Tag Archives: Bass guitar

Everything You Need to Know About Harmony on Bass Guitar

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

Enjoy!

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove, Out Now!

My New Book Improve Your Groove is Here

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

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide To Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar

  • Crack the code of rhythm and groove
  • Develop incredible note placement and feel
  • Discover the secrets of syncopation
Order Improve Your Groove now via this link https://geni.us/bassgroove

When I started writing Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove in the summer of 2016, I set out to write a book to help bass players improve the most fundamental aspects of playing bass lines. Groove is exactly that. It’s the heart of what it is to be a bass player.

So I started by asking myself, what is groove? Can it be defined and more importantly, can you learn it?

Groove is a combination of many things, first and foremost time feel. To control the feel of your bass lines you must first have excellent timing. This involves firstly understanding rhythms and then having a system for playing them very accurately. So if you want to increase your rhythmic accuracy you must experience rhythmic sub-divisions when you play.

Therefore I decided to explain sub-divisions in the opening chapters of Improve Your Groove starting with the basics. Then I set out my system for improving rhythmic accuracy by using the sub-divisions.

Using Konnakol to Improve Your Groove

My system for experiencing sub-divisions involves first of all borrowing syllables from the ancient Indian system of vocalising rhythms called Konnakol. Which is sometimes called the ‘language of rhythm’. Using three simple sets of syllables from Konnakol you can very quickly learn to differentiate between eighth and sixteenth note grooves as well as triplets, shuffles and swing feels. As a result you will not only learn to differentiate each sub-division and time feel. You’ll also play them much more accurately by placing your notes on the sub-divisions

Finally, each time feel and sub-division is demonstrated using lots of Mp3 audio examples in a variety of styles. All the audio is downloadable for free from www.fundamental-changes.com.

Is there more to groove than great timing?

There certainly is. While timing is essential, there is more to being able to groove than just placing a note accurately onto a sub-division. Another huge aspect of groove is sharing your time feel with the musicians you play with. First of all you must know how to play with a drummer. There is no relationship in a band closer than the bass and drums, hence I’ve dedicated an entire section of the book to playing with drums. You must make the drummers sub-divisions your sub-divisions if you want the music to groove.

The Pieces

The final section of the book involves sharing a collective time feel in a group. For a performance to groove the whole group must groove and not just an individual. Therefore I’ve included five pieces with backing tracks to help you practise locking in with the collective feel.

In Conclusion

Groove is such a huge topic for bass players, so there will be more from me on the subject in the future. In my first book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove I’ve laid out some approaches to rhythm and playing in a group that I believe will help any bass player to improve their groove.

“I hope that after reading this book you’ll start to think about time and rhythm in a different way and it will give you a deeper understanding of feel and groove and open up your playing to explore new musical cultures.”

I want to thank Joseph Alexander and Tim Pettingale at Fundamental Changes for publishing the book and making it look amazing.

Below is the product description from www.fundamental-changes.com

Improve Your Groove Cracks the Code of Rhythm, Groove and Feel on Electric Bass Guitar

Build your groove and play bass like a master

  • Discover how to groove flawlessly on electric bass in any style of music
  • Understand bass guitar rhythm and placement
  • Play in the pocket, every time.

Every bassist wants to play with great feel. It’s what ties a performance together, moves the music forward, and keeps it “in the pocket”. Therefore groove is what your audience wants to hear.

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove is a complete course in rhythm  on bass. Groove is built by understanding rhythm, playing accurately and sharing that feel with other musicians.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to play in time on bass guitar
  • Learn to play “in the pocket” and create a tight, grooving performance
  • How to crack the code of rhythm
  • The secrets of syncopation and building your internal clock
  • The Konnakol vocal counting system to help you groove without thinking
  • 5 complete pieces with backing tracks that put theory into practice
  • Over 140 exercises and examples with FREE supporting audio to download

In Electric Bass – Improve your Groove, building perfect time and feel on bass is explained from absolute basics and teaches you how to play bass lines with great rhythm; from the simplest, to the most complex grooves.

