Arranging with 7s, writing in B

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Andless, May 24, 2014.

  1. Andless

    Andless SS.org Regular

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    Hi Guys,

    Since I played my first 7 string I was immediately in love, and felt that all guitars should be 7s. I still love playing them so much my old trusty 6:er hasn't seen the outside of a case for quite some time. :hbang:

    Having the habit of writing in the key of the lowest string of the guitar, I started writing riffs in B, also transposing some older ideas etc. When I started tracking the guitars at first all felt great, smooth (and heavy).

    Then I restrung my 35" bass guitar to B E A D and started tracking the bass line to my new B-key material. However, this is where my doubts appeared, as the sound of riffing away around B0 on the bass was way different from the same on E1 that had been there previously.

    I simply felt that from an arrangement and orchestration point of view, writing in B with a 7 string guitar with riffs that uses B1 pushed the available space for the bass guitar too far down to sound good. :scratch:

    Now, I'm considering easing up on the bass a bit (letting it have some more space) and writing some stuff in D (either on a 6 in D-Standard or tuning my 7s in D standard with a low A), and doing the bass D-standard as well.

    I know in this forum there is a lot of low-down tuning going on, but did any of you go back to 6:s for pure reasons of the guitars frequency occupation in a band setting vs other instruments?

    Any one else in here experiencing anything similar? Also, what key do you write in on your 7:s?


    Cheers,

    /A
     
  2. Sebazz1998

    Sebazz1998 SS.org Regular

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    Could it be the scale length on the bass is too short? or the gauge isn't quite thick enough so it doesn't sound too good?
     
  3. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    I wouldn't let the lowest note on the guitar dictate the key that the piece is written in. There's no need to do that. You can still play the lowest note, but don't be held to that key.
    Similarly, there's no reason that the bass has the play exactly one octave below the guitar. I routinely write stuff for a 7 string guitar tuned to B with the bass tuned to a standard E. There's nothing wrong with that at all. You can have the bass play in unison with the guitar, or even play higher than the guitar. Think less about reproducing typical rock music and think more about what other genres do and you'll see it works out just fine, and will probably make your stuff sound different and original compared to what you've written in the past.
     
  4. Andless

    Andless SS.org Regular

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    35" (as stated above) @ 130 shouldn't be an issue.

    I think part of all this is that I'm debating the place of B0 as a useful tone in my music, here is an article that describes some of my thinking: Taming the 5-String Bass

    Yes, I have considered this. To write in F#, D, E etc. in standard B tuning.

    It is very convenient to base your key around one of the open low strings though wether you are in open/drop/standard tuning - and old habits die hard. I guess I'll have to give this a chance. Or go A-D-G-C-F-A-D and write in D...

    When you (and the rest of the people here) write for 7:s, what key do you end up writing in? <- this should be a poll shouldn't it?


    Of course this is what I did at first, standard E, many sections more or less in unison. It didn't sound too bad most of the time, I just felt the bass and guitar competed for a lot of the same space in the music.


    Definitely have some experimenting ahead of me, but when it comes to "what other genres do" what immediately came to mind was classical music where there seem to be a more clear designation between instruments and frequencies (i.e. bass lower freq., guitar mid freq.) That didn't help! :lol:

    So, in what tuning do you end up writing in what key?


    Any one else got any input on 7-strings guitar vs bass arrangement?
     
  5. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    I write in all sorts of keys, because I went through a period years ago where I wouldn't play any open chords or open strings. But what I do now is use the open strings for intervals other than the tonic. Like, if you write a song in E minor, the low B works. Same for the minor and major keys for A, D, D# (though that might be a little weirder), E, F#, G, G#. Obviously in a rock song you're not going to pedal away on a major 6th, but nevertheless it is possible to use the open strings for effect, even if they're not the tonic. As for what I write in, I find that on 7s I write in A, B, B minor, D, G, E, and E minor. I'd say mostly it's G E minor and A, if I think back to everything I've done.
     
