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Jazz Modes Guitar Cheat Sheet

Here is my quick, dirty and shameless cheat sheet for jazz modes; which can be applied to guitar and bass.

mod cheat

Guide for minor oriented modes:

  • Find the root note on the top string. Example: A.
  • Move two frets up (reaching G), and play the major scale (G major). Those notes build up the A Dorian scale.
  • Move two more frets up (reaching F), and play the major scale (F major). Those notes build up the A Phrygian scale.

Guide for major oriented modes:

  • Jump one string below (reaching D), and play the major scale (D major). Those notes build up the A Mixolydian scale.
  • Move one fret down (reaching D#), and play the 7 scale (D#7). Those notes build up the tritone substitude for A7. That’s not really a jazz mode, but is still useful.
  • Move one more fret down (reaching E), and play the major scale (E major). Those notes build up the A Lydian scale.

 

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Single Coil Hum

Although I love my Jazz Bass, one of its typical problems was buzzing me off every now and then. Yes, I’m talking about the single coil hum, which is also known as the 60-cycle hum. In plain English; most jazz basses will produce a hum when you emphasize / solo one of the pickups. But when you turn the pickup volumes full simultaneously, the hum disappears.

Why Do Pickups Hum?

This happens due to the complex nature of magnets and electricity. In basic words; one of the pickups is wired clockwise, and the other one is wired counterclockwise. When you solo the bridge pickup, it exposes a polarity of +100 and produces a hum. When you solo the neck pickup, it exposes a polarity of -100 and produces a hum. When you turn them both on, +100 – 100 = 0, so they balance each other out and the hum disappears.

This is not the exact physical model of what happens, but rather a mathematical analogy to help you understand.

Precision basses don’t have this problem, because they have a split coil design. It has the single coil pickup split in two, and guess what? One of them is wired clockwise, while the other is wired counterclockwise. Therefore; in terms of hum, a precision bass is dead quiet because +100 – 100 = 0.

Solutions

You can install noiseless pickups, but those will be stack-coil or split-coil magnets, which sound different than vintage single coils. Not necessarily bad, though; it is a taste thing.

There are ways to hide the single coil hum; though.

Some basses have phantom coils installed to balance out the hum of the single coil pickup.

If you use a noise gate pedal, it will mute the signal less than a certain dB. When you set up the threshold correctly, your hum will be muted when you stop playing.

EHX Hum Debugger is another pedal to cut the hum, which has a different approach: It completely mutes the frequency where the hum occurs. That modifies your tone too. Some people notice / mind that, some don’t.

Finally, you can turn down your guitar or balance your pickups until the song starts. The hum is audible during silence, but not as much in the mix.

Other Sources of Noise

Pedalboards can produce a lot of noise too. Check my corresponding article How To Get Rid of Pedalboard Noise .

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Effect Pedal Purchase Guide

Many musicians (including me) buy & sell & trade pedals more than they would like to admit. I occasionally get questions about how & why to choose a pedal.

To make things easier, I would like to follow the Two Factor Theory approach and categorize the pedals into two main categories.

Hygiene Pedals

Those are the pedals you pick to solve a certain audio problem. Questions leading to a hygiene pedal are:

  • What exactly is my audio problem?
  • Can I solve it without a pedal?
  • (If not) Which pedal(s) can help me solve it?

If your guitar has a hum problem, you might get a noise gate or Hum Debugger.

If you need to even out the signal, you might get a compressor.

If you slap too hard, you might get a limiter.

If you need to fill a larger sonic space, you might get an octaver.

You get the idea. Such pedals would get you from the point of dissatisfaction to the point of “no dissatisfaction”.

Motivator Pedals

Those are the pedals you pick to get a certain sound. Questions leading to a motivator pedal are:

  • What is the emotion I want to project?
  • Which sound would project that emotion?
  • Can I get it without a pedal?
  • (If not) Which pedal(s) can help me produce it?

If you want to project ambient emotions, you might get a reverb / delay.

If you want to effectuate the 80’s era, you might get a synth simulator.

If you want to awaken adrenaline, you might get a high gain pedal.

If you want to be funky, you might get an envelope filter.

You get the idea. Such pedals would get you from the point of “no dissatisfaction” to the point of “satisfaction”.

Mind you that not all emotions can be labeled as I did above. The trick is to “feel it” first (not label it), and then to “hear it” in your head first (before reaching for a pedal).

The Rest

In my humble opinion, pedals falling outside those categories are mostly garbage or toys. But hey, one man’s garbage can be another man’s treasure; and toys can be fun!

Just be mindful of where each pedal belongs to. Unnecessary pedals cost unnecessary money, space; and are potential sources of audio problems.

