Rick Beato Modal Jazz Line Arranged for 6-String Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 6th July 2021
If you don’t already follow Rick Beato then you should check him out. He has one of the biggest serious music channels on YouTube with over 2 million followers. He’s a music teacher, multi instrumentalist and producer who teaches everything from music theory to ear training to improvisation to production techniques and much more. He has recently released a series of guitar lessons called Quick Lessons Pro in which he breaks down a number of brilliant melodic and harmonic ideas. I’ve been looking at some of these this week and here is a line from the very first lesson which I’ve arranged onto 6-string bass.
Csus Mixolydian Modal Line
The line is essentially based around Csus chord voicings and the mode in question is Mixolydian. The chords that I’m playing in the video are all diatonic to that mode. The progression is C7sus – C7sus/D – Bbadd9 – Gm11 – Csus – Cadd9.
Rick’s melodic and harmonic approach is absolutely beautiful, and you can hear the melody in this even played down two octaves. I’ve tabbed this in the positions I played it. Although the phrasing markings reflect how he wrote it more than how I played it. Some of my hammer-ons and slides are in different places to where he played them on guitar.
I’ve played the line two octaves below where Rick plays it on the guitar. I initially played it one octave lower, but I just enjoyed playing it more in the lower octave. It just felt like it fitted the range of the bass better. There is a challenge to recording a line like this in such a low register. Which is that when people listen to my videos on phone and laptop speakers, the speakers can’t cope with the low end. In order to mitigate that problem, I’ve eq’d out a lot of the low end. So it doesn’t quite have the impact that it had when I was playing it, but at least you can hear the notes on the low strings.
How I Approach Improvising on Dominant 7th Chords – Bass Practice Diary – 22nd June 2021
I’ve mentioned many times in previous videos that jazz musicians love dominant chords. They love them because there’s so many different ways you can play on them. Depending on the context, you can get away with playing any note on a dominant chord. But it doesn’t help you learn how to improvise if you think “play anything”. It helps if you think about strategies for improvisation. I think everyone who improvises has at least some kind of strategy. And a more experienced improviser probably has many strategies to draw upon. So when you’re practicing improvisation, don’t just pick your favourite strategy. Practice as many strategies as you can think of. And then you never know what you might discover.
To me, every scale is a sound. Or it creates a particular sound against a specific chord. So, when I’m improvising, I’m thinking about sounds, not scales. But, having said that, all of these scales form those sounds, so that’s why we think about scales when we study improvisation strategies. The important thing to remember, is that when you’re learning any of these scales. You are not just learning a fingering or a pattern on the fretboard. You are trying to learn the sound that it creates against a dominant chord. Here are the scales.
6-String Bass Jam in 6/8 – Johnny Cox & Lewis Davies – Bass Practice Diary – 15th June 2021
I’ve been thinking about 6/8 this week after I featured four 6/8 bass grooves in last week’s Bass Practice Diary video. My good friend Lewis Davies kindly recorded this 6/8 drum track for me and I’ve been jamming along with it with my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass. I’ve also been experimenting with my Line 6 Helix LT. You can hear some of the sounds I’ve been using in this video.
The Helix Patches
There are two Helix patches featured in this video. One is on the chords. It’s another Johnathan Cordy patch. Johnathan Cordy makes and sells Helix patches for guitar. I featured one of his patches a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to make my bass sound like a guitar. This patch is a little bit more subtle but I think it works really nicely with bass chords.
The other patch is one that I created myself. I haven’t made many of my own Helix patches. But I wanted something that could create a Kurt Rosenwinkel sound for my bass. I don’t think that anyone has created something like that yet, so I was forced to do it myself, and I’m quite happy with the result.
Kurt Rosenwinkel is a great guitarist and improviser with a very distinctive guitar sound. It’s a very compressed sound with the pick attack removed from the start of each note. The effect is created by some kind of volume swell going straight into a compressor. So the compressor evens out the sound of the swell, so you hear the note coming in almost instantly but without the initial transient when you hit the string. The sound also has added reverb and delay to enhance the effect.
String Skipping Arpeggios – Another 6-String Bass Exercise – Bass Practice Diary – 18th May 2021
This is another 6-string bass exercise featuring string skipping. The last one involved playing scales and skipping strings after every three notes. This one is a bit more difficult. It involves playing arpeggios and string skipping on every note. I first came across this exercise years ago when I saw it featured on an instructional video by the great guitarist Frank Gambale. It’s a tricky exercise to play on guitar or bass, but it sounds great. When I was thinking of ways to take my string skipping on bass to another level, I remembered this exercise and I set about trying to adapt it onto 6-string bass.
