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More About Devices - The DNA Of Rock Bass Lines!

That The Pros Don't Want You To Know!

In the previous article we had this example of a simple, quarter note bass line that was composed by one of the students on  Rock Bass 101 - now called Cracking The Rock Bass Code:

And here's what this sounds like - this is me playing though, not the student who composed the line:

Now there was one thing that I took off the music notation and tab graphic when I presented it yesterday.  And that was the annotation that I encourage my students to use when composing to make future analyzing easier.

That annotation basically assesses what each note's function is - and also that ties in with how the devices that I've identified (and teach) are codified.

If you listened to the prior example you maybe heard that there were some bars where amajor triad or major triad variation was used.  If I annotate the score with those, it will now look like this:


A quick word on the G7 bar - the root note has been annotated with an '8' before we go down to the third (annotated as '3').  That's exactly the reason why - to indicate that although we're playing a major triad device we are playing the root ABOVE the third.  Hence the '8.'

If you look at the score or listen to the video you'll hear that in the F7 bars (bars 2 and 6) the bass line just consists of the root note and the fifth below it.  Again because we want to indicate the root note is ABOVE thee fifth, we're going to annotate it as an '8.'

The music graphic now looks like this:

That leaves us three bars to annotate.

Bars 3 and 7 use the same device - and it's a really cool device that I've found in bass lines by James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Tommy Shannon, Paul McCartney, Bruce Thomas and a score of others.

I call it the R-3-4-Ch. Note that in Bar 7 the root note is again played ABOVE the '3' and is again annotated as an 8:

That just leaves us the final bar to annotate.

That G7 bar uses a connecting device called the R-R-2-3 which pushes the ear nicely through the bar to land on C (listen again to the video to check that out):

Now there’s nothing wrong with this composition - but if you listen through to the recording that I made of this you should hear two points where this line doesn’t sound as strong as perhaps it could.

Those two points are at the end of bars 2 and 6 where the F7 chord approaches the C7 chord. In the example above the F7 bars finish with C and of course the C7 bar starts with C.

One way to fix this issue of leading to that C7 root note from the F7 chord is to use the ‘octave’ approach to approach the root note of C7.

Rather than talk about the theory of this I'm just going to show you this at work so you can see and hear exactly what I mean. We’re going to use the example above but this time on the two F7 bars I’m going to play a major triad variation that finishes on the 5th. In F7 of course the fifth is C - and I’m going to play that an octave above the root note of C7 in bars 3 and 7.  Here's what the bass line notation and tab now looks like:

And here's what that sounds like:

Now that's not the greatest bass line in the world - it's just a simple line using simple devices.  And you probably know (or know about) the root and 5th and also the major triad and variations.  These are standard simple devices.

The R-3-4-Ch device is slightly more sophisticated, but it's still a foundational device in bass lines. As is the R-R-2-3 device - which McCartney used a lot in his lines.

Hopefully in this series of articles you've learned some new ideas and have a greater understanding of how bass lines are created - by putting devices together in a logical (but unexpected) fashion.

If you want to learn more about the kind of devices used in rock bass and how to put them together to create your own bass lines, then click the blue CONTINUE button below and check out enrollment details for a 30 Day Challenge that deals with exactly this.  That Challenge used to be called Rock Bass 101 - but is now called Cracking The Rock Bass Code.

Paul Wolfe/www.how-to-play-bass.com