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Bass as a Compositional Tool

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by NullPorch, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. So I'm in a sort of band / musical project thing with a guitarist buddy of mine and he's composed most of our stuff so far with me being the one who more or less refines his ideas. Meaning he comes up with the key and changes and the bare bones structure and then in jamming it out I've usually been the one to refine the rhythms and over all song structure. I mean it's very collaborational and we talk that all out (the only thing I do completely on my own is lyrics), but I'm usually the idea guy for the fine details.

    However, I do compose stuff as well, but perhaps because I'm a bassist and thus don't automatically think in terms of chords but rather general keys I tend to play very riffy stuff and thus far we haven't done anything with the stuff I've come up with. I can, even from a simple starting riff, compose an entire piece (sans full guitar chords that aren't simple power chords) with different main riff / hook, verse, chorus, and bridge parts, but it is a very different nature of song from what my guitarist friend comes up with.

    I suppose it could a difference in taste as I generally listen to hard rock and riffy stuff like that (Red Fang and Truckfighters comes to mind as they were my jam today) but I do wonder if our respective choice of instrument affects it as well; guitarists feel like intricate chord work is sort of the height and epitome of good and cool playing whereas a bassist might be more impressed and happy with cool lines and riffs to fill out the sonic space from our usual lack of chords.

    So, all that said, what do you guys think? Does bass lend itself to a certain musical mindset compared to more chordal instruments? And do you ever use bass to compose or do you guys prefer the more traditional songwriting route of guitars / keys for composition work?
  2. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I compose tunes on the bass regularly. I write lines around chord changes. Even though I'm not strumming out chords I'm still writing chord progressions. I also use a bank of virtual instruments to flesh out ideas I come up with on the bass using cubase as a sequencer. I guess it helps that I play guitar and a little keys and drums too. I've always loved playing bass and some of the grooviest stuff I've ever written has started with a bassline.
  3. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I'm a dyed in the wool bassist. Usually my process starts with a chord progression or series of chord progressions, followed by grooves. I also play a 6 string bass with effects including an octave up effect. Granted I'm starting to see myself less as a "Bassist" and more as a "Musician who plays bass" and that effects my approach meaning that I'm starting to liberate myself from always having to start lines on the root and as long as I'm hitting a chord tone on the changes I'm good plus by thinking beyond just the instrument that I play has opened up the music that I make.

    Rev J
  4. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I use my bass as a compositional tool all the time. I'm not tremendously multi-instrumental, so I cook up riffs and arrangements in a variety of genres and collaborate to flesh them out. Here is a tune I wrote on bass and presented to my band mates with no direction in particular:
  5. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    I have composed songs with my bass for decades. At this point in time I am working on decomposing.
  6. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    I think that's more based on what your musical background is over the instrument itself. I compose a LOT on bass (having done a number of solo gigs with it), and rely on chords a lot. I do also use my ukulele from time to time, but I find that for me, it's easier to write on bass and then translate it over, even with running lines and things.