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Harmony Archives

Playing Outside the Harmony
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing Outside the Harmony

I often get the question about how to play “outside” the changes. There’s no easy answer to this, but I do have several tips to keep in mind. This week I made a video to dig into how to create tension and release by playing outside of the harmony.

Talking Technique: Talking Triads
Talking Technique

Talking Technique: Talking Triads

Triads are three note chords that serve as the building blocks of functional harmony. As bass players, it’s important for us to recognize triads by ear and to know how to play them starting on each string in all keys and in all registers of the bass. We’ll focus on the major triad in this lesson to get your ears...

The Lightbulb Moment: Major? Minor? Why Bother?
The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: Major? Minor? Why Bother?

Being a bass player is awesome. Not only do you get to hang in the back and groove, but you get to skate by on all of that “theory” stuff that guitar players have to deal with. You know… like chords and whatnot. We only have to play one note at a time! That’s like… way easier. I wouldn’t want...

Joe Hubbard Authors Book on Functional Harmony
Sheet Music & Instruction

Joe Hubbard Authors Book on Functional Harmony

Top bassist and bass teacher Joe Hubbard (also a No Treble contributor) has released the book, Functional Harmonic Concepts. Hubbard is known for his recording work with artists such as Mose Allison, George Benson and Dave Garabaldi and his instruction (The Who’s current bassist, the prolific Pino Palladino, was one of his students). According to Hubbard, the 120-page book will...

Exploring Vertical Harmony in Bass Playing
Ask Damian Erskine

Exploring Vertical Harmony in Bass Playing

Q: I have never studied an instrument aside from bass. In watching countless guitarists pick up my bass and rip out some cool lines (and the left hand of pianists), I’ve realized that I’ve never really found an effective way to internalize “vertical harmony”, and thus my lines lack coherence as a whole. How do you suggest I familiarize myself...

Fitting It All Together: Reading, Listening and Playing Through the Changes
Ask Damian Erskine

Fitting It All Together: Reading, Listening and Playing Through the Changes

Last week, we wrapped up the series on Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions. After that, I had a great moment with a student where there was a small distinction made that seemed to have a great impact in the student’s playing. An immediate impact. We were running the Wayne Shorter tune “Juju”, primarily because it has a ton of whole-tone scale...

Playing Bass without Sheet Music: Time, Feel & Harmony
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing Bass without Sheet Music: Time, Feel & Harmony

Q: I’ve been playing bass for about 7 years. Before bass I was a very good tuba player and a halfway decent cellist. My problem is I never learned to play without music notation. I can’t even play tabs. I either need the notation or the chord progression. What’s the best way for me to get to a point where...

When to Play with the Harmony: A Discussion for Bass Players
Ask Damian Erskine

When to Play with the Harmony: A Discussion for Bass Players

Q: The (new) guitarist in my band has mentioned a few times that I’m not “holding it down” because I don’t always play the root, and he finds it “detracts from the song.” He is an extremely good musician and I respect his opinion. However the chords in our songs are super vanilla. Our vocalist says she loves the way...

Learning New Tunes: Go Beyond the Bass
I Wish I Knew That

Learning New Tunes: Go Beyond the Bass

Let’s face it, we’re not all singers. Some of us opted to join band in school instead of choir, and in doing so, we missed out on the vocal warm-ups and breathing lessons. We never took the bull by the horns and sang lead, be it on stage or around a campfire, and maybe a few of us have been...

Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro: A Look at the Harmony App for iOS and Android
Apps

Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro: A Look at the Harmony App for iOS and Android

I recently stumbled upon Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro, an app that blew my mind. If I had access to this app in college, I would’ve understood my upper level harmony courses so much better. This is an app that’s not only useful, it is also fun to play with. If you have a desire to explore functional harmony and are...