Tag Archives: bass

Charlie Parker Tunes on Fretless Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 11

Playing Charlie Parker Melodies on Solo Fretless Electric Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 3rd July 2018

This week I’m playing Charlie Parker melodies on my fretless Warwick Thumb SC 6 string bass guitar.

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker is a pioneer of modern jazz and one of the greatest saxophonists in history. Alongside trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie he pioneered the genre called Bebop. His compositions provide a musical and technical challenge to perform on bass, especially fretless bass. But doing so will improve your technique as well as help you learn the language and phrasing of modern jazz.

The Influence of Jaco Pastorius

I first started learning Charlie Parker melodies on bass when I was in my teens after I discovered Jaco Pastorius’ debut, self titled album. Track 1 on the album was Donna Lee. The melody was played by Jaco on a fretless electric bass. Like many other bass players, hearing this was a revelation to me. He took the bass out of it’s traditional role and elevated it to the level of a jazz solo instrument. I immediately decided that I needed to try doing the same thing.

So I used a Jazz Real Book to start working out jazz bebop melodies on my bass. I didn’t start with Donna Lee. It was the concept of playing jazz melodies on bass that I wanted to emulate, not necessarily that particular tune. Although I did get around to learning Donna Lee soon enough.

The first bebop tune I learned was called Tricotism, by the legendary double bass player Ray Brown. I figured I should start with a piece that was created for bass. Having done that I then learned the tune Confirmation by Charlie Parker. You hear me play an excerpt at the end of the video.

Why Play Charlie Parker Tunes on Bass?

I suppose the simplest answer is, because I think they sound really cool. Especially on fretless bass. But there are plenty of other great reasons to try this out. First, it is fantastic for improving your left hand technique. To play these tunes on bass you need to organise your left hand extremely well. Each tune forces you to practise spreading out your fingers, playing one finger per fret positions and shifting quickly and smoothly between these positions.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out my free video lesson on Left Hand Techniques. The video begins with me playing another Charlie Parker tune called Anthropology on a 4 string bass.

How do You Start Playing Charlie Parker Tunes on the Bass?

Slowly, is always good advice. Take it one phrase at a time and work out good left hand fingerings for each phrase. It’s so important to have a well organised left hand in order to play these melodies.

If you can read music, you can start with a jazz Real Book. That’s how I started, and as I understand it, that’s how Jaco started as well. I don’t know if they had Real Books back in the 70’s but I understand that he had a book with the melodies in. You can get bass clef versions of most of the Real Books now, which is a big advantage. As a teenager I only had a treble clef Real Book and it took me a while to work out the melodies because at that time my treble clef reading was nowhere near as good as the bass clef.

Other books available include the Charlie Parker Omnibook which also comes in a bass clef version. It goes into each tune in a lot more detail than the Real Books because it includes transcriptions of both the melodies and solos. However, it’s not my favourite book because it doesn’t use key signatures. So each transcription contains hundreds of accidentals (sharps and flats) written throughout the music.

If you’re not a reader then the book to get is called Charlie Parker for Bass. It includes TAB and also features solo transcriptions, arranged for 4 string bass.

 

 

Solo Bass and Melody- Bass Practice Diary 9

Combine Bass and Melody for Solo Bass- Bass Practice Diary – 19th June 2018

This week I’ve been working on arranging jazz melodies for solo bass. I’m incorporating both bass and melody parts into my solo bass arrangements. To help me, I’ve been studying the great jazz guitarist Martin Taylor and specifically his book called Beyond Chord Melody.

Why arrange music for solo bass?

I’ve always felt that 6 string bass guitars are very well suited to being played solo. In many ways better suited than guitars, because there’s the potential to play bass lines in the lower register. I often get comments about being like a guitarist when I play my 6 string basses. And many people can’t understand why I don’t just play the guitar when I play in this style.

