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Help with writing bass lines


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I have been playing bass for almost 3 years now, and i have studied a variety of different artists. (I have a personal standard of only studying REAL bass players, meaning none of this pop rock crap, untalented rap, or punk. Im not trying to knock any of you who actually listen to this garbage, but it all sounds the same. Untalented and mundane.)

 

Now that i have made myself clear as to who I dont study, I have studied Rush, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beatles, Dream Theatre, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Kansas, Journey, Jaco, Bootsie, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and countless others.

and although these bass players have helped me to get a good feel for good bass playing, i have trouble when it comes down to me writing an original bass line I always choke. (i can write punk lines, but what half intelligent person cant!)

 

I was just wandering if someone could help me out or point me in the direction of what to do, or study next. Im exploring a lot harder territory now, and need some help with writing my own stuff, considering that there is no drummer or guitar player IN MY ENTIRE STUPID CITY!!! that plays. What should I do?

Take the long way home
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Hi, & welcome! :wave:

 

First bit of advice: it's a really, really bad idea to preface things by saying what stuff you think is crap. You don't need to say it, & it just alienates people.

 

Second bit of advice: why isn't Dougie Thomson on that list? I'm gonna go out on a limb & guess you've heard some Supertramp... :D He's one of my very favorite bassists, and knows how to put in a bass line that is exactly what a song needs (every last song on "Breakfast in America" is an example of that). And that is where your focus needs to be, first & last. Think like an arranger: when you hear a song without a bass line, what exactly seems to your ears to be missing?

 

Third bit of advice: Approach a bass line in two steps--rhythm, then harmony. In THAT order.

 

Bass lines are played over chord progressions (need to know your chords), so let's take a simple chord change: a bar of Gmaj followed by a bar of Cmaj. Now think of a simple drum pattern (maybe you've even got a drum machine), & focus on the rhythm--where the beats are falling, where there's space, & where the emphasis is. Play the G in that rhythm; keep at it until the rhythm feels right. (Keep it simple; think of the verse in "Casual Conversations.") Now play 4 beats (1 4/4 bar) of G in that rhythm, then play another bar of C in that rhythm; repeat.

 

Once the rhythm is what you want, you can start thinking of what other notes in the chord you can play to add some harmonic flavor. In this example, simply using B or D as a note transitioning from Gmaj to Cmaj could sound nice: B is the 3rd of Gmaj & a half-step to C, while D is the 5th of Gmaj & a whole-step to C, so these are very "natural" sounding passing notes. From there it depends on what you think the song needs, how creative you are, & how much theory you know. But I think this is a good, solid approach: button down the rhythm first, then harmonize to suit the song.

 

Do a search on this, as well. And just keep at it.

 

Once you're on your feet, study the Jamerson book, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown." The world is yet to see anyone who could surpass James Jamerson in creating wonderful bass lines.

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You know Bass is all about playing with other musicians. Finding other people to play with and key off of is a big part of development. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be anyone but that country guy down the street. Even if it has to be him you'd be surprised at how much the interaction helps...

 

OK country music folks. Don't take it personnel.

Double Posting since March 2002

Random Post Generator #26797

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transcribe those parts to musical notation. then you can contemplate why those lines works and why people like them.

 

after a while you will see comon things that all great bass players do collectivley.

 

the individual is within the collective & and the collective is within the individual. this is the way of music. :cool:

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If you have a drum machine, set to a beat you like. Blues, funk, R&B whatever. Then just think of bass lines with your bass close by. Try to imagine 3 or 4 chord progressions on a guitar or piano. Then imagine a simple bass line then expand. after you have imagined something you like go over it a few times untill you know it well enough to pick it out on bass. By the way, don't criticize musicians because of their genre. you made some pretty harsh comments that offended me personaly. I do bass work in many of the genres that you mentioned but i can still sit down a play every jaco tune, most Wooten tunes, Fred Hammond, and stevie wonder. You never know what lies beneth the exterior.
I didn't come here to play. I came here to make babies.
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Often it helps to listen to music that you don't like -- believe it or not. It helps get you "out of box" by giving you some different ways of thinking about music, and different influences for your lines.

