How to Play Along With Chords on Bass

Almost all music is centered around chords. Chords define the harmonic structure of each song and tell you which notes will sound good and which won’t. If you study music theory, you’ll spend a lot of time learning about what the different chords are and how they lead from one to another.

Guitarists and pianists play full chords, simultaneously sounding every note that makes up each chord. They are the ones who really fill out the harmonies. As a bass player, your relationship with chords is a little different. You don’t play every note in a chord, but your deep, low tones ground the chord and help define its sound.

What are Chords?

A chord, by definition, is a group of two or more notes played together. Generally, it is three or four notes and they are separated from each other by intervals of major and minor thirds. Each chord has a root note, the foundation upon which the chord is built, and a “quality,” the structure of the other notes that make up the chord. For example, a C minor chord has the notes C, Eb, and G. Its root note is C and its quality is “minor.”

There are many qualities of chords. Some examples are major, minor, major seven, minor seven, diminished and augmented, and the list goes on. Each one has a different character, created by the different musical intervals between the chord tones.

Importance of Chords on Bass

Your primary job as a bass player, besides rhythmic support, is to provide the foundation for the chords. Your low notes really give a solid tonal grounding to guide listeners’ ears in following the shifts of harmony. For the most part, this means playing the roots of the chords.

Seems pretty easy, right? If all you have to do is play the root notes, why learn all this extra stuff about chord structures? After all, the root note of each chord is the note it is named for. You just have to read the letters.

Well, that’s an option, and indeed it sounds perfectly fine when you do only that. In fact, you’d be surprised how often bass players do nothing else besides playing the roots, perhaps with some interesting groovy rhythms. However, you’ll have very limited creative options and you won’t be coming up with any killer bass lines that way.

Learning how to find the different chord tones and use them will let you play really interesting and great sounding bass lines while still fulfilling your job of grounding and supporting the harmonies of the song. Use the chord tones, especially the root, as your launching points to have some fun and get creative.

Using Chords

To figure out which notes are chord tones and which aren’t, you use chord patterns. First, you need to be familiar with note names on the bass so you can find the root of any chord. Next, you can go from there and find the chord tones based on your knowledge of chord patterns.

As an example, consider the C minor chord again. In any minor chord, there are three chord tones. The first is the root, the second is a minor third above the root, and the last is a fifth above the root. So, you would find the root note, in this case, located at the third fret of the A string. Then, you would find the next note three frets higher at the sixth fret (an E♭). Finally, the last note would be on the next string two frets higher, at the fifth fret (a G). This shape of finger positions is the same for any minor chord.

When you are playing with other musicians, you’ll often have a “chord progression,” a sequence of chords that you all play through. Find the root note for each chord, and just jam on that note at first. Then, try throwing in some other chord tones. The root should always be your home base, and should probably be the first note you play for each chord, but feel free to experiment around and find a bass line that sounds good.

Slash Chords

Sometimes, you’ll see chords written using a slash or dividing line, with a chord on the top and a single note underneath. This is a special message to you, the bass player. The note written under the line is the note that should be played by the bass, instead of the root of the chord. Even if you had some other clever idea of what to play on that chord, you should play the note written.


An excellent way to practice chords is to play arpeggios. “Arpeggio” is just a fancy word for playing the chord tones up and down. You can “arpeggiate” up through multiple octaves, if you like, or just one. As you learn different chord patterns, you should practice them by playing arpeggios starting with different notes as the root. You can also use arpeggios in bass lines as well.

Tips for Creating a Better Line Drawing

What Is Line Drawing?

How does a line function in line drawing? Line drawing, also called contour drawing, primarily uses the line to indicate a change of plane.

What is a change of plane? It’s the edge where two sides of an object meet. Sometimes this is very easy to see. Take a look at this box, for example. Each side of the box is a plane and you can easily see them meet. So it’s really easy to do a line drawing of the box by simply drawing all the edges.

Remember this idea of ‘change of plane’ because it’s an important one that will help your drawing.

Now that we’ve looked at a box with nice crisp edges making a clear change of plane. Here are two more boxes of sorts, but there’s a complication: the edges are rounded. The change of plane happens more gradually and it isn’t at all crisp.

Finding the Plane Changes

When the change of plane happens against the background, it’s easy – that outline is clear and sharp. But what about the edges between two planes facing us? They form a gradual curve.

Sometimes we can make a ‘best guess’ as to where the middle of the change of plane is. We can also draw as close to the edge of each plane as we can, leaving the curved area between them. Sometimes this can work quite well and the somewhat visible edges on the face of the dice mean you can get away with a solid line in this case. However, it does make the edge look much harder than it really is.