It’s not a comparison that I find in any way insulting. I do play the guitar and I love the guitar. But I prefer the bass. And I arrange music for solo bass because, in many musical situations, I prefer the sound of solo bass. It’s also a less common sound because fewer people do it. And there’s nothing more interesting to me than hearing music that I haven’t heard before.

All of my 6 string basses have a range that goes to at least a C above middle C. So there’s more than enough range to arrange melodies in the high male voice tenor voice. And there’s the mid range that is ideal for piano style chord voicing.

Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor is a supremely talented musician, best known for playing solo jazz arrangements on guitar. It would be hard to find a better expert for arranging solo jazz on any instrument. I think it’s so important to study great musicians of all instruments and styles if you want to become a really rounded musician.

His new book Beyond Chord Melody was recently released by Fundamental Changes. The same music book publishing company that published my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove (learn more by clicking here). In Beyond Chord Melody Martin Taylor lays out a 7-step approach to solo guitar playing. The steps include harmony, melody, chord melody, inner lines and the one that is most relevant here, melody and bass.

 

Anthony Jackson’s Bass Line on Not Yet – Bass Practice Diary 8

Anthony Jackson’s Bass Line on Not Yet by Michel Camilo – Bass Practice Diary – 12th June 2018

This week I’ve been working on some of Anthony Jackson’s phenomenal bass lines from the albums he made with Michel Camilo. In the video I’ve featured an excerpt from a composition called Not Yet. It features on several albums but the version I’ve been working with comes from an album called Why Not?

Anthony Jackson

I’ve heard so many great musicians say that Anthony Jackson is their favourite bass player. And it’s for good reason. He is often credited as the originator of the modern six string bass guitar. Which he called a Contrabass Guitar and first started playing in the 1970’s. He must be one of the most recorded bass players of the 20th century and he is perhaps best known for playing with popular singers like Chaka Khan and the O’Jays. But jazz followers know him for playing with the likes of Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Michel Petrucciani and the subject of this post Michel Camilo.

Recordings with Michel Camilo

Anthony Jackson must have one of the longest CV’s of any bass player in history. So it’s easy to miss recordings in his incredible discography. I would urge everybody to find the recordings he made with Michel Camilo because they are wonderful. And they contain some of the finest examples of electric bass playing ever heard. I would particularly recommend the big band albums Caribe and One More Once.

Not Yet Bass Line

I’ve been looking at a few of the pieces from Michel Camilo and Anthony Jackson this week. Including Caribe and Just Kidding. I may post excepts from those tunes in future. But I decided to start with an excerpt from Not Yet because I think it perfectly encapsulates both Anthony Jackson’s incredible bass playing and Michel Camilo’s wonderful composing.

The bass line is comprised of both improvised sections and fast composed runs. Linking the sections together is extremely technically challenging and it’s fast! Many people don’t think of Anthony Jackson as being the fastest bass player out there, but this performance begs to differ.

What stands out for me is the way he uses the full range of the instrument. Often going from high to very low in the blink of an eye. But always keeping his tone very even with a huge low end sound. His bass lines are always, first and foremost, musical. No matter how technical or not, his musicianship and musicality always shines through.

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.

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!

 

8th and 16th Note Bass Lines – Part 1 – Eighth Note Bass Grooves

Eighth Note and Sixteenth Note Bass Grooves

This is an important topic for bass players because most music has either an eighth note or sixteenth note feel. So, every bass player should know when and how to use eighth and sixteenth notes.

What are they and how do I master them on bass?

In this video lesson I’ll demonstrate the difference between bass lines with an eighth and a sixteenth note feel. Then, I’ll explain how to improve your rhythmic accuracy when playing these feels so that you will improve your groove.

 

First have a look at these two examples from my book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide to Mastering Time and Feel on Bass GuitarFind the book by following this link.

https://geni.us/bassgroove

Eighth Note Example
Bass line with an eighth note Feel
Eighth Note Bass Line for Electric Bass
Sixteenth Note Example
Bass line with a 16th note feel
Sixteenth Note Bass Line for Electric Bass

Listen to both examples either by watching the video or by using the Mp3 audio tracks that accompany the book. It’s so important to listen to the examples as well as reading them. If you only read them without listening then you’re only getting half the story.

