• Lesson

Note Choice Heat Maps

Now that we've discussed the three types of notes on the Note Choice Pyramid along with the fifth approach, I want to drive the point home with a unique way visualizing your bass note choice options: Note Choice Heat Maps.

What Is a Note Choice Heat Map?

This is where the mad scientist in me comes out. The Note Choice Heat Map idea is something I invented to help students better understand the rhythmic weight of Chord Tones, Scale Tones, and Chromatic Tones. If you mention this to someone, they won't have a clue what you're talking about. But, I promise it is useful and relevant to your bass studies.

At this stage in the StudyBass course as you hear, play, or read music, you probably can't identify the three types of notes instantly. This will come through diligent practice and memorization.

Seeing the Note Choice Heat Map, however, will give you a near instant understanding of the concepts in this lesson block.

Again, this isn't a new form of notation. It's just a visual tool to help explain and reinforce the concepts of this lesson block.

What is a Heat Map?

A heat map is a type of graphic for displaying data. Using different colors for different values gives you a multicolored map to help explain information. Imagine a weather map with different shades of blue colors for cold temperatures and red colors for hot ones.

How the StudyBass Heat Maps Work

In my Note Choice Heat Maps I've assigned different colors to each of the types of notes we've outlined.

Note Colors

Chord Tones – Orange

Scale Tones – Grey

Chromatic Tones – Black

Fifth Approaches – Red

Silence – White


Each bar of music is a row on the grid.

Each bar (row) is divided into 16 squares—one for each 16th note.

Each note of the bassline is colored and fills its rhythmic space, or duration, on the row.

Let me show you some quick examples.

Note Choice Heat Map Examples

Here's a heat map example of the classic two-bar Boogie Woogie bassline. You can see it's almost all chord tones except for the 6th (a scale tone). And, you can see how the scale tone falls on a weaker beat in each bar.

Bass Note Choice Heat Map Example #1

Next, here's a bassline going between a C and F chord using chromatic notes and a fifth approach. Again, you can see where the weak notes fall and where the strong chord tones fall.

Bass Note Choice Heat Map Example #2

What's the Point of This?

By laying the colored notes out in a rhythmic grid, you can quickly see where different types of notes are commonly placed and understand the importance of rhythmic placement.

The concept of the heirarchy of notes should "click" for you if they haven't already. You'll understand why I'm encouraging you to break down your concept of note choice into the three types of notes: Chord, Scale, and Chromatic. Ultimately, it will make you a stronger player and listener.

Don't worry. You won't need to make any heat maps yourself. Eventually your mind, ears, and fingers will instantly recognize it this way. Your time making a heat map would be better spent practicing!

In the next lesson, we'll look at a whole bassline in heat map form...

  • Lesson