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Damn Open "G" Tuning


The Bear Jew

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WARNING:

LONG POST ABOUT STUPID STUFF

 

OK, just to be clear...

You guys know I play in two bands...

 

I play guitar in one: Cottonmouth D.N.

 

And I play bass in the other: Mean Ether

 

In Mean Ether, I have total creative control of my basslines.... as long as we all agree that the parts I play fit the song. We take this approach with all of the arrangements and instrumentation. This way we're all happy.

 

In Cottonmouth D.N., we take the same approach, except I play guitar. It's cool.

 

Now, here's the issue. Where CMDN's music is more rhythmic and riffy, Mean Ether's stuff is more melodic and based on chord progressions. With CMDN, most of the melody comes from the vocal line, with the instrumentation providing rhythmic counterpoint and occasional reference pitches. Mean Ether is more of a "pop" band, and the vocal melodies follow the chord progressions, give or take.

 

#6 rarely has a problem creating basslines for the CMDN stuff, as the strength of the band's style comes from a unified sound - we're usually locked together.

 

I, however, sometimes spend ages laboring over Mean Ether bass lines. J (the guitarist from Mean Ether) plays a lot of open chords, which is fine. He also plays a lot of weirdish suspended chords with tons of open strings. These are cool, too, but I take a little longer to work out bass lines for these, as the best option doesn't always make itself known right away. Either way, I usually find something that makes us all happy eventually.

 

So, NOW J is WAYY into this damn open "G" tuning. You guys know what I'm talking about, right? It's the Keith Richards tuning. Well, he's in love with it now, and, while I think it sounds cool... it's kind of annoying, too. See, he tends to maintain the "open string chord" thing with this tuning, which leaves a sort of "G drone" happening while he slides his chord positions around. Now, I'm not saying it doesn't sound cool... because it does, and he's written some excellent songs in this tuning.

 

However, the "G" drone leaves me a with very few good-sounding bass options. I've tried a lot of ideas... I tried following around some of the noticeable notes in the chords and I've tried playing against the vocal melody... but these ideas mainly seem to create tension, which can be cool sometimes, but not throughout an entire song - it leaves everything feeling sort of unresolved. It makes me jumpy, and none of us really like it. The only bass idea that really seems to work is the snoozer one... playing that "G" root with the kick drum and spelling out arpeggios that land back on the "one" again with the root. We all agree this seems to work, and I can usually find stuff that pleases us... but it's wearing on me.

 

Now, don't get me wrong... I'm totally cool with playing whatever works best for the tune, so if the root works best, then the root I shall play.

 

But after three similarly tempoed, suspended open "G" tunes with that f-ing "G Drone," I start to get a little frickin' antsy, ya know? I'm looking for something different to do on my end... and the best I can do is bop around between the root, fifth, octave, thirds.... but that's about it, because everything else sounds wrong. The most I can do is vary between major and minor thirds, depending on the feel implied either by the vocal melody or the sympathetic notes in J's fuggin' suspended chords.

 

Thus far my solution has been to request that we only put two of these songs near each other in our sets... because I feel like stabbing myself in the eyes otherwise. The guys know it's making me bugshit. I've even taken acoustic versions of these tunes home so I can write to them.. and I continually discover that the damn root always sound best.

 

So... I guess the question here is...

Do you guys have any thoughts/ideas/suggestions about writing bass lines to these types of progressions? I'm about to lose my mind with this.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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You know what, I was in a similar situation breifly. I didn't solve it and I couldn't really come up with stuff I liked but it may have been compounded by other musical issues.

 

Considering you feel a lot of freedom (I love freedom) you might just step back and listen without playing any bass. Hearing what is there and what actually needs to be coming from the bass, and looking maybe to the drummer for ideas on where to play. Picking your spots in the grooves as to where to play that will give you something meaningful to add, looking at the songs melodies and see how or if they deal with the harmonic implications of the droning G.

 

You might find getting away from down beats or where ever the guitar is playing and playing off from where he's at.

 

I dont' know but think of it like this: the greatest problems sometimes offer the greatest solutions.

check out some comedy I've done:

http://louhasspoken.tumblr.com/

My Unitarian Jihad Name: Brother Broadsword of Enlightened Compassion.

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If try a 4th and major 6 together, it'll sound like yer changing keys, if done at the right time will give the jam new life. This all sounds a little "green" for you. I thought you hated Hippies. :D

 

You could change your mindset, and own the progression. Let Open G boy just float over the top. Just make sure the progression works in G.

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

My Current Project

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Melodic basslines are not necessary.

