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Topic: Lesson 3 - Bass Lines (Continued)

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    Arrow Lesson 3 - Bass Lines (Continued)

    EXPLORING JAZZ ARRANGING
    Using Garritan Jazz & Big Band
    ONLINE INTERACTIVE EDITION
    by Chuck Israels



    Lesson 3 - Bass Lines (continued)



    Principles of Jazz Bass Line Construction (Cont.)

    Almost all of the practices so far have been predicated on the assumption that there will be one or more chord changes per measure of 4/4 or 3/4 time. Other conditions prevail when the chord is extended over more than one measure.



    Here are some typical two-measure patterns.




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


    Here are some more examples.

    4/4 QUARTER NOTE LINES:

    When chords move by step - two per measure, simple octave alternation is often a good choice. (This emphasizes 2 feel and provides extra weight.) Make a change to stepwise motion in the opposite direction of the last octave skip.



    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score



    When the roots of the chords outline a cycle of 5ths - descending lines in the (diatonic) scale of the moment will result in smooth lines with correct arrivals (resolutions). If a bass line changes direction often enough and in a balanced way, problems of range may not arise. Sometimes it is dramatically useful to keep a bass line moving in one direction for a long enough time that it is possible to run out of practical range. In such cases, a switch of register at an appropriate moment can solve the problem while maintaining the illusion that the line is continuing in the same direction. In all cases such changes of register should occur on weak beats so that they are least noticeable. (The 2nd or 4th beats of 4/4 lines - or the 2nd beat of 3/4 lines).


    Here is an example of the chord progression of the first few measures of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are.




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score



    When the roots outline a cycle of 5ths but ascending lines are needed to maintain independence from the motion of the melody, extra passing tones must be inserted to control the arrival time of the next chord root. These chromatic passing tones are best inserted so that chord tones - or at least the tones of the scale (key) of the moment, fall on the strong beats.




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


    When the melody is a simple pattern sometimes a note for note counterpoint can be useful.



    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score




    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score



    When the melody is complex, a steadily moving chromatic line can provide interesting contrast. This line must arrive at a satisfying and correct resolution at an important cadential point.




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


    The upper chords represent the basic harmony of the excerpt, and the lower ones are the result of finding inner voices that rationalize the stepwise bass line with the melody. This passage reminds me of a conversation with Gerry Mulligan in which he complimented me on my playing but expressed the wish that I play more roots. I had no rejoinder at the time. I was grateful for the compliment and somewhat puzzled by Gerry’s dissatisfaction. I thought every note I played was a root - if not a root of the main chord of the measure - then certainly of a passing chord. To me, playing D, E, F, G, when the chord of the measure was G7, represented the correct roots for a series of chords (Dm7, Em7, FM7, G7, that substituted for the simple G7) rather than an incorrect expression of the G7 chord. I had learned from Bill Evans the principle of delaying the dominant 7th of the moment as long as possible in order to maintain harmonic movement. My ears have been trained to continue to perceive this practice as useful and correct in constructing interesting bass lines. It is not necessary that the soloist or all upper voices parallel the bass activity. Sometimes beautiful tension and resolution is achieved by the soloist creating a melodic pattern that expresses a simpler, less active, series of chords while some or all of the accompanying voices move logically through passing chords and suspensions to points of agreement and resolution with the melodic line. Much of Bill Evans’ music can be correctly analyzed in this light.

    Symmetrical patterns like whole tone scales, diminished 7th arpeggios (and scales) are useful in suggesting tonal ambiguity and serve to increase harmonic tension until the pattern is broken.




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


    Whole tone patterns are often used to express the harmony of altered chords. In every case such symmetrical patterns must be resolved on the downbeat by perfect 4th up, perfect 5th down, or by semitone.


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


    Another consideration - passing tones sound most appropriate when they clearly describe the key of the moment. For example: An E natural between D and F in a D halfdiminished 7th chord suggests the keys of C Major, F Major, A minor or D minor (with an Ab upper neighbor, resolving to the G), while an Eb suggests Bb Major, Eb Major, G minor, or C minor.



    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


    Generally, a balance between stepwise motion and skips is to be sought, not only within the bass line, but also in relation to the combined effect of bass line and melody. Since melodies tend towards more disjunct (skip-wise) motion, effective bass lines will tend towards a preponderance of conjunct (step-wise) motion.

