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Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor Keys and More

Lesson 21 of 26

Bass lines: Follow the Root Note

J. Anthony Allen

Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor Keys and More

J. Anthony Allen

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Lesson Info

21. Bass lines: Follow the Root Note

Lesson Info

Bass lines: Follow the Root Note

Okay. Next, we're gonna talk about baselines. So remember what I said in the last one. Uh, sound design is a lot of the scopes we're not going to talk about, um, constructing like a really sweet sounding base. Although I am going to talk a little bit about sound design in the third video of this. Ah, unit. Um, when we talk about just kind of general frequency things to be thinking about, um, so ah, a couple of short lessons on baselines just to some general things to be thinking about, Um, first, Ah, in this video, I want to cover finding a good baseline, given a core progression. So we have a core progression that we like, and we want to find what the best baseline would be for that. So I've created a core progression here when the key of a minor and this isn't from a song or anything, it's just something I just kind of spit out. Um, so here I have an a minor seven ward, a minor seven, and then I go to the seventh scale degree. So this is a major chord is the G major with the seventh,...

and this is the weird one that has the minor or the major chord with a minor seventh. This is the dominant chord like that. And then I go to the three. The three the third chord of the key, which is seat because ABC and I just have a c major, the third court, and then I go to the fifth scale agree, and I havent e minor e o. Okay, so this is route position on. I want you to see it in route position, because our notes the route notes are a G see on e. So let's remember that for a minute, and I'm gonna take it out of root position. So I'm gonna take this note up inductive snow down and active. So now they're nice and tight, and I'm gonna take the whole thing I give to make it sound a little better. Let's hear it again. Uh, okay. And let's set that up to loop. Okay, so now we have a nice, simple core progression. Um, So when it comes to putting a baseline on a chord progression, the easiest and most obvious thing to do is have your base be the roots of the courts easy. It will work 100% of the time. So let's just do that. I'm gonna copy this down to another track where I also have a piano set up. Ah, and I'm gonna get my roots back. So remember the route was a G C e. Right? A GC? Yeah. So now I'm going to get rid of everything else. Where That get rid of that or that And get rid of that K a g c E. Now I have to think, Do I want this e to go up or down? So let's have it go up. So same note, I just moved it up. Inactive cash. And I'm gonna take this whole baseline and move it down and active so that its base and let's hear just the baseline. Okay. Um, so that will always work. All I did was the roots of the cords in my baseline. So it's here together. I'm gonna turn the bass line up louder than the court progression the bases displaying the roots of the court. So when you're working on something, if you want to create a baseline, the roots of the cords always works. 100% of the time. Another thing we could do. If we don't want to use the roots of the cords, let's say Okay, that works, But it's a little boring. Let's do something more interesting. So let's get rid of that baseline. Let's go back to my core progression and I'm gonna copy it down again to my base. So other things we could do is we could just weave our way through here and pick some notes that work. Any of these notes are fair game. Um, I would stay away from doing the seventh, so these two chords have 1/7. Putting. The seventh in the base is a little dangerous. Ah, it's worth trying because sometimes it sounds good, depending on the context. But, um, let's avoid it. For now, let's have our baseline be a and then let's go up to be, cause that'll be a nice step motion. Just going a to be. So even though here my route is G, I'm gonna do be is my baseline here, my roots. See, Let's leave it as C because that makes a nice motion here and now. I could go down to be, even though he is my route I could go down to be. Let's do that. So now I have this baseline that makes a little bit more sense. It doesn't jump around as much. It kind of walks up and then down a little bit. So it was up here and then down a little bit, so that has a nice shape to it. So let's hear how that sounds cause it's not using the routes. So it will be a little less, um, easy, I guess. Let's hear what it sounds like. Let's move it down. Inactive. So it sounds like a baseline so you can hear this be here and also here, but especially here, it sounds a little crunchy, but that's okay. It's still a right note. It's still in the cord. But when you put a note in the base, it has such influence over the core that it can really change the feeling of the whole court. So you really kind of want to be careful about what you put there so any note in the cord will work. Some will work better than others. The route will always work. Great. Um, let's do a little experiment. Let's take this one step further and let's take Let's start fresh, my core progression and let's go back to using the route. So I'm gonna get rid of the extra notes and just use the root of the cord. And let's see if we can use the roots and just jazz this up a little bit. It's go down an octave. So one thing I could do is I could just put a rhythm on it. I could just make this quarter notes. So now it's gonna do me. Oh, I could spruce up that rhythm by getting rid isn't notes. Okay, let's give me that one note back. Let's do that little anticipation trick that we did with the, um, melodies. So I'm gonna go. I'm gonna have the baseline move to the next chord A beat early. So I'm gonna take this A that I'm on now here and with that down to a G. So this is going to transfer to the G. A note early. This one's gonna transfer to the sea and early this one's going transfer to the, you know early, and then we'll have it cycle around. So the e goes back up to the early. Let's hear that sound. Okay, that's cool. What if I I could live in this up a little bit more by flipping some of these up inactive. So let's take when I have three notes in a row like this, let's throw one of them up and active. Let's see what that sounds like. Uh OK, that's cool. What if these were all down and active, So I put him underneath the melody. Except for this one. Oops, that. Ah, that's a little low for my taste. So let's put them back up. Inactive. I did kind of like it where these were up. Uh, OK, so that's an option that can work. Um, if you do this too much, you you turned into disco. So be careful about having if you have a baseline that just goes between the active, like do dead. You Dad, you Dad, you died. You dad, you don't do that's kind of like disco 101 So if you want a disco sound, that's the way to do it. Um uh, okay, let's go back, Teoh having everything in the same active. Okay? And I'm gonna get rid of my anticipation. Here you go back to just playing the roots of the cords. But in this rhythm, another thing you can do is throw a non core tone in there we saw in the Skrillex tune. Ah, passing bass note. Um, so I know that wasn't in the baseline. Uh, that wasn't in the cord. That was just passing. And you can put those in the base note to remember what I just said, though, that the base has a lot of influence over the court, so it can change the quality of the court. So you need to be a little more careful when you do this in bass notes than when you do it. In Melody Melody, you can get away with a little bit more with dissidents, but here you have to be a little bit more careful. But let's try it. So let's say this a Let's have it go up to ah be that's gonna go down, Dun Dun, Dun Dun and it's gonna go up to the B, then down to the G. Let's have this G ah, fill in the gap here, so let's go up to an A. Actually, let's go up to a B and then have the note before I go to a So we're gonna hear two G's. And then the G will walk up this scale to the next chord. And let's have this one walked down the scale to the next chord. I have too big of a gap here, so let's go a G. Let's do that. Some kind of splitting the difference in this gap here, Let's hear the sound. Um uh, let's have this. You walk back up to the A F. G. So it lands on the cool. Let's maybe take this has three notes in the roads. The only spot we have the three of the same night in a row. So it's maybe try moving it down to a non core tone to the G. So it goes a g a O K. C. That works pretty well. It all depends on what kind of sound you want. This has this very a meandering sound where it's moving around a lot, and the other ways we did it. It was staying really study and then just went to the court tones. But we can have non core tones and baselines. You just need to be a little careful about it. Um, but even this where we're going out of the cord. Ah, lot. Uh, sounds good. So, um, I think that's all I wanted to say about that. Um, the key to this lesson is remember that when you're figuring out a baseline the roots of the cord always good, uh, non core tones Also good with danger. Ah, and anticipations. Usually good to, ah, couple ideas for you while you're creating baselines. But just remember, no matter what you do, stay in key. You've got to stay in the key if you go outside of the key. Ah, you run into more problems. You can have passing notes that are not in the key, but ah, you're less likely to find something that just works right out of the box. You're gonna have to experiment if you do that and find out what works. Well, Okay. One word

