Tag Archives: Bass guitar

Create Chromatic Jazz Lines – Bass Practice Diary 142

Create Chromatic Jazz Lines by Using Passing Notes – Bass Practice Diary – 19th January 2021

When you improvise a jazz line, you can put a chromatic passing note anywhere, right? That’s true up to a point. But your lines will be significantly improved if you think about where you place them. Chromatic passing notes can be used to connect scale notes and chord notes. In this video I’m looking mostly at scales, but you still need to think about where you play the chord tones. Otherwise your chromatic jazz lines can sound like you’re just playing a chromatic scale.

Chromatic Passing Notes

The idea behind chromatic passing notes is very simple. You simply move between two notes chromatically (in half steps). Major scales consist of five whole step intervals (whole tones) and two half step intervals (semitones). That means that there are five places in a major scale (or any of it’s modes) where you could place a chromatic passing note. Between any of the five whole tone intervals.

If you place a chromatic passing note in all five places, you have a chromatic scale. We don’t want our lines to sound like we’re playing a chromatic scale. We want them to sound like they belong with the harmony of the music. So, to make a chromatic jazz line sound like it fits the harmony, you need to think about what the chords are. And where are the chord tones in your line.

My Chromatic Jazz Line

Chromatic Jazz Line on a II V I in D Major

This is the line I featured in the video. I’ve used a chromatic passing note on the V chord A7. I’m thinking of the whole line as being in D major, so I’m using the notes of the D major scale. I’m also thinking about the chord tones for each chord. So, on the A7 I’m thinking about A, C#, E & G. The one chromatic passing note that I’ve included on the second bar is placed between the root note, A and the 7th, G. I’ve done that to ensure that both notes land on the beats, while the chromatic passing note (G#) lands on the off-beat.

The rest of the notes in that bar are taken from the D major scale (or A mixolydian mode). The addition of that one passing note between the root and 7th ensures that a chord note lands on every beat. The notes on the off-beats act as passing notes (either scale notes or that one chromatic note). This basically gives us what is known as a bebop scale.

Bebop Scales and Beyond

A bebop scale on a dominant 7th chord is just the notes of the mixolydian mode with the addition of that one chromatic passing note between the root and 7th. It’s a useful scale because if you start by playing a chord tone on beat one, as I did. You can play the scale either descending or ascending. If you play 8th notes starting on beat one, you will hit a chord tone on every beat.

That’s not the only bebop scale. There is one for major chords as well that involves adding a chromatic passing note between the fifth and sixth notes of a major scale. There are three other bebop scales which I might cover in a future video. The dominant 7th version that I’ve used here is the one I use most often.

But what if you want to go beyond bebop scales and play more than one chromatic passing note in a line? I’ve given one example in the video of playing a chromatic line that goes from 3rd down to 7th chromatically.

Chromatic Scale Jazz Line

It’s essentially just a sequence from the chromatic scale. But it works as a jazz line because I’ve planned where the chord tones land. The 3rd lands on beat one, the 9th on beat two. The 9th is a chord extension, but it can be treated as a chord tone for the purposes of making jazz lines. Then the root note is on beat three and the 7th on beat four. When you listen to it played against an A7 chord, you can hear the sound of the chord coming from this chromatic line.

Sandberg “Superlight” 6-String Bass – California II TT6 SL

Sandberg “Superlight” 6-String Bass – California II TT6 SL – Lightweight Six String Bass

Update 13/01/2021 I have now spoken to Sandberg and the Sandberg distributer in the UK. I’ve learned that there are two more SL 6-string basses planned to be built. However, they are unlikely to be completed before Autumn 2021. Both basses will be sold by Bass Direct.

The answer to the question, “why did they only make one?” is that the body was cut by accident. Apparently, they had intended to cut a 6-string body from alder. The person cutting the body picked up the Paulownia by mistake. I believe that it was either Bass Direct themselves or the UK distributor that requested that the Paulownia body be made up into an SL 6-string bass.

I also found out that the Paulownia wood used by Sandberg is grown in Spain. It comes originally from South East Asia but it has been imported into Spain and it grows well there.

My Original Post

Here is my new Sandberg Superlight 6-String Bass. Currently the only one in existence, but keep checking this page to find out if and when there will be more. I’ve been trying to find a good lightweight 6-string bass for several years and I was very lucky to find this instrument. I came across it on the Bass Direct website. They are one of the UK’s official Sandberg dealers.