The first thing that I want you to notice about these examples is that they’re quite similar. The speed and chord progression are the same and they contain mostly the same notes. I deliberately wrote them that way because I wanted the only difference to be the rhythmic feel. The first example has an eighth note feel and the second has a sixteenth note feel.

What is an eighth note feel?

An eighth note feel means that every beat is divided into two. So each beat contains a beat and an off-beat.

The off-beat is the point in time exactly equally distant from the beat before and the beat after. The eighth note example above has four beats in each bar so there are four beats and four off-beats in each bar. Therefore there are eight different places in each bar where you can place a note either on the beat or off the beat. Hence it is called an eighth note feel.

It can only be called an eighth note feel if all the notes are placed on either beats or off-beats. If a note is placed on any other sub-division then it’s no longer an eighth note feel.

An eighth note feel does not mean that you have to play eight notes in every bar on all of the eight sub-divisions. It means that all of the notes that you play are placed on either beats or off-beats.

How do I improve my eighth note groove?

In most cases when you’re playing an eighth note feel, you’ll play with an eighth note drum beat. Meaning that the drums are playing the eighth note sub-division. If you want your bass line to groove you need to make sure your notes sit very accurately in time with the drummers sub-divisions.

However, you should also be able to groove playing eighth notes even when you’re not playing with a drum beat. In order to improve your eighth note grooves you need to have a system for feeling the eighth note sub-division when you play.

My system involves using the syllables Ta-Ka. Using this system Ta represents the beat and Ka represents the off-beat. Recite Ta-Ka four times making sure that every syllable has equal length, Ta-Ka / Ta-Ka / Ta-Ka / Ta-Ka. This represents one bar of eighth notes. Four Ta‘s represent the four beats and four Ka‘s represent the four off-beats. Try reciting the Ta-Ka‘s in time with the audio example in the video (you’ll find it at 1m52s). If you can do that and keep it in time, then you are feeling the eighth note sub-division.

How should I practise to improve my eighth note feel?

You will improve your eighth note bass grooves by playing off-beats very accurately. I hear a lot of bass players who play on the beat very well, but they seem to guess where the off-beat is. They play it either too early or too late.

The key to having great timing is the ability to place a single note very accurately onto a sub-division.  Practise this by first placing a note just on the beats (Ta‘s) and then just on the off-beats (Ka‘s). I’ve demonstrated this in the video. If you’re struggling to keep in time while you do this, make sure you practise it slowly in time with  either a metronome or drum beat.

In order to play eighth note grooves really well, you first need to feel the beats and the off-beats and you need to be aware of which notes land on the beats and which land on the off-beats. Then you need to make sure that the notes on the beats land perfectly on the Ta syllables and the notes on the off-beats land perfectly on the Ka syllables. If you do that, your bass groove will be superb when playing eighth notes either with or without a drum beat.

What About Sixteenth Note Grooves?

Please continue to Part 2 of this lesson, you can find it using the link below. In Part 2 you will learn everything you need to know about sixteenth note bass grooves.

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

 

 

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!

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 4 – Chord Extensions

In Part 4 we’re going to look at chord extensions.

In this video lesson you’re going to learn how to play chords with chord extensions on the bass.  I’ll also explain what notes you can leave out and why, in order to make your chords sound more interesting.

What are chord extensions?

Extended harmony is where chords get a lot more interesting sounding but it’s also where the theory gets more complicated. Chord extensions are notes that we can add to basic chords like triads. Having established how to play triads in Part 3, we can now look at adding chord extensions to them.

