Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Original material: what the song 'wants'


...

Recommended Posts

Does anyone else experience this? Recently the original band I'm in has been writing a lot of new material. I know, maybe odd for a band that's just finishing a CD, but I digress. I find that there are a lot of times where I hear a song idea that someone has written and the bass line is just there for me already, in my head. I don't mean that it's already written and/or they have any idea at all about what it should sound like. I mean, I hear the song for the first time - the band plays through it for me - and I just know exactly what I'm supposed to play. It's like the bassline is just sitting there already waiting for me to just figure out all the notes to make it a reality. Is that weird? I doubt that it is..

 

I just recall that our manager was sitting in on a rehearsal a few weeks ago when the band presenting me with a new song that they had been working on while I wasn't there. I listened to the song the first time through and by the second time through, when I played along with them, I already knew every note I was going to play. After the rehearsal he was talking to me and saying how amazed he was at the bassline that I came up with in such a short period of time. I told him that the line was already there, I just needed to hear the song and make the notes go.

 

My question I guess is this: does everyone else experience this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 22
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Exactly. I can always tell what the song wants. Although if it wants something technical I usually can't do it but anyways......

 

I can hear a song and I hear the hole on the song where the bassline needs to be, and it just works. There is one song that my band does that is a cover, and it is just BEGGING for a different bassline then what the song was originally done with. That frustrates me....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is great when it happens "correctly". When you're so in tune with the writing process that a song just "speaks" to you and the perfect bass line pours out of you ... yeah, that's magic!

 

Whenever this happens to me I have to make sure I didn't just subconsciously plagiarize someone. You know, the g****r player comes in with this "new" song he wrote with a Latin feel, and before you know it you've both just "written" Santana's Black Magic Woman. Because he started with something that was so close to a song you'd heard before, the "perfect" bass line came naturally ... because you'd heard it before!

 

The other trap is that the band's prolific song writer tends to use the same chord progressions or rhythms or melodies over and over. You get a lot of "song A is just like song B, but it's played slower and is in a different key". That kind of stuff.

 

So, regardless of the large number of mathematical permutations of just two chords in a progression, there are some that get used more than others, I to IV for example. Now, ignoring rhythm for the moment, if in every song with this transition you play the exact same bass line -- (I) root 3rd (IV) root 6th [(Cmaj) C E (Fmaj) F D] -- what does that do? Instead of giving every song its own unique character, they start sounding the same. Sometimes that's important to give every song your band's "sound", but I think it can be tiring for the listener after a while when all your songs sound alike. Certainly, if it's a hackneyed phrase of yours, it will flow naturally out of your fingers, too, just like the tired phrases that we speak over and over again on a daily basis: "How's it going?", "On the other hand...", "Sweet!", etc. (Of course, then there's the "trademark phrase", like "One of these days Alice ... to the moon!". Nobody else says it but you, so you might be able to get away with using it more.)

 

Whenever I write a bassline I usually try a bunch of variations and keep the best ones. So, even if I start with a "perfect" bass line, I may analyze it and decide that although I really like a descending/connecting line -- (Cmaj) C A (Gmaj) G, for example -- it may shine more if I alternately play something else in its place, like (Cmaj) C E (Gmaj) D.

 

When the bass line doesn't come so easily, well, that's another topic. ;)

 

Congrats, Bump, on reaching songwriting nirvana! :thu:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When J demos a song for us, he usually has the general groove and feel together already... Drew and I then get in there and start screwing with the arrangement... but I know what Bump is talkin about here.. you can sometimes hear the bassline when it's not there yet... it's like... IN THERE... you just have to play it. The only time you can run into problems with that is when what you hear differs greatly from everyone else's vision for the bassline... That's when compromise comes into play. Lucky for me, J and Drew are usually pretty open to my more unconventional ideas, and I think they usually fit into the songs without disturbing things. If I do it right, I have Drew and J walkin around humming my basslines after we play. That's gotta be a good sign, right?

