bob_denney_pickFor any number of reasons, over the years I have found myself in dire need of a bass player at the last minute. I know I run the risk of offending legitimate bass players everywhere, but with these few simple guidelines, a willing student with knowledge of chord symbols (guitar players, piano players, improvisors etc.) and a good sense of time, you too can create a good “Emergency Bass Player” who will get your ensemble through the gig.

The names of the open strings are: E  A  D  G (hmm …same as the guitar but 2 less strings!)
Each fret up the neck raises the note 1 semitone. (hmm …same as the guitar).


The fifth of a chord can be found 1 string “higher” and 2 frets up from the root.

GUIDELINE #4: The Root and the 5th are always the same.
It doesn’t matter if the chord is major, minor or dominant 7. If the chord is b5 or #5, don’t get fancy, stay on the root.

CHORD                                                               ROOT      FIFTH

C          C7            Cm            Cm7            C5                                       C               G


D          D7            Dm            Dm7             D5                                    D                A


E          E7            Em            Em7            E5                                       E                B


F          F7            Fm            Fm7            F5                                        F                C


G          G7            Gm            Gm7          G5                                       G                D


A          A7            Am            Am7          A5                                        A                E


B            B7            Bm            Bm7            B5                                    B                F#

GUIDELINE #5: In Common Time Play the Root on beat 1 & the 5th on beat 2In ¾ Time Play the Root on beat 1 and the 5th on beat 3
The Root is the most important note and the 5th helps create motion.

GUIDELINE #6: Walking Bass Lines
Okay, it’s the third set and you’re getting brave. Bass players sometimes spice things up by connecting chords by moving through nearby notes. This is called “walking”.

Okay, none or all of this won’t likely get you a Grammy nomination for Bass Player of The Year, but it just might rescue an otherwise potentially disastrous gig. With these guidelines a competent student could create their own bass lines from scores, piano, guitar, bass or vocal parts. A student with certain temporary physical injuries can be accommodated and challenged at the same time. Adding a simple bass line to any performing group can provide tuning and rhythmic support.

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