5-String Bass Exercises – Three Exercises with Five String Bass TAB – Bass Practice Diary – 29th September 2020
Here are three exercises that you can use on 5-string bass. These are typical of the kind of exercises that I play when I’m adjusting to playing a 5-string bass, especially if I haven’t played one for a while. If you follow my Bass Practice Diary videos regularly, then you know that I play 4-string and 6-string basses a lot. It’s easy to trip up on a 5-string bass when you’ve grown accustomed to playing four or six. A few exercises like this, when you start, will really help you to get used to the feel and the range of the instrument. Even if you always play 5-string bass, and you’re looking to improve your fluency around the fretboard. These kind of exercises are great for that too.
Exercise 1: Playing Across All Five Strings
In this first exercise, I’m simply thinking about arpeggiating two chords. Dm7 and A7(b9).
The exercise starts by going up the notes of a D minor 7 arpeggio. Then it comes down on the A7(b9). I’m relying heavily on the notes of a C#dim7 arpeggio for the A7(b9) chord. The notes C#, E, G and A# are the 3rd, 5th, 7th and b9th of the A7 chord. In the second bar I’ve substituted an Fmaj7 arpeggio for the Dm7 chord. The notes of the F major chord are the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th of the Dm7 chord.
Exercise 2: Using the Entire Range of the Bass
In the second exercise, I’m simply playing a C major scale over the entire range of my 5-string bass neck.
This is such a fundamental exercise on any instrument. I don’t think of it as playing a C major scale. I think of it as learning the notes in the key of C major. The whole of Western harmony is built around this key. You can think of it as learning all the white notes on a piano, but really it’s just learning where the notes A, B, C, D, E, F & G are. If you know where they are then you can easily work out where the sharps (#) and flats (b) are. And then you know where every note on your bass is.
Exercise 3: Playing a Bass Groove Using the Low B-string
The final exercise is a bass groove.
If anyone says that, “a bass groove isn’t an exercise, it’s music”, then I think that they need to re-think the way that they practice. To me, every piece of music that I play is an exercise, or at least it can be if I think about it in the right way. Exercises exist to help us play music, if there is a disconnect in your mind between the exercises you play and the music you play, then you’ve missed the point. Every exercise that I play is related to something that I have to use in real musical situations. I understand the relationship between the exercise and the practical application of it. In this particular exercise/groove, I’m working on playing a low Eb on the 4th fret of the B-string, whilst playing in the key of C minor. It’s tricky note to hit and it’s hard to make it sound good!
Naima by John Coltrane: Chords on 6-String Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 21st July 2020
Naima is one of my favourite jazz compositions (I have a lot of favourite jazz compositions). I know that a lot of other musicians feel the same way about Naima, because it has an incredibly beautiful and unusual chord progression. It comes from the John Coltrane’s Giant Steps album, which I’ve featured before in my Bass Practice Diary. It was recorded in 1959, the same year as Kind of Blue, and it stands alongside that album as one of the iconic jazz albums of the 20th century.
However, Naima is not the type of composition that most people would associate with that album. Giant Steps tends to be remembered for it’s burning fast bop tunes with furiously fast key changes like the title track and Countdown. Naima is a slow ballad that Coltrane played many times, and I think many people forget that it originally featured on the Giant Steps album. However, Naima does have something in common with those other tunes I mentioned, it has an incredibly innovative chord progression.
A long time ago I set myself the challenge of arranging these incredible chords on my 6-string bass. I quickly realised that I needed to change the key to get the chords in the B section to work well. The reason being, that there’s a chord in the B section with the melody note Db. The highest fretted note on a 24 fret 6-string bass is C, one semi-tone too low. So, to voice the chord accurately, you need to play the top note way down on the 13th fret of the 1st string. It isn’t wrong to do that, but it just doesn’t sound very good.
