Overplaying bassists aren’t typically held in high regard, but there are ways to let your creativity shine through while still maintaining a solid foundation.
In most modern styles of music, our main job as bassists is to provide a basic harmonic foundation. There are several reasons for this, but it’s mostly just because it sounds good. Usually there are other instruments whose job it is to play the colorful chord tones, which can include upper structures of a chord that extend well beyond simple triads. Most non-bassists will agree: One of the worst things you can encounter in an ensemble is a bassist who isn’t holding down the bottom end due to overplaying. Too many inversions or too many notes won’t win you friends.
A happy medium is to aim for rock-solid playing while adding just enough personal touches to make a lasting impact on both the audience and your fellow musicians. So this month, I want to share the fairly basic concept of approach notes through a fun, musical set of exercises. Approach notes will add personality to your chord tones, and if you apply the knowledge tastefully, it can really take your playing to the next level. Let’s use an A7 chord to illustrate the process. The formula for a dominant 7 chord is 1–3–5–b7, relative to a major scale starting from the chord root. For A7, this yields A–C#–E–G.
We’ll start by approaching every chord tone from below.Set your metronome to a comfortable, quarter-note tempo and play these first three exercises as eighth-notes. The first order of business is to approach the root—A. As shown in Photo 1, begin by playing G# on the 4th string with your second finger, and follow that by playing A on the next fret with your third finger. Next up, approach the 3 (C#) from below by playing C (3rd string, 3rd fret) with your first finger, then C# (4th fret) with your second finger.
Root and 3—so far, so good. Now repeat the same concept to approach the 5 (E). Use your third finger for D# (3rd string, 6th fret), and your fourth finger to play the E (7th fret). Finally, approach the b7 (G) by playing F# (2nd string, 4th fret) with your first finger, and G (5th fret) with your second finger. We’ve now approached all four chord tones from a half-step below. Once you’ve played this exercise ascending, reverse directions and descend through the same set of moves.
To approach A7’s root from above, play B using the fourth finger.
The next exercise approaches the target notes from above. As shown in Photo 2, start with your fourth finger on B (4th string, 7th fret), and then play the A—our root—located two frets below with your second finger. To approach the 3 from above, place your second finger on D (3rd string, 5th fret). This requires you to use the same finger you just fretted the 4th string with on thesamefret, so make sure you play the note with the softer, meaty part of your finger. (By flattening out the last knuckle of your second finger, you don’t have to move your fingertip off the A you played before fretting D, and this will keep the whole exercise sounding very legato and relaxed.) Now move down to the 3 by playing C# with your first finger.
To approach the 5, play F# (2nd string, 4th fret) with your first finger, using that knuckle-rolling technique I just described, and then E with your fourth finger (3rd string, 7th fret). Last, approach the b7 by first playing the A (2nd string, 7th fret) and then tagging G two frets below. Use your fourth and second fingers, respectively.
As with the previous exercise, once you’ve reached the last note, flip the pattern around and descend to the low root.
A real ear-bender, the exercise illustrated in the next two photos is my favorite. In it, you’ll approach every chord tone from both above and below. This means the notes will be in groups of three, so set your metronome to a slower quarter-note tempo and play this exercise as eighth-note triplets.
Start with your fourth finger on B (4th string, 7th fret), followed by G# (4th fret) with your first finger, and then A (5th fret) with your second finger. See how that works?
Nailing E—A7’s 5—from D#, a half-step below.
Approach the 3 by playing D, C, and C#—all on the 3rd string—with your third finger, first, and second fingers.
Next move to the 5 by playing F# (first finger, 2nd string, 4th fret), then D# (third finger, 3rd string, 6th fret), and finally E (fourth finger, one fret higher). The last half-step shift is shown in Photo 3.
Approaching G (A7’s b7, played by the second finger) by way of A (fourth finger) and F# (first finger).
Finally, Photo 4 shows the b7 approach that occurs entirely on the second string: A (fourth finger, 7th fret), F# (first finger, 4th fret), and G (second finger, 5th fret).
These exercises can add pizzazz to your bass lines and serve as a great launching pad for soloing, so I hope you’ll find them useful. If you’ve been stuck playing triads, you have now officially been set free.
Watch the lesson:
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
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About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
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Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.