What is a Flat 7th?
In the previous lesson on common bass patterns we covered the root and 5th pattern. With the root, 5th and flat 7th pattern we are adding another note – the flat 7th. Recall that the root and 5th pattern is comprised of the root note and 5th note on any scale. The flat 7th is the 7th note on a major scale played as a flat. When a note is played as a flat, it is played one fret (note) lower.
The diagram below shows an A major scale with the 7th note highlighted (no flat 7th)
The next diagram shows the A major scale again highlighting the 7th being played as a flat (one note below):
So when you are playing the root, 5th, and flat 7th pattern you are only playing these three notes of the scale. The diagram below shows the root, 5th and flat 7th pattern:
How to Easily Find the Flat 7th
If you don’t know your major scales (which you eventually should) you can always find the flat 7th two frets below the higher root note.
The diagram below shows the flat 7th two frets below (lower pitch) the higher root note.
You can also find it two strings above the lower root note on the same fret.
The diagram below shows the flat 7th two strings above (higher pitch) the lower root note on the same fret:
Root, 5th and Flat 7th Bassline – Example Video
Below is a video of me playing a simple bassline using the Root, 5th, and Flat 7th for the scales of C major and D major. For the D major chord I’m playing the D (root), A (5th), and C (flat 7th) – I’m also hammering the higher octave D. For the C major I’m playing the C (root), G (5th) and Bb (flat 7th) – and again hammering the higher octave C.
Important Point – Just because it’s a flat 7th doesn’t mean the note itself is flat
Don’t get confused by the name flat 7th. Just because the 7th is flat, doesn’t mean it’s a flat note. The flat 7th could be a flat note such as Gb, or it could be a sharp note such as C#, or it could be a natural note such as A. Remember that the flat 7th is simply the 7th note in a major scaled played as a flat!
When to Play the Root, 5th and Flat 7th Pattern
The flat 7th can is a very common pattern that can be played in many situations. If the chords in a song have a flat 7th, playing the flat 7th on the bass will work. Even in some cases when there are no flat 7th chords, you can still play the flat 7th and it will fit – and sound really cool. However, there are some situations where the flat 7th doesn’t belong. When it doesn’t fit the flat 7th can stand out and doesn’t sound right. Just be mindful when using the flat 7th. Make sure it fits before deciding to use it – let your ear be the final judge.
Songs with a Root, 5th, and Flat 7th Bass Line
Here is a video of me playing “Driven to Tears” by the Police. The root, 5th and flat 7th notes of the A major scale are played during the verse. The change includes the root, 5th and flat 7th of the F# major scale. The root, 5th and flat 7th of the E major scale are being played during the guitar solo. It’s a great example of how this simple pattern can be used in a powerful way to drive a song.
Here’s the isolated bass line (bass only) for Driven to Tears:
Here are couple of others:
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin – The entire song pretty much revolves around the bass and guitar playing the root (E), 5th (B), and flat 7th (D) of the E major scale (chord).
“Shotgun” by Jr. Walker and the All Stars – The great James Jamerson plays the root (G#), 5th (A#) and flat 7th (F#) throughout this class R&B hit.
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Root 5th and Flat 7th Bass Pattern