Chord tones are not necessary.

 

Try playing some different rhythms on the root.

 

Lock with the drummer and create a juggernaut of rhythm. Isn't that what Bill Wyman did?

 

Back in the day when I was recording with a folksinger who did extensive fingerpicking, I realized that I did not have to double the fingerpicked part.

 

When you listen to the guitarist it will seem as if his part is overwhelming everything. However, if you step back and listen to those kind of guitar parts on a recording, the fingerpicked or drone parts can be heard as a texture or a "pad".

 

Feel free to create a powerful rhythmic part which can stand on its own.

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Plenty of examples of recorded songs "written" by guitarists where there is absolutely no concern for a real bass part that's interesting. Don't let that stop you. It hasn't stopped a lot of other bass players. Be prepared to wrap yourself in the pure white light of stupidity and somewhere someone will think you are playing brilliantly.

 

"You are a drum, you are a voice, you are a fife (a really low one with strings)."

 

/me thinks of how many ways have played When The Levee Breaks

.
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Erik, in your situation, I have often turned to the Tony Levin school of "play fewer notes, find an interesting place to define something else about the song, and work that thing."

 

Step back and listen to the song, without playing anything.

Is there a way to accentuate the less melodic, rythymic elements while playing, say, 2 or 3 notes fewer? Or 2 or 3 notes in total?

 

What does it need? What does it NOT need?

 

Maybe it's just the spot for an entire tune's worth of volume swells in G.

I'd say start with as little as possible, truly let the song tell you what it needs.

It may just be the root- but don't rule out something "simpler".

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes it's the right thing to not play at all.

 

Honky Tonk Women is in the Keef tuning, (IIRC), and there isn't any bass on the verses.

 

Or treat the bass as a lead instrument, not as a foundation instrument, and start working up above the 12th fret.

 

Or get a Chapman Stick or an NS Stick (also tm) and have a full range of notes to pick from.

 

I've tried and failed on all of these options.

 

Paul.

Peace,

 

Paul

 

----------------------

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This all sounds a little "green" for you. I thought you hated Hippies.
Yeah.... I do hate hippies... Well, rather, I hate the baggage that surrounds a lot of hippies. But that's another topic altogether. These tunes are more country-ish than hippie, I think.. kinda Black Crowes/Adam Duritz stuff with Bob Mould singing. Very rootsy. I think we could use a banjo sometimes.

 

Try playing some different rhythms on the root. Lock with the drummer and create a juggernaut of rhythm. Isn't that what Bill Wyman did?
Yep, that's what I've been doing - locking in on the kick with the root note and then touching on the snare for accents, etc. The root note/rhythmic thing is always my first instinct, but I just figured that was my hardcore/funk total moronic musician background surfacing. It works, but I was just kind of wondering if maybe there was something I was missing here...

 

Be prepared to wrap yourself in the pure white light of stupidity and somewhere someone will think you are playing brilliantly.
Dude. I live in that light. I think I may be its source. I am The SUN OF STUPIDITY.

 

Erik, in your situation, I have often turned to the Tony Levin school of "play fewer notes, find an interesting place to define something else about the song, and work that thing."

Yeah man, that's where I am with it. There's so much lush notey goodness happening in the guitar part that it seems the best idea is to simply hold the groove together and add minimal flavor tidbits. Having the bass jump out on these tunes isn't really much of an option. It just doesn't sound right.

 

All I really need is for J to keep these songs seperate in our sets.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Play for the song.

 

If it's that boring to you, it's probably boring to the audience too. I agree that you should move the songs around in the set-list. Two in a row might be okay, but three songs in a row with a lax bassline is asking for a snooze. ;)

 

If the bass isn't adding that much, maybe you should follow up on that banjo instinct... banjos rock and they can be had cheap these days.

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Yeah, I agree.. playing for the song is always my goal. I know we're going to record about five of these "Open G" tunes soon, so I'll post links when we have mixes ready.

 

I'm hearing a sort of Eagles "Take It Easy" banjo part on this one tune... But I doubt I could make that happen without a lot of woodshedding. I'll leave that one to J... unless, of course, someone makes a black diamondplate banjo that shoots fire.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Lock with the drummer and create a juggernaut of rhythm. - JeremyC

 

Amen Jeremy. In the original band I am in, the guitar player loves A. the singer loves A. I would say half the songs are rooted in A. We can literally do a 90 minute set in A. I used to let it wear on me but eventually I started turning to the drummer and just winding up that train and letting it roll.

