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How to break the root habit?


KikkyMonk

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This is a secondary post to the first one breaking the penatonic barrier.

 

Alright Im doing alot better with non penatonic stuff.. Ive been working through all the arpegios which have me playing notes I would have never picked (or known) about before.

 

BUT I have re-evaluated my bass lines and came up with this:

 

They always are root on the downbeat (or first major beat, depending on rythym (there is that word again!) ) It might be the "and" of one or the "e" of one ect, but its always the first sound in a measure... then a riff which leads into the next measure where I hit the next root in line then another root ect.

 

HELP!

 

At least now the riffs arn't always penatonic riffs, but the root always comes first...

 

I know you can say "well then don't play the root first" but I dont know what else to play and nothing sounds good to me...

 

hope this makes sense.

 

Dave

 

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you dont

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KikkyMonk,

 

My bass teacher gave me a technique a few weeks ago that I'm still trying out. Instead of hitting the root of the chord on one every time, pick some other chord tone and hit THAT on one everytime, all through the song. For instance, he's a jazz man and he likes the sound of the 9th interval, so he'll work out a line where he hits the nine on beat one of every bar (or every chord change), then arpeggiates the chord until it's time to hit the nine of the next chord on one.

 

If the nine doesn't do it for you, try the third interval. Of course, if it's a major chord you play the major third and if it's a minor chord you play the minor third. But the idea is that you're playing in harmony with the root, suggesting the root, but not actually playing the root.

 

The exercize he gave me was to write out the chords for a song, and try it with each different interval, and work out an arpeggiation of the chord to arrive at the next chord at the right time.

 

I'm still struggling with it (because my fingers WANT to play that root) but I can see that it has a lot of potential.

 

Bruiser

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There's a few things that I'd suggest. Try creating longer phrases that span the changes and only play the root at the start of the phrase. Try using experimenting with adding inversions by playing the third, fifth, seventh, ninth etc. or reharmonising the chord with a tritone substitution if it's a dominant chord.

 

Another approach is to still play the root on the one but displace the phrase so that in effect it doesn't start on the root, or play the root on the strongest beat of the bar but play something else on the one.

 

On the whole, playing the root on the one or what is pretending to be the one is a staple of bass playing. However through use of melody, rhythmic displacements and cunning use of octaves (try hitting the octave on the one and the root a 16th later) you can create the impression of doing something different when actually you're still hitting the root on the one.

 

Something else that I've discovered over the past few years is the importance of working each note to the full. Although broadening your note choices is valuable, adding rhythmic interest to your lines will add another string to your bow.

 

Mixing up staccato and legato notes as well as ghost notes can really enhance a groove, as can doing the old funk thang and working the octaves. Also a bit of vibrato on certain notes goes a long way, as does varying your attack - i.e. sliding up to notes and down to notes, hard plucking notes by the neck a la Stanley, slapping and popping the odd note as an accent, palm-muting and thumb-plucking for a different tone, or even using a pick or your fingernail to make a note leap out.

 

Although it's taken me 6 years to realise it, learning to walk will really enhance your melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities even if you never ever play jazz - that's going to be my focus for the next few months (or years I suspect).

 

Alex

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I teach an dit's very hard to get off the root thing. There are times and tunes where it's OK to hit roots. But I know what you mean. I am working with a student on Building Walking Bass Lines (Ed's book) and we are on the section that deals with this. It was funny because as we were playing it, he hit roots all the time. Even though something else was written, his ear, andhabit, made him want to go to the root. It's a difficult thing to break. All the above suggestions are good ones. Good luck.
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Ninth on the downbeat? That sounds pretty strange to me. The jazz players that I play with wouldn't be too happy with that.

 

A couple of suggestions.

 

Learn some reggae bass lines. A lot of them start on the fifth..the root comes in on two and.

 

Learn how to play a tumbao. (afro-cuban--aka salsa). You will be playing the root on the fourth beat of the previous measure.

 

If you want to be doing this in a jazz context, practice around the circle of fourths playing 3 5 1 b7. For example play (C7) E G C Bb (F7) A C F Eb (Bb7) D F Bb Ab, etc.

