Hardcore Rock Licks
Rock is a genre that is sometimes known for hotshot solos and other fast licks. Bass guitar pyrotechnics go back to the days of psychedelic rock where Jack Bruce (Cream) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) developed licks and bass lines that changed the role of bass in rock. Through the years, people like Chris Squire (Yes), Geddy Lee (Rush), and Billy Sheehan (Talas, Mr. Big, Niacin) have also upped the ante on just what it means to be a great rock bassist.
The early progenitors of this more ambitious style of bass playing often used a combination of driving attack and fast, funky arpeggios. Figure 12-5 exemplifies this through a simulation of John Paul Jones's style. This example only captures the basics of Jones's approach.
Late-sixties-style hard rock bass line
Later, as progressive rock bloomed, bassists' musical vocabulary and adventurism expanded to all ends of the musical spectrum. Influences as diverse as classical, jazz, and world music were often incorporated into one long, epic composition. One scale that epitomizes the neoclassicism of progressive rock is the harmonic minor scale. Heavy metal bands with a progressive slant (Deep Purple and Iron Maiden) also use this scale.
How many minor scales are there?
There are three traditional minor scales. In Chapter 4, you learned about the natural minor scale. The other traditional minor scales are the harmonic minor and the melodic minor. There are also many more minor scales that are modal and less common. These are used mainly in ethnic styles of music and in contemporary jazz.
The harmonic minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale except that its seventh scale degree is raised one half step; for bassists, that means one fret higher on the neck. Play and listen carefully to the A harmonic minor scale shown in Figure 12-6.
The A harmonic minor scale
The chords written above the scale show its relationship to harmony.
Using the Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale can accommodate minor-key chord progressions that use a major, dominant chord (V chord). However, in most progressive rock and metal, the usage of the harmonic minor is more a matter of taste. Because the harmonic minor has a uniquely large interval (an augmented second) between the sixth and seventh tones, it has an exotic flavor reminiscent of Middle Eastern music.
It's fun to improvise or solo using this scale. It can also be used for constructing bass lines. In Figure 12-7, you'll play some licks using this exotic, and even pompous sounding, scale. The licks in
Exotic licks using the harmonic minor
Here, the G sharp makes these licks sound exotic!
Tapping and Pull-Offs
Another technique or style that gives you that rock edge is to play fast, repetitive, minor-scale arpeggios or pentatonic licks using either hammer-ons (see Chapter 9) or two-handed tapping techniques. Popularized by guitarist Eddie Van Halen, two-handed tapping came into vogue in the early 1980s and 1990s and was adopted by a fair number of bassists as well as guitarists. The tapping technique requires you to bring your picking hand over the neck. If you're playing right-handed bass, you play hammer-on notes using the fingers in your right hand. This is done in conjunction with the left hand, which usually plays two additional notes. Another way to get this type of sound without tapping is to use the left hand in a pull-off fashion in conjunction with open strings. Figure 12-8 illustrates this type of lick. Of course, simply playing scales or pentatonics with high speed and technical proficiency will always dazzle a rock audience, as long as good taste and judiciousness are used.
Pull-off licks that impress