Music From a Bass Player’s Perspective

music theory bass

B ehind the art is a structure. Learning, understanding, and integrating the underlying structure of music gives us greater freedom as musicians.  I cannot place enough importance on having a comprehensive understanding of music from a technical standpoint. While there are many resources that one can use to learn this material, I opted to write my own instructional guide for my students (and anyone else who is interested.)  I chose to write my own guide because I wanted to tailor each post so that it functioned as a companion to a private lesson. When you study privately with me, I will ask that you read a section of this guide, and then we can clarify and apply the concepts when we meet in person. I also found many of the instructional guides I've read to be lacking in detail, and often times it is the details, when left unclarified, that can be confusing. For music theory to be useful, we need to develop and comprehensive and clear understanding of the subject.

Click on any of the posts below to get started. I suggest starting from the beginning!

Fender Bass Teacher

How to Play the Bass

How do you become a great bass player? How do you know what notes to play, how to articulate rhythms, how to play in the pocket? How do you make a band sound great, by laying down a fantastic, solid bass line that leaves no holes for anyone to fall though?  I had to think about and attempt to articulate some answers to these questions to them when a friend of mine asked me how I knew what to play when I played bass...

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What Is Music Theory?

What is music theory? I had thought it reasonable to begin this explanation with a definition from a reputable dictionary. However, a quick glance in three different dictionaries did not, for me, reveal an entry or a definition for the term "music theory." Dictionary.com, an online resource, gives the following definition: "The study of the theoretical elements of music including sound and pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony, and notation." It's a somewhat unsatisfying...

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Names of Notes and Intervals

Here is a piano, with the names of the notes written on the keys.  I want you to know the names of the notes, and the distance between them. We call the distance between two notes an interval.  This lesson is concerned with the names of notes, and the names of the intervals between them.  This is going to be REALLY exciting. Believe me....

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Memorizing the Names of Notes and Intervals

It is my suspicion that the primary reason people do not develop a working knowledge of music theory is not because they don't initially understand the basic concepts, but because they do not memorize the information that is derived from the concepts. Example: In the previous entry, we learned the names of the notes that are utilized in Western Music (C, C#/Db, D, etc....) and the names of the intervals  between these notes....

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Understanding the Major Scale

The major scale is the most commonly used scale in Western Music. That's how awesome it is. We want to use it all the time. In the western world, babies come out of the womb singing the major scale. It's really well engrained into our cultural landscape.  Before we look at the major scale, let's first look at the general concept of a scale. A scale is simply a series of notes. Any series of notes is a scale...

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The Major Scale Continued

In the following lesson we are going to learn to spell all of the major scales. Before we go into the details, let me summarize what I'm about to tell you:

1. There are fifteen major scales.  2. Some scales are built (or "spelled") using sharps, some are built (or "spelled") using flats.  3. None of the major scales have both sharps or flats. They are built using either sharps or flats, never both.  4. One scale has no sharps or flats...

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The Major Scale Completed

Now let's finalize our study of the major scale. After we're done with this lesson, we will be able to use the circle of fifths as a tool to discover how many notes are sharp or flat in every key, and which notes are sharp or flat in every key.  We already know how to use the circle of fifths to discover how many notes are sharp or flat in every key, but let's...