Spanish Phrygian Sounds – Bass Practice Diary 5

Spanish Phrygian Sounds on Fretless Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 22nd May 2018

This week I’ve been working on Chick Corea’s wonderful composition Spain with my fretless Warwick Thumb SC. In this video I’m demonstrating a little harmonic trick I discovered for playing over the first two chords, G major and F#7. It creates a beautiful Spanish phrygian sound over the F#7 chord. Read on and I’ll explain what that means and how to play it.

Chick Corea’s Spain

Spain is not only one of Chick Corea’s most popular compositions, it’s one of the most popular pieces in all of modern jazz. It was originally recorded in 1972. The following year Spain appeared on the album Light As a Feather by Chick Corea’s band Return To Forever.

It’s popularity has endured and Chick Corea still loves to play Spain at most of his concerts. That’s an unusual situation for a jazz musician with such a varied repertoire and such a wide variety of projects and collaborations. I make a point of going to Chick Corea’s gigs whenever he’s in London on tour and I’ve now seen him play live more times than I can keep track of. There are very few occasions that he hasn’t played Spain in some guise or another.

So why is this composition so popular, why has it’s appeal endured and grown over nearly half a century? For me, the essence of this piece and the secret to it’s enduring appeal is the beautiful Spanish phrygian harmony. It’s an unusual sound to hear in modern jazz and in some ways it’s quite hard to define. But it’s that Spanish phrygian harmonic influence that I’ve tried to get to the bottom of in this practice diary.

What is Phrygian?

Phrygian is the name given to one of the modes of the major scale. Modes are scales with the same combination of harmonic intervals. If I play a phrygian scale starting on F#, it’s the same notes as a D major scale. As I mentioned in the video, you can think of the key for Spain as being D major. And if you play all the notes from a D major scale over the G and F# chords then it will give you a lydian sound over the G and a phrygian sound over the F#.

Check out my Lydian Sounds – Bass Practice Diary here

So, phrygian is the obvious scale to play over an F# root note in the key of D major. But that’s not actually what I’m doing. As I explained in the video, the scale I’m playing is in fact not specifically a phrygian scale. But it does, to my ears, have a phrygian sound.

How Can You Create a Spanish Sound on the F#7 Chord?

The D major scale contains the notes D, E, F#, G, A, B and C#. In the video I use this notes on the G major chord creating a Lydian sound. An issue arises if you try to continue using those exact same notes over the F#7 chord. An F# phrygian scale implies an F#m7 chord because it contains an A natural which is the minor 3rd of an F# chord. The F#7 chord contains an A# which is the major 3rd. You could play an F# phrygian scale over an F#7 chord on the A natural would function as a #9. However, if you try and play this way you will be leaving out one of the most important defining notes of the F#7 chord, the major 3rd. It will be a weaker sound.

If you play the notes of the D major scale, but change one note, A natural becomes A sharp. D, E, F#, G, A#, B and C#. Then you will retain the phrygian sound but also have a much stronger harmony over the F#7 chord. I would call this scale a phrygian dominant scale and it’s actually a mode of the harmonic minor scale.

What Makes it a Phrygian Dominant Scale?

The character of the phrygian sound comes from the semi-tone interval between the root and the second. In this case, the notes F# and G. It’s dominant because it’s played over a dominant 7th chord and contains all the notes of an F# dominant 7th chord, unlike the standard phrygian scale which is minor in it’s tonality because it contains all the notes of a minor 7th chord.

If anything, this scale has an even more Spanish sound than the standard phrygian because it contains all the notes of two major triads a semi-tone apart. If you analyse the notes of the scale, it contains F#, A# and C# (F# major triad) and G, B and D (G major triad). Play these two triads one after the other or any other two triads a semi-tone apart and the sound takes you straight to Spain (the country, not just the composition). It’s the presence of these two triads that give the phrygian dominant scale it’s Spanish sound. The only other note in the scale is the E natural, which is the dominant 7th of F#, making it a Phrygian dominant scale.

Victor Wooten Slap Bass Techniques on 6-string Bass – Bass Practice Diary 4

Victor Wooten Techniques on 6-string Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 15th May 2018

This week I’m doing something that I don’t don very often, I’m practising slap bass. And I’m learning from the very best by playing excerpts from a book called The Best of Victor WootenIn this video I’m demonstrating a passage from a piece called A Show of Hands.

Why Use a 6-string Bass? Victor Wooten always plays 4-string basses!

There are two reasons why I’m using my Warwick “Steve Bailey” 6-string bass for this.

The first is that it’s the bass I use on most of my gigs. I usually play finger style but I’m often asked to play slap bass on one or two tunes in a set. So, I need to know that my slap bass chops are ready to go when required. And I need to know I can do it on my first choice gigging instrument. I can’t stop during a gig to switch onto a 4 or 5 string bass. Also, I often need to play slap bass on just one part of a song and finger style on other parts.

