Tapping Technique: Developing Simultaneous Chordal and Bass Line Accompaniment
One way of applying your tapping skills to either a solo context or with a small ensemble is to create both chordal and bass line accompaniment at the same time. This works great in a trio with a guitarist and a drummer if you want to provide accompaniment to a guitar solo.
To begin to understand this concept, we need to be able to identify the root, 3rd, and 7th of our most common chords; Ma7, mi7, Dom7, and mi7b5 chords.
Learn how to tap all the chord voicings in Fig.1.
Play those voicings in the remaining 12 keys through the cycle of 4ths (i.e. F, Bb, Eb, etc)
Fig. 1 | Chord Spelling | Voicing
Now that you’ve begun to understand how to voice these common chords R-3rd-7th, you should also know that the 3rd and 7th can be inverted to R-7th-3rd.
- Learn to tap the voicings in Fig.2.
- Play those voicings in the remaining 12 keys through the cycle of 4ths.
Now that you have a handle on how to tap these shell voicings all over the bass it is time to learn about harmonic continuity/voice leading when applying them to a common chord progression. The idea behind harmonic continuity is that whenever possible to have notes within a chord move as little as possible when changing to the next chord. See how this style of voice leading is applied in one of the most common chord progressions the II-V-I (see Fig. 3).
- Take notice of how the RH voices move as little as possible in Fig.3.
- Learn to play the example in all 12 keys.
The next thing to do is to turn our bass line of root notes into a more developed bass line. A walking bass line (often used in jazz and blues) is the most rhythmically simple type of line to start with as it simply outlines the pulse. For those who are already familiar with creating walking bass lines using standard fingerstyle technique, this should be easy to understand. All you need to do is tap your walking line and make sure that it doesn’t use the same strings being used for your RH chords (see Fig.4).
- Learn each part separately while counting aloud.
- Put both parts together while counting aloud.
Furthermore, we can work on longer chord progressions and add rhythm to our RH part. Below I’ve included a short arrangement of a common chord progression (see Fig.5). Try learning this verbatim to get a feel for the type of harmonic and rhythmic textures you can create all by yourself using your new tapping skills. What better time than now during this pandemic when it is hard to get together with other musicians!
Josh Cohen is a multi-award winning six-string bassist, composer, session musician, and music educator. His solo six-string electric bass performances, which can be heard on his most recent 2020 album Freedom, use extended techniques to create the sound of an entire band with only one instrument without the aid of loop pedals. Josh has a new solo bass transcription book out and offers online music lessons.