Sandberg SL basses

I did some research into Sandberg Superlight or SL basses when I first heard of them a couple of years ago. They are made in Germany. They make the bodies out of a very lightweight and strong wood called Paulownia. I stopped researching the basses because they only offered them as 4-string and 5-string basses. They still do only offer 4 and 5-string “Superlight” basses. But, every now and then I’ve been checking them online to see if there were plans for a 6-string version.

It was during one of these online searches that I came across Bass Direct offering a Sandberg California II TT6 “Superlight”. I Immediately started doing more research to find out when Sandberg had started making 6-string Superlight basses. But when I went on the Sandberg website, it said that the SL basses were only available in 4-string and 5-string. So, I emailed Bass Direct to try and find out what the story was, and apparently this is currently the only one.

I didn’t get a lot of information from Bass Direct, but what they said is that the 6-string Paulownia body was initially made by mistake. Having made the body they finished making the bass and offered it to Bass Direct. Apparently Bass Direct had suggested an SL 6-string previously. I have emailed Sandberg to ask for more info but I’ve received no reply yet. I will email them again with a link to the video and hopefully they will get back to me at some point.

Use Headphones

I’m sure that anyone visiting my website already knows this. There is a recurring problem if you run a YouTube channel for bass players. The problem is that most people watch YouTube videos while listening to the internal speakers in their phone/tablet/computer. And those speakers are very bad at reproducing low frequency sound. So, when I produce a video, I have to decide if I’m going to EQ out most of the low end. If I don’t do that, then the sound will either distort when most people listen to it, or it will just sound very quiet.

The problem is worst when I’m trying to demonstrate a product, like today. There’s no point in me saying “here is what it sounds like when I boost the bass” and then EQing out the bass afterwards so I can push up the levels. So the sound of the bass in this video is almost completely unedited. I haven’t compressed it or EQ’d it for the benefit of phone speakers.

The moral of this story is that if you want to hear the low end, use headphones or a good speaker. This is particularly true of todays video. I always test my videos by listening to them on different devices before I upload them. I know that some of this is inaudible on small speakers. If I push up the levels it will distort badly. The only solution would be to EQ out the bass which would defeat the point of the video. So I have left the audio alone. Use headphones.

Find a video about my Overwater Hollowbody 6-String Bass here.

6-String Fretless Bass Modal Improvisation – Bass Practice Diary 140

6-String Fretless Bass Modal Improvisation – Bass Practice Diary – 29th December 2020

This is a modal improvisation on my Warwick Thumb SC 6-string fretless bass. What do I practice in the week between Christmas and New Year? Inevitably I’ve practiced less at Christmas than I usually would. Normally I would have been visiting various family members. But all my plans were cancelled at the last minute due to a COVID lockdown announced by the UK government on December 19th. However, despite that, I still have a wife and son at home, so my usual practice time got devoted to trying to make Christmas special for them despite the restrictions.

So, what should you practice at a time when you haven’t done much practice? For me, the answer is, just play! Play for fun, improvise, play for the love of playing music. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not. Just get the feeling of the strings back under your fingers. So, with that in mind, here’s a video of me improvising on a short modal chord sequence that I’ve been playing around with this week.

The Chords

I’ve called this a modal improvisation. But how can it be called modal if I’m improvising over a chord sequence? The reason I’m calling it modal is because the chords are not connected by diatonic harmony. So I’m thinking of each chord as being a different scale or mode to improvise on. There is no key that connects the chords. They are simply connected by a bass note, each chord is played over an E bass note.

The chord progression in the video is very simple. It starts on an Eb major chord over an E natural bass note. That chord resolves upwards onto an Emaj7 chord. Then I raise the 5th and make that chord an Emaj7#5 before dropping back onto the Emaj7. These might sound like really small changes, and they are. But each chord change creates the sound of a new mode.

I think it’s an interesting way to think about chord progressions. Rather than thinking about chord changes. Think about changing just one note in a chord and see how that one note changes the overall sound.

Christmas Bass Practice Diary 2020 – We Three Kings – Bass Practice Diary 139

Christmas Bass Practice Diary 2020 – We Three Kings – Bass Practice Diary – 22nd December 2020

Happy Christmas 2020! This is the fourth time that I’ve given a Christmas song the “Bass Practice Diary” treatment. You can find them all on my YouTube channel and JohnnyCoxMusic.com. This year I’ve decided to take on a Christmas carol for the first time. I’ve arranged We Three Kings for double bass and 6-string bass guitar.

The inspiration for this came because I was arranging Christmas carols for online church carol services. As most church services this year are taking place exclusively online due to the pandemic. I’ve been preparing performances of carols (mostly on guitar) to be streamed as part of online Christmas services. It was in the process of doing that, that I started to have some fun with We Three Kings. This arrangement is much to dark and uncomfortable sounding to use for a church service. But I was having fun with it, so I arranged it on bass, and here it is.