 

The section in Ed's second walking book on modal mapping is good, but difficult. I like to think of it as "walking in key". Figure out all the key areas in a tune and pick anywhere in the scale of the key to start each section. Don't worry about the individual changes, just the key areas. It's really what a lot of soloists do.

 

Practice playing the tunes. Most melodies will start a lot of phrases on the third or fifth. Figure out a way to "quote the melody" in your bassline.

 

Practice various progressions using inversions. For example the progression C G F C could be played C G/B F/A C/G. The progression A Bm A Bm A Bm A Bm could be played A Bm A/C Bm/D A/E Bm/F# A/G Bm/E. Try that on Moondance sometime. For that matter, transcribe Moondance. The bassist on the original record (who was it?) is all over the place while the piano keeps the two chords going.

 

Transcribe a bunch of Beatles songs. McCartney was great at playing a 3rd or 5th and changing the song. If you try playing a lot of Beatles songs from the written chord names they won't sound right because of this.

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What Jeremy said. Though there are some styles where the ninth (or second) work, it's usually because of voice-leading. In reggae Drop-One lines the fifth can be used anywhere, and many times the root is only briefly stated. Again, a melodic or "shapes" approach justifies the note choices.

 

Nothing wrong with roots, but another post mentioned building lines that are longer than one bar. Phrases, melodic and rhythmic devices, voice-leading including chromatic tones that resolve, anticipations, substitutions - it's all fair game as long as you can sell the idea in the style you are playing.

 

Got to watch out for using devices that work in one style but seem out of place in another...

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For a rather paradoxical perspective, try playing ostinatos under shifting changes with no effort to make all the chord notes fit only the implied scale of the ostinato. If you design a song section that features such an idea, you can see that the changes themselves often have notes a half step in either direction of notes in the ostinato.

 

This can work with no sense of wrongness because the idea "instructs" the listener to think of the ostinato in different terms than just a way to state the chord. The way we listen to music is often more the limiting factor for growth. Wrap those ears around many styles of music written and improvised and then decide which rules you want to believe in, which ones you would like to practice breaking, which ones could help you at one stage of your growth, which ones at another.

 

It's a big universe, waiting to be explored.

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quote:

[My bass teacher gave me a technique a few weeks ago that I'm still trying out. Instead of hitting the root of the chord on one every time, pick some other chord tone and hit THAT on one everytime, all through the song. For instance, he's a jazz man and he likes the sound of the 9th interval, so he'll work out a line where he hits the nine on beat one of every bar (or every chord change), then arpeggiates the chord until it's time to hit the nine of the next chord on one.]

 

I personally like the b9 myself :D Or the #11

 

I like the idea about the ostinato, just sit on the five sometimes and see how the piano (guitar) player reacts. It really builds tension and kind of launches a solo or any other section to a new dimension. Hopefully they don't start throwing things at you, you have to be in a "loose" ensemble to get away with a lot of this.

 

jeremy, I really appreciate your posts, you have a lot of good, workable ideas, expressed clearly and concisely :)

I'm trying to think but nuthin' happens....
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Jamerson had this cool technique he used a lot where he'd hit the one on the '4 and' (I dunno how else to put it) of the previous measure and let it carry over. Use this in lines where you are hitting the one every other, then the 'and of 4' from the previous measure (again, how else to I put it?) alternating and it makes everything sound kinda off-time, but still especially groovalicious.
Andrew Mazzocchi
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randy, I was thinking a repeated figure kind of like those great ones that Buster Williams played in Hancock's Sextant-era (which laid the groundwork for Headhunters), or a Paul Jackson line. Either man could lock down into hynpotizing grooves and vary/morph them as comping above took on extra dimensions. Some of that stuff played then was so advanced harmonically and rythmically, considering that a first glance would almost say "pentatonic". Quite remarkable work from all those players of the Bitches Brew and beyond period...

 

Unlike most jazz leading up to it, the bass bass was rythmically not constrained to walking disciplines, which also seemed to make it more obviously melodic (though that isn't strictly true opun examination).

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...So in a way my answers for this thread are silhouetting what I said in the Beyond Pentatonic thread: opening up the listening experience to more genres and periods. That allows you to hear things you might not have been abke to imagine.