  6. mongey

    mongey SS.org Regular

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    I Know what your getting at and agree at a point but I think you can still grab a decent bass tone at the low B or even A with work. you need to set up your sound for it and you need to work at it.

    That said it is low and yeah you can't play the same bass parts you play in E or D. You need to treat it as a new instrument which it Is. Sounds like its not a sound that's useful to you and that's good to realize.

    As to keys when writing I think your limiting yourself if you write in whatever key your lowest string is no matter how many strings you have. I'm sure everyone here has fallen into that trap multiple times. In metal styles it's a very easy trap to fall into cause chugging on that low string is just too much fun.

    Edit also I think the eq of the 7 string guitar in a mix has allot to do with it. If its getting muddy down there then the guitar could be the problem not the bass.
     
  7. 7stringDemon

    7stringDemon SS.org Regular

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    What amp are you using for bass?
    What sort of bass tone do you use?
    Do you play hard? (The open string tends to go sharp when hit hard)

    B-Standard is definitely a reachable goal on any average bass. You just need to get the right strings and give it a good setup.
     
  8. Andless

    Andless SS.org Regular

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    Yup, that crossed my mind too. The obvious one being B1 is useful for, say, an E minor song etc.


    Would that be in B-standard tuning?


    Admittedly I've just started with B0, and I think at least I need to educate myself a little bit more, try to get a better tone with my current BEAD setup before switching things around again.


    Yeah, I'm starting to realize this. A bassist friend of mine who has done the 4-string - to 5 string to 6 string to 8 string back to 4 string bass journey even suggested using synths for sounds around B0 rather than a bass guitar.

    As for the usefulness of B0 on bass in my music, I'm obviously doubting it, but also willing to not give up just yet, so technically the jury is still out, for now.


    Yup. Chugging on the low string speaks to something else than the intellectual musician in me, and it is easy to get sucked into that key by habit. I&#8217;m all for breaking free here&#8230;
    And EQ? Yes, EQ could be a problem. I do hp/lp everything in the mix + the guitars by themselves don&#8217;t sund muddy. But struggling a bit with EQ for the bass in this case (before I didn&#8217;t feel I had to do much eq at all).



    I&#8217;m all ears!


    I&#8217;m using Kemper for both guitars and bass tracks. For the bass I&#8217;ve used Ampeg SVT, Gallien Kreuger and Microtubes BK7 profiles with good results on different applications on bass in standard E. My first attempts on bass with B0 was with a BK7 profile.

    I have to admit, I&#8217;m still pretty early days with this bass setup so there has to be room for improvement (regardless if it will be to my taste or not in the end). The Kemper gives me a lot of options potentially.


    I use these strings EXL 170-5 any heavier would not fit through my bridge without modification.

    I tend to use a pick but I wouldn&#8217;t say I play hard. Medium I&#8217;d guess. Trying to avoid excessive fret clanking when tracking.

    Not sure what bass tone I&#8217;m using, I have a Peavey G bass with an 18v preamp and 3 band eq, still searching for what tone to go for I guess, but I&#8217;m assuming the bass itself would be covering a lot of ground, if not perfect at least well enough.
     
  9. WhoThenNow7

    WhoThenNow7 SS.org Regular

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    On my main 7 I'm tuned to drop A... which is just standard tuning with a low A. I find it fun to write in either the key of A or in the key of E. If you played your 7 in the key of E with a low A on your bass, I bet you'd get some pretty good results.
     
  10. Andless

    Andless SS.org Regular

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    Drop A, sure, something to consider for writing in E, and not too much of a change from my current B-standard.

    But you're not suggesting I'm going A0 on the bass guitar right? :eek:


    Keep it coming guys!
     
  11. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Novel idea: the bass can only play above the guitar.
     
  12. fantom

    fantom Misses his 6 strings

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^^ Read that 10 more times.

