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Thread: Pitchy Bass?

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    Pitchy Bass?

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    I am supposedly tone deaf. I know I can't tell most of the time if I'm playing out of key. So, I usually keep things simple. I sent the break to some friends who were torn whether the bass is out of key on the break. One wasn't sure, the other said it was fine, I had just changed modes (I don't know exactly what that means). Then I sent a version with a vocal and suddenly the bass was pitchy.

    Could someone point out where the pitchy bass is? Supposedly the bass is "good" dissonance in the break.

    I don't know.

    Sometimes writing is a chore. I hate chores.



    Does anyone know a great link where I might learn about dissonance and finding my own pitchiness. Some people once explained it grates your ears, and you'll hear it. I usually don't till it's pointed out. Then I hear it loud and clear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman999 View Post
    ....Could someone point out where the pitchy bass is? ...
    Most people will interpret 'pitchy' as meaning out of tune, or slightly deviating from the correct note. In that respect there isn't much in the way of pitchiness. However, throughout the track there are notes which are out of key (i.e. 'incorrect' notes). At one point the bass seems to be playing in a completely different key to the other instruments. If you can't actually hear that, then you may be right, you may be tone deaf. But there is no reason why you can't study a bit of music theory, and learn about the 'correct' notes to play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aj113 View Post
    However, throughout the track there are notes which are out of key (i.e. 'incorrect' notes).
    In that respect would that be around these points?

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    Quote Originally Posted by aj113 View Post
    At one point the bass seems to be playing in a completely different key to the other instruments
    I'm guessing this is the break you're speaking about. This part I was told I'm not out of key, I've changed the mode. Personally I don't know the difference.

    I've always hoped in the end for my songs, they be in key.

    As one set of my ears just told me "You're trying to write popular pop music. There's no reason it has to have dissonance." Do most people agree with that?

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    I think a few things pop up here. You use a lot of words in slightly strange ways. I'm not sure that I'd ever use the phrase "playing out of key" - it doesn't mean much. What I hear isn't actually dissonance or out of key, or out of tune, or even wrong in a general sense - it's just, and this is my own opinion which you can happily discount, inappropriate. Bass can play, as a general conversation convention, a strong 3rd to create a kind of highlight - an oooh, interesting moment. Elton John does it in loads of songs, slapping a Major 3rd in the left hand to great effect. Look at "It's a little bit funny" when funny has the 3rd. You add in a 6th repeatedly - and there's nothing wrong with a 6th either, but then it sort of clashes when it drops to a 4th but the chord doesn't change. Normally this would be a suspension, but with the chord that means we have a 1-3-4-5-6 which is just a mess. You don't really change modes either because you don't really play moving lines, just different notes where perhaps 1-3 and 5 would be the 'normal' bass choices.

    What I do know is that I'd never have dreamed up your bass line, and if I had to play it live, I'd find it difficult because with the rest of the band, I would feel that most of what I was playing is wrong.

    Nothing wrong with new and radically strange bass parts if the part blends appropriately. That doesn't mean conventionally as you can stick in radically wrong notes and create something amazing when it works - look at some Jazz, where even when you look at all the notes being played you cannot work out what the chord is? Does it matter if it's good?

    You say you are supposedly tone deaf? What would you say is tone deafness? There are clear parallels in the classical world. My pet hate is Stravinski's Rite of Spring, played by an amateur, multi-standard orchestra. The piece has so many 'wrong' notes and deliberate clashes and discords that when the players make mistakes, it's almost impossible to work out why!

    In this music, the bass part is I think deliberately written to sound bad. Not so much the verses or the break - the notes and their sequence is pretty repetitive, but just the notes that clash with what the others are playing. Does it work? Frankly no, I don't think it does. The deliberate clashes. Are they musical? I think an argument could be made that they are, but I'd have to be kind of convinced by explanation. This is a bit like when you have to ask what a painting is, but then when you know, even though you don't like it, and would not have done it yourself, sometimes you understand.

    I'm lazy, and I'm a traditionalist. As such, if presented with the track without the bass, and told to improvises a bass line using a Major 3rd as a feature - that would be fine, but it wouldn't have those other notes in it if I invented it. Too much no conformity for me.

    If you are creating music for the masses, then "You're trying to write popular pop music. There's no reason it has to have dissonance" makes sense. Music has rules. Breaking the rules means it must have purpose. Breaking the rules just because you can means the audience may consider it a mistake, or just a bad song and that's a shame.

    My piano playing grandmother told me that playing and side by side notes was a musical disaster and until my mid teens I believed her, until I started hearing Major 7ths and suspensions in some pop music and loved the character they added. My favourite chord ever - played with a Bb in the left hand and then these notes in the right hand going up - F-A-Bb-D then the same chord with the A dropping to G. Dissonance if you wish to call it that, but nice dissonance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman999 View Post
    I am supposedly tone deaf. I know I can't tell most of the time if I'm playing out of key.
    I was gonna see if youTube had a simple tone-deafness test, but apparently they don't. Just folks arguing if the concept is even accurate.
    (Which is silly. Everyone's ability to perceive pitch pitch varies, and of course some people are going to be insensitive enough that they can't tell the difference between adjacent notes in the western chromatic scale. In the same way, some folks are so sensitive that they can easily spot differences between just and equal temperments)

    Anyway. Any analog instrument is going to have some variance in pitch, which may or may not cross the line to the point where a listener perceives it as "pitchy". In that regard, I agree with Aj113's take on things. You're pitch isn't bending to the point where it sounds pitchy.

