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Constructing bass lines...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Oddman545, Apr 6, 2002.

  1. Ok. I recently joined a band, just me and a couple of friends, a guitarist, drummer, vocalist, and me. Well, we want to play original songs, and the guitarist, who has written most of the songs, wants me to make up my own basslines. We're not doing gigs or anything just yet, but we do want to. But the question is, how do you go about constructing bass lines? I'm pretty sure it's been asked before and I have searched here for it and I've found some articles about it here and there. For the most part, ours songs are just some chords or power chords, and I'm supposed to do something cool that sounds good. I know you can play 3rd, 5th's, and I think 7th's (right?) and play those while the guitarist plays a chord or something, but what else can you do? And how do you normally make a bassline?

  2. frankencow150

    frankencow150 Guest

    Oct 17, 2001
    This question comes up alot,and I've asked it before too.The guys on here could help more than me,but i'll try my best...

    If your playing punk or ska,a good thing that helps is to ask the guitarist what chords he is playing,then play the minor,or major scale of that note he is playing.That sounds good.Or play arpeggio's.A thing I like to do when playing normal songs that are easy and boring,are to try to make up a spiffy bassline to it.Something that sounds really good are fills between each chord.When I make up fills,I dont follow any guidelines,I just mess around with the octave.

    If your playing alternative rock(i.e incubus,etc..),then listen to Dirk Lance of Incubus.He's the best alt rock bass player.Just listen to what he does.I'm not exactly sure what he does alot,but it sounds good to me!

    If you playing any other kind of music,then I can't help ya.

  3. Cool. Thanks. Well, we play stuff more like Incubus than punk or ska (whatever that is). But I'm working on making a bassline to a song I got here, and it sounds kinda cool. I'm not really that creative most of the time, but sometimes stuff just sounds really cool...you know?
  4. I'll show a couple of triads (1st, 3rd, and 5th) that will kinda serve as basic building blocks for constructing bass lines. if you already know these sorry ;)

    major triad; notice the shape it makes on the fretboard (kind of a triangle). you can use this same shape for any major chord. (even power chords) as long as the power chord falls on a major chord in the key you're in.
    here it is in C major. try moving the root around and playing the same shape. start with your middle finger (root), then end with your pinky.

    C major triad


    minor triad, you can use this same shape for any minor chord. when you're making your bass line, more than likely you will have to use both triads, because there is major and minor chords in every key. if your guitarist doesn't know if he's playing major or minor, you'll notice when you play this over what he's playing if it's not right (same with the major triad). it will sound like you played a wrong note, then you'll know it's wrong. anyway, like the major triad, this shape is moveable, just start on a different root. notice how the shape looks like an upside down version of the major triad. start with your first finger (root) and end with your ring finger.

    Am triad


    hope you got something outa that :)
  5. First of all, don't overlook the importance of rythmic playing. It makes a major difference if you're just punding those eight or quarter notes, or playing longer and shorter notes (sixteenths!!), ghost notes (muted notes with no clear pitch), triplets and all the stuff you can think of. You can make a great groove just using root and fifth, if you are creative with your rythm.

    Second, I like using chromatic walks to a note, for example 4-flat 5-5, in the G chord (major or minor):
    Very usefull for chord changes.

    Also, you can use slides and such to add some variations to the lines.

    If you want to know what notes you can use, ask your guitar player what chord he is playing. If he is mainly using power chords, the minor pentatonic notes spring to mind (actually they can be used in a lot of situations).
    Minor pentatonic notes in G:

    Have fun, Ruud
  6. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    If yer new at it this it may be a little rougher than going the technical route, but worth the effort and practice in my opinion. Listen to the song and imagine basslines. Hear them in your head and then try and reproduce them on the bass. I come up with my best stuff when I'm just listening and feeling. Thinking too much (5ths, 7ths, etc) gets in way of my creativity - then again, my theory and reading could use lots of help.

    When stuck - I stick to the roots and stay open minded. Things will usually evolve like that.
  7. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Here are some suggestions. These are general rules, like any rules, they can be broken:

    1) Play the root on the down beats (1 & 3)

    2) Play any other note in the chord on the upbeats (2 & 4). This usually means either the 3 or the 5 of the chord. The 7 can be played too if the chord has the 7 in it. I usually don't like the 7 of the chord on bass. It is hard to get it to sound right unless everyone is perfectly in tune. (6's also sound good over major chords. This is very common in country music.)

    3) Avoid the 4th except as a passing tone. (Not on the beat.)

    4) Use lots of octaves and fifths. These are you meat and potatoes.

    5) Use scales, arpeggios, chromatics, etc for fills.

    6) Move up and down melodically. If you are playing a 2 bar phrase and the first bar goes from low to high, make the second bar from high to low.

    7) On the off-beats you can use leading notes and tensions. This is where you get to create your own style. A tension is a note that begs to go somewhere else. For example, play on the "&" of the 4th beat the note 1/2 step below the root, then the root on the 1. 1/2 steps are very strong intervals on the bass. You will find it pushes the music forward.

    8) Use these rules to come up with a melody that sounds good on its own. If you can do this, you will have accomplished a lot.
  8. :) Thanks. I've written a lot of this stuff down, and I'm gonna get the guitarist to send me an MP3 of the song with just him and I'll just figure something out. I've never really made a bassline so I think this will be good practice, but I hope it'll be good since hopefully we'll play it in front of people. Thanks for all of your advice though!