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Music Theory Archives

How Much Music Theory Do I Really Need To Know?
Ask Damian Erskine

How Much Music Theory Do I Really Need To Know?

A reader emailed Damian describing his struggles with music theory and asked for his thoughts on the importance of it. While there are lots of ways to look at this, Damian breaks describes some paths to take in your musical growth.

Modal Arpeggio Patterns for Bass
Ask Damian Erskine

Modal Arpeggio Patterns for Bass

We’re continuing our exercise series this week with a lesson on modal arpeggio patterns. Learning modes, scales, and patterns help to open the fretboard up in your mind. You learn the connections, intervals, and relationships of the notes. Some of this sounds more complicated than it is. Hang in there and we will work it all out.

Hal Leonard Publishes Music Theory for Bass Players
Sheet Music & Instruction

Hal Leonard Publishes Music Theory for Bass Players

If you’re looking for a new book to bone up on your music theory, Hal Leonard has published a new book on the subject dedicated to bassists. Music Theory for Bass Players is a 160-page book aimed at helping you get the most out of your playing. Written by Steve Gorenberg, it has chapters starting with the musical alphabet and...

Creative Bass Lines: Using the Melodic Minor Scale To Navigate on a Minor ii-V-i Chord Progression
Creative Bass Lines

Creative Bass Lines: Using the Melodic Minor Scale To Navigate on a Minor ii-V-i Chord Progression

Welcome back to another column, and today we’re diving further into jazz-related harmony with a look at starting to get inside two of the most useful modes from the melodic minor scale. The full line is demonstrated right after the opening title credits, with a little backing groove, and then during the video, I dissect and explain it for you....

Talking Technique: Alberti Bass
Talking Technique

Talking Technique: Alberti Bass

Do you know what an “Alberti Bass” is? If you play electric bass (rather than cembalo in the 1700’s), you are excused if you don’t. That does not mean that we cannot use this keyboard figure to inspire some heavy duty technique shedding: string crossing, right-hand shedding, and coordination. In this lesson, we’ll go over these Alberti inspired figures over...

Talking Technique: Whole Tone Riffin’
Talking Technique

Talking Technique: Whole Tone Riffin’

The whole tone scale is a really interesting scale. Unlike our major and pentatonic scales, it’s built out of all whole steps making it sound a little bit eerie and bright. Because the scale is symmetrical, it does not sound like it has a beginning or an end. Another neat fact is that there are only two whole tone scales:...

What Scales Do I Use Over a Minor ii-V Progression?
Ask Damian Erskine

What Scales Do I Use Over a Minor ii-V Progression?

Q: I have a question about minor ii-V’s. In a major ii-V7-I progression, each chord is diatonic to the I chord. The ii chord is Dorian, the V chord is Mixolydian and it resolves to a Major tonic. In a minor ii-V, the 1 would be natural minor, which makes the ii chord Locrian (7th degree of the major scale)...

Talking Technique: “Mordents” for Finger Strength
Talking Technique

Talking Technique: “Mordents” for Finger Strength

Today we have another multi-layered workout for you to build up your finger strength. This lesson will help you practice a scale up and down one string while improving coordination and strengthening your fingers. It’s not a beginner’s workout, but wherever you are on your journey, give it a good try. You’ll need to be ready to play hammer-ons and...

The Lightbulb Moment: Substitutions
The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: Substitutions

For those of you who haven’t noticed, I enjoy learning about food almost as much as I enjoy exploring the bass. Lucky for me, there are plenty of parallels between the world of food and the world of music. Both rely on unique combinations of ingredients in order to make a final product. Both can be traced back to a...

Melodic Minor vs. Diminished Scales Over Dominant Chords
Ask Damian Erskine

Melodic Minor vs. Diminished Scales Over Dominant Chords

Q: You know, jazz theory can be really, really confusing! I know that you can use a melodic minor a half step above a dominant chord as a substitution before resolving to the I-chord to emphasize tension notes (creating an out-sound). But, apparently, you can also use a whole-half diminished scale a half step up from the same dominant chord....