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bass line writing

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by d8g3jdh, Oct 4, 2005.

  1. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    I am trying to start my own band with some buddies, we are planning to be a rock (Led zeppelin, AC/DC, etc)/thrash and speed metal band (Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc). I need to write some bass lines, and was wondering a good way to go about this for these types of music (especially thrash and speed metal, most rock that we do will be covers.)

    My bass teacher told me to start with the minor/major scale, and to stay in the same chord with the guitarist, but i was wondering is there anything else for me to know beyond that? Eg, what intervals to use, what keys/modes/notes to use, etc. Also, any links to resources or good books on how to write bass lines would be good as well

    Any other pertinent/important information related to writing thrash/speed metal songs and lines would be greatly appreciated also

  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I don't mean any disrespect towards your teacher, but why is he/she instructing you to learn scales first?

    Just curious.
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Since you claim the mantle of teacher, I would think that would be fairly obvious. Once you have your scales (and modes) internalized, then he can answer his own questions as to "what keys/modes/notes to use," because he'll already be well on his way to having connected the intellectual (scales and basic knowledge of harmony) with the practical (how it sounds when I play a D ionian over that D chord, as opposed to the D lydian over Dmaj7#11.) Also, it'll help give him technical facility over the fingerboard, and help him to learn where the notes are on the fingerboard as well.

    In a very basic way: If your guitarist plays an Em chord, then try notes in the Em scale. "Chord tones," eg, the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th notes in the scale are good places to start. So, say he cranks out a first position Em -- your choices for "chord tones" are E, G, B, D, and E up an octave. Experiment with how it sounds. There are some great Metallica and Iron Maiden basslines. If you can hear 'em, try and learn them by ear. If you can't, keep trying until you can and (I shudder at saying this) use tab in the mean time to see what these guys are doing. If you hook up with your guitarist and do a cover or two, you can then figure out how Jason or Steve might've played different basslines over different chord progressions, because a bassline -- especially in metal -- is all about that bottom end groove, defining the chord, and the best way to do it is by figuring out how great bassists in the genre did before, so you can take the knowledge of those who came before you and expand upon it yourself.
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I havent played a great deal of this kind of material for a few years or so now, but I'd go for root plugging a lot of the time, bang out those quavers nice and tight with the drummer :)

    Use minor pentatonic or blues scale to move between the roots and for fills. There are countless riffs in every genre using pentatonic scales, rock is no exception. I think pretty much every tune on RATM's debut is a minor pentatonic.

    E minor pentatonic is E G A B D. It sounds great over a guitar power chord, so can be used a hell of a lot in most rock material

    The case of Led Zep, John Paul Jones uses quite a lot of chromatic passing tones between his root notes, he walks a fair amount. This kind of thing relies a bit more on knwoing what you're doing, but generally speaking, you can pretty much always walk chromatically between two root notes that are close together, a tone, or a minor 3rd. The song "hey joe" by the jimi hendrix excperience is a good exmaple of this kind of bassline.

    That era of rock also had a lot of guitar riffs doubled on bass. This can have seriously huge impact if you go from plugging those root notes to doubling a guitar riff. Oh yeah!

    Generally, you can get a LONG way by learning off records with rock, combine that with a teacher and you'll kick arse in no time!
  5. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    I'd go with Howard K; that is one the best posts about rock bass I've read in awhile. You just got to sit down and do what all the other rock bassists did before you -- listen to the music, play what they're playing, and figure out for yourself why it sounds good. In rock (and probably all music) it's okay to steal riffs, as long as you make them your own.

    All this is easier said than done, though. I'm be working hard on this till I'm grey. But this is what learning bass is really about. Listen, and play.
  6. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    intriguing, i already knew about major/minor pentatonic and the blues, as well as playing a major triad over a major scale, etc. Banging out root notes is the last thing i want to do, unless i hit a wall.

    Good advice so far, keep them coming

    Oh, and when you talk about metallica bassists, please, for my sake, say cliff and not jason, we all know why
  7. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    blah blah blah...

    You got a problem?
  8. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    What's the original poster going to take from your fist post? He won't know all of the teachers reasons for starting with major and minor scales because he's not a teacher, and it's not as though learning those two scales first is unusual.

    EDIT/ Grug, try to be more open to 'pumping roots', or at least a good percentage of roots because that's just what's going to sound good on a lot of rock tunes. Everyone wants to play something different, but take the advice of earlier posters and transcribe all kinds of rock basslines and let their note choice get into your head/hands before you try to innovate. Also, check out John Paul Jones
  9. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    well, i know lots of rock/metal lines already, but heres the thing: I cant figure out what it is that makes these lines fit so well and sound good. What is it about note choice that im not getting, besides following the guitar chords, which i already know?! this is driving me nuts.

  10. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    blah blah blah...
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I'll bet that's what your students hear, too.
  12. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    what's the bet, that's all they can hear. hehe
  13. You may be great at playing bass, great at musical theory but none of that is worth anything unless you listen to people and try to be more workable, you are not always correct!

    You'll probably respond to this post with "blah,blah,blah" like a five year old or some attack on my musicianship,

    Whatever, this isn't supposed to be offensive, a personal attack or what have you, just a call to look at what you're saying.

    And Grug, playing roots if you hit a wall is one approach to rock, but I've always preferred starting out with roots and then seeing what else works from there.
  14. Geezerman


    Nov 28, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Metallica and iron maiden are not thrash or speed metal :D but i know what you mean, in a few months i want to start writing originals and we play the same type of music as you it seems, very nervous about it.
  15. Exactly, especially if you're citing AC/DC as one of your main bands you're looking up to. Cliff Williams played roots all day long with a few little nuances here and there, and it seems to have worked out pretty well for him.

    It takes a while when you're starting out, but after a couple years of doing originals I finally figured out that simplicity is often much better than trying to write a complicated line to go along with every chord progression.

    I'm not saying you should stick with roots all the time, but playing a lot of roots, keeping solid rhythm and throwing in a few walks, passing tones and occasional fills can get you a long way in this genre.
  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yeah, I used to tell him the same thing but I gave up. He doesn't care and is supremely insulting to all who dares question him. Now all I do is warn people when he's so far out there as not to return, like when he said that teachers should get 6 months of payment up front. RIIIIIIIIIGHT!
  17. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    I'm afraid you may have joined the wrong band, then. Most rock/metal is about pretty simple, straight lines and a fat band sound which means you'll have to stick to "banging out root notes" rather frequently. I agree with Bushfire, start with simple roots and then work from there. Noodling around the 12th fret all the time is definitely going to affect your band sound adversely. Try to work in a neat fill here and there and try working with approach notes to connect the harmonies, but other than that, "classic" metal music usually calls for more supportive playing.

    In my opinion, mid-tempo songs and ballads usually give you more freedom to stray away from pounding out roots.

  18. Please! Jason did a great job. Try to be a little more open-minded.
  19. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    Thanks, now to jam with guitarists. I suppose this all just boils down to practice

    If metallica isn't thrash metal i dont know what is, besides musical genres (especially the metals) are very subjective and theres new ones popping up almost every day. For god sakes theres even doom metal (what is doom metal?)

    I know jason did a good job and is a decent bassist, but cliff is cliff, and thats it in my eyes. Jason, while being good at what he was doing, was not on the same level as cliff (in my opinion) plus they made there best stuff with cliff
  20. Jason had a hard time trying to fit into Metallica when Cliff could never be replaced. I just mean we should be able to cut him some slack.