You’ll discover grooving bass guitar rhythms and develop devastating accuracy and feel. Rock, Funk, Jazz, Blues and Latin feels on bass are all intimately addressed with over 140 examples and backing tracks.

Hear it!

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove contains over 140 exercises and supporting audio examples so you can hear exactly how each exciting example should sound. Learn to lock in with the live backing tracks and dramatically boost your progress.

Buy it now and instantly become the bass guitar powerhouse of the band. https://geni.us/bassgroove

 

Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String

Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String

In this video I’m playing the composition Raju by John Mclaughlin and a vehicle for demonstrating my Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String bass guitar.

Some of you will know that I’ve installed a Roland GK-3B divided pickup onto my Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String bass. Most of my demo videos featuring this bass use the GK-3B and a Roland GR-55 guitar synth pedal.

I decided to make this video because I wanted to show what the bass sounds like without the Roland GR-55. In this video, I’m not using the GK-3B pickup at all, and you are hearing the bass exactly as it sounds coming out of the factory.

How is the quality of the Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String?

Excellent, and as usual, Warwick’s commitment to using high quality and resonant wood to build their basses shines through. The bass has an Ovangkol neck with Ekanga veneer stripes and a Tigerstripe Ebony fingerboard. The body is made from Swamp Ash.

The shape of the bass is that of a Warwick Streamer Bass but Steve Bailey has slightly extended the cutaway to give better access to the upper frets. This is a good edition, you can see from the video that I like to play in the upper register which is why I choose this bass over the standard Streamer shape.

Another input from Steve Bailey is the electronics. The Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String features active Seymour Duncan Soapbar pickups. The onboard preamp is Seymor Duncan Steve Bailey Active 2-way electronics.

Steve Bailey’s final input on his Artist Series bass is the fact that the standard model is fretless, however I’ve got the fretted version, because as good as this bass is, there’s no way that it’s as good as my fretless Thumb SC, check out my posts for that bass if you haven’t already.

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless with Warwick Hellborg Rig

In Conclusion

The Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String is a high quality professional instrument. It has become a real work horse for me because I now use it for most of my gigs. So, that should tell you how good it is given the quality instruments I have at my disposal. The fretless version may not be in the same class as the Warwick Thumb SC. However at less than half the price of the Thumb SC, you can’t go wrong.

Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String
Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String

 

7-string Bass Demo

7-string bass demo

This is my 7-string bass. It says Mazeti on the headstock, which doesn’t mean a lot to me. I don’t really know anything about who made it, but it seems to be custom made.

How I came to own a 7-string bass

I bought it very cheaply on eBay more than 10 years ago, and I wasn’t expecting a lot given what I paid for it. Every other 7-string bass on eBay at that time was a lot more expensive. Surprisingly, what I got was not only a nice sounding and very playable instrument, but also one that has stood the test of time. It’s still going strong and sounding great today even though it spends most of the time in my loft now.

Why did I want to sell it?

At the time I shot the video I was in the process of selling all of my non Warwick basses. I’ve always played Warwick’s as my first choice but I had basses made by Fender, Steinberger  and Gibson and I also had another custom made 7-string bass which I sold, it was fretless.

The 7-string bass you see in the video was the only bass that didn’t sell on eBay. So I decided to make the video to help give it a push. I did receive a few enquiries, but nothing that tempted me to sell. I couldn’t seem to convince people that it was a decent bass and I wasn’t that desperate for the money.

Is it still for sale?

No. I’ve since decided not to sell the 7-string bass. It’s worth more to me, than the relatively small amount of money I’d get for selling it. I haven’t taken the video down because people keep telling me how much they like the video, I never intended for the video to be particularly entertaining, I just wanted to show that it was a decent bass. But, obviously people like it so I’ve left it on Youtube.

Enjoy!

