats. If a note is placed on any other sub-division then it’s no longer an eighth note feel.
An eighth note feel does not mean that you have to play eight notes in every bar on all of the eight sub-divisions. It means that all of the notes that you play are placed on either beats or off-beats.
How do I improve my eighth note groove?
In most cases when you’re playing an eighth note feel, you’ll play with an eighth note drum beat. Meaning that the drums are playing the eighth note sub-division. If you want your bass line to groove you need to make sure your notes sit very accurately in time with the drummers sub-divisions.
However, you should also be able to groove playing eighth notes even when you’re not playing with a drum beat. In order to improve your eighth note grooves you need to have a system for feeling the eighth note sub-division when you play.
My system involves using the syllables Ta-Ka. Using this system Ta represents the beat and Ka represents the off-beat. Recite Ta-Ka four times making sure that every syllable has equal length, Ta-Ka / Ta-Ka / Ta-Ka / Ta-Ka. This represents one bar of eighth notes. Four Ta‘s represent the four beats and four Ka‘s represent the four off-beats. Try reciting the Ta-Ka‘s in time with the audio example in the video (you’ll find it at 1m52s). If you can do that and keep it in time, then you are feeling the eighth note sub-division.
How should I practise to improve my eighth note feel?
You will improve your eighth note bass grooves by playing off-beats very accurately. I hear a lot of bass players who play on the beat very well, but they seem to guess where the off-beat is. They play it either too early or too late.
The key to having great timing is the ability to place a single note very accurately onto a sub-division. Practise this by first placing a note just on the beats (Ta‘s) and then just on the off-beats (Ka‘s). I’ve demonstrated this in the video. If you’re struggling to keep in time while you do this, make sure you practise it slowly in time with either a metronome or drum beat.
In order to play eighth note grooves really well, you first need to feel the beats and the off-beats and you need to be aware of which notes land on the beats and which land on the off-beats. Then you need to make sure that the notes on the beats land perfectly on the Ta syllables and the notes on the off-beats land perfectly on the Ka syllables. If you do that, your bass groove will be superb when playing eighth notes either with or without a drum beat.
What About Sixteenth Note Grooves?
Please continue to Part 2 of this lesson, you can find it using the link below. In Part 2 you will learn everything you need to know about sixteenth note bass grooves.
Everything you need to know about harmony on the bass
Harmony is a lot simpler than most people think.
Like it or not the bass is a harmony instrument, bass lines have been around for centuries before the electric bass was invented and they’re the lowest harmony part. So Harmony and rhythm are our main functions as bass players. Rhythm is a much bigger and (in my opinion) much more interesting topic, but I wanted to make this video to show you exactly how simple harmony is.
Know the Chromatic Scale
The key to understanding harmony is first of all knowing that there are only 12 notes. Chromatic scale is simply a technical term for what you get when you play all 12 notes one after the other. If you’re not yet familiar with the chromatic scale, that is where you should start. It’s easier than learning the alphabet, there are more than twice as many letters in the alphabet than there are notes.
How Do You Avoid Playing Wrong Notes?
As bass players we usually play one note at a time. I know that you can play chords on the bass, I’ve made videos about it, but it isn’t our primary function. The term bass line implies one note at a time.
I am firmly of the opinion that there is no such thing as a wrong note. There are only 12 notes in total so if we start classifying some of these as wrong, we’re seriously limiting our options. There are inside notes and outside notes (I’ll explain these as I go on) and it’s our job as musicians to find ways of using them that makes sense musically.
Learn To Play Arpeggios!
So our job in terms of harmony is to choose which note out of the 12 we play at any one time. And the first thing that every bass player needs to know is chord tones or arpeggios. Arpeggio is just a classical term meaning all the notes of a chord played one at a time. Guitar players have chords and bass players have arpeggios. If you don’t know your arpeggios you will end up playing root notes all the time and your basslines will be boring.
How many notes in an arpeggio depends on the chord in question, but lets take an A7 chord for example. There are 4 notes (demonstrate). 4 out of 12. That’s already 1/3rd of all the notes and the chord tones are the strongest notes you can use in a harmonic situation.
What are Inside and Outside Notes?
Next is scale tones. Scales tend to have seven notes in them (not all I know, but standard major and minor scales and all their modes do). We’ve used four of them already in the arpeggio so there are three others that we can use as passing tones. These are the inside notes, notes that belong in the harmony. The remaining five notes that are not within the scale are the outside notes, you can think of these as chromatic passing notes.
So, Here’s Everything You Need to Know!
And that’s it, there are 12 notes, chord tones, scale tones and chromatic passing tones. It’s that simple. Your job is to learn what each of them sounds like, and the only way to do that is play them as much as you can. So cancel your application for that three year college course on advanced harmony and instead go forth and play your bass!
What Else is There?
Harmony and rhythm are the two biggest worlds in the language of music. And rhythm is much simpler than you might think as well, once you know how to sub-divide a beat into two, three and four. You know most of what you need to know about rhythm, but if you want more detail on rhythm you need to get my book Improve Your Groove. Here’s a link, https://geni.us/bassgroove