Bass Guitar Exercise – Sus Chord Triad Arpeggios – Bass Practice Diary – 13th July 2021
Last week I was demonstrating a line played by Rick Beato. He uses a lot of sus chord arpeggios and chord voicings in his playing. It’s a really popular idea among improvising musicians and I can see why. The sus chord arpeggios create a really distinctive sound and they are incredibly versatile. You can use them over all kinds of different harmonies and chord voicings. And you can find five different sus arpeggios hidden within a major scale. So, you can create improvised lines by sequencing different sus arpeggios together.
What’s a sus chord?
A sus chord is a chord with no third. The third is usually replaced by either a fourth or a second. So a sus chord triad goes either root, 2nd 5th (sus2) or root, 4th, 5th (sus4). As I mentioned in the video, a sus2 triad is an inversion of a sus4 triad. So, for example Gsus4/C is Csus2. So you can think of sus2 arpeggio shapes as being the same as sus4 arpeggio shapes. The only difference is which note you think of as the root note.
The absence of the major or minor 3rd makes it ambiguous as to whether the chords are functioning as major or minor. And that ambiguity makes them very versatile. When you play these arpeggios you get a lot of perfect 4th and 5th intervals. That means that you can create modern sounding jazz lines in the style of quartal harmony.
The exercise that I’ve come up with is quite advanced because it uses some big stretches. There are easier ways to play sus arpeggios. But I think this exercise is good because it really gets you moving around the fretboard. That’s a big advantage when it comes to improvising melodic lines. Here is the exercise.
Rick Beato Modal Jazz Line Arranged for 6-String Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 6th July 2021
If you don’t already follow Rick Beato then you should check him out. He has one of the biggest serious music channels on YouTube with over 2 million followers. He’s a music teacher, multi instrumentalist and producer who teaches everything from music theory to ear training to improvisation to production techniques and much more. He has recently released a series of guitar lessons called Quick Lessons Pro in which he breaks down a number of brilliant melodic and harmonic ideas. I’ve been looking at some of these this week and here is a line from the very first lesson which I’ve arranged onto 6-string bass.
Csus Mixolydian Modal Line
The line is essentially based around Csus chord voicings and the mode in question is Mixolydian. The chords that I’m playing in the video are all diatonic to that mode. The progression is C7sus – C7sus/D – Bbadd9 – Gm11 – Csus – Cadd9.
Rick’s melodic and harmonic approach is absolutely beautiful, and you can hear the melody in this even played down two octaves. I’ve tabbed this in the positions I played it. Although the phrasing markings reflect how he wrote it more than how I played it. Some of my hammer-ons and slides are in different places to where he played them on guitar.
I’ve played the line two octaves below where Rick plays it on the guitar. I initially played it one octave lower, but I just enjoyed playing it more in the lower octave. It just felt like it fitted the range of the bass better. There is a challenge to recording a line like this in such a low register. Which is that when people listen to my videos on phone and laptop speakers, the speakers can’t cope with the low end. In order to mitigate that problem, I’ve eq’d out a lot of the low end. So it doesn’t quite have the impact that it had when I was playing it, but at least you can hear the notes on the low strings.
Helix with Bass – How Useful is a Line 6 Helix for Bass Guitar Players?
I originally bought my Line 6 Helix LT primarily to use with guitar. Although the fact that it is designed to be used with both guitar and bass was a big selling point for me. If you’re not familiar with the Helix products, they are essentially digital amp modelling and multi effects units.
You can set the unit up like a pedalboard. It has eight foot pedal switches for turning effects on and off. And many of the effects in the Helix are modelled on famous guitar and bass effects pedals. For example you can use a digitally modelled version of a Boss CE-1 chorus pedal or an MXR Phase 90. There are many preset patches already installed in the product when you buy it. Most are for guitar but there are plenty for bass. And you can also make your own patches. Or buy patches from other musicians online and install them into your Helix.
What are the patches I used?
