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Old 08-22-2006, 10:55 PM   #1
HaVIC5
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Lightbulb 6-string Bass Tapping Lesson

Since the lessons portion of Sputnik Music is down and being rearranged, I'm just going to post this lesson here, at least for now. Enjoy!



Tapping out a jazz blues on the 6-string bass

By Adam Neely

NOTE: It is advised that you have at least rudimentary grasp on jazz music and performance theory before you attempt to master the concepts taught in this lesson.

Two-handed touchstyle technique affords for the six-string bassist a vast array of possibilities for performance and study. No longer confined to crude polyphony involving plucking out triads and diads, the six-string bassist can perform pieces in counterpoint, greatly opening up the musical palette. But once the basics of technique are mastered, where does one go? What sort of stylistic approach can be mastered? Refined and elegant recitations of baroque fugues and inventions? Driving and percussive funk grooves that incorporate other techniques like slapping and thumbing? Or perhaps comping chords and walking basslines to be a one-man jazz machine?

Hopefully we’ll get to all of that, but for now, we’ll focus on that last option. In this lesson, we’ll go over the basics of being a one-man rhythm section, and how the concept of both playing chords and walking a bassline can be applied to both solo and group play. We’ll first study one chorus of a jazz blues realized for six-string bass, and then begin to improvise lines. Contrapuntal improvisation is a difficult technique to get under our belts, but if those damned piano players can do it, than we sure can as well.

First, let’s take a look at jazz blues. The jazz blues chord progression is the most common progression in all of jazz. Countless melodies have been written off the numerous variations of the basic chord progression, and any jazz player worth his salt will be able to tear up a solo on these changes at the drop of a hat. Jazz blues is different than regular blues in that it takes a much more ii-V-I approach to harmony, and will often approach chords in a different manner. For those who do not know what a typical jazz blues looks like, here is a chord chart.



It is a fairly simple and straightforward chord progression, which is great for our purposes, and it yields a plethora of melodic ideas for solos and melodies, which explains why it is such a popular progression used by jazz artists the world over.

The first step in building the chorus our jazz blues is to come up with a walking line. Walking the bass is a familiar concept to bassists, so this part won’t be so difficult, but there are some key differences between tapping a walk and plucking a walk. First, when tapping a walk, open strings aren’t going to be used at all, and so considerations must be made. The familiar, lower positions for walking lines normally make full use of open strings, and so in order to compensate for this lack of utility, tapped walks must be performed several positions up. Second, one must “ration” strings for walking in order not to have conflict of interests between the two hands. Generally speaking, the majority of your walking should be planned around the B, E and A strings so as to leave the rest of the strings for the right hand’s performance. The D string can (and should) be used occasionally, but always keeping in mind that the right hand might require a note here and there for extensions. Chords only really need two notes to be jazz chords – the third and the seventh – but in order to add flavor, a third tension tone can be added, which is exactly how conflict could arise on the D string. We’ll get more into this later.

When walking a bassline with traditional pluck method, we can afford much more brainpower for various intricacies including performing lines without playing the root, chromatic movements, playing in extreme ranges, etc. We don’t quite have that luxury with playing tapped lines and having chordal movement on top. We’ll need to keep it pretty much as basic as possible, at least at first. This means triadic movement is essential, as well as the memorization of very basic patterns to be recalled at the drop of a hat. Improvising can be thought of as completely making something up as one goes along, but from a pragmatic standpoint, improvising walking lines is more piecing together different parts of the puzzle that you already have. This should be what you think of when you approach tapped walks, and any walking line in general for that matter.

OK, lets get started. Here’s a basic line that we can work with for the purposes of the lesson. You can make up one of your own in the basic styling of this one, remembering the concepts introduced thus far. Tab is provided, as well as fingerings. We’ll be doing this jazz blues in Bb, because that is essentially the standard key for jazz due to the way horns are tuned.



Note that the bulk of the playing occurs on the B, E and A strings with a brief foray onto the D string in measures two and three. Also note that this is just a realization of a walking line, and there are many more. We’re working with this non-improvised line just for study purposes. When you play, it’ll be improvised.

We now have a base from which to work (no pun intended). Where do we go from here? Chords, of course. When playing in a jazz combo, the pianist, or possibly the guitarist, will be responsible for providing the harmonic extrapolation to the bassline that the bassist provides. Like walking lines, there is an entire art to “comping”, or improvising chords within the context of a rhythm section. Guitarists and pianists will provide a textural support for the soloist, both rhythmically and harmonically. With a six-string bass, we can approach this art form (albeit in a very rudimentary fashion) and apply it to a walking line that we ourselves provide with two-handed tapping. This opens a range of possibilities to solo play, and performing in an ensemble that doesn’t have the luxury of a chordal instrument. It also gives bassists even more control over the direction of a performance.

When comping, the majority of the performance should take place on the G and C strings in order to keep the lower strings available for walking. Like we covered earlier, the majority of chords will only need two tones to be chords - the third and the seventh. The third is necessary because it governs whether or not a chord is major or minor, and the seventh is necessary because it gives the chord function within a jazz chord progression as a dominant, subdominant, tonic, etc. You’ll be covering the root of the chord in your left hand with your walking bassline, so its not of any concern to the right hand, and the fifth generally is considered a weak note for the chord, unless it is altered somehow, so it will likely be ignored. Essentially, this should all boil down to you punching out diads with your right hand.