    Here is an example of a well-developed bass line based on Satin Doll. The example includes passages in a 2 beat feel, short solo melodic turnaround passages using passing chords that connect the main sections of the form, a balance of stepwise motion and skips, walking passages in 4, and enough rhythmic variety to keep things interesting without disturbing the overall feel of the pulse.




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score



    Here is another example of an elaborate bass line using the simplest of blues harmonies. The rhythmic pattern in the bass part repeats every two measures. The overall shape of the gesture remains the same until we’ve heard it enough and an inverted variation appears. Small rhythmic and melodic variations occur in the piano part, really small variations, just enough to balance the development in the bass. The simplicity of the piano part, and its repetitive return to the same note, focuses the attention on the bass part where most of the interesting development occurs.





    Example 2-23
    (Note: an animate score for this example will be posted soom)




    There is no substitute for learning the guiding principles that inform the bass lines of J.S. Bach. Except for the addition of some chromaticism, little has changed in functional harmony since Bach - and no one does it better.

    Good models for bass lines among jazz bass players include Oscar Pettiford, Red Mitchell, Percy Heath, Israel Crosby, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Scott La Faro and Charlie Haden, who represent good examples of ways to free the bass part from the tyranny of the quarter note while still performing an effective and vital bass function, and younger players like Rodney Whitaker and Christian McBride, among many others. Composer/arrangers who demonstrate a high level of sensitivity to the construction of bass lines include Benny Golson, Bill Evans, and John Lewis.

    It is important to understand that lead sheets and fake books - while they may include essentially correct chord symbols from which effective lines may be inferred - are often full of misleading information in which the chord symbol represents only the upper voices and ignores bass line implications. (Chuck Sher’s publications are notable exceptions to this rule.) In all cases it is essential to refer to good recordings as examples.

    MORE ON RHYTHMIC VARIETY:

    Anticipations are more common - and usually more effective than delayed entrances. Delayed entrances are most effective when some or all of the upper voices sound the chord on the beat. Another effective possibility is for some or all of the upper voices to express anticipations while the bass part stays grounded on the beat. Count Basie’s music often made effective use of this device.

    Effective bass line movement will often suggest a series of substitute chords. There are typical patterns that will appear in certain situations; a series of chords that will serve to provide interesting movement from one harmonic spot to another. These chord patterns imply specific inner voice motion in what would be the alto and tenor parts, were we to reduce the movements to a four-voice chorale texture. The bassist (composer/arranger) should become aware of these implications in order to understand how bass note choices affect decisions made by soloists or “inner voice” accompanists.

    Here is an example of a well-developed and integrated relationship between a melody and an accompanying bass line. (Some of the bass notes suggest the possibility of additional passing chords.)




    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

    Remember: If chord symbols alone allow any doubt as to the direction of the bass line, write it out (and provide the chord symbols as an encouragement to variations and embellishment).
    One of the unfortunate results of the industrialization of music is a tendency towards standardization of aspects of the art that do not benefit from such standardization. (Standardization is a boon to industry but has little to do with art.) One place this habit appears, to the detriment of variety and artistic invention, is in the choice of bass line orchestration. The plucked bass violin in its most developed form has evolved into an ideal instrument for the expression of jazz bass lines. There is a balance between energetic attack and proportional decay; enough impact to express rhythmic vitality and enough resonance to connect notes into lines. Possibilities of micro dynamics and pitch shading along with the variety of articulation resulting from fingers in intimate contact with strings add to the expressive range. For these reasons, the bass violin has become the instrument of choice for this musical role. There is however, no artistic reason to limit the assignment of bass lines only to the bass violin. A number of other jazz and orchestral instruments are suited to doing the job while providing a refreshing change of character. A short list might include the baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, piano and guitar. Using any of these instruments to fulfill the bass function can give welcome relief from the sound of the bass violin. Then the bass violin can re-enter dramatically either in the bass function or in some other role in the ensemble.

    When using other instruments to provide the bass line function, care must be taken to choose patterns and textures that suit the character of the instrument. For instance, playing quarter note walking bass lines on the piano becomes overwhelming in a matter of only a few notes. The volume of sound the piano produces and the shape of its sound envelope result in a far more dominant sound than the bass violin, so pianos need fewer notes to produce the same weight in the bass register than the bass violin can supply.







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    Coming Next Lesson: Lesson 4 - Harmony

  2. #2

    Re: Lesson 3 - Bass Lines (Continued)

    hello guys

    which is the bass line I use for a composition of jazz swing, I can use the first examples of Bass Lines?

    thanks

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