So, to make it sound better, I transposed everything down a semi-tone. I played that top note as a C on the 24th fret of the first string. An extra advantage of transposing was that I could use the open A string as the bass note, instead of the Bb in the original key. When I play Naima I also tune my E-string down to a D. I use the open string to play the peddled bass note in the A section. If you want to transpose my arrangement into the original key, then you could tune your bass up a semi-tone.
When you see Naima written in books, you normally see the chord progression in the A section written something like this.
Changes similar to these feature in the jazz Real Books and the Coltrane Omnibook. I even found them on Naima’s wikipedia page (which I thought was unusual!)
The Major 7th Chords Trick
I’ve never found these Real Book chords helpful. I worked out by ear that you could create the sound of Naima by moving major 7th chords around over the pedalled bass notes. I do understand that when you change the bass note, you change the chord. So, a lot of these chords don’t function as major 7th chords. I gave the example in the video that when you play an Fmaj7 chord over a D bass note, you get the sound of Dm9.
Recently, I was playing Naima with a Saxophonist, and we were using the Real Book chord changes. I mentioned to him that I’ve always thought of the tune as being entirely made up of major 7th chords over pedalled bass notes. He told me that a scrap of paper had been discovered with John Coltrane’s handwritten chords for Naima. They were written out for Tommy Flanagan, the pianist on the original recording. Coltrane had written every chord as a major seventh chord.
I wasn’t sure I believed that this piece of paper really existed. I wanted to believe it, because it tied my way of thinking about the tune to Coltrane’s way of thinking about the tune. But, if such a piece of paper existed, then why do all the books and publications still stick with this unnecessarily complicated way of writing out the harmony? So, today I did some research to see if there was any legitimacy to the story. This is what I found.
It just goes to show the power that the jazz Real Books have had in defining how we think about jazz standards. Once a tune is written in the Real Book. The Real Book chord changes become the definitive chord changes that everyone uses. But often, the changes in the Real Books are very different to actual chord changes.
How I Play the Chords on 6-String Bass
This is how I’ve arranged the chords on my 6-string bass. I can’t pretend that this is 100% like either the Real Book changes or the Coltrane changes. It’s simply the best way that I’ve found to recreate the sound of Naima on a bass guitar.
Use the Diminished Scale to Play Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 6th November 2018
This week I’ve been practising using diminished sounds to play on dominant 7th chords in jazz. If you want to bring a more jazz sound to your playing, using the diminished scale is a great way to do it. Because it creates an interesting series of inside and outside notes when played on dominant chords.
What is the diminished scale?
The diminished scale is what I would call a symmetrical scale. It sounds like it should be something very complicated but it’s actually very simple. In many ways it’s even more simple than a major scale.
Symmetrical scales are scales that use the same intervals repeatedly. In the case of a diminished scale the intervals are a half tone (semi tone) and a whole tone. Symmetrical scales are also called modes of limited transposition or fixed transposition, which sounds even more complicated. But it still isn’t. It simply means that there are a very limited number of different ways you can transpose the scale. For example, because of the repeating intervals a G diminished scale is the same as a Bb diminished scale and Db and E diminished scales. So the idea of playing in 12 keys is a bit redundant. Another example of a mode of limited transposition is the whole tone scale. You can also use the whole tone scale to play on dominant 7th chords, but that’s another video for another day.
There are only two different ways you can play a diminished scale, you can either start with a half tone or you can start with a whole tone. After that it just repeats the same patterns over and over. Which makes it quite easy to play, as I said before, in many ways easier to play than a major scale.
Here is an example of an arpeggiated diminished scale pattern that I featured in the video.
How to practise a diminished scale
In the video I’ve used the example of a Bb7 chord. Here is a diminished scale starting on a Bb and beginning with a half tone.
I don’t always think about the scale starting on the root note. Often I will use the major third (D natural in this case) as a jumping off point. And in that case I will think of the scale as starting with a whole tone.
Another approach that I use is to start on the #9 or minor third. In this case Db. In this case the first two notes of the scale will be the minor 3rd (an outside note) resolving to the major third (a chord tone). This is a real signifier of the blues and it will help give your diminished licks a bluesy flavour.