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of the original stuff that I work on comes out that way...the song dictates what it really needs and it's usually right there, just waiting to be "plucked from the tree," so to speak. Whether or not the songwriter likes what that is...that's another story. Sometimes he/she will already have something in mind that I didn't hear and, as CMDN mentioned, that's when the compromising begins (usually about things like beat placement, amount of notes in a passage, etc.). This is one of things that I absolutely love about making music...it really can be like taping into an unseen energy.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been in many situations where a guitar player has already written something and recorded it with a bass part that they played and its perfect. One of the guitarists in my band does jingles and has had a few songs that he has written and most of the bass parts have been fine. When I tell him so, he says that he just wants to have a real bass players touch on it. There has even been times where a "more refined touch" kind of took some vibe away from it.

With most simple songs you can just tell. It's like some covers I have played. You just can't change it because nothing else works as well. Sometimes there is just no room. Gridlock! It was played like that for a reason. Recognizing that is very important I think. I think thats why most of us play for the big picture. Because when you hit it right and it feels great, your right in there and theres no better feeling. It doesn't matter if your playing a bunch of notes or just one.

 

There are people, though that can play like crazy and it still manages to groove like mad. Those people have "accidents" so I can get gigs. :evil::D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by DONUT:

I've been in many situations where a guitar player has already written something and recorded it with a bass part that they played and its perfect. [...]

I'm thinking that guy is the exception to the rule. Most g****rists that lay down bass tracks sound like g****rists tuned down an octave to me. After playing together with my friend for 20 years, he's learned to imitate me (to the point that you can tell he's imitating me) ;) but it never sounds right because (a) he uses a pick, or (b) his fingers don't have the same feel.

 

Yes, there was one song I didn't touch of his. He was really pleased with the way his bass line fit the song -- and it did -- so I would have had to do it note-for-note (which I'm not a big fan of) AND there was a glitch with the timing at the very beginning of the song that he didn't want to fix because he felt he had the perfect take on the g****r track and didn't want to re-track it. If you overlook the first measure or two, I admit it's a good song with a good bass line.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by empiremark:

Most of the original stuff that I work on comes out that way...the song dictates what it really needs and it's usually right there, just waiting to be "plucked from the tree," so to speak. [...]

Yeah, I understand what you're saying here. But given the same song demo (sans bass), how many Lowdowners would it take before two of us came up with the same bass line? Is it a "blind men and the elephant" kind of thing, where we are each just feeling out a different part of the song? And what would you get if these guys all tried it: Michael Anthony (Van Halen), Geddy Lee (Rush), Flea (RHCP), Les Claypool, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten? Is it a matter of style or preference that makes us all sound unique?

 

Would it be the songwriter's direction that eventually brought us all in line?

 

As far as cover tunes, I submit that the originally recorded bass line fits better than (most) anything we would substitute for it because those songs were in part shaped to fit that bass line. I recorded some stuff that was done in this order: reference g****r, drums, g****rs, vocals, bass. They never sounded the same as in practice because the drummer never got to play off of what I was doing. If he had a reference track of me while he was tracking he would have played around what I was doing, and my part would fit exactly. As it is, it can sound like we are miles apart unless I change my part to fit his drumming.

 

Then there are those songs that get re-arranged a 100x faster or slower that you don't even realize are the same song until you read (or decipher) the lyrics. Sure, the rest of the arrangement is changing, but why does the bass change? Is this an entirely new song now?

 

I'm not trying to give you a hard time here, I'm just trying to figure out some things about bass from your experiences.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

Originally posted by DONUT:

I've been in many situations where a guitar player has already written something and recorded it with a bass part that they played and its perfect. [...]

I'm thinking that guy is the exception to the rule. Most g****rists that lay down bass tracks sound like g****rists tuned down an octave to me. After playing together with my friend for 20 years, he's learned to imitate me (to the point that you can tell he's imitating me) ;) but it never sounds right because (a) he uses a pick, or (b) his fingers don't have the same feel.

