A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for April, 2016

BRBL 14: Roots (and octaves) 2

02 Track 3

Track 3 notation from Building Rock Bass Lines

I tried Track 3 from Building Rock Bass Lines using the same idea as my previous post. I played it through using only open strings, as per the book, and then I tried it combining octaves for each note. So its, root-root-octave-octave, root-root-octave-octave, etc.

It was tricky at first, because it crosses strings, but once I had the pattern down, it came together pretty quickly.

Here’s the tab for the exercise, as written in the book:

06 Track 3 tab (roots).jpg

Track 3 tab using roots

And here it is with the octaves thrown in:

06 Track 3 tab (roots & octaves).jpg

Track 3 tab using roots & octaves

In both of those examples, the “^” sign denotes where dotted quarter notes appear in the notation. Those notes are 1 1/2 times as long as a regular quarter note. So, play them long and play the ones that don’t have it short.

BRBL 13: Roots (and octaves)

02 Track 2

Track 2 notation from Building Rock Bass Lines

So, I noodled around a bit this AM, to warm up and surprisingly remembered something I was doing yesterday in the early AM in Bm. I’ll post it up after this, so that people can laugh at me on the internet and someday cause me to become an evil super villain that uses horribly mangled basslines to drive his enemies to their knees. But they won’t be applauding even then, I imagine.

Anyhow, afterward, I decided that its time to crack open one of the books again, so I opted for Building Rock Bass Lines. Its been a while since I worked out of a book, so I started with the early exercises again. Namely, the Track 2 exercise:

06 Track 2 tab (roots).jpg

Track 2 tab using roots

So, after I did it using open strings, I followed the instructions in the next paragraph which show a fretboard diagram up to the 9th fret and suggests that we try it from different positions. So, I went for the next easiest, which is the E, A & D on the 7th fret of the A, D & G strings, respectively. That looks like this:

06 Track 2 tab (octaves).jpg

Track 2 tab using octaves


The Girls In The Band

Here’s something interesting from a cultural and musical vantage that I found when Jackie from Lindsey Tree Music posted in the Bass Blogs group on FB. Its a trailer for The Girls In The Band, a documentary with and about women from the jazz/bebop scene who were excellent musicians, but because of the influence of patriarchy, were marginalized and not given the credit they were due as amazing players – something that has repeated since in other styles of music, as well as areas outside of music. Some of the women were also black, so they had a double-whammy to deal with as this predates the civil rights movement in America.

The Girls In The Band 


Noodling (4.10.2016)

Here’s something in A minor that I noodled after reading Shelby’s last post in which she took a riff she was working on with her guitar and tried it on bass using single notes instead of chords. Everything in this is from the first 6 notes of A minor. It was a warm-up I just did before I snuck downstairs to switch out clothes from the washer to the dryer. There are a few slight pauses in there which muck things up, but that’s because I’m not that good yet.

When I came back up, I was thinking about something I recorded about a month ago (3/15, actually) when I was trying to come up with something to practice with wifey on piano (we didn’t get to try this one yet).

I was dipping my fingers into notes below the root (that whole concept fascinates me), so I did a tiny repeatable riff in B minor and added in the A before the root. I did it on my 6-string, so I was able to use the A on the 10th fret of the B-string, but realized afterward that it can also be played using the A right before the root of B by shifting back 2 frets to the 5th fret on the G string. Yes, these little realizations still occur and make me remember just how non-fluent I am with the fretboard. If enough of them stick, maybe I can remedy that.


Help Your Kids With Music

Help Your Kids With MusicSo, yesterday, Bopps, wifey & I went out to eat with one of wifey’s friends after they got back from some librarian thing hosted at Columbia. I suspect there was a lot of shushing and existential questions starting with “Dewey, or don’t we…” After dinner we made a pit stop at Barnes & Noble so Bopps could work off some sugar (she built her own sundae and was heavy on the sprinkles).

After a while of setting her loose in the kids’ section, I left her with the lady-folk and went to the music section. They grabbed her some Peppa Pig books that she didn’t already have and I found something else: Help Your Kids With Music, from DK Publishing. I have some of their other books, and they’re pretty informative.

I flipped through it a little and was impressed with the diagrams and sheer breadth of information in the book. When I opened it, I randomly started on the triads section, and its illustrations and concise descriptions got my attention. Those of you who have followed my ramblings for any length of time know I have a collection of music-related books which I’ll never really work through, but irrationally amass anyway. This one reads like an even-friendlier edition of Edly’s Music Theory for Practical People, which I also really dug.