Using Implied Line

The other option is to draw using implied line . An implied line uses a slight break in the line to suggest that an edge is there, but it isn’t as strong as other lines in the drawing.

If varied line weight is being used, we can lift the pencil off and then on again gradually, or we can use a clean break or a dotted line. The brain interprets these broken lines as being less sharp or hard than the solid lines. This can help you create the effect of the gradual change of plane.

The die on the right is drawn this way, with broken lines suggesting the more subtle curved edges.

So far we’ve looked at very simple objects with quite basic changes of plane. Most of the time, our subjects are much more complicated, with many different changes of plane. Some are sharp and some are very gradual.

The human face is a favorite subject and it has many complex and subtle changes of plane. Let’s take a look at this store mannequin as a slightly simplified example.

With a bit of imagination, we can visualize some planes in the face:

  • The sides of the face and jaw.
  • The forehead, nose, top of the cheeks and chin as the forward planes.
  • The lips are tilted and the top of the head is a horizontal plane.

Of course, you can break the planes down much smaller. Studying the planes of the face in this way can be a useful exercise and this is an approach we’ll revisit in a shading exercise. But for line drawing, we really need to ignore most of these planes otherwise our subject will look more robot than human.

The tricky part when line drawing is to decide when to use a solid line to describe a change of plane and when to use an implied line.

When portrait drawing with pure contour, we almost always ignore many of the subtle planes of the face. However, even quite strong changes of plane, such as along the side of the nose, need to be toned down at times depending on the angle of the face. As you can see in this example, clearly defining that edge doesn’t work in this case.

Another problem with portrait drawing is a change of ​pigment: the girl’s lips are pink, but the changes of the plane around the mouth are very subtle. Outlining them like this can make them look like paper cut-outs.

Unless you specifically want an extremely minimal, crisp, illustration-style drawing, implied line is the best tool for dealing with those tricky changes of plane. Even in a strongly outlined style, you can still make judicious use of it.

You’ll often see manga illustrations that use a small line under the lip or nose or across the cheek to suggest a plane without too much detail.

In this example, only the very strongest changes of plane are outlined. Broken or implied line is then used for the softer changes of plane.

Deciding where to put the implied line is fairly easy with the side of the nose and the shape of the mouth. It’s trickier with the very gradual changes across a rounded cheek or chin. Sometimes in these areas, a couple of short marks will just suggest the contour every so slightly.

So as you can see, implied line, in conjunction with an awareness of change of plane, can help you create a more natural and three-dimensional look in your line drawings.

Art and Design: Where’s the Line Drawn

There are many questions in life that we are faced with that have yet to be answered. Some of those are: What came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the sky blue? And, is graphic design art? Most people have an opinion on all of these, but there remains no definitive answer. Ignoring the first two, let’s just dive into: Is graphic design art? This question has been debated for a long time. The following is a little food for thought.

What is art?
Art – specifically visual art – is difficult to define. Not simply because of its artistic nature, but also because what is deemed as art is constantly changing. And we as a society have never quite been able to make our minds up about what art really is.

In fact it wasn’t until just before the 20th century that anything other than fine art (that is, painting, sculpture and architecture) was actually considered to be art. Then came the Arts and Crafts movement, resulting in the shift to include the applied arts, decorative arts and crafts into the mix – meaning that everything from painting to interior design was termed as art.

So what is visual art today? Well Encyclopedia Britannica describes it as “a visual object or experience consciously created through an expression of skill or imagination.” But that’s a little broad, isn’t it? So let’s add the intention behind the process. Then we could include the artist’s motivation to create for the purpose of communicating a message.

What is graphic design?
Similar to art, graphic design lacks a satisfactory definition. Graphic design is also visual, has a process and a purpose. Design involves the use of various forms of visuals – illustration, photography and even “art” – combined with text to communicate a message to a specific audience. It speaks through a visual language. The purpose of graphic design is to solve visual problems. When successful, it communicates a very clear message .

Now that’s not to say that it lacks expression of skill or imagination. It is the role of the graphic designer to bring a unique visual aesthetic to any problem they solve. However, their end goal is for effective communication. The message is paramount and trumps individual creative expression.

So what’s the difference?
Both art and design have rich histories that illuminate many transformations to their standings within society. Historians have written volumes on it. And like any history, it involves a great deal of flux. Art has played a crucial role into the development of graphic design – there is no question about that. Without the leaps of great artists and art movements of the past, there would be no such thing as graphic design.