 

Mine has recently been writing in drop D and more and more on his seven string which I love.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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OK - a few thoughts...

 

1. Like they said - use space. It's not how you would usually think, and it's not the way Mean Ether's first album worked. Play on the one only. on the 2 & 3 only.

 

2. I know it's not the same type of writing, but I'd listen to "Sour Girl" by STP - sort of all over the place. DeLeo follows the riff in some songs, messes around in others.

 

3. Since you're on good terms with the drummer, work separately with him to reinvent what the rhythm section is doing. Be radical with one of the open G suckers. Have him think Ginger Baker (go to the library and get Best Of Cream and play "Deserted Cities" and "Those Were The Days"). It'll stretch you both.

 

4. Although you say you'll do what the song requires, I'm not feelin' it that way. IF the songwriting is that good and distinctively different in 2 open G songs and you have to play mostly roots, then fine. I suspect that the songs are not so different (which is why point 3 means you and Drew could BE the difference). And that's what distinguishes me from you - I'll not be putting that "I'll do what the song needs" talk in anybody's ear. OK - for a song or two I can do it, but mostly we have to find a way that I can enjoy playing.

 

5. I'm worried. While the first CD had some songs that (to my ears) sounded similar, it was the live act that "brought the rock" to these pop songs. If Drew is keeping a beat and you're doing roots, those melodies and guitar thingys better be damned good.

 

All this, as you know, comes from someone who is both a bassist and a fan. I'm looking forward to hearing the new material. It was last week that I threw the CD into my Tascam and was jamming along with you (Seraphim still pushes my buttons).

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Yo 'Broni...

That Banjo is THE HOTNESS. I need it.

 

Quoth "Madball":

I suspect that the songs are not so different (which is why point 3 means you and Drew could BE the difference). And that's what distinguishes me from you - I'll not be putting that "I'll do what the song needs" talk in anybody's ear.
Yes, but that's because you're one of those hardcore diva bassists. It's all about you, isn't it, Capasso? There's no "I" in team, buddy.

Just messing with you... Yes, it's true, the songs have a similar overall feel... similar tempos, and that f-ing "Open G" with the drones... But the vocal melodies are working for me, and tunes are new enough to me that I might be hearing them as very similar simply because I haven't found the "thing" that makes each of them into individual personalities rather than just "a bunch of songs in 'Open G.'" I know I'm gonna have to live with these tunes for a while before I can give J my honest opinion about them. Two of them have some real flavor.. nice spots for Drew to sing harmony vocals, hanging pauses, etc. The other two, however, are just kind of sitting there, waiting for me and to make something happen with the bass lines in order to give 'em life. Part of the problem, I think, is that J is still used to having a weak rhythm section, so he tries to take up a lot of space with the guitar parts rather than letting us handle that job so that he can just "paint" on top. We usually get there eventually, but it takes Drew and my patented "groove analysis process" to make it happen. "Saraphim" was one of those tunes. You should have heard that sucker before we got our mitts on it. Ditto "Chaos Girl."

 

All this, as you know, comes from someone who is both a bassist and a fan. I'm looking forward to hearing the new material. It was last week that I threw the CD into my Tascam and was jamming along with you (Seraphim still pushes my buttons).
Tom, I know it, bro. It's all love.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Originally posted by CMDN:

It's all about you, isn't it, Capasso? There's no "I" in team, buddy.

Damn right !! If I'm carrying those extra cables and tools and rolls of tape and providing and setting up the PA and getting to the gig first and all that, "I'm gonna get up and do MY thing" (to paraphrase James Brown). Besides, nobody else in band understands what we diva bassists do...

 

Dude - I'm certain that you are correct - a little more time in the crock pot and you'll make it happen. Or send us all the songs, and you'll get at least a few different takes on them. Then you can pick and choose. Or set a date and I'll make the drive and be creative on the spot (it won't help the song, but you'll have a good laugh).

 

Tell J and Drew I said "hi".

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Well, J just called me to say that he just acquired a new 24-track Mackie hard drive recorder and a new 32-input mixing board, which leads me to believe that we'll probably be tracking these tunes very shortly. It'd be funny to see if I could get J to throw down a mix with nothing but guitar, vocals and drums that I could upload somewhere so the LDLD crew could put their licks where their modems are.. or whatever you'd call it.

 

Would anyone here wanna take a shot? If enough people are interested, I'm sure J would do it.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Hold on a minute. I suggested this for fun. There's money in this?

 

Oh - if he uses my idea. I see he'll be keeping his money... :D

 

I don't have any recording equipment, but I can probably find a way. I'm in.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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