Bass playing and box patterns

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Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Walknbluez » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:26 pm

Last night at rehearsal the guitar players wanted to give me suggestions on playing the bass a bit differently than what I was doing on one particular song. They asked if I knew playing "in the box" which I don't. When I learn a song my approach is usually to try play notes within the scale of the chord and connect the chords using the scale. I then listen to different GD versions and get some ideas from Phil's playing as to different note combinations and ways of connecting. I've only recently been reading up on modes here in the forum and still don't quite get it and not even sure if I have it right but.....are modes what help you get "out of the box"? For example if I'm playing a G major chord pattern and then when I get to the 5 (for example) of the G major chord instead of continuing that chord take the 5 as the new 1 and play a G major chord pattern to move my way up and down the neck. Am I on the right track? When they talk about playing the box, that kind of threw me for a loop. And then when I tried it, I didn't really understand what I was doing, probably because I wasn't sure of the theory behind it. I'm used to learning scales and knowing terminology such as 1 3 5 but never heard of box talk so I'm trying to understand what they are talking about. Thanks!
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Walknbluez » Sat Feb 11, 2012 5:08 pm

Where's the bass players at? Rusty? Zambiland? Anyone? Bueller?
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby ugly rumor » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:11 pm

I have never, in 40 years of playing, heard of this box. Sounds like somebody trying to tell you how to play that either thinks they know more than they do, or has a new terminology for something that needs to be explained. I wouldn't worry about it. You might want to research some of my previous posts to see what I would tell you. There are only twelve notes; it can't be that hard, right?
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby eric » Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:59 pm

hey man, not a bass player , but would take the " box" as to mean they are speaking of the "box patterns" associated with scale patterns and perhaps the extended scale pattern " run" , which can be seen as a series of connecting boxes diagonally on the fretboard. They are all movable shapes in and to any key. Easily located off the root.

I would assume that they are suggesting that you " float" around "in the box positions" . I heard a good simple term the other day that I think sums up Phil's style : "he was a floating bass player". As long as you know those simple repeating box shapes, you can pretty much noodle around in it all day long.

I would say don't sweat the modal stuff until you get a very good grasp of the intervals of the major scale first, and start to pay attention to what intervals make up that particular box, in a few different positions, and then all the modal stuff will start to make sense. Knowing where your maj/minor 7th is and where your maj/minor 3rd are some good starting points .....I dunno man, hoped that helped and I didn't throw u off...my 2c
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:08 am

Eric's theory of what they meant is as good as any, but mostly I'm with Ugly Rumour... if somebody told me that you'd find me with a very confused look on my face. I might find the nearest cardboard box and stand in it.

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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby mkaufman » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:28 am

Maybe it means staying in one position on the fretboard?

Maybe it means standing in your own room away from everyone else?

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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Lunchbox16 » Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:38 am

The only thing that I know of that comes close to this description is simply the minor pentatonic scale. That essentially creates a "box" on the fretboard as you move from string to string. I guess it depends on what the tune calls for, but keeping to the minor pentatonic doesn't seem too "Phil" to me, of course that depends also on what sounds/groove you're going for as well.
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Walknbluez » Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:29 am

eric wrote:hey man, not a bass player , but would take the " box" as to mean they are speaking of the "box patterns" associated with scale patterns and perhaps the extended scale pattern " run" , which can be seen as a series of connecting boxes diagonally on the fretboard. They are all movable shapes in and to any key. Easily located off the root.

I would assume that they are suggesting that you " float" around "in the box positions" . I heard a good simple term the other day that I think sums up Phil's style : "he was a floating bass player". As long as you know those simple repeating box shapes, you can pretty much noodle around in it all day long.

I would say don't sweat the modal stuff until you get a very good grasp of the intervals of the major scale first, and start to pay attention to what intervals make up that particular box, in a few different positions, and then all the modal stuff will start to make sense. Knowing where your maj/minor 7th is and where your maj/minor 3rd are some good starting points .....I dunno man, hoped that helped and I didn't throw u off...my 2c


Yes, I think box patterns are exactly what they are referring to. Where can I find info on these box patterns and extended scale pattern runs that are associated with each particular scale pattern?

