Greetings fellow bass players. Welcome back to another episode of odd meter bass. In this episode we’ll see if 5/4 really gets the respect it deserves. Ever since Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5”, or the theme from “Mission Impossible” was recorded, that same subdivision has been the standard 5/4 subdivision. This month we’ll work on how that popular subdivision was to come about along with some other pretty cool subdivisions. Okay let’s get started.
Take a look at example #1. This shows you a simple bar of 5/4. Notice the accent markings at the top though. You’ll notice that the markings are at the top of the first quarter note and the fourth quarter note which gives you the 3-2 subdivision. You would actually count this out by counting 1-2-3, 1-2. Remember to internalize this subdivision before trying to play it. Remember, internalizing is to tap out these rhythms on your lap or better yet a conga or some sort of hand drum. Example two is the same subdivision as #1 only the first three quarter notes are consolidated into a dotted half note, as well as the last two quarter notes into a half note. Same subdivision, just a lot less to play. Example #3 is somewhat close to the rhythm used in “Take Five”, only there is one more step to go through though. In example #4, we’ve taken the five quarter notes from #1 and broken them down into eighth notes. Still keeping with the 3-2 subdivision, the first group of three is now down to sixth eighth notes which we can split evenly into two groups of three. The last two quarter notes have been broken down into two groups of two. By breaking down the quarter notes into eighth notes, and then reconsolidating them back into their respective groups, we come up with what we see here in example #5. The two dotted quarter notes give you a two over three feel followed by the two straight quarter notes. Welcome to your classic 5/4 subdivision. Does example #6 sound familiar? It should!! Remember one very important thing though. While playing the ostinatos in examples 5 &6, keep that eighth note pulse going in your head. That is what will keep those dotted eighth notes true and even. Even while playing #6, you should still be thinking 123-123-12-12, until you internalize it, then it’s just a matter of feeling the subdivisions.
Ask yourself this, when playing a 16th note funk groove, do you count1e and a, 2e and a, 3e and a, 4e and a? Of course not! Why? Because ever since we were little kids, 4/4 has been drilled into us. It is natural for us to feel 4/4 because we’ve been exposed to it our entire lives. That is the importance of internalizing other meters. It is the quickest way to feeling them without having to count them.
Now let’s take a look at example #7. What happens if we turn the subdivision around and start off with the two quarter notes up front as a 2-3 subdivision? Sound familiar?!? I wonder if Jimmy Page was a big Dave Brubeck fan? Okay, let’s take this one step further now. Example #8 is each one of the quarter notes from ex. 1 broken down into sixteenth notes, five groups of four. By getting creative in example #9, we can regroup the sixteenth notes into four groups of three and two groups of four OR what we come up with in example #10, four dotted eighth notes followed by two quarter notes. You’ve got to pay close attention to internalizing ex. 9 before you can move on to ex. 10. Be sure to alternate left and right hands just as a drummer would practice rudiments on a drum, you’re going to do the same thing on your lap, or on a desktop, or even better, a hand drum. Be sure to go slow at first, paying close attention to those accents at the top. When you’ve got that happening, you can now move on to ex. 10. Make sure that when you practice ex. 10, you are still feeling the sixteenth notes from ex. 9, otherwise you’ll find yourself guessing at where each dotted eighth note should go.
Examples 11, 12, &13 are some ideas that make use of the groove that we came up with from ex.9 & ex.10. Remember to do these slow at first. It’s not speed we’re working at, it’s all about the groove.
Being a motorcycle enthusiast, a famous stunt man told me once, it’s not how fast you can go on a bike, heck anyone can go fast. It’s all about how slow you can go without having to put your foot down. Until next time - Ride Safe!!!!