The Arrangement

As I’ve already alluded to, this arrangement started life as a solo guitar arrangement. I originally came up with the chord melody arrangement for the verse part on guitar, while pedalling the open E string underneath. For the bass arrangement, I put the E bass note on my double bass and played the chord melody on my 6-string bass. The bass is actually in an altered tuning for this.

I very rarely play bass in altered tunings. But in this case, I needed to reach a high D to be able to play the entire melody. The highest fret on my first string in standard tuning is C. So, I tuned up a whole tone to reach the D. Having done that, I tuned the G string up to A and the D string up to F. This enabled me to play the chord voicings using similar fingerings to those I’d worked out on the guitar. The solos on the intro and outro are both played in standard tuning.

The middle section of the piece was arranged entirely on bass. If I’m being honest, I’ve never really liked this section of the song. So, I wanted to give it a complete overhaul and change the harmony entirely. I tried a few things, but nothing really grabbed me until I started playing the “James Bond” style chord progression that you hear in this section. I was obviously channeling something that I did last year, because I realised afterwards that I played something very similar at one point in last years Christmas Bass Video.

Let’s Look Forward to 2021 (It has to be better!)

This is, in some ways, a strange treatment of a Christmas Carol. It doesn’t sound like a celebration. But, on the other hand, this is a very strange Christmas. I am stuck at home in lockdown, unable to see my parents or any of my extended family. We’re all sheltering from the virus and trying to protect others. So it feels to me like this arrangement reflects the times we are living in. Hopefully next year will bring a more cheerful Christmas Bass Video.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios with Approach Notes Exercise – Bass Practice Diary 138

6-String Bass Exercise – Diatonic 7ths with Approach Notes – Bass Practice Diary – 15th December 2020

I’ve spoken recently in my Bass Practice Diary videos about how the addition of chromatic approach notes to diatonic exercises can immediately create a jazz sound in your lines. This “approach notes” exercise is a development of that idea. I’ve featured a few 6-string bass exercises in my videos this year. This one involves playing descending diatonic 7th arpeggios, with a chromatic approach note before the start of each four note arpeggio.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

I’ve demonstrated this idea in the key of C major. Because it’s always the easiest key to demonstrate an idea that relates to diatonic harmony. The idea of diatonic 7th chords is simply that you build four note chords by taking the 1st (root), 3rd, 5th & 7th notes of the major scale. You can then repeat this pattern of taking alternate notes, but starting on different degrees of the scale. There are seven different notes in a major scale, hence there are seven different diatonic 7th chords in any major key.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in the Key of C Major
Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in the Key of C Major

In the example above I’m playing each arpeggio ascending, starting from the root. For the purposes of this exercise I’m playing the arpeggios descending, starting from the 7th and finishing on the root.

Descending Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in the Key of C Major

Chromatic Approach Notes

The term chromatic approach note simply means taking a note that is a semi-tone (half tone) away from your target note, either above or below. Then playing the chromatic approach note immediately before you play the target note.

In the case of this exercise, the target note is the 7th of each arpeggio, which is the first note that I’m playing for each one. I’m adding a chromatic approach note before the 7th each time.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in C Major with Chromatic Approach Notes
Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in C Major with Chromatic Approach Notes

There are two reasons why I’ve done this. One is because the addition of chromatic approach notes creates the sound of a jazz line, as I already mentioned. And the second reason is that it creates an odd number grouping of notes. The four note arpeggios become a five note sequence with the addition of the approach notes. The odd number grouping creates a rhythmic variation that makes this sound less like an exercise and more like a musical line.

Tapping Jazz Lines on Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 137

Tapping Jazz Lines – Can You Play Jazz Solos With Two-Hand Tapping? – Bass Practice Diary – 8th December 2020

I’ve witnessed a couple of musicians in the UK playing improvised jazz solos with a two-hand tapping technique. However, I’ve never heard anyone talk about this idea. It seems to me that there is an obvious advantage to using two-hand tapping to play jazz lines. The advantage is that you can easily make big interval jumps in your lines. That is quite hard to do with a conventional playing technique. For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore the idea myself. So, when one of my advanced bass students brought up the subject of tapping in a lesson, I jumped at the opportunity to work through some ideas with him.

How I arranged the lines

We started by coming up with a jazz line on a II-V-I in Bb. This is a very typical exercise for learning to play jazz. The line we came up with was this.

II-V-I Jazz Line
II-V-I Jazz Line

We then tried to rearrange the line by moving some of the notes up one octave to be tapped with the right-hand. The remaining notes would be hammered-on by the left hand. This is the finished line.

Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line
Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line 1

We went through the same process again and came up with another line, which goes like this.

Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line 2
Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line 2

If you’d like to learn more about my two-hand tapping techniques, then check out my previous videos on the subject. This video looks at the basic two-hand tapping technique of hammering and pulling notes with both hands. This video looks at arranging chords and chord progressions with two-hand tapping.

This idea of using two-hand tapping to make jazz lines is still very new for me. I hope I will revisit this subject in the future when I’ve had more time to work on it. At the moment, I’m still at the very early stage of working out lines and practicing them. I hope that as time goes by, I will develop the ability to improvise lines in this way.

Sire Marcus Miller V7 vs Warwick Rockbass Infinity – Bass Practice Diary 136

Sire Marcus Miller V7 vs Warwick Rockbass Infinity – Bass Practice Diary – 1st December 2020

Sire created a sensation in the bass world when they released their Marcus Miller basses a few years ago. They are great sounding basses sold at an amazingly competitive price. However, while they are really good basses, I’ve often thought that Sire were not the first company to come out with high quality instruments for a budget. If you follow my videos, you know that I’ve been playing Warwick basses for many years. So, I’ve long thought of doing a comparison between Warwick’s more budget friendly Rockbass instruments and Sire’s Marcus Miller basses.

Sire vs Warwick

If I’m being completely honest, this video is just a bit of fun. It’s not a particularly scientific comparison. The basses had different strings at the time of recording. The Sire was strung up with some nice new Overwater bass strings whereas the Warwick had a very cheap set of Warwick Red Label strings.

The pickup configuration is obviously different as well. With the Sire, I’m using both pickups in the video, but with the Warwick I’m only using the single coil pickup at the front.

However, I should say that both of these basses were a very similar price point when I bought them. Less than £500 at full price in the UK. The new Warwick Rockbass Infinity basses are being sold for considerably more. They’ve given the model a makeover in 2020 with a flamed maple top, but my one is the more simple looking 2018 model. There are Warwick Rockbass models in 2020 that can still rival the Sire V7 for affordability. You probably need to look at something like a Corvette or a Streamer.

If you want to see a proper comparison of Sire and Warwick Rockbass and what they both offer for the price, then let me know by leaving a comment on the YouTube video. If enough people want a detailed comparison, then I’ll do it.

Make Your Pentatonic Licks Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary 135

Make Your Pentatonic Licks Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 24th November 2020

How do you make pentatonic licks sound like jazz licks? This week I’m featuring a jazz lick created using a D minor pentatonic scale with the addition of chromatic approach notes. This is a concept that I introduced last week in my video about making the major scale sound like jazz. Chromatic approach notes are a great way to create a jazz sound in your lines, no matter how simple the harmony.

My Pentatonic Jazz Lick

I came up with my pentatonic jazz lick example by first coming up with a simple pentatonic lick. I used only the notes of the D minor pentatonic scale.

Pentatonic Lick form D Minor Scale
Pentatonic Lick form D Minor Scale

I added a chromatic approach note before the first note D. Then I added further chromatic approach notes before the 3rd note, F, the 5th note, C, the 7th note, D and the the final note, A.

D Minor Pentatonic Jazz Lick with Chromatic Approach Notes

You can use licks like this in any improvised scenario when you would use a pentatonic scale. You can use the chromatic approach notes to bring a jazz flavour to your lines. Why not try coming up with your own jazz licks using this method. Once you’ve written down a few licks, you can try improvising with the same method.

How to Make a Major Scale Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary 134

How to Make a Major Scale Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 17th November 2020

If you study harmony, you begin to realise just how important the major scale is. Diatonic harmony in its entirety realties to the intervalic relationships of the major scale (also sometimes called the diatonic scale). So, it’s hardly surprising that a major scale is a popular choice for improvisation as well. But, how do you make a major scale sound like jazz?

Why use major scales in jazz improvisation?

I think that a lot of musicians learn to analyse diatonic chord progressions in jazz standards. They know the right key to play at every point in the progression. Each key is defined by the notes of the parent scale, which in the case of major keys, is a major scale. So, you can break a lot of jazz tunes down to playing different major scales at different points in the chord progression. But the problem is, that major scales on their own don’t sound very much like jazz. So, how do you use the major scale to make jazz lines?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people learning to improvise are looking for a scale or scales that will make them sound like jazz. I don’t think it works like that. I think there are a lot of different approaches to improvising in a jazz style. Today, I’m looking at two key concepts. One is approach notes, the other is outside notes. The concept of outside notes is simple to understand. There are seven notes in any key (the notes of the major scale) and there are twelve notes in the octave (the chromatic scale). Outside notes are the five other notes that are not in the major scale. If you want your lines to sound like jazz lines, you need to come up with some creative ways to use them.

