Bass Improvisation - Folk Style

By Bass Levite

Due to positive feedback from the bass improvisation post, I will continue to put up some more posts, to explain some basic improvisation techniques further. This is the first part of a series where I will cover some common styles of bass playing used extensively in christian music.

Here are the key things you need to get a grip on first:
- Beat (keep it ringing in your head and play accordingly)
- Sound (only one sound from one string at any one time; mute strings after they are played before going to the next one)
- Fretboard (familiarise yourself with the notes on the fretboard)
- Scale (need to know what key a song is in, and the notes that make up that key)

The first half of the video demonstrates the folk style with walking, & the second half the folk style with walking:

Bass folk style without walking
This style of playing is used in folk/country/jewish/hymny type of songs. The example I used in the video is a simple version of the hymn "Because He Lives". I recorded it with a drum machine in the background. The chords are...

C - F - C - G

The bass forms the backbone of the music for this sort of songs. These type of songs usually have a lot verses and hence will be quite long. Therefore, it is important for the bassist to progressively add in improvisation skills as the song goes on, to maintain the atmosphere. The next bit deals with this.

Bass folk style with walking
The second section of the video shows the same chord progression, but this time with walking skills in it. I will walkthrough some of the improvisation stuff I added. I hope this gives the reader some ideas to experiment with. These are the very basics of improvisation which are useful to keep up your sleeves.

The first one involves the transition from C to F. The key of the song is in C, so the notes from the C major scale that you can add in between are D and E.
C -> D -> E -> F

And then I transitioned backwards from F back to C.
F -> E -> D -> C


You will also pick up an extra thing I did after that. I have added an A note in addition to the C-G-C-G beat. This is also a common skill.
C -> G -> A -> C


Then, before moving on to G, I played a D first. Because the D note is the relative 5th note of the G chord, it can also bridge the transition from C to G.
C -> D -> G


Next, transition from G back to C. The notes which I added are F, E and D.
G -> F -> E -> D -> C


In the second round, I have also added an E note in addition to the G-D-G-D beat. This is similar to the pattern I discussed earlier above.
G -> D -> E -> G


After that, you will notice that I did a "backbeat" skill. In the F-C-F-C beat, I added extra F and C notes within that beat. It is hard to represent this on tabs though...

Later on, in the transition from G back to C, I played the transition notes in duplets.
G -> F -> E -> D -> C


You can also transition a chord back to itself! Towards the end, the C chord walked back to itself!
C -> G -> A -> B -> C


The last few stuff I did is only doable only if the song goes for one extra bar before coming to an end. Unless the song is jazzy in nature, make sure that when walking, only use notes that are from the scale of the key the song is in (otherwise it would sound off). From this post, the reader would have learnt the following 5 skills!

- Bass folk style
- Walking from chord to chord
- Walking a chord back to itself
- Additional add-in notes
- Backbeat

"It's time to get out of the root note comfort zone!"

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