Johnny Cox & Siemy Di – Bass and Drum Improvisation

Johnny Cox and Siemy Di – Robertinho

This video was shot way back in 2012 by my good friend Remigiusz Sowa of Chouette Films. It features myself and another good friend, master drummer and percussionist Siemy Di. The video was shot live in Siemy’s studio.

Siemy Di and I have worked together since 2006 and we have a fantastic musical relationship. We were introduced when I was in my early twenties by a mentor, Lucky Ranku, leader of the African Jazz All-stars.

In the video I’m using my 6-string Warwick Thumb BO and I’m playing it through a loop pedal. The piece is dedicated to a friend of Siemy Di’s. It’s based on the Brazilian Partido Alto rhythm and the melody was written by Siemy.

Around the time this was filmed, Siemy Di and I were performing live regularly around East London at venues such as The Servant Jazz Quarters, The Vortex, Open The Gate and The Passing Clouds. The gigs were almost entirely improvised and we deliberately did very little preparation for each gig. Some performances were better than others but it was always great fun to play with a great musician like Siemy. This video captures a little taste of what those performances were like. Not perfect but always interesting.

Siemy Di and I are still close friends but we don’t do those gigs anymore. We both have young children now, so spending our evenings at jazz clubs is out of the question these days. Maybe one day in the future we’ll do something similar, although I imagine it will be quite different. This video captures a moment in time that was an important time for both musicians.

Check out Siemy Di’s Drumeo video here. I recorded all the bass and guitar parts for both the first and last pieces.

A Guide to Playing Intervals on Bass Guitar

What Are Intervals and How Do You Play Them On a Bass?

The word “interval” describes the distance (in terms of pitch) between two musical notes. The smallest interval on the fretboard is a semi-tone. It’s the distance between any note and a note that is one fret above or below on the same string. There are 12 notes in an octave which means there are 12 semi-tone intervals. If we play these 12 semi-tone intervals one after the other then we are playing the “Chromatic Scale”. This isn’t a very interesting sounding scale but it’s really important to understand the chromatic scale if we’re going to understand intervals.

One octave chromatic scale starting and finishing  on C

Chromatic Scale Intervals on BassBecause there are 12 semi-tones in an octave, it is possible to play 12 different intervals within an octave (including the interval of an octave itself). Here is a list of all 12 intervals (plus 4 more intervals that are larger than an octave) along with tab showing how to play them on the bass. 

Intervals on Bass

The interval called a “tone” is equal to two semi-tones or you can think of it as the distance of two frets on a single string. Tones and semi-tones can also be called whole-tones and half-tones and also whole-steps and half-steps.

Thirds

An interval of three semi-tones is a minor 3rd and four semi-tones is  a major 3rd. Check out Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 1 where I show you how to make chords by using intervals of major and minor 3rd’s to harmonise scales.

Fourths, Fifths and Sixths

Five semi-tones gives us an interval of a 4th. A 4th is neither major nor minor. This interval is often described as a perfect 4th. Six semi-tones gives us an interval called a sharpened 4th because it’s one semi-tone bigger than a 4th. The same interval can be called a flattened 5th because it’s one semi-tone smaller than a 5th. It’s also sometimes called a tri-tone because six semi-tones is equal to three tones. Seven semi-tones makes a 5th or a perfect 5th. Eight semi-tones creates a minor 6th and nine semi-tones, a major sixth. Check out Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 2 where I use intervals of 4th’s, 5th’s and 6th’s to harmonise scales.

Seventh intervals and larger

Ten semi-tones make an interval called a minor 7th. Eleven semi-tones is a major 7th and twelve semitones is an octave. It’s important to note that after the octave the intervals start to repeat the same notes. However, we do still have different names for intervals above an octave. For example, a flattened 9th interval will give you the same note as a semi-tone. A natural 9th interval will give you the same note as a tone. A minor 10th interval is effectively the same as a minor 3rd and a major 10th is the same as a major 3rd

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 2

Chords on the Bass – Part 2

In this second part in my series of videos about playing chords on the bass, we’re going to continue looking at how we can make chords by playing double stops (two notes played at the same time) over open strings. In Part 1 we harmonised scales into intervals of a third and in Part 2 we’re going to see how we can get a whole new set of sounds and chords by changing the interval we use to harmonise our scales.

