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writing bass lines

Discussion in 'Bass Area; The Bottom Line' started by drummer, Oct 7, 2018.

  1. gpasq

    gpasq Member

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    I played bass for years in an originals band. My process was to write a tune that fit over the chords, and also fit within the framework of the melody.

    Example. Bass solo at 2:35
     
  2. marmalade cream

    marmalade cream Member

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    I'm a long time guitar player that has been playing bass for the last 4-5 years. I still sound like a guitar player playing bass, but with enough takes and the magic of digital editing my parts come out pretty good. I totally agree with the "don't overplay" advice given. My experience has been that when I write a bass line I always start out playing way too many notes, and things gets drastically simplified as I hone in on the final part.

    A lot of this is dependent on context. I write mostly in the rock and folk vein, and my guitar parts are fairly busy. So the bass has to take a backseat melodically to avoid creating mush with the guitars.

    In this case, focusing on simple parts but really nailing the execution works best in my experience. This has taken me forever to learn -- nailing the execution of a simple bass part. I'm very comfortable with a click, but as a guitar player I inevitably play right on top of the beat, or push it a little. As a bass player I really have a tough time getting slightly behind the beat, in the pocket with the drums. It takes a lot of patience and discipline, and honestly, some editing too. But it makes a HUGE difference when you really nail the groove. The bass parts come alive, even if they are melodically simple.

    All this to say... if I was a better bass player like Robert DeLeo I could write more melodically interesting ideas and have them fit with complex guitar parts. But I'm not, so I focus on what I'm good at (guitars) and work on being really good rhythmically on the bass.
     
  3. marmalade cream

    marmalade cream Member

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    +1 I like the "changeup" concept, and try to do it all over the song with all instruments. I like to think of doing one good changeup within each section of the song, then making sure each repeat section of the song (verse 2, pre-chorus 2, etc) is slightly different, or uses a different changeup. Choruses I usually perform the same unless it's the last chorus (like a repeated chorus at the climax the same).
     
  4. alexanderplatz

    alexanderplatz Member

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    A great thing about bass is you can bring all sorts of musical ideas into it. You can play simple notes but if you are rhythmically gifted you can make the simple notes sound great with the rhythm. "Radar Love" which you cited is a good example. I suspect "Radar Love" began life as a bass riff, or at least a guitar riff that moved to the bass part.

    Or, if you are knowledgeable about chords you can apply that knowledge to bass parts. The resulting parts don't have to be uber-complicated or fast to be interesting and beautiful. The bass riff in the Cure's "Love Cats" is a good example a not-very-difficult bass part built on the chords. (It's also another song which I suspect began life as a bass riff but what do I know.)

    Anyway, as far as specific advice, I'd say take a multi-pronged approach and do lots of improvising on your own, experimenting with different ideas, but also learn to play some of your favorite bass parts and that way you sort of absorb by osmosis certain techniques. That in turn fuels your own improvising and creativity.
     
  5. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    I've said the most badass bass line in rock is McCartney pumping 1/8th notes on the root in "Jet." Not only is McCartney capable with coming up with a clever, propelling line for the song- in 1974 he's EXPECTED to come up with something. But by just pushing the root- what the song REALLY needs- it speaks volumes about the role of a badass bass player. No matter who you are, no matter what you *can* throw in there- do what needs to be done.
     
  6. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    Good thread! I struggle with bass lines too. Some things I find that help are:
    1) sometime you just need to start the song from the bassline...it’s very freeing to work a vocal melody on to just a bass line. It can push songs in interesting directions, and tends to emphasize strong groove.
    2) definitely think about chord tones, but don’t be trapped by them. Often the best bass line has either scale wise movement, or chromatic movement in it. Basically, try to keep the notes close together, and perhaps link them with chromatic notes. You can do voice leading this way and build anticipation of chord changes. Save the big position shifts for more dramatic moments.

    I’m staying tuned to get more tips...

    Cheers

    Kris
     
  7. Khromo

    Khromo Supporting Member

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    For me, listening to a tune and then "singing" the bass line I want to hear gets me the best-sounding lines. I get the line going with "dap a doo dotdot * *" singing/grunting humming what I want to hear, and then I transpose that good music onto the fingerboard.

    I think that frees me of the ruts and limitations in my brain and in my fingers when I'm trying to get a good line. If I sing it first, it winds up sounding more hip and people like it. If I try to just "finger out" what I feel like I am able to play, or what I am programmed to "finger out", it sounds like I am just wiggling my fingers.

    And hey, having no talent really kind of limits what I'm going to get anyways, so Low Expectations!!!
     
  8. windmill

    windmill Member

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    Occasionally I will play a bass line "inverted" to see if it sounds better

    For example replace the short notes with long ones and the long ones with shorter ones, if it is ascending, play it descending, if it is busy slow it down with more rests etc.
     
  9. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Member

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    I did the same in Rare Blend for 11 years. Here is a recording from a gig back in 2008.



    This one has a bit more active line; this song was essentially an improvised jam to open the show.

     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
  10. drummer

    drummer Member

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    thanks for all of your replies.
     

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