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Thread: Modern jazz basslines

  1. #1
    Join Date: Jun 2015

    Location: London/Durham

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    I'm Lawrence.

    Default Modern jazz basslines

    I do like modern jazz a lot but there's one thing I've always wondered. Coming from listening to a lot of baroque and classical music, plus the usual popular music, I'm used to basslines following a pretty standard sequence of notes (the most obvious being a ground bass in baroque a la Canon and Gigue).

    When you hear those upbeat modern jazz numbers where the bass player is playing a seemingly semi random sequence of bass notes, are there established sequences or are they literally just playing a random notes within a loose rule so it doesn't sound completely nonharmonic?

  2. #2
    Join Date: Nov 2011

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    I'm Adrian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence001 View Post
    I do like modern jazz a lot but there's one thing I've always wondered. Coming from listening to a lot of baroque and classical music, plus the usual popular music, I'm used to basslines following a pretty standard sequence of notes (the most obvious being a ground bass in baroque a la Canon and Gigue).

    When you hear those upbeat modern jazz numbers where the bass player is playing a seemingly semi random sequence of bass notes, are there established sequences or are they literally just playing a random notes within a loose rule so it doesn't sound completely nonharmonic?
    Are you talking free Jazz here?

    If you you just play random notes on any instrument whether a bass or not in relation to what the other instrument(s) are playing, usually a chord sequence(song structure) then it would stick out like a sore thumb, some notes would fit with the key of the piece or fit with the chord at that point being played, but some notes definitely would not. Without getting into music theory too much it is possible to take a sequence of chords within a song and identify the key(s)/scale(s) that those chords will fit(derived from), apart from the key of the song and then play notes from that scale(s) over those chords and then revert to the native key of the piece. This is basically called improvisation, but it is not random as I hope I just explained.

    A good example of this were it is done a great deal is the good old standard "Autumn Leaves" this has an odd song structure in that is a 14 bar sequence, and has various natural chord groupings implying different keys. The chord sequences are slightly odd and there are several different chord sequences throughout the song that can be selected to then use difference scales to improvise over the song with. This can be very confusing when playing the piece as it can make the song change in how it sounds from a key point of view and the players can then easily loose where they actually are in the songs chord because the person improvising who is altering how it sounds from a key perspective.

    I know this sounds odd but it is basically how Jazz works. Free Jazz is an extortion of this where the harmonic rules are often broken, and also rhythmic patterns, this can and dos lead to dis-harmonic sounds and patterns that can be very difficult to follow, however over this will be done to lead the piece into a different feel and then will be done again to resolve it and bring it back.
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  3. #3
    Join Date: Nov 2011

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    I just thought you might want to try out this classic Jazz album, an interesting listen.

    Listening is the act of aural discrimination and dissemination of sound, and accepting you get it wrong sometimes.

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  4. #4
    Join Date: Jun 2015

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    I'm Lawrence.

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    I don't been Ornett Colman type jazz just middle of the road modern (ie last 60 years or so) stuff. So for example In the Mood I understand. It's not the same type of sequence of notes as say Pachelbel's Canon but the overall idea is broadly the same. But some seem to have a load of notes that only vary by a semitone between them and then suddenly jump all over and not in the typical sequence you'd expect from a scale. I'll listen out for a tune later with the type of bass line I mean.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Nov 2011

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    I'm Adrian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence001 View Post
    I don't been Ornett Colman type jazz just middle of the road modern (ie last 60 years or so) stuff. So for example In the Mood I understand. It's not the same type of sequence of notes as say Pachelbel's Canon but the overall idea is broadly the same. But some seem to have a load of notes that only vary by a semitone between them and then suddenly jump all over and not in the typical sequence you'd expect from a scale. I'll listen out for a tune later with the type of bass line I mean.
    I am not sure I fully get what you are saying. You can play any notes over the top of a chord and make it sound very odd if they are outside of the native key of the chord and/or out of rhythm, although some will work, if a player chooses notes that do not fit the intervals of the scale/key others are playing it will sound odd and possibly random.