The second reason is that many of the transcriptions in The Best Of Victor Wooten, including A Show of Hands are written and were originally performed by Victor Wooten on a 4-string bass tuned A-D-G-C. He calls this his tenor bass. This tuning is the same as the first four strings of a 6-string bass. It’s not possible to achieve this tuning on a standard 4 or 5 string bass without changing the strings or using a capo. My 6-string bass can play all of the transcriptions in the book at the correct pitch. Including all the pieces played on Standard E-A-D-G tuning and the A-D-G-C tenor tuning.

Is it harder to play slap bass on a 6-string bass?

Yes, but the more I practice, the less I notice the difference. There was a time when I used to do all of my slap bass practice on 4-string bass. I didn’t like slapping on the 6-string because the first string, C, felt too small to slap. And it got in the way when trying to pull the second string, G.

I started practising slap bass techniques on my 6-string bass for the reason I outlined above. I was playing 6-string bass on virtually all my gigs and when I was called upon to slap, it felt awkward. My slap bass chops on my 6-string were not where they needed to be.

So I realised I needed to practice slap bass on my 6-string bass. Now I feel comfortable playing slap techniques on my 6-string including on the high C-string. As a result I get all the benefits of extended range that you get from playing a 6-string. I highly recommend learning to slap on a 6-string bass, it might take a bit longer to master but for me the benefits of the extended range and the versatility far out weigh the challenges.

 

Oteil Burbridge Chord Voicings – Bass Practice Diary 3

Oteil Burbridge Chord Voicings – Bass Practice Diary – 8th May 2018

This week I’ve been working on chord voicings based on a chord that I heard Oteil Burbridge play. Check out this video and the chords are written out at the bottom of the page.

Oteil Burbridge is a wonderful bass player. A fellow 6-string player with an incredible grasp of melody and harmony. If you’re not familiar with his playing I would highly recommend checking him out. When I heard him play the chord I demonstrated in the video I thought it had a really interesting and modern sound.

Intervals and Keys

When I’ve found a really cool voicing like this one, I like to try and find every possible permutation of it. A great place to start is with major keys.

Every chord is a sequence of intervals. See my video on intervals here. There are four  notes in this particular chord voicing which creates three intervals. Starting at the lowest note you go up a fifth to the next note. Then a second to the third note and then another fifth to the fourth and final note.

So I started by working out every permutation of these three intervals within a major key. Each key gives you seven chords. I’ve demonstrated these in the video in the key of F major. So I’m using only the notes F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E.

If you want to take this a step further you could apply the same process to other scales, such as harmonic minor, melodic minor or diminished.

You could also work out every possible mathematical permutation of a fifth, a second and a fifth. A fifth could be a perfect fifth or a flat fifth and a second could be a major second or a minor second. Arguably you could include a sharp fifth and a sharp second as well which would dramatically increase the number of possible permutations. However, I would prefer to think of a sharp second as a minor third and a sharp fifth as a flat thirteenth.

They may not all sound great and some of them might be quite tough to play. However, it would be a great exercise in working out harmony.

Here are the seven chords I worked out in the key of F major using the Oteil Burbridge chord voicing.

Oteil Burbridge Chord Voicings
Chord Voicings in the Key of F

Quite Firm by Laurence Cottle – Bass Practice Diary 2

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.

When I play this piece I use a three finger technique with my right hand. It features my thumb, which also provides string damping, and my first and third fingers. If you’re interested in learning more about this right hand technique then please click on this link to find my video lesson on right hand techniques.

If you’d like to hear more from Laurence Cottle then check out his website LaurenceCottle.com.

 

Lydian Bass Sounds – Bass Practice Diary 1

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.

Click here to check out my video lesson on intervals if you’re not sure what a semi-tone is.

Havona by Jaco Pastorius

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.

Lydian Bass Exercise
Lydian Exercise for Bass Guitar

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.

Straight In Time – A Piece from Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove

Straight In Time from Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove

This video post features a piece from my book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide to Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar.

Electric Bass - Improve Your Groove
Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove

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.

For more information about the book, use this link

Acoustic Bass Guitar – Autumn Leaves – Solo Arrangement

Warwick Alien Deluxe Acoustic Bass Guitar

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.

In conclusion

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.

Warwick Hellborg Preamp

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.

Acoustic Bass Guitar
Warwick Alien Deluxe 6-String Acoustic Bass Guitar

Autumn Leaves – 6-String Acoustic Bass Arrangement PDF

8th and 16th Note Bass Lines – Part 2 – Sixteenth Note Bass Grooves

Eighth and Sixteenth Note Bass Grooves

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 it in 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.

Sixteenth note bass groove
Sixteenth Note Bass Line for Electric Bass

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!

All of the examples in this series of videos come from my 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

Click on the link to find the book. https://geni.us/bassgroove.

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.

Happy practising!