A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

The 5th of an 8th – and 4ths!

Right now, it looks like the middle of the night is when I’m going to be getting most of my practice in. Yesterday, I ran up and snuck into bed next to wifey at 3 AM. Currently, its 2 AM, and I just finished going through about 30 mins. of that root-fifth-octave exercise from Building Rock Bass Lines. I switched back to my 4-string, and after the strain of practicing on the 6-string recently, its a lot easier. I do like to switch between basses for that very reason, and because they each make you think a little differently when moving up strings or across strings.

So, anyway, I gleaned two things between yesterday and today. First yesterday’s flash: I was running that root-fifth-octave exercise, and somewhere along the way I thought, one string up and two frets over is the fifth. That should work for any note, so why not add the fifth of the octave to my drill?

The 5th of an Octave

So, I did just that. I changed from [1 – 5 – 8] to [1 – 5 – 8 – the next 5th of that 8]. I don’t know what to call that yet, My guess, if I go by the existing numbering, is 12, but saying that I was practicing 1 – 5 – 8 – 12 sounds like it should be too much of a stretch for me to attempt with my current level of understanding. (For those of you who are having trouble counting this – I counted on my fingers to figure it out. If you think 1-2-3-4-5 as the notes from the 1st note of a scale to the 5th note of the scale, then you can think of the higher 1, or octave, as the start of a new scale and count the same 5 scale degrees starting on the octave. Thus, 8-9-10-11-12 – its just 1-2-3-4-5 starting up an octave. Do it on your fingers, it’ll make more sense. If I’m wrong with how I’m counting/naming this, I’ll point it out with a big edit later.)

Anyway, I ended up doing little riffs or patterns with those notes, up and down the neck and found that the sound was both pleasant and full/rich. It really made me feel like I was moving around the neck a bit .I remember reading somewhere that one of the best ways to break out of being locked into a “box pattern” when playing is to practice two-octave scales. I think that this might be part of a chordal application of that. What I was essentially doing was playing a root and fifth, and then the octave and its fifth, so it was like chordal notes from a two-octave scale.

To make this easier to visualize, here’s is what the pattern looks like. For the cynical minds amongst us, yes – what I really did was just play in a bigger box. 😉

5th of an 8th

Ok. I’m calling it a 12th in the picture. I don’t know what else to do. I’ll research later and see if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard of 9th and 11th, so why not 13ths?

The bass IS tuned in 4ths after all

Next flash: While practicing that root-fifth-octave thing tonight, I also watched part of Lesson 4 from Freebo on Jamplay. In the lesson, called Notes and the Fretboard, he navigated using scale degrees, but only a few of them: the 1, 4 and 5. He was explaining some of the distances between notes on the bass, and talked about how the bass is tuned in 4ths. I remember when I had an epiphany about that and it suddenly clicked in my head why the strings are tuned E – A – D – G.

Well, he took it a step further than my pea-brain did by then revealing what should have been obvious to me by simply applying that whole “the bass is tuned in 4ths” idea to the rest of the instrument. Namely – for every fret on the bass, the note on the same fret on the string right above it is also a 4th higher. Duh! I could have slapped my forehead with a dictionary, and not those puny pocket-types.

Thinking about this made me understand something more concretely. I now visually comprehend why the fifth is one string higher and two frets up from the root. If the 4th is simply one string up, and you add a whole step (two frets) to that, voila! When I have a clearer head with this, and when its not 2 AM, I’m going to see how it affects 3rds, because I know there are major and minor ones. Knowing this does make me feel more comfortable with finding 4th and 5th for a note on the neck though.


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