Let’s test this with playing the chord tones in the right hand against the walking line we already came up with. Note that the “b9” in the G7 in measure 8 and measure 11 isn’t a necessity for the progression, so it will be omitted in the chord voicings for now.



Well…OK…it sounds good enough, I guess. But it definitely doesn’t sound like you’re making music, it sounds pretty dry. Jazz is a very rhythmic genre, and as such, you want as much rhythm happen as possible. Comping, like walking, is as much a rhythmic performance technique as it is a harmonic performance technique, and so careful consideration to the rhythms one plays while comping is extremely important. No pianist or guitarist will ever play whole notes over ever change in the progression, and neither should you when you are comping.

What should you do, then? Well, I like to think of jazz (and all forms of music, really) as a language, and as someone who is speaking the language, it would be prudent to be versed in the vocabulary of the language. Jazz has a lot of common syncopated rhythms that you can use for your comping, some of which can be found below. Go through each one and play the example that we just went through using the same rhythm for every measure.



(cont.)

Last edited by HaVIC5; 08-24-2006 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 08-22-2006, 10:55 PM   #2
HaVIC5
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Hmm….that’s better than it was before, but it still sounds pretty lifeless and boring when you hear the same rhythm played over and over again. It still definitely isn’t jazz, but we’re getting somewhere with this. Let’s think again of jazz as a language. What you just did was play a jazz “word”, but you played it over and over again. That’s the same as a person repeating the same word over and over again and expecting to make a sentence out of it. You’ll get a general gist of the subject matter, but not what they’re trying to say. For example, a sentence that reads “Apples apples apples apples apples apples” is obviously going to be about apples, just the way what you just played was “about” jazz. But what the heck is that sentence trying to convey about apples? And what the heck are you trying to convey about jazz?

You see, jazz is a genre defined by the concept of antecedent and consequence, better known as call and response. A beginning phrase is played (the call), which is followed by a contrasting phrase that provides resolution to the first (the response). This is usually understood in melodic terms, but it holds perfectly true to rhythmic work, which is what you’ll be doing here. Mix and match these phrases, elongate them, throw in flourishes of your own. Tell a story with your comping. When the soloist plays a phrase, interject with a chord at the end of the phrase. Start out with the first couple choruses with sparse accompaniment, and then build up as the soloist (or, if you’re playing solo, as you) gets more and more into the music. This is what you’re aiming to do with all of this.

To give you an idea of what I mean by all of this, here is the jazz blues chorus that we’ve been working on with a comping line that makes use of this concept of antecedent and consequence. Remember, the more rhythms and notes you play, the more the sonic space is cluttered, which can really foul up the music if the soloist needs a lot of aural room to play, so make your rhythmic choices wisely.



There are a few things you should notice. One, rhythmic anticipation is common in jazz. It is very common to play a chord on the upbeat of the fourth beat of the measure prior to its arrival, such as in measures 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 11 and 12. Two, the rhythmic values during the turnaround (the last two measures) should be the most full so as to propel the musical movement into the next chorus. This should especially be the case when switching between soloists or heading to or out of a melody section.

OK, now we have something that sounds more like jazz, and can do for most situations. There is a certain something missing, though, and that certain something is the zesty flavor brought on by tensions. A chord is made by stacking thirds, and normally one stops stacking thirds by the time one reaches a seventh chord – 1 3 5 7. A natural tension is a chord tone that is created by stacking more thirds on top of that beyond the octave, to give you a 9, then an 11, then a 13. The two natural tensions that are the most common are the 9 and 13, which usually give chords that decidedly “jazzy” sound that we all know and love.

When applying three note chords comprised of the third, the seventh and the tension to tap comping, the most important thing to keep in consideration is the placement of notes on the D string. Here is an example of how to use chords with natural tensions in them. A slightly different walking bassline has been realized to make room for the chords with tensions. The new chords that we’re creating now are in parentheses next to the ones that they are spicing up.



Now THAT is jazzy. Map out all of the natural tensions for each chord and figure out which ones work and which ones don’t for you. The beauty of it is that each one creates dissonance in a slightly different way, and so you can pick and choose which sort of dissonance you want at any given time to help develop your unique “sound”. While six-string bassists won’t ever have quite the same sonic space on which to sprawl out as guitarists and pianists, three notes is plenty to make a mark and create grooving two-part lines that have the sound and feel of jazz. Take the examples that we’ve gone over so far and improvise around them, creating your own lines and eventually getting to the point where you can improvise a bassline and comp chords for several choruses at a time. Remember to take it slow at first – Rome wasn’t built in a day, any neither was the ability to do a technically difficult feat on the six string bass guitar. Once this method is mastered for the jazz blues, you can take other basic progressions, like Autumn Leaves, Take the A Train or Satin Doll and approach them similarly to the way we approached blues.