    I play my 7 string in A standard. I'm most comfortable playing a 6 string in D standard. My 7 string songs are all songs written on a 6 string in D standard with 1, maybe 2 parts using the extra range (typically, I don't even play the open string).

    For "heavy" stuff that pummels the open string, I prefer playing a 6 string in C standard.

    I will also mention, avoiding the "lowest note is the tonic" mentality opens up the guitar for modulation in ways that I wouldn't otherwise try. Forcing the low string to be the key is similar to playing a piano with no black keys. The black keys make you try things you wouldn't typically think of.
     
  13. JustMac

    JustMac ss not-so-regular

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    What contemporary songs have the bass playing above the guitar for most of a song? I really want to see how it sounds in action
     
  14. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    I meant it as a joke. The "bass" part in "bass guitar" means "low". The "guitar" guitar that we use is actually the tenor of the family. Tenor, from Medieval Latin "tenere," "to hold"... because the tenor part in ancient ecclesiastic music "held" the melody/cantus firmus, I guess. A guitar that goes about halfway between the bass and tenor is the baritone. That's our seven-string guitar and six-string guitar tuned a fourth lower to B standard. A guitar tuned a perfect fifth higher than E standard is an alto guitar, which is a rare instrument but they do exist (and they're transposers, too!), and a soprano guitar would be a guitar tuned an octave above the tenor's E standard. Though the tuning convention is not quite the same, concert ukuleles are soprano guitars. This makes it hilarious to me whenever I hear about baritone ukes, or piccolo bass guitars. A bass guitar tuned an octave higher, by definition of the range, is a tenor guitar. ThIn terms of timbre, construction, and technique, it is a different instrument. Whoever came up with that name was not paying attention to the meaning of the words, though.

    In general, bass instruments play below tenor instruments. Naturally, this is not a fixed circumstance. The upper range of the bass guitar goes above the lower range of the tenor guitar. There is some overlap. And with how metal guitarists have been pushing their instrument's tessitura down lower and lower, they're committing sonic suicide (or at least fratricide), because our ear can really only go down to 20Hz on a good day. At 17Hz, just 3Hz lower, our eyeballs resonate and we have pants-shitting paranormal and religious experiences. For perspective, the low E on a standard-tuned four-string bass is around 41Hz, an octave higher than that lower limit of our anatomy's ability to even hear a sound. The B on a five-string bass is somewhere around 30Hz. If you're playing your eight string guitar in drop E, then you have that 41Hz E. The bassist can just barely play an octave beneath you, and if you want them to go any lower, you simply won't be able to hear the sound. Any harmony down that low is a mudfest. It's physics. So, since a bassist has no freedom in that register, they might as well go into the register that isn't being used: the tenor range. :lol:
     
  15. Andless

    Andless SS.org Regular

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    A seven in A-Standard is definitely an option for me.

    When you say you typically don't play the open string do you mean A or D or any open strings at all?

    I guess the motive of this thread was to find out what people did with that extra range vs the bass guitar. If people used the low B excessively or just used the lower notes occasionally.


    :lol:

    Yup. As much as rooting a metal riff in B1 on my seven feels good when solo, (and we forget for a second the lazy silliness of basing you key on an open string) I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I'll be lifting the range of the guitar parts as well as the bass parts for the next composition.
     
  16. fantom

    fantom Misses his 6 strings

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    I mean that I tend to write parts that are easy to transpose. If the part can use an open A/D/G string, I don't "avoid it" on purpose. But I typically don't have a part that just mutes an open string. I'd rather hear the muted note changing. My exact comment, I meant that I rarely use the open A string because I'm writing on a 6 string or a keyboard.

    I don't have any videos of myself to share, but here's an awesome riff that wouldn't happen using only open strings as the basis.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3acHqPhtpA

    Also, this is how I evolved into 7 strings. I noticed I had parts that I wanted to go down "a few more notes". For example, a song in Gm (that abused the open G string). I really wanted to play a low C as a lead into a Dm chord. I couldn't easily transpose the "open string" part. So I used a 7 string to play the 3rd fret on the 7th string. The other alternative was to just play the 5th fret on both the 5th and 6th string and "hope" it sounded low with the bass. That was one of the moments I noticed, "Why can't I just transpose this whole riff to Am? Oh the open string is hard to replace."

