Bass Lick of the Week #20

This exercise is a fingerstyle funk groove that works over a G dominant seventh chord. The first three bars of this line are fairly simple, but in the fourth bar we have a more complex fill that uses the half step-whole step diminished scale.

In bar 1, the bass enters with a low G on the second half of the first beat. On the second beat we play a B, follow it with a ghost note, then ascend chromatically to D. On the second half of the fourth beat, we play two semiquavers, F and D. You’ll notice that the chord tones of a G7 chord (G, B, D, F) are used extensively in this bar. In the second bar, we repeat the same line, the only difference being that we now play a low F on the second half of beat four.

The third bar is identical to the first, but in bar 4 we have a complex fill built from the G half step-whole step diminished scale. This is an example of a ‘symmetrical scale’, meaning that it is built from a consistent pattern of intervals, in this case half step-whole step, or semitone-tone. The notes from this scale are as follows: G, Ab, A#, B, C#, D, E, F, G. This gives us an eight note scale (nine if you include the octave). Major and minor scales have only seven notes (eight with the octave), so this in itself makes the scale unusual. You’ll hopefully notice that the scale contains all of the chord tones from G7, with the other notes acting as possible extensions.

Because this scale is symmetrical, it lends itself well to repeating melodic sequences - this is the idea behind the fourth bar of the exercise. I took a basic three-note motif - B-F-D - and then moved it up the neck in intervals of a minor third. To do this, play the B with your first finger, the F with your second and the D with your fourth. Then move the whole line up a minor third so that it begins on D. Make sure you keep the same hand ‘shape’ and play the line again. As you progress up the fingerboard you will always remain within the scale.

This line was played on a Fender Jazz Bass, using an MXR Bass Envelope Filter. I used the following settings: Dry - 12 o’clock, FX - 3 o’clock, Decay - 3 o’clock, Q - Full, Sens - Full.

To download the backing track and PDF worksheet for this exercise, please visit the Free Stuff section of the website.