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The Quarter Note Melody


By Jim Stinnett


The Quarter Note Melody is the final lesson in this series on walking bass.

Everyone wants to play better-sounding bass lines. Sometimes it is difficult to define "better-sounding." For now, we will assume that your time/groove is excellent, and we will focus on the pitches.

There are many different levels of good, functioning walking lines, and you can play well without worrying about being more melodic. However, this lesson will focus on sounding more melodic.

As with each previous lesson, I recommend that you learn these examples in all keys.


Part 1 - Melodic Shapes

Let us define some characteristics of a good melody as it would apply to a quarter note bass line.
- Memorable
- Interesting Shape
- Sequential
- Good Phrasing
- Leads The Ear
- Good Range
- Balance Of Tension And Release

In this lesson we will focus on just one characteristic, Sequential Development.

The following exercises, Fill In The Blanks 1, 2, and 3, are designed to show how to use a sequential pattern to create a melodic shape. Analyze the first measure of each four-bar phrase identifying the scale degrees. Then, complete each measure using the same pattern. Done correctly, the lines will sound somewhat exercise-like, but I am sure you will get the idea, and then you can easily begin to alter the patterns.

Ex. 1 - Fill In The Blanks #1

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Ex. 2 - Fill In The Blanks #2

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Ex. 3 - Fill In The Blanks #3

In this example, a new sequence is introduced in measure three and should be imitated in measure four.

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody


Part 2 - Comparative Analysis: "Lady Bird"



Ex. 4 - "Lady Bird": Sam Jones

This written bass line is an excerpt from the book Walking In The Footsteps Of ... Sam Jones by Rob Gourlay. Learn to play the line and analyze it. Be sure to compare phrases within the line:
Compare measures: 1-2 with 17-18, 33-34, 49-50
Compare measures: 13-14 with 29-30, 45-46, 61-62
Compare measures: 9-12, 25-28, 41-44, 57-60
Compare measures: 15-16, 31-32, 47-48, 63-64
Compare measures: 17-20, 49-52

As with all good players, Sam builds and creates continuity by repeating one, two, and four measure phrases. Some phrases are exact duplicates while others are variations. A common mistake of inexperienced bassists is in thinking that they should never repeat themselves. While Sam Jones could certainly play an unlimited number of different lines each time he walks through a specific set of chords, instead, he chooses to establish a good melodic shape and stick with it throughout. This repetition is what makes a great player's lines feel and sound SO solid.

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Ex. 5 - "Lady Bird": Doug Watkins

This written bass line is an excerpt from the book Walking In The Footsteps Of ... Doug Watkins by Rob Gourlay. Learn to play the line and analyze it. Be sure to compare phrases within the line:
Compare measures: 1-2, 17-18, 33-34, 49-50
Compare measures: 3-4, 19-20
Compare measures: 9-10, 25-26, 41-42, 57-58

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Ex. 6 - "Lady Bird": Jim Stinnett

This bass line is a bit contrived and written to illustrate the use of repetitive phrasing. The sequential phrases should be easy to see and compare.

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Ex. 7 - "Lady Bird" - Opening Phrase

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody


Part 3 - P.C. Phrasing

Ex. 8 - Paul Chambers: "The Theme"

This written bass line is an excerpt from the book Walking In The Footsteps Of ... Paul Chambers by Rob Gourlay. P.C. is the master at making quarter note melodies. Play this line, and notice the repetitive phrases - one-bar, two-bars, four-bars, and eight-bars. P.C. will often play a standard AABA song form using melodic phrasing at all levels, including eight-bar phrases. The first A is the statement/question. The second A is somewhat of an answer. His line in the B section of the form will create a contrast by using an entirely different motive. The last A is the ultimate answer which serves to resolve the tension created by the B section. The second and third A sections are variations of the original A. For the second chorus, he will take a short phrase from the first chorus and develop an entire 32-bar line from this kernel.

Begin with short melodic phrases as illustrated in the previous lesson, One Chord Only - D Minor. Use the Fill In The Blanks method of development to get your lines moving with sequential direction. Work slowly and steadily. Copy the masters.

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody

Jim Stinnett - The Quarter Note Melody


Conclusion

Some folks just seem to have the ability to play melodic-sounding lines. While innate talent may be a factor, practice makes most of us sound more creative. To quote one of the greatest golfers of all-time, Jack Nicklaus, "People have always commented on my "natural" swing. Isn't it amazing how the more I hit balls in practice, the more natural my swing gets."

For more detailed instruction on this topic, check out Jim's book titled The Quarter Note Melody available at: JimStinnett.com.




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© 2006 Jim Stinnett/The IIB