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Creating music and licks from Scales, Arpeggio's, etc

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Soulquarian, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. Soulquarian


    Sep 30, 2008
    Hello everyone, I've been playing bass for a while, but only seriously for 3 years. I've always played by ear, and as a result, I can hear changes pretty easily and know where the root is pretty much all the time. However, this type of playing has resulted in a very "plain" style, at least in my opinion.

    I play predominantly Gospel bass, which is probably closer to R&B then anything else.

    I'm currently taking private lessons, and I'm studying music in college, however, the main problem I'm having is applying what I learn in school to my everyday playing. Right now, my ear and theory are in two completely different places, and it's really frustrating. I can hear scales in all the licks that I hear, and when I practice those licks, I can see the scale there, but I have no clue how to create my OWN licks. When I do, they all sound like plain old scales lol.

    Any advice?
  2. mdiddium


    Jun 21, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA
    I definitely know what you are saying. It's tough to write a riff that doesn't sound too mechanical or derived simply from a scale.

    For me, it's always been a fine line between learning all of the scales, arpeggios, patterns, etc... and at the same time forgetting them so I just play something that comes naturally.

    For now, I'd suggest playing around with chromaticism. It can help add a lot of color to your scales and before you know it, you might have a new riff on your hands. Chromaticism can also help you modulate or make the key more ambiguous, which also helps break things up.

    Good luck!
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I think you would probably benefit the most from anylizing basslines by players you admire.
    Use your theory knowledge to 'reverse engineer' what they play.
    Choose a song or passage you like, find out what the chords are,
    and then pick apart the bassline measure by measure.
    try to see out how it relates to the chords being supported.
    I got alot out of picking apart Jamerson's lines this way
    As you gain understanding of how your favorite players apply theory (weather they do it conciously or not),
    their ideas will creep into your own creations. Don't be afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants.
    As you add more influences, and as your own internal understanding grows, they will blend and your own voice will emerge.
  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Besides using mambo4's great advice do this. Record a backing track, and sing a bass line to it. Record the bass line as you sing it. Then LEARN exactly what you sang. That completley removes the licks, fingering patterns, scales, and modes that you know, and forces you to let the music lead you. Then figure out what you did using the theory you know (the same process used in analyzing others' bass lines above).

  5. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Start with what Mambo said and transcribe and analyze some lines you like, put your theory to work. That will also start showing the typical notes players you like use. Also study the rhythms particually the notes they play on strong beats.

    Another thing to do to start making your own lines use a line you already know as a starting place, then start changing a note here or there. Change the rhythm up. Create your own variations on the line. Also put your bass down and sing a bass line to the song. When you aren't holding your bass thinking about fingerings, chords, and notes, you sing a line you have no limitations. Come up with a good line then grab your bass and figure out what you sang.
  6. Your lines are probably better than you think.

    One thing I do when practicing is to do an exercise where I'll deliberately avoid certain notes and still try to come up with a line that is melodic and interesting and not too "out there" (unless "out" is the aim). e.g. I might try to come up with a line that goesn't include the tonic, or leaves out the 5th, or avoids the tonic AND the 3rd. I may not necessarily play these lines at a gig, but they open up the mind a bit.

    Another thing I'll do when coming up with a line is to try and incorporate fragments of the vocal melody, or of a horn, piano or guitar part.
  7. I think how you practice scales can effect your tendencies.

    Playing your scales in intervals and sequences can add a wider variety of
    "natural" licks coming out.

    I'll practice all the modes in 3rds playing a triplet on each tone...then eighth notes...then sixteenths.
    Then do it all in 4ths,5ths, and so on. It's still scales,but it sounds a lot cooler than just going
    up and down the scale over and over.

    I took some lessons from Adam Nitti. First he is the best teacher I've ever had.
    He excels at explaining the harmonization of modes and arpeggios. Also, how
    to practice them. I think he still has some free lessons on his website.
    If you're in the Nashville area, I HIGHLY reccomend it. It was my "lightbulb"
  8. To petersenbass: I might just take a trip to Nashville for a day just to take a lesson with him. I've heard many great things and think it would be ideal to get a "lightbulb" moment if the planets are aligned right. How can I contact him?
  9. I'm a big believer in having the bass follow (or "outline" in a general way) the vocal, or top, part of the music.

    So, take a song, for instance, and learn the vocalist's part on the bass.

    People above were mentioning James Jamerson, before -- in some of those old Jackson 5 tunes he played on, he basically is playing a harmonized version of the vocal line (for the most part).

    This also occurs a lot in classical music -- very often, a piece will have a top part, an interior (usually chordal) line, and a bassline that is a harmony of the top part.

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