The patches in the video are a mixture of preset patches, 3rd party patches and one that I created myself. Although I have tweaked all of them a little bit to suit my own playing. I’ve marked on the video the patches that are presets. There’s one called Boots Bass, which is clearly designed to sound like Bootsy Collins. Generally I would prefer to mix the sound of this preset with the clean sound of my bass. But for the sake of this demo, you are just hearing the sound of the preset patch.
The other preset is called Tuck n’Go, which features a model of the Ampeg B15. It’s a classic amp from the 60’s, played by bass legends such as James Jamerson, John Paul Jones and Jack Bruce among many others. The patch includes both a compressor and a drive pedal that you can control with two of the foot switches. Of the two demos I did of this patch, one has the drive switched on and the other doesn’t. Both have the compressor on.
Of the other three patches in the video, two were 3rd party patches that I bought from other musicians. The synth bass patch came from an American bass player called Chad Carouthers and the heavily reverbed patch came from the guitarist Johnathan Cordy. The final patch featured in the video was one I made myself from scratch.
6-String Bass Jam in 6/8 – Johnny Cox & Lewis Davies – Bass Practice Diary – 15th June 2021
I’ve been thinking about 6/8 this week after I featured four 6/8 bass grooves in last week’s Bass Practice Diary video. My good friend Lewis Davies kindly recorded this 6/8 drum track for me and I’ve been jamming along with it with my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass. I’ve also been experimenting with my Line 6 Helix LT. You can hear some of the sounds I’ve been using in this video.
The Helix Patches
There are two Helix patches featured in this video. One is on the chords. It’s another Johnathan Cordy patch. Johnathan Cordy makes and sells Helix patches for guitar. I featured one of his patches a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to make my bass sound like a guitar. This patch is a little bit more subtle but I think it works really nicely with bass chords.
The other patch is one that I created myself. I haven’t made many of my own Helix patches. But I wanted something that could create a Kurt Rosenwinkel sound for my bass. I don’t think that anyone has created something like that yet, so I was forced to do it myself, and I’m quite happy with the result.
Kurt Rosenwinkel is a great guitarist and improviser with a very distinctive guitar sound. It’s a very compressed sound with the pick attack removed from the start of each note. The effect is created by some kind of volume swell going straight into a compressor. So the compressor evens out the sound of the swell, so you hear the note coming in almost instantly but without the initial transient when you hit the string. The sound also has added reverb and delay to enhance the effect.
Make a Bass Sound Like a Guitar and a Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 1st June 2021
For a long time I’ve been playing with the idea of making electric guitar sounds on bass. As technology has improved over the years it’s getting easier and easier and the idea is becoming more and more popular. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the popular duo called Royal Blood. Bassist Mike Kerr makes his bass sound like a guitar and he takes care of all the guitar and bass parts at once. It used to be the case that there were a lot of octave pedals on the market that created an octave or even two octaves down. But there weren’t many good affordable pedals that could create an octave above.
Using Line 6 Helix with Bass
The Line 6 Helix range of products, which includes the Helix LT that I’m using, have caused quite a sensation amongst guitar players. But they’re not as heavily used by bass players. However, the Helix products are designed to be used with both guitar and bass, and although I wouldn’t use them for everything bass related, there are a few situations where they are really useful. For example, if you want to create a vintage bass tone without investing in heavy and expensive vintage gear, the Helix has some good vintage bass amps modelled, like the Ampeg B-15.
Another situation where the Helix comes into its own is when you want to use lots of effects. You can set the Helix up to be like an all in one pedal board with all your effects controllable by foot switches. You can also import patches into your Helix from other artists. That’s exactly what I’ve done here with this lead guitar patch from the guitarist Johnathan Cordy. It’s worth knowing that he sells his entire patch collection for Helix for £5 including the patch I’m using in the video. However, be aware that he is a guitarist, not a bass player and the patches are all designed to be used with guitar.
My setup in the video is actually pretty simple. I’ve split my signal coming out of the bass using a Morley ABC pedal (although I’m only using A and B). From the Morley pedal, one signal goes straight to my Warwick Hellborg bass amp and the other goes to the Helix. I recorded the lead guitar sound straight from the Helix and I took a line from my Warwick Hellborg Preamp for my bass sound.
The patch from Johnathan Cordy is doing all the work. The patch contains an octave pitch shift, distortion, reverb and delay as well as guitar amp simulation. You could probably reproduce all of that with individual pedals and a guitar amp. But it might end up being more expensive than buying a Helix and maybe not sound as good. For live use I would use both a guitar amp and a bass amp and I would plug the Helix into the guitar amp.
7-String Bass Demo – Ibanez BTB7 Seven String Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 25th May 2021
This week I played a 7-string bass for the first time in nearly seven years. I used to play 7-string bass a lot in my 20’s and I owned two, one fretted and one fretless. I decided to sell them because I had stopped using them. When I put them both on eBay, the fretless sold straight away but the fretted bass didn’t. So I made a video demo to try and sell the fretted bass as well. That video was uploaded in the summer of 2014 and that was the last time I played a 7-string bass before this week.
7-String Bass Pro’s and Con’s
I think the reason for putting more strings on a bass is simple, more range. It takes the instrument into the realm of an instrument that can do anything, melody, chords, bass lines etc. But there are down sides to adding more and more strings. Weight is an obvious one and balance is an even bigger one. More strings means a bigger neck and a bigger neck unbalances the instrument, especially when you carry it on a strap.
I remember playing my seven string basses in my early 20’s with weights stuck onto the strap with electrical tape. The weights were there to counter balance the neck and prevent it from diving towards the floor. It worked in preventing the neck dive. But as you can imagine, the combination of 7-string bass plus weights made an unbelievable amount of weight to carry on my shoulder. I can’t imagine doing that now.
Another issue that I found with 7-string basses was string spacing. As you cram more strings onto a bass neck, you need to make the spaces between the strings smaller. Otherwise the neck becomes too big to play. It’s certainly possible to adapt to a narrower string spacing, but at the time I sold my 7-string basses I was preferring a wider spacing and so that contributed to me not playing them as much.
Ibanez BTB 7 String Bass
So why did I decide to play a 7-string bass again now? Back in the days when I was playing 7-string basses (approx 2005-2011). 7-string basses weren’t made by mainstream guitar manufacturers. Both of my basses back then were made by builders that you would never have heard of. When I got my Warwick endorsement back in 2010, Warwick had just made their first 7-string bass. But it was an expensive custom shop bass costing thousands.
However, a few years after that, around the time I was thinking of selling my 7-string basses. Ibanez came out with this, the BTB7. Ibanez are one of the biggest guitar and bass manufacturers in the world. Not only was it unusual for a major manufacturer to make a line of 7-string basses, but the prices were incredibly cheap. I’ve always wanted to try one to see what they’re like, but I never wanted to buy one because they came out at a time when I was stopping playing 7-string basses.
I finally got my chance to play one this week and I think it’s very impressive for the money. It plays really well and balances far better than either of my old 7-string basses thanks to the long horn on the upper cutaway. It is still very heavy, but if you can cope with the weight then it’s hard to find any other fault with it.
I believe that the one I played was made in 2013. However, the most remarkable thing is that Ibanez are still making affordable 7-string basses today in 2013. Their current model is called the BTB747 and it looks very similar to the BTB7. I would like to congratulate Ibanez for showing that level of commitment to extended range basses. Extended range instruments are heavily stigmatised in the music world, and I’m sure that this video will generate plenty of negative comments. There is no reason for such stigmatisation. I can see no downside to wanting extra range on any instrument.
Autumn Leaves – Bass Duet – Double Bass & 6-String Electric Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 11 May 2021
I always thought it would be fun to make a jazz trio with double bass, electric bass and drums. In my head it would be something like this. However, my double bass skills are not the best. So ideally in this trio I would play the electric bass and the double bass would be played by someone who can solo, play with a bow and express themselves musically on the instrument.
I shot this video by recording the double bass part first. It was done in just one continuous take. At the point when I played the upright bass part, I hadn’t worked out any of the electric bass part. Having recorded the upright bass I then had a few goes at playing along with it with my Overwater Hollowbody 6-string bass. Once I was happy with what I was doing, I shot the bass guitar part. If you saw my video from two weeks ago featuring three jazz lines on 4-string bass, you might notice that I used one of the lines at the end of the first solo chorus.