So, later that night, I was going through the book in bed and Bopps comes into the room, because her sleeping habits are borderline mine – which isn’t a good thing. We looked through maybe the first 50 pages together, and she was really into it. The pictures drew her in. She used the piano diagrams to “play” and sing aloud Doe a Deer, Mary Had a Little Lamb and some other stuff. She was reading notes to me, and asking a hundred questions about other stuff she was seeing. It really had her engaged.



I don’t know if this will help anyone, but I hope it does. I was just looking at a sight-reading exercise on Tom Bornemann‘s blog and while checking out the notes on the staff, I played only the ones that were on spaces (A-C-E-G). It turns out that they’re just the open string and the 3rd fret on the bottom two strings on a standard bass.

  • A is open A
  • C is the 3rd fret on the A string
  • E is open E
  • G is the 3rd fret on the E string

That means that 1/2 of the natural notes in the musical alphabet can be played with one finger from one position. I think it helps to take some of the intimidation out of learning notes on the neck, as well as learning to read notation. (see pic 1)


I then tried to find some of the notes on the higher strings, and found something else. If you begin A-C-E-G on the open A and continue to the C on the 3rd fret and then go up strings, the E is on the 2nd fret of the D string and the G is either open G or the 5th fret of the D string.

What does this mean? It means that if you take the 2nd option, with G on the 5th fret of the D string, you’re playing a C major triad and can use that shape. If you’ve been practicing your major scale and chords this really simplifies finding those notes. To play all of the space notes on the bass clef of the musical staff (A-C-E-G) we can play an open A and then play a triad beginning on C. (see pic 2)

This kind of shocked me, and if we alternate with the E & G on the E string (remember, open E and 3rd fret) it also lets us hear what notes above and below the A & C sound like. (see pic 3)

Here’s a recording to illustrate the examples above. Its all one clip. Each example is played twice, and following them, I just played the high and low alternating thing using 4-note groups of quarter notes.

Jimmy Blanton – pioneering jazz bassist

Jimmy Blanton with Herb Jeffries & Duke peeking in 1941

Herb Jeffries sings in 1941 with Jimmy Blanton on bass and Duke Ellington peeking out from behind.

Enrique Quique Fabrega has been posting jazz bassists from A to Z on the Bass Blogs FB group. The other day, he shared Jimmy Blanton. I only just got to read up on him and listen to the track he shared, and wow, I love his sound. This is what he posted (the middle 2 paragraphs are from Wikipedia):

Jazz bassists from A to Z. Beginning with letter B we have the legendary Double-Bass jazz Master Blanton(Jimmy).Jimmy Blanton was the Father of the Double-Bass as a Solo instrument!!! There is virtually NO bass player that hasn’t study Blanton solos, compositions, technique and voice on the instrument. All bass players today are in DEBT with Mr. Jimmy Blanton. Blanton IS the first true master of the jazz Double-Bass. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists. 

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Blanton originally learned to play the violin, but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University, performing with the Tennessee State Collegians from 1936 to 1937, and during the vacations with Fate Marable. After leaving university to play full-time in St Louis with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra (with whom he made his first recordings), he joined Duke Ellington’s band in 1939. 

Though he stayed with Ellington for only two years, Blanton made an incalculable contribution in changing the way the double bass was used in jazz. Previously the double bass was rarely used to play anything but quarter notes in ensemble or solos but by soloing on the bass more in a ‘horn like’ fashion, Blanton began sliding into eighth- and sixteenth-note runs, introducing melodic and harmonic ideas that were totally new to jazz bass playing. His virtuosity put him in a different class from his predecessors, making him the first true master of the jazz bass and demonstrating the instrument’s unsuspected potential as a solo instrument. Ellington put Blanton front-and-center on the bandstand nightly, unheard of for a bassist at the time. Such was his importance to Ellington’s band at the time, together with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster _ Verve Records , that it became known as the Blanton–Webster band. Blanton also recorded a series of bass and piano duets with Ellington and played in the “small group” sessions led by Barney Bigard, Rex Stewart, Johnny Hodges , and Cootie Williams in 1940-41. 

In this video we have a Great Jazz Duet between Duke Ellington – Verve Records and Jimmy Blanton performing Pitter Panther Patter.Enjoy!.

And here’s the track: