I have been teaching bass privately and as most of the lessons are constructed for each student, i have no set lesson plan. Sometimes we it upon ideas, techniques and exercises that i think might be helpful to all of us.
As bass players, we do learn how to play roots, sometimes fifths as a starting point when playing many styles of music and tunes. Half notes will work – take a listen to a zillion styles of music that would be happy with half note roots and fifths in the bass or some variations of that. How can we make that sound alive and fresh if that is what we are asked to do? how do classical musicians play the same music, the same pages the same notes throughout their careers and make those same notes and phrases sound alive?
Unless you are in a pit orchestra, you dont have to be concerned that much with just playing roots and fifths even though sometimes that would be the perfect pattern. i am using this as an illustration for this exercise.
We bass players can add what are called ornaments to our playing. Little grace notes here and there, or add a few quarter notes or leave out a note here and there and still keep our intended pattern going. Style will be discussed elsewhere. here is an exercise to get you thinking about patterns for bass.
Start out with ONE note. lets say C. Hint. If our first rule is one one note that means there are quite a few available to us on the bass.
let us try to keep to a two bar phrase. That is 8 beats. A pattern and the one idea for that pattern will be 8 beats long.
ill start you out…
medium tempo. you want to play fast and clean? learn how to play slow and even. Since we are not doing very much technically, make ever note the same attack and length and volume. make them all even. however you choose to phrase this.
here we go
1/2 – 1/2 — 1/2 – 1/2
thats our two bars ok? 2 half notes and two half note as half notes in 4/4 time get two beats each.
1/2 -1/41/4 — 1/4 1/2 1/4
half note followed by two quarters, then one quarter one half and one quarter.
you start adding eighth notes and well you see where this is going. Unless your rhythmic sense makes sense, your bass lines will not be logical and elegant.
now you should start working on this – spend 10 minutes. much of this is for you to learn about yourself and your choices.
Did you think to NOT play anything on the first beat or even the whole first bar? Did you really take advantage of making the pattern a two bar phrase? Listen to soloists sometimes, any instrument. Some players choose to play 4 bar phrases, others, 8 sometimes even 2, some players create very long ideas that seem to go on forever. As bassists, there are no real rules for how we choose to phrase our patterns, but if you are playing pop or rock or country and standards. get thinking in two and 4 bar phrases. Thats where you will be living for quite some time.
Now we have-not even discussed other notes and chord changes yet. Why should we? This little exercise will get you to start making patterns when you do add notes, and the beauty of this is, you will be able to place those choice notes perfectly with out any extra distractions as those notes will be rhythmically sound.
Record your self – see how EVEN your one note is- hear where you fudge the time and falter when making too fast a decision. see how your recovery sounds. How is your time. Still the same tempo and feel as when you started? That one note and or its octave thrown in should sound alive and fresh As just playing half notes should sound alive and fresh