I was basically just practicing improvising on a standard. It’s something I do quite regularly, although I rarely go as far as recording a bass line on the upright. Normally I’ll record the bass line on bass guitar and play over that. However, I feel like the double bass adds an extra layer of jazz authenticity, even with my limited double bass skills.
Slow Train – A Bob Dylan song performed by Johnny Cox
It’s now been over a year since musicians in the UK were last able to play together with other musicians. So, I’ve recently decided to do something that I’ve never done before, record and mix an entire track on my own including vocals. It feels like a big step to put this out on my channel. I’m not a singer and I don’t ever practice singing. I’ve been using Bob Dylan’s back catalogue as a source of material. His lyrics are unbelievably good and I also have a fighting chance of being able to sing them. I’ve recorded four of his songs so far. You can find the other three on my other YouTube channel called Johnny Cox Guitar & Bass School.
I’ve featured many of my musical influences on this channel, but I’ve never played anything by Bob Dylan until now. I guess that’s mostly because I’m not a singer. And without anyone to sing the lyrics, there didn’t seem any possibility of featuring one of his songs. However, recently during lockdown I’ve decided to work on music production and editing vocals. Without any other musicians to work with I’ve been singing Bob Dylan songs myself.
I’ve been listening to Dylan for my entire life (literally, his albums were playing at home since I was too young to remember). So, by now I know a lot of the lyrics off by heart, and singing them is so much fun because he is a truly brilliant lyricist.
I can remember this song, Slow Train, and the album of the same name as being something of a soundtrack to my childhood. My mother was and still is a Bob Dylan fan. Slow Train was released four years before I was born and for some reason, as a small child, I took a particular shine to it. It seems odd to me that I still listen now to an album that I used to like when I was four years old, but I guess it shows consistency in my character if nothing else.
Slow Train Coming
The song and the album were both released in 1979. This was the first of his so-called “gospel” albums following his conversion to Christianity in the late 70’s. But this song is a classic Dylan protest song that could draw parallels with some of his early work from the 60’s. The song was partly written prior to his religious conversion and partly after. So, the lyrics are not overtly Christian but they do contain references. Like “fools trying to manipulate Satan”. But really it’s a song about the state of America at the time he was writing. And as with a lot of great art, much of the content still seems relevant over 40 years later.
The symbolism of the train is never explained or made clear in the lyrics. I think it’s intentionally left ambiguous for the listener to make their own interpretation. Is the train a religious metaphor, bring with it salvation and riding to some kind of promised land? Or is the train bringing something altogether more sinister. Such questions were probably lost on me as a child. At that point I think I just liked it because it had a funky bass line and some brilliant guitar playing from Mark Knopfler. But as the years have passed I’ve come to appreciate it as a brilliant example of Dylan’s lyric writing as well.
Practicing Jazz on My Overwater Hollowbody – Up Jumped Spring – Bass Practice Diary – 23 March 2021
In this video, I’m improvising over the chord changes of the jazz standard Up Jumped Spring after recoding the chords into a looper. If you were wondering why you haven’t seen this beautiful bass on my channel for a few months. It’s because she’s been back with Chris May and the team at Overwater having a new bridge installed. However, she was returned to me this week and I’m so happy to have her back.
She’s my custom made Overwater Hollowbody 6-string bass. The first fretted version to be made and the first with a 34″ scale length. The bass features a wooden acoustic style bridge, but with adjustable saddles, like an electric bass bridge. The first bridge was made from ebony, and I was finding that the wood was slightly too soft to hold some of the saddles in place and the intonation was slipping. Chris very kindly fashioned this new bridge from a very hard wood from South Africa. So far it seems to be holding the intonation perfectly.
Practicing with a looper
In the video I’m demonstrating something that I’ve done regularly in my practice for well over a decade. I bought my first looper pedal about 15 years ago, and I’ve found loopers to be an amazing practice tool. One of my favourite techniques for practicing using a looper is to record the chord changes to a jazz standard into the looper and then improvise over the looped changes. In this video I’m using the chord changes of Freddie Hubbard’s jazz waltz Up Jumped Spring.
