UNLESS YOU’RE A SOLO BASSIST, YOU probably spend most of your time playing single-note lines. Sure, there’s the occasional delicious double-stop, but the more dense chordal content is generally left to your piano- and guitar-playing bandmates. Being strong, simple, and supportive is pretty much the gig. That said, I’ve stumbled on a pair of chord shapes that are easy to grab, are harmonically supportive, and have a rich and ethereal quality that works well in certain contexts, especially trios. Figure 1 shows the major, add9 shape, which works well over most major chords. From low to high, the intervals are 1, 5, 9, 10(3). Figure 2 shows the shape’s minor alternative. Its intervals, in order, are 1, 5, 9, b10(b3). I think the chord works particularly well arpeggiated. Figure 3 shows a plucking-hand fingering that uses each finger, classical-guitar style to cycle through each note individually. One final note: try this shape around and above the 12th fret. Any lower and it’ll hurt and sound muddy and indistinct.
Technique Tip: Poor Patterns
THERE ARE A FEW REASONS LYRICAL SOLOING SEEMS to come easier to horn players than bassists. First, by default, horn players spend a lot of their musical time playing melodies, thus burning melodicism deep into their musical DNA. Second, and perhaps more important, the saxophone is nowhere near as pattern-based as the bass. There’s something about the bass’s frets, dots, and strings that makes the fingerboard look like a big checkerboard to our pattern-craving cerebral cortex: Instead of allowing the deeper concerns of harmony and melody dictate our lines, the fingerboard’s visual and digital patterns easily seduce us, corrupting our note choices. One way around this is to seek opportunities to break out of our habitual, pattern-oriented playing by forcing our left hand to confront familiar sounds in unfamiliar ways. The most common major scale shape starts on the 2nd finger (Fig. 1). Try starting the scale on your 1st, 3rd, and 4th fingers, too. Since these shapes may be