A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Ed Friedland’s Building Rock Bass Lines

Building Rock Bass LinesSo, last week I ordered Similac formula from Amazon, as I do every few weeks, to keep Ella growing. While I did this, I also grabbed a book that I saw mentioned on TalkbassEd Friedland‘s Building Rock Bass Lines. According to the Amazon reviewers, its a fairly basic and straightforward book, but its well-received by beginning bassists for the way that Ed explains the concepts of what he’s doing.

I went through the beginning of the book, and skimmed a little through some later parts of it, and I can already see that his approach is different. Its more scale-based than what I’ve seen elsewhere, but this is done in a very illuminating way. Ed shows musical notation for the exercises, and then underneath, instead of tablature, shows the scale degree for each note, to really cement in the learner’s head what note from the scale is being played. By doing this, we’re not necessarily focusing on the note names, but on the note’s place in the scale, which to me makes a lot of sense. I think that this might also help build interval knowledge because it very clearly calls out the note’s place in the scale, and thus its relationship to the root. Ingenious!

He also has some other labels, such as “chr” for chromatic, so that readers understand when a note comes from outside of the scale. This is used for approach notes, and probably for other types as well. I’m not very far in yet though, so I can’t comment on what other note types are called out. (Although right now, I can’t think of any other type than scale and chromatic.)

I really like this method, as it makes me think about the function of the note, in relation to the scale or chord, as well as letting me really see when notes from outside are used to supplement scalar or chordal tones.

Thus far, I’m only on one of the initial exercises. Its basically a root-fifth-octave exercise that drills one of the “box” positions into muscle memory. He has the reader go through the exercise up to the 10th fret, but I’ve been practicing it up to the 12th, out of habit. Its basically R-5-8, shift up a fret, 8-5-R, shift up a fret, R-5-8, shift up a fret, 8-5-R, repeat. Once you get to the top, you do the same exercise in reverse, so R-5-8, shift down a fret, 8-5-R, shift down a fret, R-5-8, shift down a fret, 8-5-R, repeat.

Here’s a sample over 4 positions:

Ed Friedland R-5-8

I like that the exercise moves up and down the neck in a musical fashion, using chord tones. In a way, its similar to the 1-2-3-4, 4-3-2-1 exercise that many people learn when first learning bass. The main difference is that it focuses on the chord tones and doesn’t use all of the fingers and strings in each position. Doing both of these is probably a good warm-up/exercise for someone at my stage of learning.

He says that once this is done with the root on the E string, do it again on the A string, which is probably a good idea. I’m going to run this on one of the 6-strings and really tire myself out a bit, as this will force me to play it 4X instead of 2X (B string, E string, A and then D string).

Also, as you practice it, its hard not to create small licks or patterns with those notes, which I think its directly-related to the notes being chordal. Sneaky, but effective. 😉 I also love that, since its written in scale degrees, its easier to then practice the same exercise using different fingerings based on other patterns for the major scale. I’ll get into those after I do them though, because right now, although the concept is clear in my head, I’ve not actually done it.


23 responses

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