I’ve played the exercise in the key of A minor, which is the same key Frank Gambale plays it in. The exercise uses notes from the A harmonic minor scale arranged into three arpeggios. Chord I, A minor, chord IV, D minor and chord V, E. The A minor arpeggio is played as a triad using just the notes A, C and E. But the IV chord includes the note B on a D minor chord, which makes it Dm6. The V chord is really E7, but the exercise only features the notes of the major triad, E, G# & B. It’s played like this.
Autumn Leaves – Bass Duet – Double Bass & 6-String Electric Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 11 May 2021
I always thought it would be fun to make a jazz trio with double bass, electric bass and drums. In my head it would be something like this. However, my double bass skills are not the best. So ideally in this trio I would play the electric bass and the double bass would be played by someone who can solo, play with a bow and express themselves musically on the instrument.
I shot this video by recording the double bass part first. It was done in just one continuous take. At the point when I played the upright bass part, I hadn’t worked out any of the electric bass part. Having recorded the upright bass I then had a few goes at playing along with it with my Overwater Hollowbody 6-string bass. Once I was happy with what I was doing, I shot the bass guitar part. If you saw my video from two weeks ago featuring three jazz lines on 4-string bass, you might notice that I used one of the lines at the end of the first solo chorus.
I was basically just practicing improvising on a standard. It’s something I do quite regularly, although I rarely go as far as recording a bass line on the upright. Normally I’ll record the bass line on bass guitar and play over that. However, I feel like the double bass adds an extra layer of jazz authenticity, even with my limited double bass skills.
6-String Bass Duet – Fretless & Fretted – Warwick & Overwater – Bass Practice Diary – 20 April 2021
It seems that I’m in a contemplative mood after more than a year of lockdowns. There have been virtually no opportunities to play with other musicians. So, I’ve been recording on my own a lot. Recently, I’ve been trying to arrange material for these two basses, probably my favourite two basses. A fretted Overwater Hollowbody 6-string and a fretless Warwick Thumb SC 6-string bass. This arrangement came out of some Keith Jarrett improvisations that I was transcribing.
The Chord Progression
I’ve always felt that Keith Jarrett is a wonderful improviser. He regularly improvises entire solo piano concerts and he seems to effortlessly incorporate both jazz and classical influences. What I’ve played here is not exactly a transcription, but my own arrangement based on some of the harmonic ideas that I transcribed.
Here are diagrams for the chords I’m using. The diagrams are all written for 6-string bass in standard tuning. Don’t take the chord names too seriously. I considered not including any names above the chords, but I thought they might be helpful for locating the correct positions on the neck.
It’s hard to find accurate names for some chord shapes. For example, look at the last chord. It includes two D’s, an Ab and an Eb. It’s like an Ab Lydian triad (root, #4th & 5th) in the first inversion. So, I’ve called it Abmaj7(#11)/D. However, it doesn’t have a major third, C. The major 7th G is not in the chord either, but it is played by the fretless bass as a melody note. So, the chord symbol isn’t very helpful.
So, some of the chord symbols are helpful and others aren’t, don’t take them too seriously. I’m fairly certain that Keith Jarrett doesn’t think about chord symbols when he plays and I certainly didn’t think about chord symbols when I played this. I didn’t put the names on the chords until after I shot this.
In the performance, I played the chord sequence through twice in its entirety. Also, I used the first two chords played repeatedly as both an intro and an outro.
Slow Train – A Bob Dylan song performed by Johnny Cox
It’s now been over a year since musicians in the UK were last able to play together with other musicians. So, I’ve recently decided to do something that I’ve never done before, record and mix an entire track on my own including vocals. It feels like a big step to put this out on my channel. I’m not a singer and I don’t ever practice singing. I’ve been using Bob Dylan’s back catalogue as a source of material. His lyrics are unbelievably good and I also have a fighting chance of being able to sing them. I’ve recorded four of his songs so far. You can find the other three on my other YouTube channel called Johnny Cox Guitar & Bass School.