Intervals

If you’re not sure what an interval is or how we play intervals on the bass then check out my video called Intervals which is also available on this site and it will explain everything.

In Example 1 I’m playing a C major scale harmonised into intervals of a fourth.

Part 2 Example 1 Chords on the Bass

In Example 2 I’m playing the same C major scale played in fourths. I’m playing it over an open A string. Then in the following examples I’m still playing a C major scale over an open A string. However, I’m changing the interval that I’m using to harmonise the scale. In Example 3 I’m harmonising the C major scale in fifths and in Example 4 I’m using sixths. You can hear that each different  interval gives us a different sound even though I’m harmonising the same scale over the same note.

Video 2 Examples 2, 3 & 4 Chords on the Bass* I’ve marked some chords * in the above examples because they don’t contain thirds. The Am7 and Am9 chords could also function as A7 and A9 because they don’t contain the note C. Which is the minor 3rd. I’ve labeled them as minor chords because if we were to add a third in this key it would be a minor third C. Not a major third C#. The G9/A chords in Examples 2 & 3 also don’t include the 3rd B but again I’ve labeled them according to what they would be if we added a 3rd in this key. The same is true for the chords marked in the examples below.

Fourths, Fifths and Sixths

The next examples are a similar idea. Only this time I’m harmonising a D major scale and playing it over an open E string. This gives us a Dorian sound. In Example 5 I’m harmonising the scale in fourths. In Example 6 I’m using fifths and in Example 7 I’m using sixths. 

Video 2 Examples 5,6 & 7 Chords on the BassNotice how in Example 7 using the open E string instead of the open A string gives us a different option for fingerings when we play the scale in sixths. We can now play the lower of the 2 notes on the A string. The higher note on the G string while we leave out the D string altogether.

These examples are just a small demonstration of some the sounds that you can come up with using this idea. It wouldn’t be impossible to list here all the possible variations you can achieve by harmonising scales over open strings. So, I really want to encourage you to experiment and come up with ideas of your own.

A melodic minor in sixths

Before I leave you, I’m going to share one more idea. Here’s what the A melodic minor scale that I introduced at the end of Part 1 sounds like when you harmonise it in sixths and play it over an open A string.

Video 2 Example 8 Chords on the BassNow move on to Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 3 – Triads. You’ll learn how we can add extensions to the triads so you can make more interesting sounding chords.

Warwick Alien Deluxe 6-String Acoustic Bass

Warwick Alien Deluxe 6-string

This is my new Warwick Alien Deluxe. I’m very impressed with it for a number of reasons. It’s my first 6-string acoustic bass and my biggest concern was that the bottom B-string would be weak. I’ve played 5-string acoustics before and none of them have had such a clear and powerful low B-string as the Warwick Alien Deluxe.

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. 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.

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 1

Can You Play Chords on Bass Guitar?

I love the sound of chords played on a bass and I use chords a lot in my playing. Apart from just sounding great, practicing chords on the bass has many benefits. The main one is that it really helps you to learn harmony on the fretboard.

 

Start by Playing Two Notes at a Time

A good place to start is with double stops (playing 2 notes together). In this first example I play an A major scale two notes at a time using intervals of a third. This gives us the foundation of seven different chords.

Click on the examples to make them bigger.

Example 1 Chords on the BassIf you play through my written examples, I would encourage you to not just play them the way they are written, its a ok to start like that but once you feel comfortable with the notes I would recommend changing the order in which you play them as this will help you to experiment and come up with musical ideas of your own. In this second example I play the same notes I played in example 1. However, I also play an open A string with each chord.

Add Open Strings to Make Chords

Example 2 Chords on the BassAs you can see from the chord symbols written above the notes, adding this open A string changes some of our double stops into chords. I’ll explain below why I have used these chord symbols. If you don’t want to know the chord theory then please feel free to skip onto the next examples.

