Bass Help!

Jess 1971

Silver Supporting Member
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4,457
I am working on a solo album of original music where I'm looking to play all the instruments except the drums. I've played guitar for about 35 years, and I'm reasonably accomplished.

I'm currently tracking bass parts for my record, and I'm struggling a bit, as I'm just not a great bassist. I have a G&L bass with a relatively thin neck--as far as basses go, it's pretty comfortable, it's set up well with lower action. I'm recording bass parts mostly direct, although sometimes I'll use a Strymon Iridium if I need a bit more grit or character. I play with a pick.

Anyway, just looking for some overall tips and advice on bass playing. I'm tracking everything in a DAW, so I have the luxury of being able to splice together parts. I guess what I'm struggling with though is writing cool bass parts that complement the music without just chugging along on root notes. I like melodic bass parts but nothing too busy. Any high-level advice or suggestions are welcome. Thanks.

Here is an example of my bass playing:

 
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CDP

Member
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992
I'm also a guitarist who recently bought a bass and will be playing bass on 2 songs (hopefully a few more in the future) beginning with my next gig on July 1st. Obviously the notes you choose will matter the most, but my focus (and advice) is on making the bass absolutely perfect as far as the note placement, timing and rhythm.
 

derekd

Gold Supporting Member
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46,650
Doubling the guitar on bass for the intro is cool but I'd recommend settling into a groove once the verse starts.

The cliche (it's a cliche because it works) is roots and 5ths playing off the drummer. I don't want to say ignore the guitar because we need to hear what other instruments are doing but I'd suggest ignoring the guitar and just grooving with the drummer.

Cool tune. Reminded me a bit of REM.
 

wraub

Member
Messages
2,151
As primarily a bass player, I tend to write a lot of songs on bass, even sorting out arrangements for other instruments. I find for a bass part, a groove or repetitive phrase can help anchor a part, or accentuate it, as needed. Counterpoint is useful. :)

Agreed with above, it helps to tie in to the drum parts. I find this can vary somewhat though, depending on whether the bass part is meant to be more rhythmic, more melodic, etc.
 
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233
So I wanna preface all of the BS I'm about to spew by saying there's nothing 'wrong' with the playing in the track. It's fine, and if you were completely content with the choices I wouldn't have too much to say about it.

But you asked, so...

There's two big places I hear room for embellishment. The first is in places where chords or notes feel like they're moving up or down the bass could be moving in the opposite direction to provide a counterpoint. Here you can work in intervals of the chords or just jump it up (or down) an octave to fill in the spots vacated by the movement of the song. Play with it and see what you come up with.

The other is there are places where a chord is held out for one or more measures and the bass is just chugging along. There's space in here to add fills or small melody lines to add interest to the part. It's real easy to go overboard in these spaces (ask me how I know ), but with the right ear it'll sound great without killing the vibe.

There's also a few places where I felt like you muted notes that might have been held and vice versa, but that could be the kind of thing where if I heard it done the other way I might change my mind, so who knows.

Hope that's useful and not totally counter to your bass goals ;).
 
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3,505
Nice song.
I agree with what Derek said.

When I hear good bass lines,
they are often a counter melody to the guitar line, or they have interesting phrasing(particularly the first couple of notes or last couple of notes of a phrase).

I also like creative use of octaves.

Nice playing/singing!
 
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2,895
It could use some runs.
At the very minimum that means arpeggiating up and down on the chord notes, otherwise working in the scale but still in the background, using less tension notes.

The bass should (could) be sort of grooving, off in their own world with a more consistent simpler version of what the song is about, but still doing it with a regular cadence everyone else can follow.
 

sprag

Member
Messages
1,016
1 - play along chugging root notes a million times. When that gets boring you'll start adding things automatically.

2 - sing/hum the bass part along to the tracks. You can also use guitar (or any instrument you're extremely comfortable using)
If you're still finding your feet with an instrument, improvisation with it is usually more difficult than an instrument you've been playing well for years. When you find phrases you like try them out on bass.

3 - Use phrasings that other instruments use Eg. if the guitar solo is played over the chorus. You might find very a short section of that solo that can be played on bass in all the choruses.
 

Jess 1971

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,457
The bass should (could) be sort of grooving, off in their own world with a more consistent simpler version of what the song is about, but still doing it with a regular cadence everyone else can follow.

The bass should (could) be sort of grooving, off in their own world with a more consistent simpler version of what the song is about, but still doing it with a regular cadence everyone else can follow.
This sounds like solid advice. Thank you.
 
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4,490
This is timely: I just watched these today!





Another great tip that I heard is to try to make everyone's part stand on its own as a memorable part of the song.

Here I think around "Thanks for nothin'..." you have a chance to do some really sexy slides and tasteful licks in the upper registers, call and response style with the vocals maybe, while everything else is sustained under that section.

Great stuff so far though. Definitely getting some REM as stated but also a bit of Dismemberment Plan, if I'm remembering right.
 

somedude

Member
Messages
8,120
Try removing the guitar track and play the bass with just the drum. Might free you up. Might also be problematic since you’ve already recorded the guitars and baked that rhythmic feel into the song, but it’s worth an experiment.

Try playing the bass with your fingers. It’ll remove some of the tendency to ”play it like a guitar” and just double the guitar part.

When the guitars are interesting, I tend to keep it simple. When the guitars are boring, I tend to go for a bit of a walk and add more fills. You have stretches of guitar strumming where you could be using the bass to create movement. You can counterpoint off the vocal melody.

Where a guitarist might tend to use an ascending arpeggio, try descending on bass.

If all else fails, hire a bass player. :)
 

Jess 1971

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,457
Try removing the guitar track and play the bass with just the drum. Might free you up. Might also be problematic since you’ve already recorded the guitars and baked that rhythmic feel into the song, but it’s worth an experiment.

Try playing the bass with your fingers. It’ll remove some of the tendency to ”play it like a guitar” and just double the guitar part.

When the guitars are interesting, I tend to keep it simple. When the guitars are boring, I tend to go for a bit of a walk and add more fills. You have stretches of guitar strumming where you could be using the bass to create movement. You can counterpoint off the vocal melody.

Where a guitarist might tend to use an ascending arpeggio, try descending on bass.

If all else fails, hire a bass player. :)
Thanks. I've actually been keeping the guitar lower in the mix to better identify the pocket with the drummer. The problem is that by doing so I sometimes start to think more like a lead guitarist and venture off a bit. I need to think more like I'm supporting the song and providing a foundation.
 

somedude

Member
Messages
8,120
Thanks. I've actually been keeping the guitar lower in the mix to better identify the pocket with the drummer. The problem is that by doing so I sometimes start to think more like a lead guitarist and venture off a bit. I need to think more like I'm supporting the song and providing a foundation.
When the guitars are holding down the rhythm, there’s room for the bass to move around. I think it’s a cool dynamic when the band inverts and the guitars are rhythmic with a melodic bass. Not right for all songs, but not wrong either.

Off the top of my head, Smoke on the Water, War Pigs, and Interstate Love Song all have examples of the bass wandering around while the guitars provide the foundation. In any of these songs, if the bass just played roots they wouldn’t sound the same.
 

Jon Moody

Member
Messages
537
The biggest issue I hear is that, as said, you're playing the bass with the same rhythm and attack as the guitar. They link up really well that way, but otherwise it's very thin compositionally because of that.

If I was playing on this, I'd approach it as doubling the groove in the beginning, playing an incredibly simple line in the verse, building it up in the bridge to the chorus. A lot of that would be reflected also in the attack; big long notes in the verse and tighter, more controlled in the chorus.

Other than that, it's a cool song!
 




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