 

Yes, there was one song I didn't touch of his. He was really pleased with the way his bass line fit the song -- and it did -- so I would have had to do it note-for-note (which I'm not a big fan of) AND there was a glitch with the timing at the very beginning of the song that he didn't want to fix because he felt he had the perfect take on the g****r track and didn't want to re-track it. If you overlook the first measure or two, I admit it's a good song with a good bass line.

Yeah. He might be an exception. I'm not sure he could cut a live gig with a bass. But he is super musical, and programs a helluva drum beat as well. He just keeps it simple and lays it down. He just knows what he wants to hear and he's got a good gut for it. Its mostly jingles so its not like the Black Page or anything. His clients want it simple, even if they don't know it.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I am hired to play on a song in the studio, I come up with something immediately.

 

Then the producer or artist will ask me to play something else.

 

Then they ask me to try something else.

 

Then they ask me to play the first thing again, but just change one of the pieces and use something from the second time I played in one spot.

 

Then I play the whole thing and they ask for a few more changes.

 

The parts are never difficult but sometimes it is challenging to remember all the instructions and what I played two times ago.

 

I realize that this answer has nothing to do with the question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

Yeah, I understand what you're saying here. But given the same song demo (sans bass), how many Lowdowners would it take before two of us came up with the same bass line? Is it a "blind men and the elephant" kind of thing, where we are each just feeling out a different part of the song?

This sounds like it could be kinda fun actually. If one of our muliti instrumental lowdowners put up a track or 2 without bass and posted it for our take on the song. I wonder if we would come up with simular parts.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do this quite often as well. I will end up humming a bass line in my head. Unfortunately, sometimes what's in my head doesn't make it out my fingers...that's the part I'm still working on. When I pick up the bass, my fingers want to go certain places and those don't always match what's in my head. But, I'm learning that it's actually good for me to listen and hum that bass line I hear in my head until I've got it memorized...then I can guide my hands to do what's in my head rather than allowing my hands to change what's in my head. Picking up the bass two early is now something that I consciously avoid doing. We might only be talking about 5-10 mins for this head-melding process to occur, but that 5-10 mins seems to make a big difference in what I actually produce.

 

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cool topic Bump!

 

Yes this happens to me but not everytime. But when it is one of those "Zen" moments when the line just seems to play itself it's fantastic.

 

I have been SO wanting to do original music lately that it is starting to make me crazy!

 

* sigh*

Nothing is as it seems but everything is exactly what it is - B. Banzai

 

Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Dave Sisk:

Unfortunately, sometimes what's in my head doesn't make it out my fingers...

This happens to me as well and it has turned me into a better player...it's a great way to stretch beyond the point that I'm at. Sometimes what the song really needs and what I hear isn't so easy to execute. But I refuse to let that stop me. It may take me a while to get it together but, if it's what the song calls for, then so be it.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by basshappi:

I have been SO wanting to do original music lately that it is starting to make me crazy!

 

* sigh*

Why don't you go over and check out the Collab Forum...there's a few Hurricane Katrina songs in progress right now, and with any luck there will be more launched. Post a musical idea of your own and see what happens... :thu:

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by CMDN:

The only time you can run into problems with that is when what you hear differs greatly from everyone else's vision for the bassline...

Thankfully, the band has always liked the parts that I've come up with, even the ones that are so over the top that I think they are going to hate them.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by SteveC:

Originally posted by Bumpcity:

My question I guess is this: does everyone else experience this?

No. I struggle to come up with something original. I suck.
Same here. Even if i do come up with something and like it, when i hear it a week later it turns out to be crap. :mad:

Warwick Streamer Jazzman 5, Fernandes LEB-2

Ashdown ABM-300, Ashdown ABM 4x10

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...