I’ve featured many of my musical influences on this channel, but I’ve never played anything by Bob Dylan until now. I guess that’s mostly because I’m not a singer. And without anyone to sing the lyrics, there didn’t seem any possibility of featuring one of his songs. However, recently during lockdown I’ve decided to work on music production and editing vocals. Without any other musicians to work with I’ve been singing Bob Dylan songs myself.
I’ve been listening to Dylan for my entire life (literally, his albums were playing at home since I was too young to remember). So, by now I know a lot of the lyrics off by heart, and singing them is so much fun because he is a truly brilliant lyricist.
I can remember this song, Slow Train, and the album of the same name as being something of a soundtrack to my childhood. My mother was and still is a Bob Dylan fan. Slow Train was released four years before I was born and for some reason, as a small child, I took a particular shine to it. It seems odd to me that I still listen now to an album that I used to like when I was four years old, but I guess it shows consistency in my character if nothing else.
Slow Train Coming
The song and the album were both released in 1979. This was the first of his so-called “gospel” albums following his conversion to Christianity in the late 70’s. But this song is a classic Dylan protest song that could draw parallels with some of his early work from the 60’s. The song was partly written prior to his religious conversion and partly after. So, the lyrics are not overtly Christian but they do contain references. Like “fools trying to manipulate Satan”. But really it’s a song about the state of America at the time he was writing. And as with a lot of great art, much of the content still seems relevant over 40 years later.
The symbolism of the train is never explained or made clear in the lyrics. I think it’s intentionally left ambiguous for the listener to make their own interpretation. Is the train a religious metaphor, bring with it salvation and riding to some kind of promised land? Or is the train bringing something altogether more sinister. Such questions were probably lost on me as a child. At that point I think I just liked it because it had a funky bass line and some brilliant guitar playing from Mark Knopfler. But as the years have passed I’ve come to appreciate it as a brilliant example of Dylan’s lyric writing as well.
This Exercise Might Drive You Crazy! Octave Shifting on Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 30 March 2021
This is an exercise I came up with during a lesson with one of my students. The student in question asked me if we could work on some octave displacement ideas. The idea being that you can start a line in one octave and shift into another octave somewhere in the line. It’s actually a very musical way to liven up your lines and bass fills. Here’s a simple example.
It’s essentially just a descending A major scale. It starts on the root note on the 14th fret of the 1st string and it descends to the fifth, E, on the 14th fret of the 2nd string. Then, instead of playing the 4th, D, on the 12th fret of the same string, you can play the open string and continue the scale one octave below. If you’re asking why? try using this as a bass fill on a tune in A major, or any of the modes of A major. It’s a simple way to make a scale sound like it’s not just a scale.
This exercise could drive you crazy
But that’s not the exercise that I’m sharing with you today. In the the lesson we asked the question, how can you practice thinking in two different octaves? And that’s when I came up with this exercise. I warn you, this is an exercise that messes with your head. It also leads to some big left-hand stretches. So it presents a technical challenge as well as a mental one.
The concept is simple. Take any scale in two octaves. Then play the scale, but shift octaves after every single note. So, you play the first note in the lower octave and the second in the higher octave. Then the third in the lower octave and the fourth in the higher etc. Here is the exercise written out both ascending and descending in the key of A on 4-string bass.
Here is an extended version of the same exercise written for 6-string bass. This time the key is Bb major.
Practicing Jazz on My Overwater Hollowbody – Up Jumped Spring – Bass Practice Diary – 23 March 2021
In this video, I’m improvising over the chord changes of the jazz standard Up Jumped Spring after recoding the chords into a looper. If you were wondering why you haven’t seen this beautiful bass on my channel for a few months. It’s because she’s been back with Chris May and the team at Overwater having a new bridge installed. However, she was returned to me this week and I’m so happy to have her back.
She’s my custom made Overwater Hollowbody 6-string bass. The first fretted version to be made and the first with a 34″ scale length. The bass features a wooden acoustic style bridge, but with adjustable saddles, like an electric bass bridge. The first bridge was made from ebony, and I was finding that the wood was slightly too soft to hold some of the saddles in place and the intonation was slipping. Chris very kindly fashioned this new bridge from a very hard wood from South Africa. So far it seems to be holding the intonation perfectly.
