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A Beginners Obvious Question


JulesM

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Hey everyone!

 

I'm new to bass and this forum and I suspect I'm asking a question that will make you all sigh in dismay... but hopefully one of you can help me.

 

I've been looking in books and online and I need a simple answer. Is there a rule for converting guitar chords into bass lines?

 

For example - a song is put in front of me with the chords Em, C, A. Do I just play those notes on my bass or do I do something else?

 

I'm so used to reading bass tab - that when someone just gives me chords I don't know what I'm supposed to do with them...

 

Thanks!

 

Jules

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Welcome. There are many traditions.

 

The simplest idea is to play just the root of that chord. You can play whatever rhythm the song requires...including repeated eighth notes.

 

Another idea, really a classic one (Beethoven and Bach used it) is to outline the chord by playing it's root and fifth. That would be C-G for a C chord. Often this is done 2 notes to a bar, but others have different ideas.

 

You can expand that by adding the third or the seventh. This gets kinda complicated because the thirds and sevenths often have different "qualities." (So can the fifth, but it's less common in most of the stuff you will play.) There are 2 thirds and 2 sevenths commonly used "Major" and "Minor" (there is also a "diminished" seventh, again, used less frequently)

 

Another idea is to add the sixth or ninth note above the root. Also, many folks put a 1/2 step above or below the next root in a series on the fourth beat--a leading tone.

 

There are "riff" based songs, where a particular pattern "defines" the song, rather than the chords." "Day Tripper" is an example of this (the opening phrase.)

 

At this point, there are so many note and rhythm possibilities you can take a long time to explore them. Listen to bass lines for these intervals and see how they are used. For example, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" uses several varieties of the above.

 

The next set of ideas are walking ideas. You can play the R-2-3-5 or R-b3-#3-5 or R-b7-6-5 or a number of other patterns as they match the chord tones. This is the simplest, formulaic walking line.

 

Another idea is the true walking line, where you use scales associated with each chord, plus color tones and leading tones to move seamlessly from chord to chord. Jazz uses this idea a lot.

 

And, there are other ideas as well, far too specific to include in this analysis

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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No rules, but the first thing you need to learn is how chords work (if you don't know already). That is, what intervals of the scale are in each chord. This will tell you what notes are available. With time & practice, you'll figure out which notes sound better in which contexts, which notes move smoothly from one chord to another, & when to use notes outside the chord.

 

It's not much "theory" to learn chords, really. Then the best thing is to play a lot, using chord charts. It's also good to study great bass lines, trying to understand how the line fits into the chord progression. For that, it would help a LOT if you learned standard notation.

 

But you're already making a huge step forward just by leaving tab behind & playing to "real" music! :thu:

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start of with the root (sometimes abbreviated 'R') of the chord. the root of Em is E (actually, E is a chord, the note you play is 'mi', but i'll leave that out for the moment)

 

actually, what Dave said is all valid. i would just use 3rds and 5ths for now. so:

 

E is a major chord. the 5th in this case is B, the 3rd is Ab. simply put, in major chords the third is the note that makes it a 'happy' chord.

 

Em is a minor chord. the 5th is still B, the 3rd is G. simply put, in minor chords the third is the note that makes it a 'kinda sad' chord.

 

if you need to play other chords (C, Gm, etc...) just slide this pattern up or down your neck so that the root note is your chord.

 

after all this, try to learn some theory, it'll be worth your while and everything Dave said will start to make sense ;)

 

welcome to the forum Jules.

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I do give lessons. And this theory is what I cover in the first 8 lessons, including how to play each example.

 

And I also use generally give Beatles tunes for practice. "Let it Be" is played with only roots. "Ob-La-Di" is a root, third, fifth pattern. And so on.

 

Here is something that MUST be memorized:

 

ACE

BDF

CEG

DFA

EGB

FAC

GBD

 

That's all the chord there are: root, third and fifth. So in the above example (cloclo) you'll see that the E chord MUST contain an "e", a "G" and a "B." Therefore, the third of the E chord cannot be an "Ab," it is, however, the same note (called an "enharmonic") but spelled as G#.

 

I have all my beginning students learn the major scale pattern, the R-5 pattern, the major and minor R-3-5 patterns and the R-2-3-5 pattern in the first several lessons. They use these patterns and chord charts to play simple songs. In addition, I write these patterns out on staff paper so they learn to read at the same time.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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My high school theory class started out in a similar way.

 

Lesson #1: Write out all major scales on the staff.

 

Lesson #2: Now write the natural minor scales.

 

Lesson #3: Build the appropriate major, minor, or diminshed chord on each step of all the scales.

 

All those triads start to burn their way into your mind.

- Matt W.
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gahh....so dave how much for lessons?? lolol
Forget lessons - how much to lay tracks for me? ;)

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

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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Listen to a lot of music, and listen to the bass parts. As you study theory, like the excellent material posted above, AND focus on what players do, your theory studies and "ear" sessions will start to feed ech other in a great way.
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Originally posted by Dave Brown:

I do give lessons. And this theory is what I cover in the first 8 lessons, including how to play each example.

 

And I also use generally give Beatles tunes for practice. "Let it Be" is played with only roots. "Ob-La-Di" is a root, third, fifth pattern. And so on.

 

Here is something that MUST be memorized:

 

ACE

BDF

CEG

DFA

EGB

FAC

GBD

 

That's all the chord there are: root, third and fifth. So in the above example (cloclo) you'll see that the E chord MUST contain an "e", a "G" and a "B." Therefore, the third of the E chord cannot be an "Ab," it is, however, the same note (called an "enharmonic") but spelled as G#.

 

I have all my beginning students learn the major scale pattern, the R-5 pattern, the major and minor R-3-5 patterns and the R-2-3-5 pattern in the first several lessons. They use these patterns and chord charts to play simple songs. In addition, I write these patterns out on staff paper so they learn to read at the same time.

Dave Brown, I'd like to sign up for lessons :D

 

Is Melbourne, Australia very far from Arlington? :D

 

ROFL

 

I hope your sudents appreciate what they've got!

 

;)

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  • 3 weeks later...

An analogy ... bass tab is like giving someone a fish, and music theory is like teaching someone how to fish. With tab, you only get one meal (song). With theory, you never run out of meals (songs). (Not a perfect analogy, but you get the picture.)

 

What cloclo briefly mentions reminds me of a story. When I was in college I met some international students from Morocco. They had this stringed/fretted instrument, and having played a few of those myself :) I asked them what pitches the strings were tuned to. Well, they didn't use English alphabet names for their pitches, so I was confused ... until they wrote them in standard music notation. Then the lights went on! A "do" is a C, a "re" is a D, a "mi" is an E, and similarly "fa", "sol", "la", "ti" (or "si") finish the scale. I'd heard this before ... that Sound of Music song! (Do, a deer, a female deer...)

 

My wife says it comes from solfege ... this seems to agree with Wikipedia , which also states that "Latin countries" use these names, while "Germanic countries" use ABCs. I guess we know how to classify (southern?) Belgium now. :)

 

Just something to file away in case you're ever on tour in Europe and someone tells you to "just play mi mi mi" ... they're telling you the pitch, not trying to get fresh. ;)

 

RicBassGuy, Patteuw/Batteuw in disguise

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