The most common chord extension by far is the seventh. In Part 3 we looked at how triads are made up of a root, a third and a fifth. And there is an interval of a third between each of these notes. In order to make a triad into a seventh chord we just continue this pattern of stacking intervals of a third. We add a note that is a third above the fifth and we call this note the seventh. Seventh chords have four notes in them root, third, fifth and seventh.

Four types of seventh chords

If you watched my video about “Intervals” then you’ll know that there are two types of sevenths, major and minor just like there are major and minor thirds. Fifths however are not major or minor and so the fifth is the same in both major and minor chords. For this reason, it’s the third and seventh notes of each chord that define what type of chord it is.

For example if you have a chord with a major third and a major seventh in it, it’s called a major seventh chord and a chord with a minor third and a minor seventh is called a minor seventh chord. The word used to describe a chord that has a major third and a minor seventh in it is “dominant” and dominant seventh chords are very common.

The chord symbol for a dominant seventh chord is just the number 7 (eg. G7, A7, C7 etc.) minor seventh chords are written m7 (eg. Gm7, Am7, Cm7 etc.) and major seventh chords can be written a number of ways such as with a small triangle or sometimes with an upper case M, but most commonly they are written maj7 (eg. Gmaj7, Amaj7, Cmaj7 etc.)

These three types of seventh chords are by far the most common but there are others that I’ve also listed at the end of Example 1. For example, a chord with a minor third and a major seventh is called minor with a major seventh (min/maj7).

What notes can you leave out?

When we play extended chords we usually can’t play all the notes within the chord because we only have a finite number of strings on the bass. The more chord extensions we have means the more options we have, but it also means the more decisions we have to make in terms of what notes to leave out. In the case of seventh chords the decision is simple, I’ve already mentioned that the fifth is the same for major and minor chords so the fifth doesn’t fulfill a very important function in the chord (unless we alter it as in diminished and augmented chords). So if we leave out the fifth we have three notes left, the root, third and seventh.

Example 1 demonstrates two different ways of voicing major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh and minor with a major seventh chords. The first way is to play the root on the A string, the third on the D string and the seventh on the G string. The second way is to play the root on the E string, leave out the A string and play the seventh on the D string and the third up an octave on the G string.

Video 4 Example 1 Chord extensionsAltering the fifth

Just because the fifth is the same for both major and minor chords doesn’t mean we can’t alter it. You can flatten the fifth (lower by a semi-tone) to give you a diminished chord or sharpen it (raise it by a semi-tone) to give you an augmented chord. In order to play a diminished or augmented chord you need to include the fifth because the fact that it’s been altered makes it a key element in the chord. That is why I have included all four notes in the augmented and diminished examples in Example 1.

Sixths

Another common chord extension that we can use instead of a seventh is a major sixth. We can add a major sixth to a major triad or a minor triad. The chord symbol for a major chord with a major sixth is just the number 6 (eg. G6, A6, C6 etc.) and the chord symbol for a minor chord with a major sixth is m6 (eg. Gm6, Am6, Cm6 etc.) Example 2 demonstrates how to play these two types of chords. Again, I’ve left out the fifth in both cases.

Video 4 Example 2 Chord extensions

Harmonising D major in seventh chords

If we harmonise any major scale into seventh chords we get seven different chords, two major seventh chords (chords I & IV, three minor seventh chords (chords II,III & VI), one dominant seventh chord (chord V) and one half-diminished chord (a chord with a minor third, a minor seventh and a flattened fifth) (chord VII). In example 3 I’ve harmonised a D major scale into seventh chords.

Video 4 Example 3 Chord extensions

Ninths

After the seventh, the next extension we can add to a chord if we keep stacking intervals of a third is a ninth. A full ninth chord has five notes in it, root, third, fifth, seventh and ninth. Example 4, demonstrates how to play a few common ninth chords by adding a ninth to a major seventh chord, a dominant seventh chord, a minor seventh chord and even a major sixth chord. As before I’m leaving out the fifth in each chord.