Practicing with a looper
In the video I’m demonstrating something that I’ve done regularly in my practice for well over a decade. I bought my first looper pedal about 15 years ago, and I’ve found loopers to be an amazing practice tool. One of my favourite techniques for practicing using a looper is to record the chord changes to a jazz standard into the looper and then improvise over the looped changes. In this video I’m using the chord changes of Freddie Hubbard’s jazz waltz Up Jumped Spring.
I’ve often been asked “what is a good looper to buy?” And it’s a question I always feel uncomfortable answering. Because I’ve used various loopers from cheap ones with just a single button to expensive ones laden with features. Which one you choose depends on what you’re planning to use it for. If you just want one for the kind of practice that I’m doing in this video, then buy a very cheap one. It will do the job. However if you want something to perform with, then it’s impossible to advise you. Because you will have to choose a looper that has features that correspond to how you’re planning to use it in performance.
I recently purchased a Headrush Looperboard, which is like a recording device/audio interface/live looper all rolled into one. So far I’m impressed by it, but I haven’t yet had the chance to use it in a live performance as the UK has been in COVID lockdown continuously since I first bought it.
However, if you’re interested in trying looping for the first time, I would suggest buying something very cheap to try it out at home. And then you can upgrade later on if and when you start to feel like you need to.
Freedom Jazz Dance – Melody on 6-String Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 9th March 2021
Miles Smiles has been one of my favourite Miles Davis albums for a long time. The most famous composition on the album is probably Footprints by Wayne Shorter. Which is a minor blues that has become a staple of jazz jam sessions. Today, I’m looking at another track on that album Freedom Jazz Dance.
The Second Great Miles Davis Quintet
The Miles Davis band at that time (1966) contained four young musicians who would go on to become some of the most important figures in modern jazz. Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams are all great composers as well as improvisors and band leaders. So, it was a little bit unusual for them to record a tune that was written by someone who wasn’t in the band.
Freedom Jazz Dance was written by a tenor saxophonist called Eddie Harris. He had recorded the tune himself a year earlier. When you listen to the Eddie Harris version of Freedom Jazz Dance, you quickly realise that the Miles Davis band has completely reconceptualised and recomposed the tune. Harris’ version is built on a funky groove between the bass and piano on a Bb7 chord. The melody is played in one continuous sequence with three phrases.
In Miles Davis’ version of the tune, the melody is broken down into the three phrases. They are separated by space to improvise for the rhythm section. Initially only by bass and drums. When the melody is repeated, Herbie Hancock begins to interject chord voicings. The Bb7 harmony from the original is retained, but the funky groove is gone and replaced by an altered dominant sound, and a much freer and more improvised approach to the groove.
I think Ron Carter is one of the most important bass players in the history of jazz. He started his career as a classically trained cellist, who struggled to get work in touring orchestras at the time due to racist segregation laws in the Deep South. So, he made the switch to jazz double bass and became one of the most prolific musicians of the second half of the twentieth century. According to his wikipedia page, he has appeared on over 2,200 recording sessions, making him one of the most recorded musicians in history.
He still plays today at age 83 and I’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform live on a couple of occasions. The first time in 2003, when I was still a teenager, he was leading a quintet of much younger musicians. He had adopted the Miles Davis role as senior member mentoring the young talent. It was a truly memorable gig. I can still vividly remember the rendition of Flamenco Sketches that they played that night. It sent shivers down my spine. After that I saw him play one more time in a drummer-less jazz trio featuring guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Mulgrew Miller. It was musicianship of the highest caliber.
When I listen back to Miles Smiles, which I have been doing this week. It reminds me what an incredible musician he is. I think the partnership he shared with drummer Tony Williams was one of the most brilliant and innovative rhythm sections in jazz history. There are good reasons behind why the members of that band went on to become some of the biggest stars in modern jazz.
Why Learn a Jazz Tune on Bass?
I know some bass players might not agree, but I think it’s important to learn to play melodies. I think bass players are often guilty of only looking at the chords and not thinking much about the melody. This tune is a great demonstration of why that approach won’t always work. There is only one chord here, Bb7. If you only look at that, it doesn’t tell you anything about the composition. Only once you look at the melody will you understand the composition.
From a purely technical perspective, learning jazz melodies will also help to build your technique on bass. And it will also help you learn about jazz phrasing and vocabulary. I would suggest that anyone wanting to learn how to improvise in a jazz style, needs to learn as many jazz tunes as possible. Here is how I play the Freedom Jazz Dance melody on 6-string bass.