 

Conversely, approaching this from theory and composing, sometimes there is a ceratin thing you could explore - just by writing something that say, almost always uses the third on beat one for many of the chords. I just sat down and played a boogie blues bass line that used thirds quite often on beat one for I, IV, and V without ever losing the essential style. I think I might have copped Jack Bruce's trademark of playing blues rock with a vi (F#, in the key of A) for the bass note when the change dropped from the V (E) to IV (D), and then just extended the concept. One example where he does this is in CROSSROADS, but I see them in others too.

 

Then there's that Lou Reed one (Take A Walk On The Wild Side?) you can play with an open string E while simultaneously sliding on the G string to G# at the 13th fret G-string, and then doing an open A string while sliding on the G string to C# at the 20th fret. I don't know if this is the way it really is done or the right key, but I heard it on the radio long ago, and then copped the basic vibe. Well, actually I play a sliding double stop that includes either the fifth or dom 7th of each chord as well, played on the D string.

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Break the root habit? Sounds like some Amazonian addiction.Playing the root on 'one" [ at least when the chords change ] is a primary job function of bass. If you are the leader you can play anything you want,if you want to work with various groups you should think and hear as a bassist. Better yet, a superbad arranger who also plays bass.Playing 3rds or other tones than the root- wait till you hear them.You must have absolute conviction and confidence to pull it off. The ostinato (or "pedal") on the 5 is a great sound, use it when ever.

Re Jamerson: "You Can't Hurry Love" the Supreme example of anticipating the root.

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Originally posted by KikkyMonk:

I have re-evaluated my bass lines and came up with this:

 

They always are root on the downbeat (or first major beat, depending on rythym (there is that word again!) ) It might be the "and" of one or the "e" of one ect, but its always the first sound in a measure... then a riff which leads into the next measure where I hit the next root in line then another root ect.

Noting wrong with rooths on the down.

 

Maybe there is something wrong with the way and the confidence you are playing with.

 

A strong bass line doesn't necesarilly have to be full of 'cool' or 'unexpected' notes.

 

Focus on interoreting the same basslines with difreent level of dinacms and placements in the beat. The same pentatonic[and by the way it is spelled penTatonic and not penatonic] riffs take a whole new meaning when you play off of diferent beats in the bar.

 

No matter what they tell you, a solid root on any given downbeat is a necessary part of the song as a WHOLE.

"Word to your mother"
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I thought of one of my early years songs when I was playing bari sax with a mic dropped down the bell through an Echoplex and some early guitar effects (fuzzwah) into a Fender Deluxe Reverb. Used to play Iron Butterfly's IN THE TIME OF OUR LIVES (from Ball). As I recall the intro and verse bass riff (key of Cm) used C CGF#G notes against Cm (C-Eb-G), Eb (Eb-G-Bb), D (D-F#-A), and Db (Db-F-Ab) descending chords, and had this really nifty wrap/inversion of the notes when the Db chord came around. That guy really came up with some cool bass lines!

 

Conversely, not too long ago at a gig, my band played this real stompin' version of The House Is Rockin' (Stevie Ray), and somehow the guitar guy ended up extending the F#(7) chord near the end of the song. I just started walking up in doublet eighths semi-chromatically to cover for him getting sidetracked, and by the time I got back around to the F# the release from the tension building was just awesome! I think I got a similar feeling when playing the intro/turnaround buildup figure from Brian Setzer's big-band version of "Rumble In Brighton". Check that one out for some nice pedal-against-chords bass movement.

 

Some rockin' daddies!

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This topic is right for me, today : }

 

Another line with that somewhat fits a couple of things previously mentioned is found in the verse riff of the Beatles' DAY TRIPPER {which, serendipity!: I mentioned a couple hours back on the Taxman thread; }.

 

Got your phrase that extends over TWO bars - and it does it by anticipating on the AND of 4 and which ties over into the next measure. On top of that, several notes later, another tied anticipation is a MAJOR NINTH, while the comping is still essentially on the I chord. Same action once the changes go to the IV chord. Also has very strong placement ON THE ONE, of the root note.