Class Description

In the first part of Music Theory for Electronic Musicians, we learned how to work with the piano roll editor in a DAW to make harmonies, melodies, and whole tracks. In this second part, we'll expand on those ideas. We'll work with minor keys, focus some time on melody and bassline writing, and we'll talk about how different tracks work. 

Extensive Analysis 

In this class, we feature an extensive track analysis segment by Daft Punk, Avicii, Skrillex, and many more. In each of these segments, we'll look at their tracks on the piano roll editor. We'll talk about why they sound the way they do, and how you can use similar techniques in your own music. Each of these segments picks apart multiple elements of the song and dissects it in an easily digestiable manner. 

Who should take this course? 

Anyone interested in producing their own tracks. This will get you up and running and give your tracks a unique sound in no time.


This course consists of video lectures, which all contain a session in Ableton Live 9. If you are using a different program (or none at all), no worries! This isn't a class on how to use Ableton Live, and the concepts can be applied to any DAW.  

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Well, I slobbered all over you after your first class and this one is as good or better. I realize people don't go to college for 12 years and learn what you shared in a few hours and you didn't earn your doctorate with just this stuff. I mean Julliard must offer a lot more, but you have advanced my knowledge by miles and I've got to say thank you. Make some more of these simple, common talk courses - I'll buy them all.

Ben Küstner

Real Great Course. I learned a lot about Music Theory and now am jamming better than ever on my keyboard. Thanks Allen

Nick van Lochem

This course its so good he makes it al sound so easy. that ists easy to remember and use in your creations.