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Old 09-21-2012, 01:04 PM   #1
brenton393
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basic bass theory

ok im fairly new at the bass, about a year playing in a church setting. ive played guitar for many years and know basic scales and theory. Well this week i was asked to add some "flavor" to a song, but all i ever do is just play by the chord sheet. do scales differ between a electric guitar and bass. also what are ways of "adding flavor". haha
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Old 09-21-2012, 01:44 PM   #2
J-Dawg158
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Nope, same music theory is used for any instrument. Scales on a bass are the same as a guitar.

By "adding flavor" I would say that he means to play something other than just the root of the chord. A lot of rookie bass players do just that, but for your basic triads there are two other notes that fit just as well with the music. Or you can play 7ths which will definitely add some flavor to the mix, but you have to be careful with those.

Also, anything Hail or Vampirelazarus says will be better than what I can come up with so pay attention to them.
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:53 PM   #3
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they're referring to embellishments. what kind of music is it? is it straight hymns, rock or up-beat music, what are we dealing with?

fills mostly deal with working around other chord tones or ascending or descending between certain chords, but you can literally do whatever you want as long as it fits the song.

my advice would be to just tap your foot and play the song, and on a big part where there's "space", just play something. go up and down a scale, play an arpeggio, just do anything in time. you'll find that the notes themselves don't make a huge difference, especially in the bass, but just that feeling of going up (or down) into the next chord, or playing eight notes instead of quarter notes, moving faster or slower, it'll affect the sound quite drastically (and, if you're in time and using your ear, in a very good way)

learn what the root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th are, and experiment with them over the chords and changes. that's all the theory you'll need beyond common sense and listening to everything going on in the band. church is a laid-back setting, so it's great for learning - you can experiment all you want as long as you don't just ruin the entire song. it's not like a paid gig or anything where they'll yell at you later.

the real crux, though, is listening and timing. the actual content of whatever you do is secondary, and can be fixed as you go, and will sound great no matter what as long as you're locked into the groove and paying attention to the whole band.

Last edited by Hail : 09-21-2012 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:31 PM   #4
AlanHB
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I agree with the above. Just start by hittinging the 3rd or 5th sometimes, as well as walking diatonically between noes.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brenton393
ive played guitar for many years and know basic scales and theory. Well this week i was asked to add some "flavor" to a song, but all i ever do is just play by the chord sheet. do scales differ between a electric guitar and bass. also what are ways of "adding flavor". haha
No, scales, or even chords, DO NOT differ from a guitar! A bass is a guitar tuned down one octave. At least as far as the four bottom strings go. (The bass string equivalents on the guitar would be : E-6, A-5, D-4 G-3). So that leaves you free to apply whatever you know about guitar chords and scales, to apply them to bass.

For example a "power chord shape" shape could be cross picked to give you a root & 5th alternating bass line. You traverse between standard chord shapes in the same way as they used to tell students, "break the monotony" by playing a bass line between chord changes.

Since you can read music, I suppose you could play bits and pieces of the bass singers part from time to time.

The one thing that sticks in my mind, was something my old guitar instructor said, "no, the bass player doesn't normally play chords, but he's got to know chords inside and out".

I think the more you envision the bass as the bottom four strings of a guitar and superimpose the guitar chord shapes , the more possibilities will emerge for you.

Last edited by Captaincranky : 09-21-2012 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captaincranky
No, scales, or even chords, DO NOT differ from a guitar! A bass is a guitar tuned down one octave. At least as far as the four bottom strings go. (The bass string equivalents on the guitar would be : E-6, A-5, D-4 G-3). So that leaves you free to apply whatever you know about guitar chords and scales, to apply them to bass.

For example a "power chord shape" shape could be cross picked to give you a root & 5th alternating bass line. You traverse between standard chord shapes in the same way as they used to tell students, "break the monotony" by playing a bass line between chord changes.

Since you can read music, I suppose you could play bits and pieces of the bass singers part from time to time.

The one thing that sticks in my mind, was something my old guitar instructor said, "no, the bass player doesn't normally play chords, but he's got to know chords inside and out".

I think the more you envision the bass as the bottom four strings of a guitar and superimpose the guitar chord shapes , the more possibilities will emerge for you.


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Old 09-21-2012, 09:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brenton393
ok im fairly new at the bass, about a year playing in a church setting. ive played guitar for many years and know basic scales and theory. Well this week i was asked to add some "flavor" to a song, but all i ever do is just play by the chord sheet. do scales differ between a electric guitar and bass. also what are ways of "adding flavor". haha


The bassist I play with most often talks about the importance of thirds and sevenths a lot. He wants to know what the appropriate 7th is for a given chord a lot of the time even when the rest of us aren't playing it.

That being said, look, there's really only one way to do this:

Study basslines that you like, which have the sort of "flavor" that you want to learn how to add. Learn them. Try to learn them by ear. Analyze them (theory is the same for all instruments!) to understand what combinations are creating the flavors you like.

And develop your ear. Developing your ear is all about making that mind-fretboard connection, so that you can play the stuff you want to play. You want to be able to play the notes you hear in your head, and this is the only way.
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Old 09-22-2012, 10:36 AM   #8
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Remember not to start filling too much and not to play thirds as the bass note too much. For example we played a terrible version of Pirates of the Caribbean theme in a music camp (I also play the trumpet). The version was a bit different from the original. Bass (tuba) almost never played the root notes and it sounded very weird. You need to play what sounds good. Try different rhythms. Also listen to the original song (I assume you are playing some covers) or some recorded version of the song if it's a traditional song. Listen to what the bass player does (what kind of rhythms he uses and where he plays fills etc.).

It's kind of stupid to say that only beginners play root notes. I mostly play the root notes because it fits the song the best. But I use some other notes between the chords (like go chromatically/scale up or down to the next chord). Beginners only play single notes that are roots and they have no sense of style (ie, they don't know what to play when and always play the same things on every song). Single notes can also sound good. Many times it sounds the best if you keep it simple enough but have some cool stuff here and there. For example, if a drummer plays prog fills all the time and the song is very calm, it doesn't fit the song at all. But if you play one big fill in the right part, it sounds much cooler than if the song has fills all the time.
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