Some Tips

Finally, here are some general tips.

How a pedal sounds on your home amp might be very different from how it sounds on a real PA and within the mix. Be ready to tweak your pedals during the sound check, and too many pedals might make a complete tweak nearly impossible in some gigs due to time limitations.

This leads us to the conclusion that simpler is better. In fact, many pro players get by without any pedals at all, and they sound just fine for their respective genre.

Be mindful of analog vs digital pedals. Analog pedals produce more organic sounds, while digital pedals usually give you more control over the sound. However, digital pedals rely on audio-to-digital converters, which might ruin your tone if the converter is not high quality.

Single pedals dedicated to a certain effect usually sound much better than multi-effect pedals; with some exceptions here and there.

Some pedals might add noise to your audio, but that problem can (sometimes) be solved.

Conclusion

Playing around with your sound is part of the fun, and it is a never ending process. Your technique, style and musical taste will change over time, and you will probably be looking for new ways to express yourself. Pedals can help you with that, but getting a pedal without a purpose is really a waste of resources.

Don’t let the gear companies make you feel inferior to sell you unnecessary pedals.

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Standard vs Pro vs Elite Jazz Bass

I had the chance to compare a Fender American Standard Jazz Bass against a Professional and Elite.

The Elite Jazz Bass has all the bells and whistles you want; but the noiseless pickups didn’t really speak to me. I had the intention to install N4 pickups to my Standard Jazz Bass, but the Elite Jazz changed my mind. Not a bad sound, just different from what my ears like to hear from a J-Bass.

On the other hand; the sound of the Pro Jazz and Std Jazz were identical. They both had that great vintage sound, and the wood felt good (that’s what she said) in terms of resonance. For some reason; the neck of the Std Jazz felt better to me; which is peculiar because they both are supposed to be 34″ with 1.50″ nut width and 9.5″ radius. The Pro probably needed a proper setup.

All in all; the Pro Jazz is the latest kid on the vintage J-Bass block. If you can’t find the Std USA you are looking for, the Pro USA is a very accurate follow-up in terms of my perceived sound & quality.

Without any discount offer for the Std Jazz; you can easily lean towards the Pro Jazz. If you get a good discount for the Std Jazz, mind you it lacks nothing that the Pro has to offer (YMMV).

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Why Jazz Bass?

In this post, I will share some subjective criteria which could make the jazz bass the right instrument for you. Or not.

Road To Jazz

I played jazz basses before, obviously. Later on, my GAS journey took me through a lot of well known basses over the years. Each bass had its distinct perks and place. Crossing the threshold of “no dissatisfaction“, basses are simply different, not better.

In my current position, I play in various projects; covering a variety of genres including jazz, latin, Brazil, pop, rock, blues and ambient.

Considering the fact that I like simplicity; P-Bass might seem to be the answer. However, I like the Marcus slap & Jaco growl too; which it seems to lack. I also believe in minimalism and limit the number of objects in my life; so one main bass and one “stunt” bass should be enough (YMMV).

Well, if that’s your situation as well, a simple passive jazz bass might be the answer.

How is the sonic variety achieved? Check the “Passive Jazz Bass” section of the post How I EQ my Basses .

There are basses specializing in one or two roles. There are also basses which provide much more variety by active / passive / humbucker / single / series / parallel / etc switches. However; a passive jazz bass seems to have the perfect balance of the following (subjective) criteria:

  • It supports minimalism because one can get by with a single bass
  • It provides a wide sonic versatility
  • It is simple enough to keep one playing instead of fiddling
  • It is a widely accepted industry standard

I could suggest installing some noiseless pickups to prevent hum; but I have yet to find one that sounds as organic as single coil pickups. Until then, one might just keep the pickup volumes balanced until the song starts.

Why Not Jazz Bass

Where the Jazz Bass fails to be the ultimate bass is the lack of thump. Precision Bass has a natural, low-mid oriented tone; which simply can’t be reproduced by any other bass. If your ear is used to it, you got to have the P-Bass. A Jazz Bass won’t sound like that. Check my comparison here: Precision vs Jazz Bass .

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Precision vs Jazz Bass

Fender Precision Bass and Jazz Bass are among the most popular bass guitars out there. However; it is hard to decide which one you should buy. This article covers my (partially subjective) experience on the matter.

Common Perks

First of all, relax. You can’t really go wrong either way.

Versatility: Both basses have been used in all genres across the history of music. So, you can play any style of music with either bass guitar. Some people associate P-Bass with rock, but Michael League of Snarky Puppy uses a P-Bass in jazz context. Some people associate J-Bass with funk & slap, but Geddy Lee uses a J-Bass in rock context. I rest my case.

