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Welcome to a Tour to Music Theory for the Bass Player – The Course! This is what a “Unit” looks like – this is the actual Unit 4!

This is one of 20 units of Ari’s course “Music Theory for the Bass Player”.

Music Theory for the Bass Player – Unit 4

Tip of The Unit

Goals for Unit 4

  • More on seconds
  • Interval of the week: The Thirds
  • Continuing on with our miniseries of open strings practice for spatial awareness and right hand fitness
  • This unit’s permutation exercises
  • Note finder variations (now over the entire fretboard and incorporating thirds)
  • Stacking major thirds creates a beautiful sound, is great technique practice and provides for creative improvisation over a beautiful track
  • A cool dot-oriented chord sequence as practice ground for groove creation and including seconds into groove creation
  • Notefinders incorporating major and minor thirds
  • A hip bit including thirds into groove creation. What if the root is not on the down beat?
  • Review from previous unit as needed

Read and Watch – Book pages to read, book videos to watch

In this section of the course we go over the material from the book. Navigate the TABS for where we put these book pages to use!

Read Pages 29 through 32

Read Pages 32 through 36

Technique: Right Hand Spatial Orientation

  • This unit’s open strings exercises use the low E string as a pedal.
  • Again we do more basic as well as more challenging variations.
  • Again we practice alternating m and i, and make sure to avoid raking.
  • Groups of three notes per string force us to always start with a different starting finger (advanced versions)

Purpose and Benefits

  • This unit’s open strings exercises use the low E string as a pedal.
  • Again we do more basic as well as more challenging variations.
  • Again we practice alternating m and i, and make sure to avoid raking.
  • Groups of three notes per string force us to always start with a different starting finger (advanced versions)

Permutation journey 1324 4231 with shifts

  • This unit’s permutation numbers are 1324 and 4231, but now we are including the lowest area of the bass
  • In the advanced version we are “permutating” these numbers using the whole tone scale.
  • Reminders: To get a strong and powerful bass sound, pluck towards you (versus classical guitar style), keep fingers close to the fretboard, don’t overgrip the neck, relax and go for economy of motion.

Purpose and Benefits

  • Left hand coordination and fitness
  • Practicing shifting up and down a string
  • Left/right hand coordination exercise
  • Finger independence in the one-finger-per-fret position
  • Monitoring for good posture

Practice With me!

We are doing permutations 1324 and 4231 at tempo 98 on the G string all the way up to the double dots, then we turn around and descend. We are also doing this on the D string.

While doing so we are putting our attention on various details:

  • from saying note names to “mimi” or “imim” for right hand plucking
  • to keeping the shape of the one-finger-per-fret-positionduring shifts intact
  • We will be using mental bookmarks and other tricks to help us during shifts

Practice with me

Practice with me!

In the advanced version I practice “permutating” the whole tone scale up the bass this way. It’s a brain twizzler!

Notes up on a String

String of the Week: G-string

A great exercise that is very short and effective.

  • Advanced players, up the tempo.
  • Basic players, let two, three, four clicks go by before you say the next note name.
  • Always use a click 

Initially use the keyboard graphics as visual helpers, later visualize the keyboard internally. Play notes on the G string while naming them out loud. Saying them out loud is important because hearing yourself say the note names creates an additional reference and feedback loop to deepen the learning.


Purpose and Benefits

  • Further familiarity with the note names
  • Starting to create an internal reference of where the note names are on the bass.
  • Getting used to saying the note names while playing.
  • Getting used to practicing with a metronome saying various subdivisions.

Beautiful Theory Exploration

Here we are stacking major thirds over all four strings and move them up the whole tone scale.

Create rhythmic figures within each position to create a groove-like figure. Observe that the highest and lowest notes are the same; stay aware of the note name of that note (you can say it out loud for reinforcement).

Purpose and Benefits

  • Ingraining major thirds starting from each finger.
  • This is an excellent technical exercise for reinforcing one-finger-per-fret.
  • Identifying the sound of the whole tone scale


Grooves on Dots with Major and Minor Seconds

Grooving over the chord progression from Unit 2, which keeps us on the first three dots of the E and A string. But now we are incorporating major and minor seconds above and below the root into our grooves.

All the notes we are adding are a major second above and below the roots, except for the third fret (first dot), where the variation below the root is a half step.

We will be observing what effects using the addition of the seconds above and below have on the overall groove and how the feel changes depending on which of the notes we place on the down beat.

Purpose and Benefits

  • Experiencing the effects of placing seconds above and below the root in a groove
  • This is a great blueprint to spark ideas for groove creation, using just roots and seconds
  • Gaining insight into the various effects of note choices and placement in relationship to the down beat

Note: The included transcription is for reference only. Use it to check parts that interest you, but try picking it up by ear first.

Unit 4 – Video 7 – Groove on Dots with Seconds

Chord progression: || Em | C | D | Am | G | B ||

In this course we do Note finders with all 21 notes.

Systematic wins the day. We vary the back ground tracks, style and assignments with each note to keep it interesting and fresh! It is a great workout for fretboard knowledge and groove creation!

Once we went through all 21 notes we do

Creative Notefinder Bb and Eb

Bb and Eb are this week’s creative note finder exercises, but we are extending the range over the entire fretboard now, so go ahead and dive into “above double dots” territory.

Another new variation this week is that we say the fret number out loud.

There are two back ground tracks:

Bb: add the minor third to your groove

Eb: add the major third to your groove

Note: The included transcriptions are for reference only. Use them to check parts that interest you, but try picking the bass lines up by ear first.

Unit 4 – Video 8 – Creative Notefinder Bb

Unit 4 – Video 9 – Creative Notefinder – Eb

Purpose and Benefits

  • Practicing Bb and Eb all over the fretboard
  • The point of practicing the notefinder with thirds is to practice the shape of thirds all over the fretboard and to land on the note on the next string with that shape in place already
  • Practicing major and minor thirds in various fingerings

Creative Styles Practice

Here we explore various styles, practice sample grooves and go (I mean WALK, as in WALKING BASS) from pop to funk to rock to reggae and Jazz…

Build Your own Groove

Here is a hip groove starting on the minor third. Then we are adding in major seconds, first from above, then from below. We will do this in major and minor variations. The chords are all powerchords, meaning they have no thirds in them, so they sound open and neither major nor minor:

Chord progression: || C5 | F5 | G5 | C5 ||

Purpose and Benefits

Practice Tip

When you practice, observe what your mind does.

Where does your attention go?

Is there a commentator inside your mind?

What is s/he saying, if anything?

For now, don’t judge your mental activities or try to change what is going on, but pick a focus for your attention which can be any aspect of any exercise (maybe the tone you produce, how tightly you are on the click, the position of your pinky finger or not overgripping the neck) and as you notice your attention wandering to other things, bring it back to the focus you selected.

Just observe and return to your focus of attention. That’s all.

Sound like meditation? Yes. bass meditation. Try it! When we are practicing as we are here, we are training the mind (not just the fingers!) on a very deep level. You might as well go all the way with this and get maximum results.

By the way, this also helps if you are nervous. Put your focus on a select and narrow aspect of your playing and put your attention there. The more you practice this when you practice, the easier it will be in a stressful situation and the deeper your concentration will be. Without effort.


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Alan’s Log

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Unit 4 Matrix

Course Matrix (Wall Chart)

Q&A with Ari

Do you have a question about the course? How to get through a stumbling point? The best method for your practice?

Click below to ask me!

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Resources: My own experiences with hundreds of students, Wolf Wein’s work with Qui Gong, my own yoga and movement/relaxation activities