Or, what is another approach to Phils floating style?
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby eric » Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:28 pm

This guy explains it very well and simply...

http://www.bassguitarscale.info/bass-scales/bass-guitar-scale-patterns

and just remember that relative major/ minor has the same pattern , just different roots (or starting points), and you already have two different keys that you can cover with just that one position...Example : C and Am .....G and Em........
Last edited by eric on Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Walknbluez » Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:38 pm



Thanks for the link, I checked it out. I'm going to have to really dig into that more because now I'm really confused....in his first example I'm not quite seeing how it relates to the major scale. I could memorize it but knowing how this box pattern idea originated will probably help me.
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Walknbluez » Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:46 pm

Lunchbox16 wrote:The only thing that I know of that comes close to this description is simply the minor pentatonic scale. That essentially creates a "box" on the fretboard as you move from string to string. I guess it depends on what the tune calls for, but keeping to the minor pentatonic doesn't seem too "Phil" to me, of course that depends also on what sounds/groove you're going for as well.


The song in question was "Don't Ease Me In". Easy two chord song but I'm not really playing it like Phil and I think I'm using the fifth (lower fifth) too much so there's too much of a cowboy tune feel to it. They want me to bounce around more and get rid of the cowboy feel. I've listened to several versions with Phil and I can't quite cop what he's doing so I decided to keep it simple when we first started but agree that it's time to venture out more. That's when the box pattern suggestion came. Here's a recording of the song....if it's not too much troube maybe you guys can critique my playing and give me some ideas how to venture out on this one (either using the box pattern theory or something else, whichever works)?

http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_11108808
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby eric » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:03 pm

i will defer to a real bass player on that one .....btw , your band sounds grate!
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Walknbluez » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:25 pm

eric wrote:i will defer to a real bass player on that one .....btw , your band sounds grate!


Thanks eric! BTW, it seems like "box pattern" talk is immediately recognized by guitar players but seems like something that bass players, even really good ones, don't know anything about. But then there is stuff online, i.e. your link that talks about it.
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby eric » Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:40 pm

Better yet, forget all this theory crap , and at your next band practice , throw on your meanest Bass Face , and break out a gnarly cover of "I'm the Man in Box" by Alice in Chains ....
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Re: Bass playing and box patterns

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:52 am

Walknbluez wrote:
eric wrote:i will defer to a real bass player on that one .....btw , your band sounds grate!


Thanks eric! BTW, it seems like "box pattern" talk is immediately recognized by guitar players but seems like something that bass players, even really good ones, don't know anything about. But then there is stuff online, i.e. your link that talks about it.


I personally don't focus on box patterns at all... since we move at about half Jerry's speed, there's plenty of time to think about individual notes or at least intervals or scale degrees without relying too much on muscle memory.


Walknbluez wrote:The song in question was "Don't Ease Me In". Easy two chord song but I'm not really playing it like Phil and I think I'm using the fifth (lower fifth) too much so there's too much of a cowboy tune feel to it. They want me to bounce around more and get rid of the cowboy feel. I've listened to several versions with Phil and I can't quite cop what he's doing so I decided to keep it simple when we first started but agree that it's time to venture out more. That's when the box pattern suggestion came. Here's a recording of the song....if it's not too much troube maybe you guys can critique my playing and give me some ideas how to venture out on this one (either using the box pattern theory or something else, whichever works)?

http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_11108808


You're actually pretty close to what Phil's doing! I'd make just a couple of tweaks:

You're starting nearly every verse with the two-beat country feel, and extremely behind the beat. This song is from their initial country period back when they had a ton of energy, and came back right when Brent was re-energizing the band, so make it bounce a little more: Shorten up those first few notes a little and play a more on top of the beat.

There's nothing wrong with using that classic root-five bassline, but you need a little more variety. Sometimes go root and then the higher five, etc. The same goes for your climb-ups between chords - what you're doing is fine except that you're a little too consistent. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than what you're already playing, it just has to keep changing. Slight and subtle variations are enough for a song like this, you don't want to make radical changes that stick out like a sore thumb. If it helps, sit down and plan out 10 different ways to play a verse that all still sound like Don't Ease.

Playing Phil is the opposite of being a normal bass player where we train ourselves to be consistent, you have to be a little bit unpredictable at all times.
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