Familiarity: Sound engineers, recording studios and band leaders know both basses very well, and they are happy to see an industry standard bass in your hand. They know in advance how the bass will behave.

Aftermarket: Being proven industry standards, there is a very large aftermarket for both basses. You can find spare parts easily, they are very modifiable and can be sold / purchased easily on e-Bay.

Precision Bass Perks

You should prefer the Precision Bass if the following perks apply to you.

Simplicity: Precision Bass is really a plug & play instrument. It’s natural low-mid oriented sound sits in the mix really well, and you don’t have to turn a lot of knobs to sound good. Jazz Bass has more knobs; which can be bad tone traps for some players.

Noiseless: Precision Bass has a hum cancelling split coil pickup design, which eliminates the 60-cycle hum completely. So if low noise is a priority for you, P-Bass has the upper hand here. Jazz Bass is silent only if you balance both pickups; if you favor any pickup, you’ll get hum. Some Jazz Bass pickups are hum-cancelling, but they don’t sound vintage; which can be good or bad depending on your tonal goal.

Thump: Precision Bass naturally produces a thumpy, chunky sound with bumped low mids; which covers the low end of the sonic spectrum really well. You definitely hear and feel that deep warm vibe. Jazz Bass can get close to that, but it won’t sound & feel the same.

Jazz Bass Perks

You should prefer the Jazz Bass if the following perks apply to you.

Thin Neck: If you are a guitarist or have small hands in general, the thinner neck of the Jazz Bass would suit you well. P-Bass has a chunky neck, which is claimed to contribute to its chunky sound.

Soloing: If you are going to do a lot of soloing or busy & fast phrasing, Jazz Bass would be a better choice due to its faster neck and bridge pickup sound. However; some modern P-Bass players solo and sound equally well with the help of pedals; such as octave-up. Obviously, you can solo on a vanilla P-Bass too; but the vanilla Jazz seems to cut through the mix better.

Tonal Versatility: Jazz Bass has two blendable pickups, and they can be dialed to get various different tones. Some typical tones are:

  • Neck pickup favored: Warm thumpy sound, approaching the P-Bass (but not as thumpy)
  • Pickup balance: Scooped sound, suitable for slapping
  • Bridge pickup favored: Growly sound, approaching the MM-Bass (but not as growly)
  • Bridge pickup solo: Jaco (enough said)

Versatility Comparison

Don’t confuse tonal versatility with genre versatility. Both basses are extremely versatile, and can be used in any genre, really.

Versatility of the P-Bass is based on its singular but perfect tone; which sits in the mix really well, but that has some drawbacks:

  • If you need any other tone than the P-Bass thump, you are out of luck
  • Some players prefer a less dominant sound on certain types of music
  • Tonal singularity might limit your musical discoveries

Versatility of the Jazz Bass is based on tonal diversity, but that has some drawbacks:

  • It won’t get as warm & thumpy as the P-Bass; which is a drawback for some players
  • More tonal options = more bad tone traps
  • Single coil pickups hum when favored, which is disliked by some players and sound engineers. There are noiseless Jazz Bass pickups out there, but they sound different.

With the appropriate playing technique, an experienced player can get many different sounds out of the P-bass as well. But the tonal versatility of the J-Bass is easily accessible and much higher, which is preferable for some players.

Conclusion

There is no clear winner here. That’s why both basses are still best-sellers. You have to evaluate the perks & disadvantages according to your own needs, and decide for yourself.

I have one of each. I lean towards the…

  • J-Bass for…
    • Jazz, Latin, Fusion, Acoustic
    • Soloing, slapping, tapping
  • P-Bass for…
    • Blues, Rock, Pop, Electronic
    • Picking, sub-woofing

But honestly; I could make either bass work on any genre or purpose. Especially with EQ and pedal support.

Finally; here are some buying tips:

  • Each bass is a little different than others of the same model. Play them all before deciding.
  • Fresh / dead strings can sound quite different when testing basses.
  • Beware of dead spots / wolf tones (check Google)
  • Basses with PJ pickups may look like the best of both worlds; but they are in fact “Precision” basses with an extra pickup. They can’t reproduce all of the classical J-Bass sounds, and some players even state that their P-Pickup doesn’t sound like a vanilla P-Bass (I don’t know if that is true).

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Hafif ve Güçlü Bas Amfileri

Hafif, ev / prova / ufak işlerde kullanılabilecek, daha büyük işlerde de kişisel monitör yerine geçebilecek bir bas amfisi araştırdım.

Türkiye piyasasında bulabildiklerim:

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