 

For example, by ruling out hip-hop/rap music, you're missing out on the contributions that great bass players have made to that genre -- like Doug Wimbish (also of Living Colour fame), or Pino Palladino (played w/ so many frickin' big names it's crazy; stepped in to take the bass duties on the Who tour immediately following John E.'s death), or Raphael Saadiq, or Hub from The Roots or others. There is a lot to be learned from the lines these players laid down in a genre you don't like.

 

I don't really enjoy country music, but there are some crazy strong players laying down lines live or in the studio for country acts, and I've learned a lot from being patient and listening to what is going on there.

 

Anyway, my point is, in terms of writing bass lines, I sometimes find myself stuck and stagnant, playing things continually the same way and feeling like the creativity isn't happening. That's when it helps a lot to take a serious listen to music I wouldn't normally find myself listening to. That may be as simple and cost effective as listening to a different radio station for a couple of days.

 

Peace.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Follow these easy rules to the perfect bass line:

 

1) Put down your bass

2) LISTEN

3) LISTEN

4) LISTEN

5) Hum or sing a part

6) Work out what you are singing or humming.

 

This will help you to stop playing "shapes" and actually tap into what is going on in your head.

 

I should say though, that whilst I like this approach, it should be used "as well as" not "instead of" learning harmony and building lines that outline that harmony. The basic approach that I was taught was...hit the root on one then find a nice way to the next root. (All within the correct rhythmic context of course.)

 

The most important thing....LISTEN.

Free your mind and your ass will follow.
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Originally posted by dcr:

First bit of advice: it's a really, really bad idea to preface things by saying what stuff you think is crap. You don't need to say it, & it just alienates people.

 

Oh yeah, I agree wholeheartedly with this point. Nothing like starting a post w/ lots of negativity :( -- especially when you're new to posting on the board and you're looking for help.

 

Thanks, dcr, for pointing that out.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Three years means you're just at the beginning of a lifelong process. Enjoy it!

 

In order to learn how to make up your own basslines, you must...

Make up your own basslines.

 

Turn on the radio. Roll the bass off on the stereo so you can't hear it anymore.

Then play along and make up new basslines for all the songs.

 

Look at a piece of sheet music of a song you might now.

 

I'm going to throw out "Hotel California" just as an example. You don't have to like the song, you just have to know how it goes.

 

This song is sort of fake reggae.

 

Make up a new bassline. Make is sound the way it would sound if if was recorded at Motown. At Stax-Volt. At Philadelphia International. With Marcus Miller on bass. By a kick-ass rock band. By a country band. As a samba or as a mambo.

 

Then go on to the next song you pick and continue the process.

 

It's hard for me to believe that there is "no one to play with in your crummy town". Somewhere there is an older jazz pianist or guitarist. Of course, you aren't ready for them yet. But you could be very soon.

Somewhere there is a down-home guy who plays the fiddle or guitar or banjo.

There must be a band in at least one church in town.

Someone, maybe even someone in your high school, is sitting in a room with an acoustic guitar writing original songs.

Find one or more of these people and play along with them. Play something appropriate to their style.

 

Happy learning.

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One would think that, having studied the material you have and shunned all the 'crap' for three long years, you'd be a bass wizard by now ;)

 

The stuff you like ain't always the best stuff to learn on. Two great rock bassists to study are Paul McCartney and John McVie (Beatles & Fleetwood Mac). Both play simple yet melodic lines that create a very solid foundation for their respective bands. I'd wager that you'll learn more about creating good, musical bass lines from them than from Geddy Lee (he's great to learn from too, but not as a beginning point). You HAVE to know how chords work to be able to create good bass lines. Here's a chord sequence. Can you tell me what the next chord might be, and why? Can you then tell me what bass notes you might play (one note per count) thru the entire sequence, and why?