    If you can give me an example to listen to it would help and be interesting.
    Listening is the act of aural discrimination and dissemination of sound, and accepting you get it wrong sometimes.

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  6. #6
    Join Date: Sep 2014

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    I'm John.

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    I know what you mean Lawerence, it can be a bit emperorís new clothes sometimes.

    If youíve lost the melody completely then youíve lost it completely IMO but I guess thatís more to do with soloing than support (bass).

    Although it *is* jazz so here it is from the horseís mouth


  7. #7
    Join Date: Nov 2008

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence001 View Post
    When you hear those upbeat modern jazz numbers where the bass player is playing a seemingly semi random sequence of bass notes, are there established sequences or are they literally just playing a random notes within a loose rule so it doesn't sound completely nonharmonic?
    Most jazz players know exactly what they're doing.
    They're not random notes.
    Chris



    Common sense isn't anymore!

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jun 2015

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    I'm Lawrence.

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    Yeah I don't think they're completely random just a very different sequence of notes to a "classic" bass line. I was wondering if there's a name for it.

    I fell asleep early last night and didn't get a chance to look for something. But the earliest example I've found is probably So What on Kind of Blue. Not as different as in later jazz stuff but once the intro has finished (where the bassline is more "normal") it goes up or down in semitones and then jumps around a bit and goes back and forth in big jumps. This seems unlike any typical bassline in music before (New Orleans, trad, classical or pop, where the bassline on its own can usually be considered a little tune) so I'm wondering in musical theory terms what this type of bassline is called.

    I'll think of a better example later.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Jun 2015

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    I'm Lawrence.

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    Ok was just listening to this album and noticed the bass line in the faster passages of those track is exactly what I'm talking about. What is the pattern behind the sequence of bass notes and how does it relate to the tunes played by the solo instruments? Is there a name for this sort of bassline?

    I'm not saying it sounds wrong, I rather like it, I've just never been able to work out the musical logic behind it.

    https://tidal.com/track/116356059
    Last edited by Lawrence001; 09-12-2019 at 16:07.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Nov 2011

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    I'm Adrian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence001 View Post
    Ok was just listening to this album and noticed the bass line in the faster passages of those track is exactly what I'm talking about. What is the pattern behind the sequence of bass notes and how does it relate to the tunes played by the solo instruments? Is there a name for this sort of bassline?

    I'm not saying it sounds wrong, I rather like it, I've just never been able to work out the musical logic behind it.

    https://tidal.com/track/116356059
    Hi Lawrence, is it the "Stablemates" track you are referring to? If it is then I do not find the notes being played in the fast passages at all odd, the bass player is basically playing runs in the key of the song and doing so to keep the rhythm along with the drums. If anything it's what I would call a traditional syncopated style of bass playing. So maybe this is what you mean "Syncopation is when the offbeats in a metre - eg beats 2 and 4 in 4/4 time - are given a greater degree of emphasis than the main beats - eg beats 1 and 3 in 4/4 time. ... In many forms of jazz, syncopated rhythms in the melody and accompaniment create complex rhythms." It does not sound odd in the least to me and I did not notice any odd bass notes, but I could be wrong, maybe I've listened to too much Jazz over the years to find it odd. My wife on the other hand hates it and calls it a confused set of notes going nowhere.
    Listening is the act of aural discrimination and dissemination of sound, and accepting you get it wrong sometimes.

    Analog Inputs:
    Pro-Ject Signature 10 TT & arm
    Benz Micro LP-S, Michel Cusis MC, Goldring 2500 and Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridges
    Hitachi FT5500 mk2 Tuner

    Digital:-
    Sony 3d blu-Ray for CDs to Caiman SEG
    RaspberryPi/HifiBerry Digi to Beresford Caiman SEG DAC
    Buffalo NAS Drive

    Amplification:-
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    ALLNIC T1500 MKII SET 300B amp
    Schiit MAGNI 3 Heresy amp

    Output:
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    Cables:
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    Eccose Conductor CA1
    Belden 8402 with Switchcraft 3502A Audiophile High-End RCA
    Chord Epic speaker leads, & signature links


    I think I am nearing audio nirvana, but donít tell anyone.

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