 

Not bad for a little ditty from yesteryear ; }

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Yeah, deze guyz is right - it takes some confidence to sell whatever concept or wild hair you happen to get. Note placement, emphasis, phrasing, emphasis, it's all part of the mix that can help sell whatever it is you want to try and pedal/peddle.

 

A very simple example comes from one I played a couple of bands ago: the Door's ROADHOUSE BLUES (Morrison Hotel), in E. This one is real simple and goes on a real long time when you got a boogyin' crowd and a band that would rather extend the last set before packin' it in. Every night it was a little bit different; maybe an extra solo, a couple of crowd-assisted singalongs on verses, some new lyrics, maybe some variations starting on different chord notes for the basic A-A#-B figure stuck between E notes - maybe even an extended intro where the bass and guitar filigree this figure into kind of a double lead before dropping down and chuggin' it straight so the vocals can enter at the right intensity. Build and drop back, call and response, dynamics.

 

Well, one night after much had already gone on and we were presently surfin' some high intensity at the end of the BBBBBBBBBBBBBBB C C C B (All Night Long!) section, the guitarists went back into the main figure riff/comp and it JUST FELT RIGHT to hit the start of each measure with first an E note (and the triplet figure), then an F-C-F triple-stop (still against the guitar's E[7]) and the AA#B figure, F#-C#-F# and a figure variation, just going up chromatically with "power stops" every four beats - and later, every two beats as I toyed with expectations by going DOWN a step or half-step, and then up to A#(Bb)-E#(F) and repeatedly sliding into it from A-E (kind of like smokin' in the boy's room but continuing to play eight notes), and the F I N A L L Y to a repeated eighths on B-F#-B before dropping down to a huge pound on the lowest E, and walking back up to that E from low B.

 

Not especially subtle - but I'll almost guarantee that every-frickin'-body in the room GOT IT and grabbed a half-rack to go and were hoppin' each others bones the minute they got to where they were goin'! ...Un-frickin'-believable!

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Awesome stuff..

 

I broke my computer trying to get rid of lop.com and had to format and reinstall EVERYTHING! Needless to say I was busy tearing my hair out while you all compiled a frickin' awesome list for me to try...

 

I have rythym (but not how to spell it) in the hat as I marched drum line while in high school... trouble is my ear never improved because its all rythym, no notes!

 

I've been trying to establish a good practice schedule (wake up 2 hours early and play till its time to go to work) and have been needing things to practice... all these items fall into that category.

 

My band mates have always said they thought I come up with good bass lines... i think its my confidence as well as my desire to always improve. I'm playing with an original band and am free to do what I want... Its not that I want all my bass lines are "out there" or unnecessarily complex, its just that there are some songs I have yet to right something that fits just so.. so I'm trying to compile a list of things to try to see if I can get something going for those songs.

 

Anywho,

 

Rock on and thanks for all the dolphins!

 

Dave

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Hey KikkyMonk,

 

Sounds like you are on the right track reagrding complexity. It's not about complexity on any instrument regardless of what some might think. Nor is it really about simplicity. Its simply about playing music that interests yourself, those you play with, others.

 

When you hit those plateaus and you are there on them so long they begin to make you wish for another mountain to scale with a higher view it's good that you are not complacent and want to act on that. That's what keeps us growing. To become content to wallow in ruts of ones' own making, or to squander creativity in a state of frustration is not likely when one knows a higher perspective is always available.

 

There was a period when I felt locked in stasis musically. The music my peers were comfortable with did not satisfy me and I felt spiritually and creatively stagnant. For awhile I followed the examples around me and just went through the motions. I played the same old stale stuff and tried to tell myself that was the way it SHOULD be. Most people couldn't tell the difference, that my love affair with music was now unsatisfying. Hell, that was their view: that it was natural to just punch the time clock and hopefully get paid somehow, later.

 

Finally I decided to check into some other sources of inspiration which would hopefully teach me, and lead me into growth and vibrant connection to whatever it was I originally found in music. And you know, that decision made me reexamine other things in my life too. All that combined, and I began to get more out of music and give more too. I was finding how to keep interested - and interesting to others who didn't just settle for less by renaming it "more".

 

Long spiel, but for me a very important part of the continuing love affair.

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