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Jazz Bass Lessons: Walking Chords With Alterations

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I'd like to talk a little bit about
walking through chords that
have alterations in them.
In some of the music in the play alongs
you'll see maybe a dominant chord
with a sharp nine, or a shard five,
or a flat nine, or a plus 11.
Those sort of sounds.
A lot of times,
when we first encounter these sounds
it kind of stops us in our tracks.
Well how do I come up with a line
that doesn't ignore the alterations,
but still provides a foundational
feeling to the walking line?
There's a couple of priorities.
One of them is
an orchestrational priority.
Down low you don't wanna be featuring
the alterations because it can muddy up
the sound of the chording and
be confusing.
A sharp nine down here is
a minor third [SOUND] so
it sounds like you're
playing a minor chord.
So let's take the sharp nine,
cuz it's so popular and
so common when you have a dominant
seventh chord, like say, C7.
So it has a major
third on the bottom.
And a flat is thrown on the top,
which is a tenth, or sharp nine.
In this case we were looking
at it as a sharp nine.
It's the same the minor tenth but
in terms of the note,
theoretically, yes, we think of it
differently, but it's the same note.
Now, we're gonna have a slow metronomal
marking and practice C7 with a sharp nine.
Down in the low register,
we're not gonna feature that E flat.
We're gonna feature it only up here,
above the octave.
So that they hear the sound
of the dominant seventh with
the sharp nine alluded to up here.
Let's try that now.
One, two, a one, two three.
Okay, so notice
that I played the major
third down here, and
I could play the E flat or
the sharp nine up here.
This is an orchestration choice
like I aluded to you a second ago.
We don't wanna feature that E
flat to prominently down here.
If we don't have the E natural
next to it when we play it,
it makes it sound like were walking
over C minor and we're not.
So orchestration choices are critical.
Keep the alterations above the octaves so
that the listener hears
the alterations in the right register.
So that they give the chord
the actual color, rather than
confusing the person and making them
think it's another chord quality.
That's essential.
So, let's try,
the same thing is true with C7 plus 11.
If you play that and in that case,
the F sharp is the note that's altered.
We'll call that a tri-tone.
If you play it down here,
people who you're playing with might say,
well that sounds more like
a flat five than a plus 11.
Here's the plus 11.
And it is a different sound.
And if the piano player voices it
down there then it is a flat five.
It's registration, it's orchestration.
So if it says C 7 plus 11,
don't hang on that note down there,
play it up here in my opinion,
or use it in passing.
Here, I'll show you again with
the same metronome marking.
We're gonna do C7 plus 11.
when I use it down low I
made sure that I got
off of it quick and
played the G next to it.
In other words, if I wanted to really
make it stick out and play it upper in
the higher register then I could play
the F sharp and sort of let it hang there.
Because it's in the right register.
I'm not trying to make people think
that it's some sort of flat five chord.
These thing are important because
sometimes if you are not careful,
say you accidentally played an E flat and
then you played that F sharp or
G flat, in this case it would sound
like a C minor seven flat five and
that's not what you want at all.
It's a C7 with a plus 11.
So, these kind of alteration things
are important when you're walking.
And it's also voice-leading.
If you hang the altered note down low in
such a way, you don't voice lead it and
get off of it in time, you can really
send the wrong harmonic message.
It makes people think that
you're playing another chord.
So here's one more.
How about flat nine?
I'll actually do flat nine and sharp five.
I'll do flat nine first.
Here's C seven flat nine.
One, two, three.
So above
the octave I'm
playing that D flat
a little bit.
I'm alluding to it but
I'm not playing it way
down here [SOUND] except maybe in passing.
So I'm saving the, I'm thinking about
how they're gonna best hear it.
A lot of times when you play
above the octave on the bass,
not everybody hears these frequencies
as well as bass players do.
So if you're up here and you
sort of spell out one of those frequencies
they're gonna hear that in context.
And they'll be able to assimilate
that alteration much better.
Down here it's just confusing.
Now let's try C7 with s sharp five.
Sometimes, even though
there's a sharp five,
you can use an approach note of
the natural five too when you do this.
But here's a C7 sharp five.
One, two, one, two, three.
one way to
outline it.
It's also contextual.
In other words,
where's that C7 with the sharp five going?
Here's the last thing I'm
gonna show you with this.
Say we have a C7 with a sharp five,
and it's leading to an F minor.
This is what we call a five-one
relationship in minor.
C7 is the five leading to
the one chord which is F minor.
Here we go.
One Two.
A one, two, three.
Here's one chord now.
Now the five chord.
One chord.
Five chord.
One chord.
Five chord.
One chord.
So this gives you some ways to think about
walking on chords with alterations and
how to construct your lines so
that they're clear and not confusing.