Although, it is the here and now that is the concern. Before entering into their creative careers, most graphic designers start out as artists of a sort. Through their earlier education (or individual endeavours) they’re first introduced to exploring creativity through art. That’s where it stems from and it’s a fundamental seed to what graphic designers do.

So yes, both artists and graphic designers are inspired to create, have creative processes that allow them to produce compelling visuals, and are intent on communicating a message. Although, it is the purpose behind their contributions that distinguish one from the other.

Art is subjective, while design is objective. In other words, art can be open to interpretation, whereas design requires complete clarity in order to be effective. What’s more, art involves a degree of self expression. Graphic design expresses in order to aid communication – if not, it fails to do its job. Consequently, art and design can no longer be considered the same thing.


Select an original, personally relevant, visually complex, readily-available A Level subject or themethat can sustain your interest for a year .

Complete 4-10 drawings of your chosen topic in your A Level Art Sketchbook, using a range of black and white and coloured mediums such as graphite pencil, Indian ink, acrylic, coloured pencil, watercolours, oil. The level of realism achieved in these drawings will be dependent on your own drawing style and preferences. Mix and layer mediums as appropriate.  Include photographs if desired. The drawings may be semi-incomplete and can merge into each other. At this point, do not worry so much about what you are achieving in terms of composition. You are merely conducting visual research and exploring your topic.

Fill gaps around the drawings with notes discussing your theme / issue / message…why this is personally relevant to you; what appeals to you visually about the subject; how the subject matter might be composed in order to support or convey your ideas. Look carefully at what you have drawn and make notes about how the visual elements (line, tone, texture, space, colour etc) interact… For example, are there strong contrasts between highly detailed areas and sparse areas? Are the negative spaces as interesting as the objects themselves? Are there repetitions of certain shapes and colours? Are you exploring frames within frames? …In essence, establish what you are dealing with visually .

Select an artist model whose work relates to your subject matter and inspires you. Research this artist. Complete several pages in your A Level Art Sketchbook, including composition studies, imitations and pastiches of their artwork, using a range of mediums.  Fill spaces around the illustrations with notes explaining/discussing their technique/s (mark-making methods); use of media / materials; style; composition (i.e. the relationship between the visual elements: line, shape, colour, tone, texture and space. Discuss how these elements form ‘visual devices’ that ‘draw attention’, ‘emphasise’, ‘balance’, ‘link’ or ‘direct the viewer through the artwork’ and so on). Write notes about the ideas, moods and subjects explored within the drawings and how all of the above relates to your topic or theme. Your comments should show evidence that you have researched your artist (using proper terminology) and should also contain your own thoughts and responses. Under no circumstances should it appear as if you are just regurgitating information from a textbook. Learn from this artist and establish how this artist is relevant / useful for your own project.

Complete 10 – 15 drawings and paintings that show a smooth transition from your original artworks to images that are influenced by your first artist model.

Do not leap in and copy everything the artist does. It may be, for example, that you simply copy the way a particular artist uses foreground, mid-ground and background, or the way in which they apply paint onto a scratched, irregular surface. The purpose of this exercise is to learn particular techniques or compositional strategies – not to copy their work in its entirety. The result should be a series of paintings which show gradual changes and exploration. After each one you should have a discussion with your teacher about what you can do next to help convey your ideas more successfully.

When you have learned all that you need to from the first artist, select another artist and repeat the process. Once you have learned from this artist, repeat again. The intention is that by the time you get to your final piece, your work is a beautiful combination of your own ideas and the influence of several others. Your work should look absolutely original – a beautiful mixture of wisdom gained from a multitude of sources. It can be good practice to choose a range of artist models – ie. national / international, contemporary / historical etc…but this is not always necessary. The best outcomes occur when students choose artists whose work really moves them. It can be typical for an AS student to have 2-4 artist models and A2 students to have 3-10 artist models.

Social media images of culture can predict economic trends in cities

The rise and prosperity of a city neighborhood is not predicated on economic capital alone — the presence of a vibrant arts, music and science culture is equally important. So says a groundbreaking study published in Frontiers in Physics , in which researchers used social media images of cultural events in London and New York City to create a model that can predict neighborhoods where residents enjoy a high level of wellbeing — and even anticipate gentrification by 5 years. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, the model could help policymakers ensure human wellbeing in dense urban settings.

“Culture has many benefits to an individual: it opens our minds to new emotional experiences and enriches our lives,” says Dr. Daniele Quercia, Department Head Nokia Bell Labs, Cambridge, UK. “We’ve known for decades that this ‘cultural capital’ plays a huge role in a person’s success. Our new model shows the same correlation for neighborhoods and cities, with those neighborhoods experiencing the greatest growth having high cultural capital. So, for every city or school district debating whether to invest in arts programs or technology centers, the answer should be a resounding ‘Yes!'”

