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The Root of It All

For part two of our crash course in harmony for bassists, we’re talkin’ triads.

As bass players, our job is often to indicate and support what is happening rhythmically and harmonically in the music we’re playing. And to do that, it’s important for us to understand the basics of tonality and how it works. In fact, every bass player must have a strong knowledge of harmony to do their job correctly. This month, we’ll continue last month’s harmony crash course with some more ways to brush up on your ear skills, in italics below, so you can do your low-end job effectively.

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Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!

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Bass players have a significant role in controlling how harmony is perceived, so brush up on those fundamentals.

Following our “Walking Bass Crash Course,” I thought it would be useful to begin a companion piece on harmony for bassists. Harmony is a massive subject, so this will be one of a few. As I’ve told many students over the years, us bassists must exist between the worlds of rhythm, harmony, and melody. A true understanding will help you realize that these are really all the same thing, and the great master bassists of the past understood this.

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Mentorship and oral tradition are essential parts of jazz’s lasting vitality.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jazz Is Dead at the Newport Jazz Festival. Led by bassist Ali Shaheed Muhammed (A Tribe Called Quest) and composer/producer Adrian Younge, the band was formed to draw inspiration from such greats as Gary Bartz, Henry Franklin, Doug Carn, Roy Ayers, Jean Carne, Lonnie Liston Smith, and others in creating new compositions and fresh arrangements of their work. The irony behind the name and ethos of this band, though, is that jazz is certainly not dead!

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These basic concepts will set you on your way to mastering walking bass lines.

One of the greatest low-end innovations of the 20th century may be the walking bass line. Nevertheless, the act of walking is still something that mystifies more than a few bassists. So, how does it work?

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