 

4

4 Dmaj7 / / /| B-7 / / /| E-7 / / /| ???

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Here's a subset of some of the "crap" that I've studied over the years:

 

Stevie Wonder

The Supremes

Marvin Gaye

The Temptations

The Four Tops

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Michael Jackson

The Beatles

The Rolling Stones

Herman's Hermits

Simon & Garfunkel

James Taylor

Elvis Presley

Fats Domino

Chuck Berry

Roy Orbison

Buddy Holly

The Everly Brothers

Hank Williams

Waylon Jennings

Charlie Daniels Band

Garth Brooks

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Chic

Earth Wind & Fire

The Commodores

The Police

U2

Elton John

Joe Jackson

Billy Joel

Steely Dan

Paul Young

Thomas Dolby

Missing Persons

Genesis/Phil Collins/Mike and the Mechanics

John Cougar Mellencamp

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The Clash

Midnight Oil

Level 42

Huey Lewis and the News

Peter Gabriel

Seal

Alanis Morisette

Sarah McLaughlin

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Alice In Chains

Stone Temple Pilots

Nirvana

Garbage

Fuel

Verve Pipe

Sum 41

Linkin Park

Rage Against The Machine

Young MC

Public Enemy

Naughty By Nature

 

I've learned something from every one of these acts. I've learned something about BASS from every one of them, too.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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At least he ain't studying a virtuoso like Billy Sheehan :D

 

Originally posted by Dan South:

Here's a subset of some of the "crap" that I've studied over the years:

 

Stevie WonderThe SupremesMarvin GayeThe TemptationsThe Four TopsSmokey Robinsonandthe MiraclesMichael JacksonThe BeatlesThe Rolling StonesHerman's HermitsSimon & GarfunkelJames TaylorElvis PresleyFats DominoChuck BerryRoy rbisonBuddy HollyThe Everly BrothersHank WilliamsWaylon JenningsCharlie Daniels BandGarth BrooksLynyrd SkynyrdChicEarth Wind & FireThe CommodoresThe PoliceU2Elton JohnJoe JacksonBillyJoelSteely DanPaul YoungThomas DolbyMissing PersonsGenesis/Phil Collins/Mike and the MechanicsJohn Cougar MellencampTom Petty and the HeartbreakersThe ClashMidnight OilLevel 42Huey Lewis and the NewsPeter GabrielSealAlanis Morisette

Sarah McLaughlinRed Hot Chili PeppersAlice In ChainsStone Temple PilotsNirvanaGarbageFuelVerve PipeSum 41Linkin ParkRage Against The MachineYoung MCPublic EnemyNaughty By Nature

 

I've learned something from every one of these acts. I've learned something about BASS from every one of them, too.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Impressive list Dan!!! Those are the guys who can really teach you how to be a "bass player" the real deal. Harmony, melody, and pocket grooves. Maybe a little solo if one is so inclined. Thoes bands are what playing bass is all about. They are the roots of much of today's music. I think the point is everyone has to start somewhere.
I didn't come here to play. I came here to make babies.
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get a drum machine and sing a beat

 

i bought this second hand crappy machine that isnt pressure sensative, but it works great

 

i lay down a 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, or 6/4 drum beat that they make or something simple i cant recreate from a song i heard

 

then i loop it and hum

 

eventually, a rif, chord progression, or rythym should pop in to mind

 

play while humming until the likely-out of tune notes coming out of your mouth are in tune and correct coming out of your amp

 

thats all folks,

peaceOUT,

 

Germain

.~.
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Originally posted by Breakfast In America:

considering that there is no drummer or guitar player IN MY ENTIRE STUPID CITY!!! that plays. What should I do?

What is the population of your "city?" Thirty-five?

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Dude, rap will get your syncopation in sync so well. Same with some pop. About punk? Hell, there's gotta be some good guys around? The guy from Rancid ain't too shabby. You should also try some ska out. Some very catchy basslines to be heard there. I don't see why ya like Metallica that much (the bass part anyways. With Metallica the bass feels too much like an after-thought in my mind, and it doesn't help that it's practically impossible to hear the bass half the time. Good luck with finding someone to play with ya.
In Skynyrd We Trust
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Well I guess i learned my lesson.

 

I sincerely apologize to anyone that i offended, and I hope that you will forgive me for my ignorance. The night I wrote that post I was in a really bad mood and should have just kept my mouth shut. Once again I apologize, and I appreciate all the info you guys gave me.

Take the long way home
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Like everyone's saying...listening is definitely the most important skill in composing basslines. The suggestions about turning the bass down on songs and making up your own is a really good one. I'd recommend something a little more esoteric too. When my creative juices are stifled, I'll take a walk outside to the park w an acoustic guitar...wish I had an acoustic bass...but anyways, I just sit there & take it all in and let the inspiration come to me. Don't forget, inspiration doesn't have to come from "music" per se. It can be a beautiful day, a bird singing, the sun shining...whatever! Some of my craziest stuff came from very "non-musical" sources.

 

The advantage of bringing the guitar is you don't have to run home and play it out before it's forgotten...that's happened so many times to me!

 

Also, you've got to learn your scales. That's because once you know what chords the guitarist, or whoever is playing, you immediately know what notes you play. It makes improvising a lot easier too! It's like anything, the more tools you have a your disposal, the more you can do with it and what you can do gets way easier!

 

I found when I started writing, I'd try to do as many crazy technical things as possible...but that's easy. What's really hard is writing something that leaves notes out in the right places and fits in with who you're playing with. What somebody in this thread said about rhythm & the right notes is so true. Always make the timing and setting a good groove...or whatever you want to call it...your main goal.

 

Hope that helps...happy writing!

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BIA, it's all good. Everybody has a break-in period, & I don't think you really ticked anyone. Just don't you look at my girlfriend! (OK, I'm stopping now; no, really.)

 

Good advice, P-Berger. James Jamerson Jr. says his dad once came up with a bass line by watching a fat woman's butt move as she walked down the street! :freak: (boom, de-boom, de-boom de-boom) He was also inspired by more, er, inspiring sources too; but the point is that he saw bass lines as a sort of soundtrack of life. I don't know if I'll ever reach that level, but it's something to reach for.

 

Also, yeah, sometimes filling every little crack is too easy. Leaving the right holes, & playing just that right note that works in that moment, takes real skill. It also takes a lot of self-control, I find, not to throw something in where I can, just because I can, & ruin the moment. Silence is powerful when you use it well.

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Originally posted by dcr:

Just don't you look at my girlfriend! (OK, I'm stopping now; no, really.)

Does your wife know about her? :confused:;):D

 

Originally posted by dcr:

Good advice, P-Berger.

Definitely. I take my harmonica out in the evening when I go walk my dogs. Sure, I get some funny looks, but I think the folks in the n'hood are getting used to me. (Also, there isn't much that's quite as invigorating in the winter in Chicago as pressing a cold piece of metal up to your saliva-moistened lips... :eek: )

 

Really, though, playing another instrument helps. It helps me think about how I wish the bass would sound if there were bass accompanying me. Then I can take those thoughts to my bass practicing.

 

I wonder if CMDN (Erik) might have thoughts on this since he gigs on bass and guitar (as do some others on the forum). I also wonder if Bassed on Jazz members Wally and Jeremy have comments about how playing in that group may or may not have influenced their approach to playing bass in more conventional situations.

 

Peace.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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My cell phone has a voice recorder. It's not unlikely to see me walking around singing melodies into my phone. i just take my ideas home and work on them when i get a chance. technology is great because you never know when an idea will hit you.
I didn't come here to play. I came here to make babies.
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That's a good point about other instruments Willie. If you listen to Jaco, he uses lots of horn like phrasing in his playing...who'd have thunk it...but it works so ridiculously well!

 

I think the guitar is an awesome compositional tool for bass...and learning guitar is a good idea too, if only to better understand how chords and scales fit together.

 

Peace

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If you really want to learn another instrument and have the time, learn piano. It's the best of both worlds. You got fluent in G cleff and F cleff, you get to lear how to play inversions of chords(which is really cool when playing with a piano player), lastly the strength and additional dexterity are a real plus. I don't think there is a better composing tool than a keyboard, if you have the time to learn it.
I didn't come here to play. I came here to make babies.
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When I was starting out, I was worried to death about whether I would write a good bass line or not.

 

I found that the best approach was to relax and play the song...then the best part would usually happen on its own.

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