Chord Harmony Explained Chords I, II and III

The first chord is still A major but the second chord becomes an inverted B minor 7 chord because the A is the minor 7th relative to the B while the D played on the 7th fret of the G string is the minor 3rd. The third chord is now A major where before it was C sharp minor. This is because the C sharp played on the 11th fret of the D string is the major 3rd relative to our open A string and the E played on the 9th fret of the G string is now functioning as the 5th. These three notes make a simple A major triad (A, C sharp and E) more commonly just written as A.
Chord IV

The fourth chord is now an inversion of a D major chord. It’s also a simple triad because there’s a D on the 12th fret of the D string and an F sharp on the 11th fret of the G string. F sharp is the major 3rd relative to D and the open A sting is the 5th relative to D. So these 3 notes make up a D major triad but it’s an inversion because D is not the lowest note.  A is the lowest note, so we call the chord D over A.

Chord V
I think of the fifth chord as A major seventh even though it doesn’t contain the major 3rd note, C sharp which is normally found in this chord. It does contain the 5th E and the major 7th G sharp. It’s OK to sometimes leave notes out of chords. On the bass, if we are dealing with extended chords (chords with lots of notes) we will have to leave some notes out so in this case the chord can still function as an A major seventh chord even without the C sharp.
Chords VI and VII
The sixth chord is still F sharp minor as it was in example 1. Only now we call it F sharp minor over A because the open A string is now the lowest note. The seventh chord I have called A major ninth because the G sharp played on the 18th fret of the D string is the major 7th relative to A. The B played on the 16th fret of the G string is the 9th. Normally in a full A major ninth chord you would have a C sharp (the 3rd) and an E (the 5th), but the chord can still be thought of as A major ninth.
If you are struggling to understand all this explanation of the chord symbols don t worry too much. The most important thing is that you learn what they sound like so you can be creative with them.

Change the Open String

In example 3 I still play the same notes as example 1 only now I play an open E string with each chord. This gives you a different sound to example 2 and changes the chords, they’re now mixolydian. This is basically what you get when you play an A major scale over an E note.

Example 3 Chords on the Bass

Change the Key

Now in the next examples I’ll change things slightly. I’m going to stop using the notes from the A major scale that we worked out in example 1. Instead, in the following examples I’ll use the notes from a G major scale (example 4), F major scale (example 5), E major scale (example 6) and C major scale (example 7), and play each of them with an open A string.

Examples 4, 5, 6 & 7 Chords on the BassThese examples are meant to demonstrate the different sounds you can achieve on your bass by harmonising different major scales over a single bass note. In this case the single note was our open A string. I’ve added the Greek names for the modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Aeolian) to the examples above for your reference.

Learn the Sounds and Come up With Your Own Chords

The examples are certainly not a complete list of all the modes. I’ve simply presented them here so you can take the idea and experiment to come up with your own ideas. The most important thing, as with everything we practise, is to learn the sounds. Once the sounds are in your head and the notes are under your fingers then you’ve achieved the most important target. Learning the names of the chords and the modes is useful, but not nearly as important as learning the sounds they make.

I’ve added one last example here to give you an idea of something slightly different. All my previous examples have used a major scale. In this example I’m using a scale called the melodic minor scale. Try this out and see if you can come up with something interesting.

Example 8 Chords on the Bass* I’ve labeled the 5th and 7th chords here Amaj7 and Amaj9 because that’s what I’ve called the same chords in previous examples. As I mentioned before, neither chord includes a major 3rd but both chords include the note G sharp which is the major 7th relative to A and so they can both function as an A major chord. It is however important to note that the scale I’m harmonising in exercise 8 is an A melodic minor scale. So, if I add the 3rd to either chord then it’s a minor 3rd, not a major 3rd. Then the full chord would be called A minor with a major seventh.

Now move on to Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 2. You’ll learn how we can make chords by using intervals of 4ths, 5ths and 6ths.