The term cultural capital was first coined by French sociologist Dr. Pierre Bourdieu in the late 1970s, as a way of understanding how a person’s knowledge, cultural interests, degrees and exposure to creative pursuits — including travel, art and technological innovation — are forms of ‘wealth’ that individuals bring to the ‘social marketplace,’ their personal relationships, and their communities. Bourdieu demonstrated that people with similar cultural capital tend to associate with each other, rather than going outside these bounds to build relationships. These relationships attract people of like mind and grow neighborhoods and societies.

While Bourdieu’s ideas of cultural capital as applied to individuals produced fascinating snapshots of social function, the concept has potentially profound applications when applied to cities and neighborhoods. This motived Quercia and colleagues Dr. Desislava Hristova, from the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Luca M. Aiello, also from Nokia Bell Labs, to find a way to track how cultural capital plays out in urban areas.

The researchers accessed millions of Flickr images taken by people attending cultural events in London and in New York City over ten years. The events included festivals, libraries, cinema, art exhibitions, musical performances, technological demos, handicraft artisans, restaurants, museums, newspaper stands and theater. The team organized the images, which all had GPS tags indicating the place and time taken, into 25 categories. They also cleaned the data to adjust for outliers, accounting for issues such as many museums not allowing photos of exhibits and different generations gravitating to different choices.

The model does have a couple of limitations. First, it only works for world-class cities, such as London, New York or perhaps Tokyo, where the penetration rates of social media are sufficiently high. The approach also does not work for populations that are not tech savvy as it depends on the independent use of technology and software by people to capture authentic images of what moves them.

The model also does not explain what causes gentrification — namely, which occurs first: increasing cultural offerings that reorient social identity and thus, capital, or people seeking more cultural capital as they climb the economic ladder. Somewhere in this complex equation is the as-yet unknown artist/chef looking for an affordable studio/kitchen who inspires a clientele and a new generation of artists/chefs.

Even so, the insights generated by this and other models could help people to successfully live in dense urban settings — an increasingly relevant issue. The United Nations estimates that 54 percent of the world’s population lived in urban environments in 2014 and predicts the figure to rise to 69 percent by 2050.

“Next, we want to measure the relative health of communities, looking at the availability of healthy food, farmer’s markets, sports, parks, beautiful architecture and so forth,” says Quercia. “By overlaying different maps upon each other, we can create a vertically integrated map showing how exposures to different influences can accurately reflect a neighborhood’s sense of wellbeing.”

Songs is the key of life

The article explores a singular aspect of tone languages, which are defined as those which use tone, or pitch, to distinguish the meaning of a word. While this may seem unusual to speakers of most European languages, tone is actually a feature of at least half of the world’s 7000 or so languages.

If pitch makes such a big difference in meaning, then how can anyone sing in a tone language? This paper looks at a set of women’s folk songs in Tommo So, a language spoken in Mali in West Africa. The vast majority of African languages are tonal, including languages like Xhosa and Igbo that were recently featured in the smash movie Black Panther, and Tommo So is no exception. In this paper, the authors ask whether the songs follow the natural melodies of speech, or whether artistic expression wins out — possibly at the expense of comprehensibility.

In Tommo So, combinations of high and low pitch on different syllables can change the meaning of a whole word (the difference between ‘cow’ and ‘mother’) or more subtle grammatical parts of meaning (the difference between ‘run’ and ‘running’). The authors looked at 2232 two-syllable sequences to see if the musical melodies moved in the same direction as the linguistic tones on the words, in the opposite direction, or something in between. Overall, they found that Tommo So music generally avoids making singers sing words in pitches that directly contradict how they are spoken in non-musical contexts, especially if changing the tone would change the word’s whole meaning.

Studies of this sort have been carried out on quite a number of tone languages from all over the world, from Zulu to Navajo to Hmong. Languages differ in how strictly their music follows their tone. But the novel contribution of this paper is digging deeper into what factors affect the assignment of a melody to words. While speakers of other languages may think that it would be confusing for a speaker of a tone language to understand a word sung with the wrong pitch, these same listeners generally have no problem at all understanding song lyrics where the emphasis or stress seems to fall on the “wrong” beat. The very same principles the authors found in Tommo So tone-tune association (the effect of word boundaries, their place in the line, whether the words are improvised or rote) are the principles governing the organization of poetic meter in languages like English or Latin, where stress takes the place of tone. In short, it seems there are universals to the way humans manipulate and adapt the sounds of their language to artistic expression.