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Creative process for original bass lines

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by LowMax, Jan 20, 2021.

  1. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    I'd like to begin a thread where everyone shares their concepts, ideas and processes of creating their own original basslines to play over original music.
    I'm curious to here some new ideas and also share some inspiration with others!
    Thanks in advance for sharing.
  2. Atshen


    Mar 13, 2003
    Grim Cold Québec
    As John Lennon once said to Tony Levin, "Just don't play too many notes".
  3. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    Okay. But what is your personal process when you're creating? Do you structure it off of the cords or do you follow the kick drum etc etc. For example I like to start with the cord structure first and break down the harmonic content then I look at the rhythmic structure and try to play counterintuitive to the drummer instead of exactly with him.
    Mr Cheese and Atshen like this.
  4. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    I may have spent too much time doing Jazz improv...

    My process typically goes chord chart, lead/melody (sometimes melody/lead comes before chord chart if I have a melody idea), improv bass line based on those two. Write down what I like from a few rounds of improv. Develop that further if needed. Drums tend to be an afterthought for me.
  5. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    Excellent! I think sharing the creative process like that can do a lot for me, you and all the other bass players out there by sharing concepts.
    Thanks dude!
    Mr Cheese and Outtaseezun like this.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    A lesson I learned from an old Jaco video is to learn the melody of the song, and to build the bass line around that.
  7. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    Yes...playing off the main melody enhances the chords also.
    Mr Cheese, Lobster11 and jkazam like this.
  8. I ‘hear’ a bass line in my head, then hum it, then work out how to play that on my bass. More catchy bass lines this way IME.

    Same process for walking bass lines in Jazz (an arc of a line), and soloing (still in progress).
  9. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I like to think about melody like @Lobster11 said but I very often begin with either some lyrics or picking up a gee-tar. I rarely begin with a bass. I am a terrible guitarist(!), I make the neighborhood dogs and coyotes yelp. But I strum some chords and think about it from that perspective. Then I knock about on bass on the root and follow the progressions, where would the drums sit, where would the singer inflect or pause? I try not to over think it, you can always revise to fill air where you need to. But even if someone hands me tabs or words with some melodic idea I still more often start with a guitar except when I am in the room working with them. It's my comfort zone. It can come from the air or from interpreting sheet music that I'm given. Then I write in lower clef which is my school days technique to commit to memory.
  10. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Inactive

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody notices
    Groove in key
  11. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    Yes I absolutely agree 100%. I think that the brain is a supercomputer and every note we've ever heard since the day we were born is in our head. I think I come up with some of my best lines when I take a deep breath and just let the music sink into and out of my head. I'm usually very happy with the outcome. Our fingers will do what they want when we're playing but our brain will compute a much better line generally.
  12. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    Yes grooving in key is good, LOL but I want to know what your creative process is?
  13. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    It's interesting because Paul McCartney would play The Bass from a songwriter's perspective so although he was obviously in the groove with the drummer he was also following the chords and structure really working to not only bring out The groove but to enhance the main Melody.
    Atshen and The Owl like this.
  14. misterCRUSH

    misterCRUSH It's all jazz...it's ALL jazz... Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2015
    I'm a jazz guy, so spend most of my time improvising interesting walking lines to standard and modern tunes. However, I do have a unique technique that has led to several interesting grooves and funk lines. I watch tv, and literally just play around on the bass for hours. Every once in awhile, most of the time when I'm not even paying attention, something comes along and I exclaim "wait, what the hell was that?!?!!?" I don't do this often, but when I do, something interesting always comes up. It literally takes the focus out of focusing on writing a groovy line.
  15. It really depends on the material.

    The most important things for me are knowing the structure of a tune really well, not just the chords/arrangement, but the little nuances that breath life into a tune and make it interesting/keep it from being too bland, especially the vocal -and then playing off those. Having a good tone and time/feel goes without saying. Driving the tune - I like a strong muscular bass line - and laying it back where necessary, both of which must be accomplished without getting in anyone else's way. Again this applies especially in the context of the vocal, as you're there to serve the song. Keeping the bass line interesting; i.e. developing it continually as the tune progresses, enhancing it a bit with each verse, but doing so without ever losing the overall feel or straying too much from the original part. Using 'pickups' at the start of a verse and so on. Trying to say what you need to with as few notes as possible, but in all the right places.

    The attached is an example of how I tried to apply these concepts on an original tune recorded live in concert. I think some of it worked out, but there are things I tried that didn't work as well as I'd hoped, as well as some glaringly obvious mistakes, including one passage where I completely forgot how the tune went ! If I were to play the line again, I'd do some things slightly differently...but I think you get where I'm coming from.

    Attached Files:

  16. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    That's true I've done that myself. it's sort of like turning off your brain and just letting natural instinct take over while the TV plays in the background. LOL
    JoratioMumbles and Iristone like this.
  17. LowMax


    Jul 28, 2018
    Central California
    Great reply thanks! Also nice groovy little clip there. It's true that it's best to approach each song or project differently because each song will have different needs like pickups and things. A lot of times I'll notice that many basslines are built around the drummer's foot. Not primarily but it's a general jumping off point for a lot of players. One of the things I like to do is think of myself as another percussionist like the way a Conga player would play against a drum set. That seems to give me a different Outlook where I can play off of the drum beat but not following it exactly. Sort of like enhancing it and finding the gaps and crevices within the groove.
    viper4000 and mexicanyella like this.
  18. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Inactive

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody notices
    Hahaha, I just play bro. Work with the drums, create a non conflicting/complimenting rhythm with the keys and guitar, to create the feel of the song. That's my process, I just play dude. I feel it.
  19. Exactly.

    Just a general comment: Building basslines around a drummer's kick generally works well, however it may not if you're working with a drummer who's time is all over the place, or one who puts the kick in the wrong spot. It does happen, and when it does, it's annoying. While I agree that bass-with-kick is a good jumping off point, in the kinds of circumstances described above, it's perhaps better to guide the drummer into gelling with the bass, rather than the more traditional scenario in which bass player feels compelled to lock with the kick.

    This was one of the drawbacks for me coming up with original bass parts for the project I demonstrated above. Even though I was attempting to implement each of the ideas described in my first post, I was doing so within the constraints of having to shepherd a drummer who was continually rushing/dragging. Although my ideas were well-intentioned, some came off and some did not, largely because of my preoccupation with trying to keep everything together.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
  20. bbh

    bbh Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    For me, the piece will reveal the bass line. Sometimes quicker than others.
    Mr Cheese, D.M.N., Ketbass and 7 others like this.
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