How to apply the diminished scale in jazz
As I’ve previously mentioned, the diminished scale most commonly gets applied to dominant 7th chords in jazz. Here is the same Bb half/whole scale written out with the intervalic relationships to a Bb7 chord written over each note.
As you can see, the scale gives you all of the standard chord tones in a Bb7 chord. Root, major third, 5th and dominant 7th. However, it also includes one unaltered chord extension, the 13th, and three altered chord voicing, b9, #9 and #11. It’s these altered extensions that give the diminished scale a jazz flavour when you play them on a dominant 7th chord.
The best way to demonstrate this is by playing a jazz blues, because the blues uses dominant 7th chords a lot. I’ve transcribed a chorus of blues solo that I improvised in which I was using both the diminished sounds and the more traditional blues sound of the blues scale.
Check out next weeks Bass Practice Diary 30 if you want to look more at some of the diminished blues licks I’m playing here.
Improve Your Time Feel by Practicing with a Drummer or Drum Beat- Bass Practice Diary – 16th October 2018
In my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove there’s an entire chapter about playing with drummers. If you want to improve your timing and your time feel on bass, then practising subdivisions with a drummer is a great way to go about it. Here’s a video featuring my good friend Lewis Davies on drums to show you how I do it.
Understanding time feel and groove
It’s important to understand that a band grooves and not just an individual. So, if you want to improve your groove, it’s essential to practice with other musicians and not just on your own. The best place to start is by practicing with a drummer. Practice placing your notes accurately on the subdivisions that the drummer plays, and you will begin to develop the collective time feel that you need for a band to groove.
It’s important to understand that virtually all music uses just a small number of subdivisions. Eighth note, sixteenth note, and triplet feels occur in virtually all styles and genres of music. If you want to have a great time feel on bass, it’s essential to not only understand them, but also to be able to execute playing them accurately. That is the premise of my book Improve Your Groove.
When I talk about an eighth note feel, what I mean is that eighth notes are the smallest subdivision in the bassline. Therefore, in order to make the bassline groove you must feel the eighth notes running through the music. All of the eighth notes, not just the ones that you play on.
Here are the two eighth note bass lines that are featured in the video.
Triplets and shuffle feel
When you play a shuffle feel, the smallest subdivision is a triplet. Typically in a shuffle, you create a different kind of off-beat to the straight eighth note feel, by playing just the first and third triplet subdivisions in each beat. As I explained in the video, if you recite Ta-Ki-Ta for your triplets, and only play on the two Ta syllables, you get a shuffle feel.
This shuffle bass line is fairly advanced and it adds a few passing notes on the second subdivisions. But, it still retains the feel of a shuffle and Lewis is playing a shuffle on the drums.
The following example shows how you can change the feel whilst still using a triplet subdivision by accenting the second subdivision.
Sixteenth note feel
It’s important to understand that a sixteenth note feel does not necessarily mean that you have to play more or faster just because there are more subdivisions. It just means that in order to get the feel right, you need to feel the sixteenth notes in the music, Ta-Ka-Di-Mi.
Here is an example of a bassline with a sixteenth note feel that doesn’t contain lots of notes or any fast passages.
For me, the most interesting aspect of a sixteenth note feel is the expanded rhythmic potential that sixteen subdivisions in each bar offers. Which is why we bass players love to improvise bass lines with a sixteenth note feel. There are so many potential rhythmic variations out there. And as long as you accurately place the notes onto the subdivisions, then you can’t really go wrong.
Here is an example of a more advanced, syncopated sixteenth note bass groove.
Grooving with the drums
All you need to do is make sure that your notes land on the drummers subdivisions. If you can’t practice with a real drummer, then practice with a drum beat backing track. But there’s no substitute for the real thing if you can find a drummer to practice with.