In the next lesson, I’ll cover basic soloing utilizing two-handed tapping. Until then, good luck with your playing!
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Old 08-22-2006, 11:11 PM   #3
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quality as usual
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Old 08-22-2006, 11:17 PM   #4
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Wow....


I've been trying to sell my 6er, so I won't go too in depth, but I can definitely apply this on 4 string. Thanks!!
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Old 08-22-2006, 11:21 PM   #5
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Holy crap, Adam.

A++++
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Old 08-23-2006, 12:26 AM   #6
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Nice, great work. Just was I was looking for actually.

lowsound
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Old 08-23-2006, 11:48 AM   #7
HaVIC5
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bump
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Old 08-23-2006, 12:13 PM   #8
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Great lesson, learned a lot about jazz. I feel stupid asking this... but in the first example with the diads, how is the diad Ab and D? Theres no Ab in the key of Bbmaj. Wouldn't the 7th be Anat? Unless your writing in Bb mixo or something like that, which you aren't because the walking line plays A natural. I know theres something I'm missing here about jazz and flat sevenths but I don't know what.
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Old 08-23-2006, 12:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncster
Great lesson, learned a lot about jazz. I feel stupid asking this... but in the first example with the diads, how is the diad Ab and D? Theres no Ab in the key of Bbmaj. Wouldn't the 7th be Anat? Unless your writing in Bb mixo or something like that, which you aren't because the walking line plays A natural. I know theres something I'm missing here about jazz and flat sevenths but I don't know what.
the chord is Bb7, which consists of Bb D F Ab, hes only using guide tones (the 3rd and the 7ths)
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Old 08-23-2006, 01:11 PM   #10
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So if I'm in the key of Cmaj and im playing C7th chord I will use a flatened 7th? Oh God I memorized everything wrong? I coulda swore Bass Guitar for Dummies said that the notes in chords were all notes that are in the key your playing in. Like in Cmaj it would be C E G B, but instead it would be C E G Bb? I don't get that. So what chords use a natural seventh? I thought the root (say C) used the third fifth and seventh of the scale its in. Why would it use the flatened 7th if the flatened 7th isn't in the key of Cmaj (The key the chord progression is in)?
Say im playing the D in a Cmaj chord progression. Shouldn't the seventh chord be D, F, A, C(C being the seventh)? Or would it be Cb for some reason? Just trying to clear this up a bit.
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Old 08-23-2006, 01:21 PM   #11
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Nice lesson Adam, did you just knock that up last night?
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Old 08-23-2006, 02:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncster
So if I'm in the key of Cmaj and im playing C7th chord I will use a flatened 7th? Oh God I memorized everything wrong? I coulda swore Bass Guitar for Dummies said that the notes in chords were all notes that are in the key your playing in. Like in Cmaj it would be C E G B, but instead it would be C E G Bb? I don't get that. So what chords use a natural seventh? I thought the root (say C) used the third fifth and seventh of the scale its in. Why would it use the flatened 7th if the flatened 7th isn't in the key of Cmaj (The key the chord progression is in)?
Say im playing the D in a Cmaj chord progression. Shouldn't the seventh chord be D, F, A, C(C being the seventh)? Or would it be Cb for some reason? Just trying to clear this up a bit.
a 7 chord implies a dominant 7, so C7 would be C E G Bb. C major 7 would be C E G B
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Old 08-23-2006, 03:19 PM   #13
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Oh yes, silly me. I thought in a major progression the root seventh chord would be a major seventh chord.
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Old 08-23-2006, 04:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncster
Oh yes, silly me. I thought in a major progression the root seventh chord would be a major seventh chord.

You have to specify if it's a major 7th.
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Old 08-23-2006, 05:39 PM   #15
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Very good work man. Though it really bugged me when you called the "array of possibilities" "wide and vast" in the second paragraph. I think one would suffice.
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Old 08-23-2006, 09:10 PM   #16
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Sweet Lesson. You are amazing.
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Old 08-24-2006, 02:26 AM   #17
HaVIC5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akira
Very good work man. Though it really bugged me when you called the "array of possibilities" "wide and vast" in the second paragraph. I think one would suffice.
Gimme a break, I wrote this in only one afternoon.
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Old 10-13-2006, 02:30 PM   #18
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Some people (I forget who) were wondering where this thread was, so here it is. Mods you can close this, sorry for the old bump.
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Old 10-13-2006, 03:46 PM   #19
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That would be me that was looking for it, should be stickyd or something.

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Old 10-13-2006, 03:52 PM   #20
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I just stickied it... well, at least my monitor is sticky.
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Old 10-13-2006, 04:15 PM   #21
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I'm learning Gavotte from your other lesson, do you have any other good songs to practice hand independence? I am looking for melody/countermelody like Gavotte as opposed to something like Linus and Lucy with melody and then a repetitive bass line.
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Old 10-13-2006, 04:54 PM   #22
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I'm still a little confused on the whole 7th chord bit because I'm horrible with theory. I understand that there are accidentals in this. If you start with, lets say the B7, all the other chords have to be 7ths as well? Some of the 7ths already flattened by the key and others having to be added? Is that how that works out?
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