Lesson 2: On Secondary Dominants and Walking Basslines

Yesterday’s lesson contained lots of stuff but there were two more prominent sections of note.

Part 1: Secondary Dominants

I’ve mentioned secondary dominants before and this time, Master (as he will now be known as) gave me some more explanation and some more concrete examples.

Let’s recap again – a secondary dominant is the act of approaching any chord with a dominant chord a 5th higher than it. Consider the I ii V progression GM7 | GM7 | Am7 | D7. The basic form is shown in bars 1-4 below, with different substitutions happening in each of the following 4 bar groups, i.e. 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16 below:

2ndry dom

In bars 5-8, I introduce the E7 chord which is the secondary dominant of Am7, i.e. a dominant chord with a root a 5th above the target.

In bars 9-12 this is varied into a ii V I (where Am is the I chord) by introducing the Bm7 chord (ii in Am) in front of the the E7 in bar 10.

In bars 13-16 this is simply shows a bunch of chord variations because I wanted to fill up the lower right corner of the diagram. 🙂

Part 2: Walking Basslines

This part of the lesson was very, very interesting. Master thought it pertinent to show me a bunch of foundational strategies for constructing walking basslines. his rationale was as follows:

  1. Bass players are the lynchpin in Jazz combo because:
    1. They define and keep the time (more so than the drummer actually).
    2. They pump out the root of the chord (or a defining note) at any one time.
  2. Understanding how bassists get from A-B i.e. move from one chord to a target note of the next chord using quarter notes (Jazz basslines are very often all quarter notes) is a useful way to understand how to solo.
  3. he used to be a double bassist in a Dixieland combo.

So here then, for your pleasure are some of the techniques we discussed with musical examples to follow in the context of a I vi ii V in G, so our old friend GM7 | Em7 | Am7 | D7.  Throughout, think of the bass pumping out quarter notes on each beat.

  1. First off, just play the root note, so G G G G | E E E E | A A A A | D D D D.  If you play this, nobody is going to kill you on the jam session stage. It’s perfectly ok to do this and it’s perfectly safe and effective. Do this when in doubt.
  2. Use the octave of the root. Works just nicely.
  3. The 5th is always clear. At any time you can inject the 5th of the chord and it will always work (I presume not when there’s a diminished chord over it though – Grasshopper must consult teacher on this…)
  4. Use the octave of the 5th – (so up a 5th or down a 4th from the root).
  5. Use the 5th on the 4th beat of a measure. This is because in many common progressions, the 5th is one tone away from a chord tone of the target chord. Seemed to work in our test progression anyway.
  6. Approach the target note (root of the next chord in this case) from a semitone above or below. We call this an approach note. This also now means that the 5th can move to beat 3 if we put the approach note on beat 4, e.g. R R 5 A.  Alternatively the 5th can be on beat 2, e.g. R 5 R A.
  7. Add the 3rd now. We can do a triad and approach note, e.g. 1 3 5 A, or 1 5 3 A. In a cycle of root movement progression, e.g. VI ii V I, the major 3rd is the leading tone to the next chord. (must explore further – not clear to me).
  8. Scalewise motion. In a cycle of 4ths, going towards the target notes in a scalewise fashion, i.e. sequential notes, when ascending there are not enough notes, so we need to include a passing tone.  In a descending motion, there are enough notes, but we can include an approach note instead of the last scale tone.

7 Responses to “Lesson 2: On Secondary Dominants and Walking Basslines”

  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

  2. […] 2: Secondary Dominants example The audio corresponding with the  first part of the post 2ndary Dominants is […]

  3. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  4. […] of variations can be derived using the same principle (perhaps in conjunction with the ‘how to construct walking basslines‘ info) with all the other […]

  5. Hello, I got mine yesterday as well as on the container it states ” for good being serving take one pill 1-2 hours before every meal. For # 34, & fat dropped dosage; take 3 pills before every meal. Thats 9 pills a day.Do you concur? Thanks.

  6. Hi Gitbuddy,

    I came across your site while googling some guitar stuff. I am actually interested in Jazz, was wondering if you could share who this Master is, his materials are so cool. I may wanna pay him a visit.

  7. Hi Elijah, it’s Rick Smith.

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