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Chord Melody Construction - Part 2

Building a Bass/Rhythm with a Blues

Part 1 of our series focused on the basic construction of a chord melody. Most of my favorite chord melodies contain some form of a rhythmic pulse. Us "jazzers" like to call it the "groove".

Creating a groove within a chord melody is one of the more difficult challenges you will face. At the same time, once you got it going it is one of the more rewarding feelings you will have. Guitarists such as Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, and Tuck Andress are spell binding with the "groove" they create in their chord melodies.

Since this is only Part 2 of our series, let's keep it as simple as possible. In exercise #1, I created a basic melody to four measures of a blues in the key of E.
Click here to hear me play it (mp3)

In exercise #2, I created a basic bass line with the melody. The most typical notes to use in a beginner's bass line is the root (which is the name of the chord [ E 7 = E note]) and the 5th degree of the chord (E7 = B note).

The easy way to find the 5th is to count letters (EFGAB). "E" stands for the 1st degree, thus "B" would be the 5th. Sometimes there are sharps or flats, figure out what letter you need, play the chord (e.g. E7) and look for a "B" note in it. If it is flat or sharp, use that note.

The rhythmic pulse I used in this example is a typical one. Note: Play the bass notes with your thumb and the melody with your index or middle finger.
Click here to hear me play exercise #2 (mp3)

In exercise #3, we are now going to add a little bit of the E7 chord. To do this, you will now need to use your thumb for the bass and your index, middle, and ring fingers for the chords/melody.

I staggered the rhythm with some of the chordal tones to create some subpulses within the rhythmic structure. This is "all" subjective. You can do whatever you want. You can manipulate it to fit you. Just remember you need to create a feeling of motion that is constant. This is the "groove" you'll be looking for. That's the feeling a listener gets and wants to tap his/her foot or sway to the music. If someone is listening to you and is swaying to your music... you couldn't get a bigger compliment!

Click here to hear me play exercise #3 (mp3)

Sooooooo... work on the Groove! Enjoy ... Peter Simms


About the Author
Peter has been a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey Bay Area for the last 20 years. He played for Recording Studios, Big Bands, Top Forty Bands, Blues Bands, R&B Bands, Jazz Bands, Rock Bands, and Solo Guitar Instrumental Jazz. Now that he lives in Florida, he has concentrated on Solo Instrumental Guitar, and Guitar Education. For more about Peter check out his website at www.petersimms.com

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