Alternating Bass

Recall, from previous lessons that we identified the root note, and the perfect fifth, and also we learned bass-note strums.

It is common to hear alternating bass, where there is a switch back and forth between the root and 5th.

So consider the progression A-E-D with an alternating bass note strum (in 4/4).

|----0---0--|----0---0--|----2---2--|----0---0---|
|----2---2--|----0---0--|----3---3--|----2---2---|
|----2---2--|----1---1--|----2---2--|----2---2---|
|------2----|--2--------|--0--------|------2-----|
|--0--------|------2----|------0----|--0---------|
|-----------|-----------|-----------|------------|

If we look at each chord we could see that the root or 5 is plucked and then the chord is strummed, then the other note is plucked and the chord is strummed again.

So either...
R-/-5-/ or
5-/-R-/
for each chord.

In 3/4 (or 6/8) we could do the following (same progression):

|----0-0---2-2--|----0-0---1-1--|
|----2-2---2-2--|----0-0---1-1--|
|----2-2---2-2--|----1-1---1-1--|
|--------2------|--2------------|
|--0------------|--------2------|
|---------------|---------------|



|----2-2---2-2--|----0-0---0-0--|
|----3-3---3-3--|----2-2---2-2--|
|----2-2---2-2--|----2-2---2-2--|
|--0------------|--------2------|
|--------0------|--0------------|
|---------------|---------------|

which might be interpreted as both downstrums or downstrum-upstrum (or both upstrums, etc.)


So either... (in 6/8)
R-/-/-5-/-/ or
R-/-v-5-/-v

Here is an example where the bass alternates between the 5 and 2 different 1's.

|----0----0---0---0--|
|----0----0---0---0--|
|----0----0---0---0--|
|----2----2-2-----2--|
|-------2-------2----|
|--0-----------------|

Such a thing might be
R/-5/-8/-5/ or
RV-5V-8V-5V
where 8 is the higher root note (an octave of the lower root note).

Here is an alternating bass with a rhythm like you'd hear in regae.

(Em in 4/4)

|----0-0---0--|
|----0-0---0--|
|----0-0---0--|
|----2-2---2--|
|--------2----|
|--0----------|

rhythm is
R-/V-5-/ or
R-VV-5-V

Here is an example using 7 chords (dominant 7th chords)
[C7 = 332310, F7 = 131211, G7 = 353433]

C7 bit (play 8x)

|------------|
|---1-1---1--|
|---3-3---3--|
|---2-2---2--|
|--3---------|
|-------3----|

F7
|-------------|-------------|
|-------------|-------------|
|----2-2---2--|----2-2---2--|
|----1-1---1--|----1-1---1--|
|--------3----|--------3----|
|--1----------|--1----------|

G7
|-------------|-------------|
|-------------|-------------|
|----4-4---4--|----4-4---4--|
|----3-3---3--|----3-3---3--|
|--------5----|--------5----|
|--3----------|--3----------|

This is a 16 bar dominant blues in C.

|C7|C7|C7|C7|
|C7|C7|C7|C7|
|F7|F7|G7|G7|
|F7|G7|C7|C7|

Here is an example in F where the general structure is alternating bass but there are also descending or ascending notes between chords (between the chord's roots).
chords: [F = X33211, Dm7 = X00211, Bbm7 = 113321, C7 = 332310]
The Bbm is a barre chord.

|----1---1---------|----1---1----------|
|----1---1---------|----1---1----------|
|----2---2---------|----2---2----------|
|--3---------------|------0---0-000----|
|------3---3-333-2-|--0-------------3--|
|------------------|-------------------|


|----1---1----------|----0---0----------|
|----2---2----------|----1---1----------|
|----3---3----------|----3---3----------|
|----3---3----------|----2---2-----2----|
|--1-------1-1232-1-|--3-------3-34--3--|
|------1------------|------3------------| 
then repeat.

Similarly you could throw in various bass runs between chords out of various scales, etc. More on taking this into various american and european musics at a later time.

Next lesson is on moveable shapes.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts


How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

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Last updated January 31, 2002.
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