Let’s take a look at some examples from the course. The first is one of the earlier lessons, the second is much further along in the progression. This should give you a decent sense of how Teach Me Bass Guitar applies to a broad range of ability levels, whether you are just starting out or more advanced.
This video presents the basics of time signatures, which specify how many beats are in each bar and what note value forms one beat. If you’re new to reading music, this might sound like gibberish to you, but that’s ok! That’s what this lesson is for.
As Roy explains quite eloquently in this video, the bass guitar plays a special role in music, bridging rhythm and harmony in a way that few instruments do. Like the standard guitar, the bass deals with harmony. If you’re playing the wrong note, things will sound off, and the audience will notice! However, like the drums, the bass also has to hold down the rhythm, creating the backbone upon which the rest of the band sits. This means that bassists must have a rock-solid sense of timing, and this starts with an understanding of basic time signatures.
The 4/4 time signature introduced in this video is the most common time signature in popular music. In this time signature, the top “4” means that there are four beats in a bar and the bottom “4” means that a quarter note acts as one beat. As Roy explains, this means that a single bar could also be made up of two half notes or even a single whole note.
Perhaps this sounds confusing, but in reality it’s quite simple. It’s best explained by example though, and that’s where this video lesson comes in. As you watch (and listen to) Roy’s explanation, you’ll quickly get a hang of the basics, and by the end of the video you’ll be playing along. Though all of this about time signatures may seem somewhat “boring,” trust us—this is the sort of thing you need to know if you want to end up playing more advanced music in the style of any great bass guitarist.
In this video lesson, Roy gives us all the information that we need to know in order to start utilizing pentatonic skills as well as some pointers about how best to employ them in our playing.
The video uses the example of a G major pentatonic scale. In order to create the pentatonic scale, we start with the regular G major scale, which contains seven different notes. We remove the fourth and the seventh, which leaves us with just G, A, B, D, and E—five notes, hence the pentatonic scale. Like a pentagon has five sides or a pentagram has five points, a pentatonic scale has five notes. Neat, right?
But what’s so great about pentatonic scales and, more importantly, how can we utilize them in our bass playing? When it comes to musical improvisation, pentatonic scales are far and away the easiest and most popular to use. It’s almost as if our ears want to hear pentatonic scales—they sound natural to us and fit well over the vast majority of chord progressions, especially those found in most popular music styles.
They’re also useful in that they can be moved up and down the neck of the bass guitar. The video demonstrates six different inversions. These inversions are different “shapes” that contain the same five notes, allowing the same scale to be played in all sorts of different locations on the guitar’s neck. Even better is that by memorizing these different inversions we can play a pentatonic scale in any key just by shifting the location of our hands! This is of supreme usefulness for bass players of virtually any skill level and in any genre of music.
In this video, Roy introduces us to the concept of harmonics on the bass guitar, starting with the principles behind them and then introducing some ideas regarding how we can incorporate them into our playing.
Harmonics are by no means unique to the bass guitar, or even to string instruments in general. In fact, this natural physical phenomenon occurs in all sorts of situations, with repercussions not only in music but also in fields such as engineering. Roy briefly explains the nature of harmonics in the video. But regardless, this is a bass lesson, not a physics lesson! Instead, let’s explore how harmonics can influence the way we play the bass guitar.
By lightly fretting the strings of the bass guitar at certain points rather than pressing them down to the fret completely as is typically done, we can access the sounds created by harmonics. These tones are beautiful and unique and frankly don’t sound much like what people often believe a bass “should” sound like—they are light, airy, and are often described as sounding like the chimes of a bell. The easiest and most popular places to access these harmonics are above the twelfth, seventh, and fifth frets, but as Roy demonstrates there are a number of other available points to play harmonics as well. We can also play harmonics by moving up the strings from the twelfth fret, but without the guidance of the fret board it can be difficult to locate the exact points at which to play the harmonics.
Besides sounding beautiful, harmonics are also useful when it comes to tuning the bass guitar. When we play the same harmonic on two different strings, we will hear a sort of warbling sound if the strings are out of tune with each other. As we approach the same note, this warbling will “slow down” and become less dramatic. Once the two strings struck in unison sound like a note from a single string, we know we are in perfect tune! This is incredibly helpful when tuning the bass guitar by ear.
Filed under: Bass Guitar Lessons
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