The Minor Major Sound
By Kevin Guin
Being bass players, we are often renegades of a sort. Many of us learn to play when a friend or a cousin or uncle puts a Fender bass in our hands, shows you a 12-bar blues and suddenly you are off and running.
The good part about starting out cold-turkey as a bass player is that you can get good quickly being around seasoned players. The downside is finding yourself flying blind half of the time.
A common situation is when someone calls a minor tune like Summertime or a groove jazz tune with major chords on your blues gig. If you don’t know much harmony it’s easy to sound like a novice. To move yourself forward as a musician you will want to know how to play a fuller palette of major key and minor key harmony.
The purpose of the video lesson is to provide an introduction to the minor major sound and minor key harmony, to hear helpful examples of that sound, and also to learn a way to start using it in your daily practice.
For the bass renegades out there, it is completely possible to become a very convincing bass player before you truly start to understand how to weave chord changes as a walking bassist or a soloist. And there is nothing wrong with that. But sometime in that process you will want to slow down long enough to truly dig into harmony to learn how to resolve a chord progression with confidence.
The harmonic minor scale sound is the fundament of playing minor key harmony. To understand the notes you simply take your natural minor (b3, b6, and b7 degrees) and use a major seventh degree instead. It has a particular sound that’s easy to recognize.
In the opening clip to my video lesson I play bass on the first A section (16 bars) of Nica’s Dream and then blow a solo on the next A. The great thing about this tune for our purposes is that it has two successive minor-major chords up front, Bbm and Abm. And that can help to drive this sound home until you begin to truly feel and hear it.
Make sure to listen to the simple improvisations in the minor 2-5-1 section of the video lesson. In this particular case I am only using the Bb harmonic minor scale material in a general way to play on a 4-bar vamp using those chords (Cm7b5 – F7b9 – BbmMaj7 – BbmMaj7).
The point is that I’m not demonstrating weaving changes using chord tones. I am just improvising using the scale material and that’s exactly what you can do to get yourself going on playing minor-key harmony. I call it generalizing the harmony and it’s an easy way to start to hear the overall sound, work on good phrasing, and challenge yourself to play the best rhythm that you have.
If you’re not getting around that well on your instrument yet, make sure to use the play along 2-5-1 audio files to play long tones – it’s a great way to get used to the sounds in the key. I play quite a few long tones just for you in the playing samples.
Don’t forget to use the download link for some helpful accompaniment material.
I hope you can appreciate these things and that this lesson inspires you to dig deeper in your musical journey.
Please take your time and enjoy your practicing, make a new friend to get together and play music and always work to bring yourself forward as a musician.
Thanks for stopping in.