Video 4 Example 4 Chord extensions

More chord extensions

If we keep up this idea of stacking intervals of a third we end up with an eleventh and then a thirteenth. By the time you reach the thirteenth you have seven notes. Most scales have seven notes. So a seven note chord would effectively be equivalent to playing all the notes from a scale simultaneously. Which is usually a bad idea. Also, you can alter (either sharpen or flatten) the upper extensions (ninth, eleventh and thirteenth). Just like I altered the fifth earlier. This gives you a huge amount of options in terms of extending chords.

So, we have to exercise some judgement over which chord extensions we can add to which chords. And that all comes down to what we think sounds good. For example, you normally wouldn’t want to add an eleventh to a chord with a major third in it (major or dominant). Because the eleventh clashes with the third but you can add a sharpened eleventh. If you want to add an eleventh to a major chord then you would normally leave out the third. That would change the chord to what we call a “sus” chord. A sus chord is a chord that omits the third and usually replaces it with the fourth. The fourth is the same note as the eleventh. Check out my video on “intervals” if you don’t understand why the fourth and the eleventh are the same note.

Example 5 demonstrates some common chord extensions that we can play over major or minor chords on the bass.

Video 4 Example 5 Chord extensions

Chord extensions on 5 and 6 string basses

For Example 6 I’ve had to switch onto my six string bass to play some of these extensions. The ability to play more extended harmony is one of the main reasons I choose to play six string basses. If you don’t have a six string bass, many of these chords can be adapted onto a five string bass.

Video 4 Example 6 Chord extensions

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 3 – Triads

Learn to Play Chords on the Bass – Part 3 – Triads

In this video lesson you’ll learn how to play triads on bass guitar. There are four different types of triad. I’ll explain what they are and then how to play them.

Triads, what are they and how do you play them?

In part 3 we’re going to look at how to play triads on the bass. They are simple three note chords that form a foundation for a lot of extended harmony. Before we can go on to explore chord extensions it’s really important to understand triads.

There are essentially four types of triad. Major, minor, diminished and augmented. So, example 1 contains an example of each triad. In this example they all have the root note C.

Video 3 Example 1 TriadsOf these four, major and minor are by far the most common and will be the ones we use the most.

Harmonising scales using triads

We can harmonise scales into triads. In part one we harmonised scales into intervals of a third. A triad is two intervals of a third stacked together. By which I mean, you take a root note, find a note that is a third above it and then another note which is a third above again. The three notes of a triad are often referred to as the root, the third(an interval of a third above the root) and the fifth (an interval of a third above the third and an interval of a fifth above the root).

You’ll find that when you harmonise a major scale into triads you’ll get seven chords, three major (chords I, IV & V), three minor (chords II, III and VI) and one diminished triad (chord VII). In example 2 there’s a G major scale harmonised into triads played in root position. Meaning that the root note is the lowest of the three notes.

Video 3 Example 2 TriadsIn the previous example we refer to these chords as root position because we’ve arranged each triad in a neatly stacked order with the root at the bottom and the third and the fifth stacked on top of it. If we change the order of these notes to make either the third or the fifth the lowest note then we have what we call an “Inversion”. There are only two possible ways to invert a triad. First of all put the third at the bottom as in Example 3.

Video 3 Example 3 Triads

Triad inversions

Then put the fifth at the bottom as in Example 4.

Video 3 Example 4 TriadsExample 5 is an E major scale harmonised in first inversion triads.

Video 3 Example 5 TriadsFinally example 6 is a D major scale harmonised using the second inversion.

Video 3 Example 6 Triads

Harmonising minor scales

If you harmonise a melodic minor scale into triads you get two minor chords, two major chords, two diminished chords and one augmented triad. So, in example 7 there’s a G melodic minor scale harmonised using root position triads.

Video 3 Example 7 Triads

Now move on to Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 4 – Chord Extensions. You’ll learn how we can add extensions to the triads so you can make more interesting sounding chords.