Untold Secret to Melodic Bass lesson: Anchors

This lesson is derived from Jon Burr’s The Untold Secret to Melodic Bass. Be sure to check out the complete method book in downloadable PDF or Kindle Book formats.

We left off last week with an overview of the topics we’ll be covering in this series.

The material this week is foundational; I doubt that you’ll be running to the bass to practice the examples here; the intent is to introduce ideas that are foundational to the rest of the book. You might feel that you know this, or that it’s unimportant, but there are some different ways of looking at things that you might find if you keep reading!

You might get a kick out of trying the accent examples with a metronome and see how it feels…


Anchor examples

As previously stated, an anchor is a root in a low register that either introduces or confirms the current chord. Here is are some examples of anchors in action:

(For the purpose of this chapter, we will use only the first four bars of a C major blues.)

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Example 4

Although these are all quite different, they all consist only of anchors. They are serviceable, and even appropriate under certain circumstances. Yet more variation can be achieved by the use of internal dynamics:

Example 5
Example 6
Example 7
Example 8

Let’s look at these same examples with different accent overlays. What does it do to the feel?

Example 9
Example 10

We’ll discuss the stylistic implications of these different accent patterns later in the book, and also go into the multiple layers of accenting. We have found that there are primary, secondary, tertiary (and so on) “accent layers,” which we will also discuss later in the book; a look at the examples above will give a hint as to how these work. The use of accents is an essential parameter in establishing “feel,” or style. Accents are dynamics. For our purposes, we can define “internal dynamics” as “changes of volume and intensity within a phrase or bar through the use of accents.” We might think of “dynamics” in general as referring to all changes of volume and intensity in performance, including accents, crescendos, diminuendos, sforzandos, et cetera.

We could say many things about these examples above, but one thing we could NOT call them is “melodic.”

Striving for melody

We’re going to be using the term “melodic” often throughout this book… let’s stop a minute and define it. For our purposes, “melodic” means: “an attribute of a series of notes containing both harmonic and non-harmonic tones creating tension and release against the underlying harmony.”

Webster’s says: 1: a sweet or agreeable succession or arrangement of sounds: tunefulness 2: a rhythmic succession of single tones organized as an aesthetic whole

I like our definition better.

So, why would these examples above not be thought of as melodic?

They contain no opposition to the fundamental harmony. They are all simply a statement of the root of the chord, the most fundamental sound we can generate.

Opposition and the beginnings of melody

One of the hallmarks of swing, or rhythmic music in general, is an attribute (to paraphrase Steven Colbert) that we can call “back-and-forth-iness.” “This, then that,” “Yin, then yang,” “See, then saw…” you get the idea. Swing. Rocking back and forth. The sense of “motion” in music. This brings us to the idea of the pivot.

…to be continued

In case you want to see more right now… The Untold Secret to Melodic Bass is available as a pdf download or as a Amazon Kindle book.

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  1. Continued! =) when?