    A really good example of modulation that removed an open string...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKnyvtzMRRA

    The intro...
    Code:
    e-----------------------------------
    b-----------------------------------
    G-----------------------------------
    D-------------------------7-----5---
    A---------------------7-5---7-7-3--- ...
    E-7-5-7-----7-5-7---7---------------
    B-------0-0-------0-----------------
    The chorus...
    Code:
    e-----------------------------------
    b-----------------------------------
    G-------------------------4-----2---
    D---------------------4-2---4-4-0--- ...
    A-4-2-4-----4-2-4---4---------------
    E-----------------------------------
    B-------2-2-------2-----------------
    Same riff, completely different position and fingering. Why limit yourself to just the first one? The modulation for the prechorus is amazing.
     
  17. wat

    wat SS.org Regular

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    EDIT: TL;DR = Like you've already mentioned, moving away from always writing in the key of the lowest note will help, so will not restricting yourself to always being 1 octave below whatever the guitar is doing, and so will using chord voicings that leave space for the low end to fill.

    It's just all about eq, playing, & arrangement. I wouldn't throw in the towel on having a low B on bass just yet.

    For example, you can choose a higher voicing for some guitar chords in a progression while use the low octave on bass for that chord. And for low chords on the guitar, it sounds cool & dramatic if you go to a higher octave on bass, especially if you slide up. This will keep the two instruments balanced & avoids the cliche of just having the bass just follow the guitar around exactly an octave lower all the time...which, as you've figured out, doesn't always work so well when you go low.

    Imo, the point of having a 7 string instead of a downtuned 6 string is to move around through different octaves/strings anyway so might as well do it on the bass, too, right? Really low bass sounds really cool underneath somewhat higher guitar work, imo.

    That said, you should be able let a low B powerchord & a low B bass note ring out together and get it to sound good. That's down to playing/EQ.

    I think you're on the right track by identifying your habit of writing on the lowest note because that will help you getting the low B on the bass to work.

    Here's a really simple example of a chord progression that isn't in the key of the lowest note but utilizes that note to great effect nonetheless. B, Bb, Eb, F#. The Bb & F# are inverted powerchords with the root note dropped and a high 5th added. The voicings should give you some space to move around on the bass.


    E-----------------------------------------E
    B-----------------------------------------B
    G-------------8-------------------6------G
    D-----4-------6-------------------4------D
    A-----2-------6------------6------4------A
    E-----2--------------------6-------------E
    B-----0--------------------4-------------B


    This is really simple but the same ideas apply to more busy stuff.

    Don't forget about EQ, technique and setup, either.
     
  18. fantom

    fantom Misses his 6 strings

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    This key is dependent on the context and how long each chord is played. It could be in Bm. What comes next?
     
  19. wat

    wat SS.org Regular

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    actually i tabbed the 3rd and and 4th chords a half step too high and screwed up the whole thing

    I meant to post B-Bb-Eb-F#. the two different ways i play the riff it's based on got mixed together in my head. :nuts: gonna edit the original post if i still can


    E-----------------------------------------E
    B-----------------------------------------B
    G-------------8-------------------6------G
    D-----4-------6-------------------4------D
    A-----2-------6------------6------4------A
    E-----2--------------------6-------------E
    B-----0--------------------4-------------B
     
  20. fantom

    fantom Misses his 6 strings

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    Mixing # and b is confusin....

    So you went from possibly Bm to likely B (major) assuming you meant to put the 2nd and 4th chords on the right strings...

    BMaj7 = B D# F# A#

    You progression is I viiĀ° iii V. The V -> I is prevalent if you repeat it.
     

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