It’s always a good idea to record yourself if you can, and listen back. It doesn’t have to be amazing sound quality, just enough so you can hear how accurately you’re placing your notes. And don’t worry if you feel like you’re not very good. Learn together with a drummer and improve together over time. Lewis and I have been playing together since we were teenagers. And I think we’ve learned a lot both together and separately since then.
Learn Basslines in 6/8 Time Signature – Bass Practice Diary – 17 July 2018
6/8 is one of my favourite time signatures to play in. And I know several drummers who feel the same way. In this post I’m going to share with you some of the reasons why I love 6/8. As well as some of the key principles you need to know in order to groove in the 6/8 time signature.
This week, most of my practice time has been taken up by writing and recording examples for a book that I’m writing. The book will be a follow up to Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove which was published earlier in 2018. So, instead of showing you what I’ve been practising this week, I’m showing you some of the examples that I’ve been writing. And specifically I’m playing examples in the time signature six eight (6/8).
What is 6/8?
6/8 simply means that every bar contains six eighth notes. But you shouldn’t count the eighth notes 1 2 3 4 5 6. The basic feel of 6/8 is two beats per bar with each beat subdivided into three eighth notes. A better way to count 6/8 is 12 3 – 22 3. If you’re not sure what subdivisions are, then check out this free lesson.
In my opinion, the 6/8 time signature gets really interesting when you realise that a bar of 6/8 is mathematically no different from a bar of 3/4. It’s important to understand that this is only true with a straight 3/4 feel. If you play 3/4 with a swing or shuffle feel, then it’s the same as 9/8. But I’ll explain more about 9/8 in next weeks practice diary.
3/4 and 6/8 both contain six eighth notes in every bar. So any rhythm that you can play in a straight 3/4 feel can also be played in 6/8 and vice versa. Once you understand this, you suddenly have a wealth of options for playing on and off the beat in two different feels simultaneously. The 3/4 feel gives you three beats and three off beats in each bar, and the 6/8 feel gives you two beats and a further four places where you can play off the beat in every bar.
All of these beats and off-beats exist in one bar of 6/8, and if you can learn to feel both the 6/8 and 3/4 feels simultaneously within the 6/8 time signature, then you can create some really wonderful grooves.
Play the Examples in the Video
The examples in the video are just a small selection from the book that I’m writing. While researching this section of the book, I’ve been listening to as many examples of 6/8 rhythms as I can. I’ve heard music from all over Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and India to name just a few. I’ve discovered so many different approaches to playing in 6/8. And I’m happy to share just a few of them with you here ahead of my book being published later in 2018.
I wrote this first example to illustrate the difference between the 6/8 and 3/4 feels. Bars 1 and 3 have a typical 6/8 feel. Whereas bars 2 and 4 contain the three quarter notes that could be defined as 3/4.
The idea for Example 2 is that I’m using the 3/4 feel over the 6/8 but I’m focusing more on the off-beats. Look in particular at bar 2. There is a note on beat one and then the remaining three notes land where the off-beats would be in a bar of 3/4.
6/8 is a very under used time signature in rock music. Example 3 is my idea for a rock riff in 6/8.
The final example features a rhythm called Bembe. Which has it’s roots in African music but is best known in Afro Cuban music.
The following post is written by the superb jazz guitarist and teacher Marc-Andre Seguin. Marc is the founder of the phenomenally successful jazz guitar website JazzGuitarLessons.net. I asked Marc if he could sum up what he feels are the essential things that he expects from a jazz bass player. In this post he gives a brilliant overview of time, swing feel, walking bass lines, harmony and chord progressions.
Marc has included so much great information here, much of which I’ll be following up very soon with some posts of my own. If you want to learn more about time, swing feel, triplets and locking in with the drums, check out my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove. It includes a chapter on triplets and swing feel and another chapter on grooving with drums. But most importantly check out Marc-Andre Seguin’s wonderful music and his website JazzGuitarLessons.net.
Essentials to Expect from a Jazz Bass Player
The essentials for a jazz bass player range from basic to just about wherever they wish to take it.