I’ve often been asked “what is a good looper to buy?” And it’s a question I always feel uncomfortable answering. Because I’ve used various loopers from cheap ones with just a single button to expensive ones laden with features. Which one you choose depends on what you’re planning to use it for. If you just want one for the kind of practice that I’m doing in this video, then buy a very cheap one. It will do the job. However if you want something to perform with, then it’s impossible to advise you. Because you will have to choose a looper that has features that correspond to how you’re planning to use it in performance.
I recently purchased a Headrush Looperboard, which is like a recording device/audio interface/live looper all rolled into one. So far I’m impressed by it, but I haven’t yet had the chance to use it in a live performance as the UK has been in COVID lockdown continuously since I first bought it.
However, if you’re interested in trying looping for the first time, I would suggest buying something very cheap to try it out at home. And then you can upgrade later on if and when you start to feel like you need to.
Freedom Jazz Dance – Melody on 6-String Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 9th March 2021
Miles Smiles has been one of my favourite Miles Davis albums for a long time. The most famous composition on the album is probably Footprints by Wayne Shorter. Which is a minor blues that has become a staple of jazz jam sessions. Today, I’m looking at another track on that album Freedom Jazz Dance.
The Second Great Miles Davis Quintet
The Miles Davis band at that time (1966) contained four young musicians who would go on to become some of the most important figures in modern jazz. Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams are all great composers as well as improvisors and band leaders. So, it was a little bit unusual for them to record a tune that was written by someone who wasn’t in the band.
Freedom Jazz Dance was written by a tenor saxophonist called Eddie Harris. He had recorded the tune himself a year earlier. When you listen to the Eddie Harris version of Freedom Jazz Dance, you quickly realise that the Miles Davis band has completely reconceptualised and recomposed the tune. Harris’ version is built on a funky groove between the bass and piano on a Bb7 chord. The melody is played in one continuous sequence with three phrases.
In Miles Davis’ version of the tune, the melody is broken down into the three phrases. They are separated by space to improvise for the rhythm section. Initially only by bass and drums. When the melody is repeated, Herbie Hancock begins to interject chord voicings. The Bb7 harmony from the original is retained, but the funky groove is gone and replaced by an altered dominant sound, and a much freer and more improvised approach to the groove.
I think Ron Carter is one of the most important bass players in the history of jazz. He started his career as a classically trained cellist, who struggled to get work in touring orchestras at the time due to racist segregation laws in the Deep South. So, he made the switch to jazz double bass and became one of the most prolific musicians of the second half of the twentieth century. According to his wikipedia page, he has appeared on over 2,200 recording sessions, making him one of the most recorded musicians in history.
He still plays today at age 83 and I’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform live on a couple of occasions. The first time in 2003, when I was still a teenager, he was leading a quintet of much younger musicians. He had adopted the Miles Davis role as senior member mentoring the young talent. It was a truly memorable gig. I can still vividly remember the rendition of Flamenco Sketches that they played that night. It sent shivers down my spine. After that I saw him play one more time in a drummer-less jazz trio featuring guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Mulgrew Miller. It was musicianship of the highest caliber.
When I listen back to Miles Smiles, which I have been doing this week. It reminds me what an incredible musician he is. I think the partnership he shared with drummer Tony Williams was one of the most brilliant and innovative rhythm sections in jazz history. There are good reasons behind why the members of that band went on to become some of the biggest stars in modern jazz.
Why Learn a Jazz Tune on Bass?
I know some bass players might not agree, but I think it’s important to learn to play melodies. I think bass players are often guilty of only looking at the chords and not thinking much about the melody. This tune is a great demonstration of why that approach won’t always work. There is only one chord here, Bb7. If you only look at that, it doesn’t tell you anything about the composition. Only once you look at the melody will you understand the composition.
From a purely technical perspective, learning jazz melodies will also help to build your technique on bass. And it will also help you learn about jazz phrasing and vocabulary. I would suggest that anyone wanting to learn how to improvise in a jazz style, needs to learn as many jazz tunes as possible. Here is how I play the Freedom Jazz Dance melody on 6-string bass.