Simple Patterns to Get You Rockin'

Rock can be the simplest form of music to play or it can be extremely complex. Even within one song, the difficulty level might shift dramatically. But when you are just starting out, it's best to keep it simple. Believe it or not, one of the most important grooves or bass lines in all of rock is the steady eighth note on the root of the chord. Also, steady quarter notes in a similar fashion are commonplace. In Figure 7-1, you'll be playing chord root notes in quarter notes and experimenting with octave shifts. Shifting the octave up or down is an easy way to give emotional lift or heft to something as simple as root notes. Among others, Paul McCartney was a genius at using this technique. Play the quarter notes from Figure 7-1 in a pop style by making them short and snappy. This technique is known in music as staccato and marked with a dot below or above the note's head.

Figure 7-1. Pop quarter-note roots using octaves

Here is that famous eighth-note groove mentioned earlier. Figure 7-2. employs one of the easiest and most common rock bass lines. Play this groove with a driving feel and keep it steady and rocking. Hard rock and metal players often use this kind of bass line to propel their brand of rock.

Figure 7-2.

Heavy metal eighth-note roots

The dot over each note tells you to play short and staccato!

The next note to bring into the mix is the perfect fifth (see Figure 7-3). You've used this before so it should be familiar. However, expanding on the concept of octaves, you can use that same symmetry to locate a fifth below the root note as well as above it. Early rock and especially country music use a pattern where the root commences on beat one and the fifth hits on the third beat. Play Figure 7-3 in a legato fashion, meaning to connect the notes by holding them out for their full beat value. Also, when playing legato it's important to make a smooth transition to the next note. In other words, there should not be any silence in between notes.

Figure 7-3. Using fifths and playing legato

Staccato and legato are opposite kinds of musical articulations. Staccato means to play the note short and without sustain; legato means to make a seamless transition from one note to the next. Usually when playing legato you will also hold a note out for its full count; this is called tenuto. Staccato is marked with a small dot; legato is marked with a slur or arced line placed over or under a group of notes.

Notice that by varying the placement of the fifth it brings variety to the bass line even though the content is essentially the same. Just like with octaves, excitement can be generated by truly simple acts of variation. If you were given chord changes, you should now be able to construct a bass line similar to these exercises by using roots and fifths and staccato and legato techniques.

You just learned how to use octaves to move the fifth below the root of the chord. This can be done with any note in a chord. Wherever a note normally lies, remember to go up and higher two strings and frets or go down and lower two strings and frets. Figure 7-4 shows you how to use other notes of the chord in a bass line. In this instance, you're working with roots and major and minor thirds. As you will see, some of the thirds are found in the octave below the root.

Figure 7-4.

Employing major and minor thirds

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