• Revealed: Who The Bass Player Is To The Keyboardist

    in Experienced players,Motivational Minutes,Piano,Self-Improvement,Theory

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    In today’s lesson we’re focusing on the relationship between the bass player and the keyboardist.

    A music band can be likened to a team:





    Contrary to the popular belief that the bass player and the drummer are inter-dependent, we’re defining and promoting the relationship between the bass player and the keyboardist in today’s lesson.

    Before we go into all of that, it’s important for us to briefly discuss on the concept of the band.

    A Short Note On The Band

    The term band is a modern term that refers to a group of musicians (instrumentalists.) teamed up for music making purposes.

    Some of the basic elements of music include melody, harmony, rhythm, etc., and most instruments are designed to supply one or two of these elements.

    For example, the drums is designed to produce rhythm, the saxophone is designed to produce melody, the piano is designed to produce melody and harmony.

    A band is a product of the coming together of these musicians for the purpose of music making. In a band, everyone has a role to play, which depends on the instrument played, and other factors.

    Although every member of the band is important, we’re focusing on the bass player and the keyboards in this lesson.

    Who The Bass Player Is To You

    The bass player is the musician (instrumentalist) who plays the bass – which is a low-pitched musical instrument.

    The role of the bass player is to provide an appropriate melodic bottom for the prevalent harmony in a chord progression or song.

    In a typical jazz band, the pianist is most likely to play the C minor eleventh chord thus:

    The function of the bass player is to provide a melodic bottom to that chord. Consequently, he provides a bass note to the chord by playing C:

    …on his instrument. With the bass player on ground, the pianist doesn’t need to worry about playing bass notes anymore.

    Instead, he focuses on other chord tones like the third and seventh¬† (aka – “skeleton”) and chord extensions like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths.

    “Believe It Or Not…”

    The bass player is the pianist’s third arm

    When there’s no bass player, the pianist is duty-bound to provide the bass note to the harmony on the left hand and supply the harmony on the right hand.

    In such a situation, the pianist is limited because he cannot play full-sounding, two-handed, extended chords with just one hand. If he does, he’ll be needing a third hand to supply the bass notes.

    “Can You Guess Who The Third Hand Of The Pianist Is?”

    The third hand that the pianist needs to supply the bass notes is the bass player. Who is the band member that is designated to supply the bass notes to the harmony in a chord progression or song.

    The Relationship And The Responsibility

    Saying that the bass player is the third hand of the pianist entails a lot of responsibility.

    Attention: I’m not trying to say that the pianist is responsible for the growth of the bassist – no!

    Believe it or not, the pianist’s mind is usually the most advanced in a band. Consequently, it is incumbent on him to make sure that his third hand is not left behind.

    As a pianist, after learning what both hands should play in a certain chord progression or song, it is important for you to let your third hand know as well. I don’t think leaving the third hand behind is appropriate.

    I’ve come across some fantastic keyboard players who have a lot to offer on their instrument when they’re playing alone. However, in a band situation, they interject some beautiful melodic and harmonic elements that leaves their third hand lost.

    It’s not possible for a candle to lose its light by lighting another candle. Therefore, there’s nothing to lose if you educate your bass player on certain tools, tips, tricks, and techniques you’ve¬† learned.

    Final Words

    In a nutshell, the bass player’s relationship with the keyboardist is not something that can be swept under the carpet because of its importance.

    The bass player is the one who determines the root progression, while the keyboardist determines the harmony. For example, when a keyboardist plays the G major triad:

    …which is chord 5 in the key of C major:

    …and the bass player is playing E:

    …which is the third tone in the key of C major:

    …the overall harmony would be E minor seventh:

    …and in that case, the bass player has determined the root.

    Conversely, when a keyboardist plays the E minor seventh chord:

    …which is chord 3 in the key of C major:

    …and the bass player is playing G:

    …which is the fifth tone in the key of C major:

    …the overall harmony would be a G major sixth chord:

    …and that favors the G note played by the bass player.

    Now that you know the worth of your bass player and how his notes can change the name of a chord, it’s recommended that you grow with him because leaving him behind practically means you’re leaving your left hand behind.

    All the best and see you in another lesson.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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