Ostinatos, Double Stops, and Slaps
Another musical device that is supremely funky, especially as epitomized by the compositions of James Brown, is the use of ostinatos (see Chapter 8). The note-for-note repetition of a bass line without almost any variation is one of the hallmarks of Brown's brand of soulful R & B. Figure 12-10 attempts to recreate an ostinato bass line that Bootsy Collins, one of James Brown's bassists, might have played.
Funky ostinato bass groove
Another device to keep in your musical toolbox is something called a
Tritones have many uses (especially in jazz); however, in funk and R & B, the tritone is representative of two essential notes from the dominant seventh chord. If you have a major chord with a dominant seventh — for example A7 — pick out the third and the dominant seven and play them as a double-stop. On an A7 chord, you would play a C-sharp and a G in any configuration.
The tritone's symmetry holds true in any inversion. In other words, if you find either the third or the seventh and play the same shape on the fretboard of the bass guitar, you'll derive the proper intervals every time. Moreover, it doesn't matter if the third is on top (higher) or if the seventh is on top. It still works out!
The best way to use a double stop is to play it in the higher range of the bass. This keeps it from sounding too muddy. Also, it's common to slide into the double stop when you play it. Figure 12-11 illustrates just how the double stop can fit into your bass lines or licks. Notice the use of tritones with the third on top and one with the seventh on the top. Most importantly, notice how they sound essentially the same. They are also exactly the same shape.
Figure 12-11. Funky tritone double stops
The little notes that appear before the double stops are grace notes.
They tell you to slide into the double stops!
In Chapter 9 you learned about slap technique. Obviously, this is a funky and flashy way to add a lick or to supercharge a bass line. Even if you are playing with your fingers, you can throw in a snap or pop here and there or switch to the slap technique for a bar or two. Figure 12-12 uses all of these techniques. Be sure to use these techniques on your own lines and licks too. Improvisation is an essential component for bass competency.
Figure 12-12. Adding some snap to your funk
Be sure to listen to this example on the CD to hear the various finger techniques used!