The jazz bass player does have a few essential tricks up their sleeve that other genres may not require.
Let’s take a look at these essentials starting with a couple of the basics.
An essential requirement is holding down the beat with the drummer.
As part of the rhythm section, you and the drummer are best friends.
Lock it in.
Listen, and be with that ride cymbal when swinging in the groove.
We’ll take a closer look at why and how further on in this post.
The entire band is looking to you to lead them into the next chord and provide the necessary bass notes to compliment the current chord of the song.
The leading tone is critical when heading to a chord change, so stay tuned (pun intended) for clarification.
Let’s get to it.
Walking Bass Lines
One of the staples of jazz is the walking bass line. It is also one of the more creative parts that a jazz bassist can play due to its’ improvisational characteristics. You hold the groove down but can improvise lines.
A walking bass line requires the bassist to play one note for every beat of the measure, so in 4/4 time you would play a quarter note on every beat. Play the root note of the chord on beat one for an easy line.
For the second beat, play any note in the scale of the chord, or a chord tone.
The third beat can be the same or different note of the scale or chord.
The fourth beat creates tension prior to resolving to the root, so play a dominant 5th or a leading tone a half step below the root of the next chord.
The leading tone into the next chord change is critical to nail as your band members are relying on it as a guide to the impending chord change.
Piano player asks, “Where’s the bass player?” Drummer, “He’s in the parking lot again.” Piano player, “We’re going to have to get him some walking bass line lessons.”
Don’t worry, with the information you learn in this post, you’ll be on stage the entire time, and if they announce that you have left the building, it will be a good thing! “Elvis has left the building!”
A little trick is to make sure you always have a lick or two to fall back on when improvising a line. It will help you find your way back if necessary.
See what you can come up with for your own walking bass lines using different variations of the scale notes or chord notes.
This is all about the triplet.
When you are emphasizing each beat of the measure you will create a swing feel when the drummer splits those beats into triplets by hitting between every beat you play.
Listen to the ride cymbal as your center of gravity and let your notes ring as the ride cymbal does. You and the drummer have it going, creating that musical space for the soloists and the rest of the band to play in, until it’s your turn to solo.
Know Your Progressions
There are some common chord progressions that jazz players of all stripes use. One of the most common is the 2-5-1 chord progression.
If you know the scale notes and the chord notes to the chord being played, you can hold down the low end by moving the same line into different keys, which makes for a good default lick.
A great way to practice lines for this progression is by playing through the cycle of fourths in all 12 keys.
Cycle of Fourths
They look intimidating when you see the sheet with the big circle of notes and names around it, but it is pretty easy to use once you understand it.
Here is a link if you wish to learn more about the cycle of fourths. The cycle of fifths is the same thing, just backwards.
How Does a Jazz Bass Player Acquire the Essentials?
As we progress in our playing more doors open presenting unique challenges and most of us usually have something that we are trying to improve upon.
One way to improve our musicianship is to listen to other musicians, be they our favourite artists or our new favourite artists. Listening to good music is not only inspiring but can really propel our learning as something to strive for.
There have been some absolutely great bass and drummer combinations over the years. A notable rhythm unit is Jaco Pastorius and the drummer Peter Erskine who held down the rhythm section for the jazz fusion band “Weather Report” during that band’s heyday. Check them out.
Sometimes deep listening is required, singling out the separate instruments in a band and how they interact with each other. This deep listening is also an essential quality for any musician that plays with others in a band.
There is absolutely no doubt that a good jazz bass player can really take a band to new places.
The bass player holds a lot of power in their hands and forms an essential part of the very foundation of any band.
I encourage you to keep on learning. Start working on some new lines and seek out like-minded players, as getting together and playing with other musicians will really give your playing a boost, and it’s a lot of fun.
About the Author
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz 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.
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-Ka. Ta 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The next example for you to practise is a funky bass groove that features lots of offbeats.
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.
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.
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 itin 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.