A simple and great way to begin to incorporate some outside notes into a major scale, is with the use of chromatic approach notes. A chromatic approach note can be as simple as picking a target note from the parent scale, and playing a semi-tone (one fret) below or above that note before you play it. Of course, not all of these chromatic approach notes will be outside notes. If your target note is the major 7th, and you play a chromatic approach note above that note, you’re playing the root note. But some (most) of your chromatic approach notes will be outside notes. And that’s enough to bring a jazz flavour to your lines.

Play a major scale with chromatic approach notes

This is an exercise that I featured in the video.

Major Scale Jazz Exercise with Chromatic Approach Notes
Major Scale Jazz Exercise with Chromatic Approach Notes

I’m playing a C major scale in ascending thirds (root, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 5th etc). Each third interval is two notes. I’m then adding a chromatic approach note before and below the first, lower note. So, C, E (Root, 3rd) becomes B, C, E, a three note grouping. D, F (2nd, 4th) becomes C#, D, F.

It sounds good, but it sounds like an exercise. I want to make it sound less like an exercise and more like an improvised jazz line. Try mixing up the exercise by varying the chromatic approach notes either above or below the target notes. You can also vary whether you play your thirds ascending or descending. When you play a descending third you can play the approach note before the higher of the two notes.

Here’s an example that I played in the video.

Major Scale Jazz Line in 3rds with Chromatic Approach Notes
Major Scale Jazz Line in 3rds with Chromatic Approach Notes

Tapping Chords on Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 133

Tapping Chords on Bass Guitar – Two-Hand Tapping Exercises – Part 2 – Bass Practice Diary – 10th November 2020

Last week was part one in my series of two-hand tapping exercises for bass guitar. I was looking at the basic technique of coordinating hammer ons and pull offs between both right and left hand. This week, I’m looking at tapping chords by hammering on notes simultaneously with both right and left hand.

Tapping Seventh Chords

These ideas should work on pretty much any bass guitar. I’ve used a 4-string bass in the video to demonstrate that you can make full sounding chord voicings on just 4-strings. My bass has 24 frets, but I’ve deliberately not gone above the 20th fret, so you can play everything in the video on a Fender style bass with 20 frets.

I’m playing 7th chords (major 7, minor 7 & dominant 7). These are four note chords, root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. The concept of this exercise is that I’m going to tap the root and 5th with my left hand and the 3rd and 7th with my right hand. The left hand notes are played on the 3rd and 4th strings and the right hand notes on the 1st and 2nd.

An Exercise to Develop Your Tapping Technique

Before you start, I would recommend practicing tapping four finger exercises with both hands. Something like this.

Two Hand Tapping - Four Finger Exercise
Two Hand Tapping – Four Finger Exercise

When I’m practicing exercises like this, my goal is not to play the exercise fast. My goal is to make good sounding notes and to get an even sound across four fingers and four strings. As I mentioned in the video, I never use my little finger on the right hand to tap notes when I’m playing music, but I still practice it. Why? Because maybe I’ll develop a technique that uses my little finger one day. Only practice the 3rd and 4th fingers on your right hand if you want to. For the purposes of this exercise, all you need are two fingers on your right hand.

Playing Chord Progressions

I’ve used a II-V-I progression in the video because it’s the most commonly used chord sequence in jazz. You can use any progression you want and any rhythm or style. But whatever you play, I would start by making a bassline out of the root and 5ths. Like this.

Tapping Chords - II-V-I Bassline
Tapping Chords – II-V-I Bassline – Left Hand Exercise

This exercise should be played entirely with the left hand and all of the notes are hammered on. The left hand notes are your bassline, they are the foundation of the groove. So, it’s worth practicing this until you get the feel where you want it.

When you have the feel, you can add the 3rds and 7ths with your right hand. These right hand notes should be played simultaneously. Not one after the other like the left hand notes. The right hand notes can be played simultaneously with the root note played by your left hand. This involves simultaneously hammering three different notes on three strings. You can see I’ve done this with the F7 chord. The F is hammered by the left hand while the A and Eb are hammered on by the right hand. Alternatively, you can hammer the right hand notes in between the left hand notes. You can see I’ve done this with the Cm7 and Bbmaj7 chords. Here is the II-V-I exercise.

Tapping Chords - II-V-I Exercise
Tapping Chords – II-V-I Exercise