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Bass Lines

A melody of a song or composition is usually accompanied by a chord progression and/or a bass line.

A bass line can be created with the use of chord tones, scale/passing tones and chromatic notes as discussed in the previous chapter.

Most of the notes that make up a bass line are usually found in the chords that accompany it.

The “root” of a chord is the note on which the chord is built.

The note C is the root of a C major chord (C, E and G), a C minor chord (C, Eb and G) or a C diminished chord (C, Eb and Gb).

The “bass” note is the note which is put at the bottom of the accompaniment and it can be other than the root of the chord.

The notes E and G can be “in the bass” as a C major chord is played.

The notes Eb and G can be in the bass as a C minor chord is played.

The notes Eb and Gb can be in the bass as a C diminished chord is played.

Chord tones are the most stable sounding of all bass notes.

Bass lines involving only chord tones do not have much tension:

chords:         ||  A          E         |    D           E         |    D          A         |     E          A        ||

beat                 1     2     3     4       1     2     3     4       1     2     3     4      1     2     3     4

bass notes       A           G#            F#          E              D           C#           B           A

Along with chord tones, bass lines can involve scale notes that are not in the chord and chromatic notes that are not in the scale. These notes create tension and it is wise to make use of these unstable notes on the weak beats of a measure:

chords:         ||   A           E         |  D            E          |  D           A         |    E           A        ||

beat                  1     2     3     4     1     2     3     4       1     2     3     4       1     2     3     4

bass notes        A    A    G#   G     F#   F     E    F       F#   G#   A    E      E     B    A    F#

Bass lines involving chord tones, scale tones and chromatic notes have more tension than bass lines with only chord tones.

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