I wish this wasn't such an oversight in instructional material, but it is.
I'd say this issue is one of my prime reasons for creating this website. One of the first basslines many books and teachers teach is the classic boogie-woogie bassline. We will fully learn this bassline when we discuss blues bass. The basic pattern sounds like this:. Sure enough, all the notes of the bassline are contained within the scale. But, the explanation misses the critical point of how the notes of the chord are the heart of the bassline. This bassline would be played on a C7 chord. I've highlighted the chord tones in blue.
The only note of the boogie-woogie bassline pattern not in the C7 chord is A. The note A can be explained as coming from the mixolydian scale.
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The rest of the line, however, purely emphasizes chord tones. Students excitedly think, "Hey, I need to learn scales to make basslines! The reason the boogie-woogie bassline has been repeatedly used over the past one hundred years or so and is still being used today is because it successfully outlines the chord tones. That's what makes it a strong, supportive bassline. You will notice the basslines and patterns that get used over and over always have this trait in common.
Don't just believe me. You should study, analyze, and discover this in your favorite basslines.
As a learning bassist you will encounter a lot of instructional material telling you: "Apply scale X when you see chord Y. If your original bassline sounds weak you are probably underemphasizing the chord tones and overemphasizing scale tones. Or else your rhythm is off. That's a whole different problem.
This approach is giving you the right notes, but it's also giving you some notes that require special handling. That's not the way I teach and I hope you work through my lessons and prove it to yourself. There are a couple of reasons why the scale teaching approach is often used. Firstly, as I pointed out there is enough right about it that people eventually work it out and never think to look at it differently. People then continue to teach it to others the way they learned it. Next, this approach of teaching scales works fine for most other instruments like guitar and piano.
As a result, it trickles down to bass teaching. But, bass is a unique instrument playing a very critical role of supporting the chords. Other instruments won't sound as weak if they don't support the chords as well. Any comments are appreciated. Anything written by Ed Friedland is good, the complete bass method Published by Hal Leonard is great.
Another Suggestion is to head over to talkbass. Seconding "Bass for Dummies". I bought it the same day I bought my first bass, I swear by that book. It was a great help, and still is 3 years later. I have gotten some great shapes from Carol Kaye's bass guitar books.
They're all very cheap and have a lot of great licks. My first teacher focused on these a lot. Set yourself apart and learn to read notation. I recommend Ed Friedlands Hal Leonard bass guitar series.
It's three books total and by the end of it you'll be able to read practically anything using bass clef such as Standing in the Shadows of Motowm or the Paul Chambers solo book. Your whole approach to rhythm and neck knowledge changes when you become a reader.
An entire world opens up to you that was once closed. I waited too long to read and the difference it made to my playing was staggering. It'll help you improvise bass lines in a clear and structured way. Its a bit esoteric and not so much about specific scales or excercises, but The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten is worth a read. Honestly, as big a proponent of reading as I am, I'd like to see you working on your ear as much as possible, and continue with the chord tones, but get away from the root - inversions are what will help you start building interesting lines.
Would transcribing songs I like be enough or should I put more effort into training my ears? And what are inversions? Reading is important.
Feel is important too. Something I did not see mentioned above is Montunos by Rebeca Mauleon. I was discouraged and frankly embarrassed by the lack of Latin music overall in my musical studies. These materials are the way to get some understanding of the genre. I was lucky and an awesome Latin Jazz percussionist shared how the music should feel. Like here, there are great players and teachers, of Latin Jazz and others branches of Latin music, that love the music and love to share it. The different claves are everywhere in all types of music.
It really makes a qualitative difference in one's feel and groove. Also, it is best to not get discouraged when there are strong opinions about how the music should be played. Go with it. You'll be happy you did. My mentor shared that this music is a conversation. I hear him in my head all the time and an grateful.