If you ask me 2016 seemed to be a bit of a musical disaster. We lost way too many incredible musicians and had the craziest election year I have ever witnessed. I myself started the year with several well-intentioned musical goals but sadly did not manage to achieve any of them. Let this be my attempt to kick things into gear again for the new year. I’ve dragged my heels for far too long working through Teach Me Bass Guitar.  2017 is the year that I finish it!

My studies with Roy Vogt’s Teach Me Bass Guitar currently bring me to Lesson 17.  This lesson, referred to as “The Working Bassist’s Toolkit” part 2, focuses on strategies for faking your way through tunes you do not know.  It seems the key lies in learning as many common chord progressions as you can.  If you know the key and can figure out the chord progression you should be able to competently fake your way through any tune.  

Roy starts off talking about the ii-V-I progression and how to spice up your bass lines by adding 3rds and 5ths to the root notes.   The use approach tones is also touched upon.  Several more common chord progressions are discussed along with an explanation as to why Roman numerals are used as shorthand when talking about them.  

The first tune we work on is based on Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm” and is called “Rhythm Changes”.  The tune is built around a I-VI-ii-V and iii-VI-ii-V progression and is written in the key of Bb.  Roy recommends learning it in all 12 keys to really hone your skills in this area.  Getting this one under my fingers was actually a little easier that I thought it would be. Once I got a sense of how the progression worked,  the notes just seem to flow.  I will admit, it did take me a bit of time to get it up to speed to play with the band.

The second tune is another standard chord progression based on a ii-V.  This one is a good simple tune to wrap your head around using mainly Roots and 5ths.  Once you get comfortable you can add additional embellishments.  Roy has a written bass line for you to follow along with but strongly recommends that you improvise your own line on this one once you are comfortable.  I was able to get the written line down fairly quickly but had to spend some quality time with it improvising my own line.

To wrap things up Roy points out that many standard tunes use the same progressions over and over in different keys, the trick is to listen for them.  He recommends getting a fake book as this will aid you in learning as many progressions as possible by memory.  Learning chord progressions can be a fun way to change things up in your practice routine and should keep you busy for a very long time.