    I disagree with their assessment that you're playing wrong notes. You made some note choices which could be debated or second-guessed as Rob described, but they're all in-key.
    I don't think you played anything wrong, but your bandmates may be reasonable to conclude that you didn't make all the best choices for what y'all are trying to accomplish in the song.

    As the old saying goes: "In jazz, there are no wrong notes, just better choices"

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post

    What I do know is that I'd never have dreamed up your bass line, and if I had to play it live, I'd find it difficult because with the rest of the band, I would feel that most of what I was playing is wrong.
    A long time ago a musician friend explained that the bass goes along with the melody. So, this bass line does theoretically play along with the melody which is not here. Because the version with my Melodyne fixed vocals (and other guitars) I'm told are still pitchy (It sucks being a tone deaf musician).

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post

    You say you are supposedly tone deaf? What would you say is tone deafness?
    When you can not tell the difference between one note from another. When you can can not hear if something is in or out of key, you can't hear dissonance (unless it's so extreme, like Nirvana which I can not stand).

    A musician friend told me years ago that if you sing sharp you can be taught to sing in key. But, if you're always flat you're tone deaf, and guess where my vocals fall? Always half a step flat.

    Once I was in the recording studio and the engineer who has amazing ears told me after a guitar solo "George that's the best solo I've ever heard you do. You think you can play it in the correct key?"

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post

    In this music, the bass part is I think deliberately written to sound bad. Not so much the verses or the break - the notes and their sequence is pretty repetitive, but just the notes that clash with what the others are playing. Does it work? Frankly no, I don't think it does.
    Why would anyone write a bass line to sound like crap? If it's not the verses or break, that leaves the chorus, and I'm playing the root notes of the chords.

    This is where I asked for the most help. Soundcloud literally has a counter. A jot of the bad notes would actually help me possibly hear what you folks are hearing. Because I can't hear it. I'm tone deaf.

    At this point, with all the replies from here and my friends (except the one who sent the times) I'm GUESSING it's the endings of the riffs I'm playing. But, that's a guess. Because even with the times that were sent, I ended on the same notes all the other time. So, I'm still at a loss.

    As far as the 1-4-5 as opposed to 1-2-3-4-5. I kind of understand what you mean. I've always tried to play a little different. When you can naturally know what's coming (over thousands of songs) if the song is just good it can be boring. My favorite band of all time is Zeppelin. Because for me, even their basic blues still doesn't sound like exactly like the blues. Where Clapton sounds like his band plays note for note from the earliest blues artists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VomitHatSteve View Post
    I was gonna see if youTube had a simple tone-deafness test, but apparently they don't.

    Anyway. Any analog instrument is going to have some variance in pitch, which may or may not cross the line to the point where a listener perceives it as "pitchy". In that regard, I agree with Aj113's take on things. You're pitch isn't bending to the point where it sounds pitchy.

    I disagree with their assessment that you're playing wrong notes. You made some note choices which could be debated or second-guessed as Rob described, but they're all in-key.

    I don't think you played anything wrong, but your bandmates may be reasonable to conclude that you didn't make all the best choices for what y'all are trying to accomplish in the song.

    As the old saying goes: "In jazz, there are no wrong notes, just better choices"
    See now this I understand perfectly. No need for a test, I KNOW I'm tone deaf. If I don't WATCH the neck as I play I'll hit a wrong note or chord. Which is why my solos usually have a few wrong notes when I'm playing fast.

    But, believe it or not, we were a great live band. I have a review somewhere, where the writer wrote "They have extremely strong vocals". Both of us would sing off-key. The most amazing part, I sent a song with melodyne fixed vocals to an old drummer, who loved the song. When I said "Isn't it amazing what melodyne does? I'm singing in key." He responded with "I always thought you wanted to sing out of key."

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    I’m still hung up on terms. Could be the usual bonnet/hood US/UK thing but there is a HUGE difference to being in tune and being in key. The key of a song, as in it’s in E is different to being flat or sharp. My test was always to give people a guitar and play the note on a piano or keyboard and see if they can tune the guitar. Some people would find it easy, some hard but they get there and some just be totally unable to hear it to do it. When I was teaching I had real issues with helping a singer who would hear a note on the piano, say a C and then sing a D. BUT next time you played C she would sing a Bb. Randomly! My colleague believed there was no such thing as tone deafness and had a go with her. The random thing blew his mind so he reversed it. He got her to sing a note and try to find it on the piano. That failed too. Our only failure. We had one fella who was similar. However he worked and worked on it and now makes his living as a singer! So I think tone deafness is possible but in some, fixable. Music is art so while we have rules they can be broken on some circumstances.

    What I meant by the 4-5-6 comment was that in the piece the bass seems to play notes more comfy in one chord while the guitar plays a different chord. Sometimes it’s positive. It’s context that matters. If you truly are tone deaf and invented your bass line at random then it doesn’t work however you could easily argue that the ‘erobg’ Notes are indeed musically important and carefully chosen to produce intentional clashes? Who knows?

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    I think the "problem" if it is one... is that Bass as an instrument, especially in the type of music you're playing here... is typically used to hold the entire song down... it's the "foundation" and as such should be driving home the root... it's not typically used as a melodic instrument, not saying that little fills here and there aren't fine, which they are, and I liked one of the fills around the 1:40-2:00 mark (?) but you should be reasonably expected to be playing more root notes than you might be here. To me it doesn't sound "pitchy" but more "off somewhere else", which could be fine, if that's what you're going for, I just think maybe those notes might be better served on a different instrument as a "melody" instead of the driving force of your song which the Bass as an instrument in this type of music is associated with. Does that make sense?

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