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Developing new bass lines

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by LotusCarsLtd52, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. LotusCarsLtd52


    Dec 6, 2009
    This is part rant, part asking for advice.

    My band has been playing around with this one song for awhile based on four guitar chords. The song is instrumental/experimental and consists of the guitarist doing a lot of improvisation while I keep playing my bass part over and over. It originally consisted of playing nothing but 8th note roots (E, G, D, A) but I felt that playing nothing but roots over and over was too simple and amateurish so I opted for another line consisting of a quarter note progression of root-octave-fifth-root over and over. But even this didn't seem to satisfy what I was looking for.

    I'm now in a rut where I can't develop an interesting bassline for this song. I could see doing nothing but roots over and over but this still bothers me as being "too simple".

    On another note: I asked my guitarist for the list of chords he uses on this song and...got tab. Not bad but considering I was hoping to use the chord to develop a bass line this kinda irks me. Ideas of how to convince him to give me the actual chords?
  2. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    One or the other of you is going to have to convert the tab to chords. I'd take the initiative & do it myself.
  3. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    don't think about being simple or amateaurish, think about how it sounds.

    also I don't see why you can't just work out what chords they are from the tab
  4. another option is to go the opposite way....ignore the written note and just play whatever you FEEL like playing...a good opportunity to come up with counter melodies.

    both ways have their place in music
  5. Muaguana


    Jul 28, 2009
    Well, you know the roots of the chords already, right? All you have to do is figure out the quality (major, minor, diminished, augmented - really easy to tell by ear) and you're golden.

    As for creating bass lines, one approach I like to take is getting creativity flowing by improvising in stages: keeping the chord progression in mind, create a line using different rhythms and only playing the root and occasional fifth of each chord. Work out as many rhythmic patterns that groove without adding additional tones. Then work in chord tones like the third and seventh on accents. Then add passing tones to make things more melodic - 2nds going to thirds, or sixths resolving to the fifths, etc.

    If you set parameters like these and play according to them while practicing, you'll find ways to make it interesting, and you can apply those ideas, riffs and methods of navigating chord changes to the actual song. Another approach is just coming up with a simple motive, perhaps just one bar, that you vamp under all the chords (like the bass line in "Reflection" by Tool,) and as the song progresses you make subtle changes to it by adding or subtracting notes to correspond with the guitar's dynamics and energy. It gives a different texture to the piece but works just as well so long as you stay in key.

    That, or take some staff paper, write the chords above their respective bars, and just write out a bass line. Whatever works.
  6. Marton


    Sep 20, 2005
    And don't forget that, about 99% of the time, less is more.
  7. Muaguana


    Jul 28, 2009
    Especially when someone else is taking a solo.;)
  8. Greevus


    Apr 15, 2009
    Tap, use a wah, do massive slides, play chords, gradually add or lose a note on each repeated pattern, use a tremolo bar, hold the root down, pretend you are Jaco or Victor.
    then spit fire followed by blood. if that doesn't work, then double the lines an octave higher, do one trill, slap and pop, tap artificial harmonic runs, play with a bow. then jump off your amp, land on your knees, and hold your bass in your teeth like an animal and toss a pick to your gui****.
    this is the "more is more" approach. just sayin'.
  9. balzac


    Aug 25, 2005
    Cairns, Queensland
    Listen to the drummer.

    Get together, just you and him and play through the chord progression, listening to what he's doing.

    Where are his accents? His fills? What can you play that compliments, echoes or contrasts with what he's doing?

    IMHO, it's always more effective to work with the drummer than the guitarists when constructing lines - as long as you're in the right key, of course.

  10. So, if the song is experimental, then experiment! Try working with different types of rhythms along with the drummer and see what kind of fun you have with that.
  11. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Good accompaniment supports the main melody, rhythmic style and dynamic contour of the song.
    Is their a melody?
    Is their a rhythmic style?
    Is their a dynamic contour?

    If not, that's not a song, that's just soloing over some chords.

    The first thing I usually do is listen for the melody -but if there's only soloing, then thats out.

    The 2nd thing I do is Ask what the rhythmic style of the song is. sometimes it's obvious, like a shuffle blues or Latin or something, often It;'s something I take my cue from the drummer on. If there's no drummer, maybe the guitarist strums a particular pattern before he starts really w*nking. If none of the above, you can just decide. "hey today it's reggae!...maybe tomorrow it's disco." try stuff out and see

    Dynamic contour is harder to do when the "song" is really just somebody's solo. Usually it means helping to outline different song parts like verse/chorus/bridge. Is his solo well contacted? does it have dynamics, loud/soft. slow/fast ect? if so try to listen and be sensitive to what's going on.

    But honestly it sounds like he's just using you in lieu of Band in A Box. In your shoes, I'd start with E, G, D, A and write an actual song with it, leaving a spot for him to solo.

    +1 to figuring out the chords from tab your self.
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