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Thread: Modern jazz basslines

  1. #11
    Join Date: Jun 2015

    Location: London/Durham

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    I'm Lawrence.

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    Sorry if I wasn't being clear I mean the sequence of notes not the rhythm and meter. I managed to get my head around syncopation a few years ago.

    If you listen to the bass line from 4'28'' or 6'00'' in the track, I just don't understand the sequence of bass notes. To me it just sounds like a "semi random" selection of notes where each one has little bearing to the one played previously.

    To give an obvious contrast compare this to say the bassline from In The Mood or Little Brown Jug. Obviously this is a very different type of music (not even really "proper" Jazz I know) but there is an obvious pattern to the sequence of notes and how they fit in with the rest of the parts.

    As a mathematician who understands the need for a strong relationship between maths (or, more generally, regular patterns) and music I want to understand the theory behind this type of bassline. Or, to put it another way, if he was improvising, what rules would the bass player be using to determine which note to play next if he's not just playing random notes?

  2. #12
    Join Date: Jan 2020

    Location: Wareham UK

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    I'm Rick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence001 View Post
    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.
    Hi Lawrence.

    I can help you with this specific example: So What is a modal composition (as are most of the pieces on Kind of Blue), which means that the improvising happens over specific pre-determined scales rather than changing chords.

    In this case, the structure is a 32 bar AABA form: 8 bars of D minor dorian, 8 bars of D minor dorian, 8 bars of Eb minor dorian, 8 bars of D minor dorian. Dorian mode uses the second note of a major scale as its tonic, so D minor dorian uses all the notes of C major, Eb dorian uses the notes of Db major.

    If you listen closely to what Paul Chambers plays on the bass, you'll hear that he stays fairly closely within each scale in the relevant sections, but the static nature of the harmony - 16 bars D minor, then a shift up a semitone - means he has freedom to wander around quite a lot within the scale.

    Not the clearest explanation, but I hope it's some use.

  3. #13
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

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    I'm Grant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by morpeth View Post
    Hi Lawrence.

    I can help you with this specific example: So What is a modal composition (as are most of the pieces on Kind of Blue), which means that the improvising happens over specific pre-determined scales rather than changing chords.

    In this case, the structure is a 32 bar AABA form: 8 bars of D minor dorian, 8 bars of D minor dorian, 8 bars of Eb minor dorian, 8 bars of D minor dorian. Dorian mode uses the second note of a major scale as its tonic, so D minor dorian uses all the notes of C major, Eb dorian uses the notes of Db major.

    If you listen closely to what Paul Chambers plays on the bass, you'll hear that he stays fairly closely within each scale in the relevant sections, but the static nature of the harmony - 16 bars D minor, then a shift up a semitone - means he has freedom to wander around quite a lot within the scale.

    Not the clearest explanation, but I hope it's some use.
    nice explanation
    Regards,
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  4. #14
    Join Date: Jul 2011

    Location: lancashire

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    I'm brian.

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    Just to add in my 2p worth

    Just in case it confuses folks, I should clarify the Autumn Leaves tune.
    It isn’t a 14 bar tune!!!.

    It is made up of four sections of 8 bars each. This would be known as AABA. So, it is a 32 bar tune.
    The first 4 bars are in one key. The next four bars are in another/different key.

    That 8 bars then repeats.

    Then the 3rd set of 8 bars. ( the “ B “ of AABA )

    Then the final A section. Not exactly the same as the first two “A” sections..... but near enough !

    This not the melody/tune I’m talking about. It’s the underlying harmony.

    This is not complicated harmonically , and in fact as an improviser, you can blag away on one chord/scale and sound ok.
    ie it doesn’t move in to any wierd and wonderful places harmonically. It is quite simplistic

    The interesting bit is that the type of chord progression used is similar/ the same as those used by Bach. So, to the ears, it can sound very similar.
    Have a listen to this

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cLuVb2UEVq4

    Jazz, or Bach ? For me it’s jazz, but you can hear the Bach, I think.

    In terms of the opening post, back in the early days of jazz, the bass player role was well defined. He stuck quite strictly to the harmony. Playing the root of the chord on beat one of the bar, then possibly the 5th of the chord on the 3rd beat of the bar.
    So, each note got a count of two. You will read about “ two to the bar”. this is that.

    This was very important, and in many ways, was the foundation/ the rock of the band.
    I suspect this is what you refer to in relation the earlier music. It was the norm. Simplistic but effective.

    As the music got more complex the bass player wanted more to do, so his lines got more complex. Especially during the improvised bits. His job of just playing roots declined and he got more freedom.
    So on a C chord, instead of just landing on a big fat note “C”, he may arrive there eventually, but via some out of key notes.
    For example B to C sharp, then to C.

    Now, we are at a point where any note works over anything, as long as the player knows where that particular note
    “wants” to go, and resolves it accordingly.

    You can think of this as creating tension, which wants to release back to “home “ again.

    A great example is the tune that was mentioned above....SO WHAT.

    Forget the bass player ( no-one is interested in the bass anyway )
    Focus on the solos of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

    The solo by Davis sticks almost exactly to the notes of the Dorian scale. Pretty much all of it ( from memory ) !!!
    So, as someone explained further up this thread, 16 bars of d minor, 8 bars of eb minor, 8 bars of d minor.

    So, his whole solo is “ inside “ the chord/scale at any given time.

    Contrast this solo with the one by Coltrane. He is playing over the very same harmonic structure, but his approach is to use lots of “outside “ notes, which then want to resolve back home again.

    What he is doing, back in 1959, is what most folks do now, including Bass players.

    It all gets a bit too much tension for me, and I crave a bit more resolution, back to something “pretty”

    I’m getting too old for all this tension, I suspect.
    Last edited by take5; 09-02-2020 at 19:49.

  5. #15
    Join Date: Jul 2011

    Location: lancashire

    Posts: 802
    I'm brian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by take5 View Post


    In terms of the opening post, back in the early days of jazz, the bass player role was well defined. He stuck quite strictly to the harmony. Playing the root of the chord on beat one of the bar, then possibly the 5th of the chord on the 3rd beat of the bar.
    So, each note got a count of two. You will read about “ two to the bar”. this is that.

    This was very important, and in many ways, was the foundation/ the rock of the band.
    I suspect this is what you refer to in relation the earlier music. It was the norm. Simplistic but effective.


    .
    Just to hone in this idea.
    I thought this may help.
    It’s a guy playing Bass on the harmony to Autumn leaves.

    Initially he plays a “Two in the bar “ feel. (Older style)
    Yes, he sometimes plays more than that but basically ( oops ) that is what he is thinking.

    So, plays the sequence of 32 bars twice like that. ie 64 bars.
    Then at 1 minute 40 seconds, he goes in to a different feel.he is thinking 4 notes to the bar now, and playing in the style of a bass player behind a soloist. This generally what folks would call “walking bass”

    I Hope that helps.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X3w67uYIarI

  6. #16
    Join Date: Jun 2015

    Location: London/Durham

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    I'm Lawrence.

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    Thanks for the information guys I'm going to take this away and do some listening when I have time to see if I can understand it now.

    As it happens my dad played double bass with his quartet in the Cafe de Paris in Leicester Square in the 50s and 60s, but I don't think he would ever have played the more Avant Garde stuff as Mecca would have thrown him out

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