Cliff Engel's Institute Of Bass

Passing Notes

Chord tones and scale tones are diatonic notes because they are found within the scale related to the chord. Chord tones are identified as the first, third, fifth, and seventh degrees of a scale (odd numbers) while the scale tones are the second, fourth, and sixth scale steps (even numbers). Chord tones distinctly define the tonality of music whereas scale tones only allude to it. Non-diatonic notes are tones which are not found within the chord or its diatonically associated scale. Embellishing tones are notes of secondary significance in music, and many times they are not diatonic to the harmony. Often, they create dissonance and resolve by either a half step or a whole step to a more critical pitch.

One of the most commonly employed embellishing tones is the passing note. A passing note connects two other pitches of greater importance through stepwise motion. The passing note may appear in an ascending or descending fashion between two pitches, and it may or may not be diatonic to the harmony. Notes which function as scalar passing notes are diatonic to the harmony because they are found within the scale related to the chord. Notes which function as chromatic passing notes are typically non-diatonic to the harmony because they are not found within the scale related to the chord. By utilizing non-diatonic tones as chromatic passing notes, the underlying sense of tension and resolution in music can be heightened.

This collection of exercises contains the most common passing note techniques used in the construction of bass lines and solos. The one and two-octave G7 arpeggios and the G Mixolydian mode will function as the basic building blocks of all the exercises. The passing notes in these exercises will be the second, fourth, and sixth scale degrees of the Mixolydian mode because Mixolydian is one of the most common scales musicians utilize when playing over dominant seventh (7) chord types.

These exercises are excellent for ear training purposes because they will help you internalize the sound of passing notes along with how they relate to particular chord types. They are also great exercises for expanding your fretboard familiarity since they can be played across every position of the fingerboard, and due to all of the string crossing that is required, these exercises will certainly help develop your technique.

Play through each of the exercises as notated. Transpose to the other keys such as C7, F7, Bb7, and also apply these techniques to all of the remaining seventh chords including Maj7, m7, m7b5, dim7, mMaj7, 7sus4, Maj7#5, Maj7b5, 7#5, and 7b5 using the notes from their most closely associated scales. To help make this amount of material seem more manageable from a time perspective, apply these techniques to just one seventh chord per day. Then, improvise bass lines and solos using these passing note techniques over individual chords, short chord progressions such as the ii-V-I or any of its common variations, and complete song forms including the 12-bar blues. As you study bass lines and solos, locate passing notes, observe how they are used, and assimilate those techniques into your own playing.

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Cliff Engel's Institute Of Bass

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