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Ever write songs bass line first?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by FilterFunk, May 2, 2010.

  1. FilterFunk

    FilterFunk Everything is on the ONE! Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    I was thinking back to a time, many years ago, when I was in college. I was talking with some friends about songwriting, and I mentioned that I often write the bass line before anything else in my songs. A female friend chimed in, "You have to write the lyrics and melody first, then use the melody to build the chords, then use the root notes of the chords to make the bass line. The bass line always comes last!" Not that there's anything wrong with starting with the lyrics and melody, but I couldn't believe that anyone, especially so young, would be so rigid about creativity. How often do you songwriting TBers build songs around a bass line? Or is that your standard songwriting practice?
  2. I don't know about the bass line coming last. . . but I have written songs w/ the bass line first. mostly funky-esque ones w/ an integral bass part.

    mostly my writing process starts w/ an acoustic guitar and a drum/groove idea.
  3. Bassman203


    Mar 29, 2008
    I often start with the bass line. Lyrics usually come last. Anyone who thinks there is a structured way that you must write a song is closed-minded.
  4. mikekim


    Mar 16, 2005
    I believe Get On The Floor by Michael Jackson was built around Louis Johnson's bass line.
  5. cyrusstark


    Nov 2, 2009
    Chicago, IL
    Well, she's also assuming that the only thing bass is good for is following the chord progression with root notes, which anyone in this forum knows is definitely false. Most of the outstanding basslines we know and love (or compose!) are far more elaborate than she is saying.
  6. I must admit that I can't do that. I'm just not very good at getting the absolute foundations of a song going.

    Let the guitarist pick out the chords and the rough rythmn. From there me and the drummer will jam out and work in our own fills and lines.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    With my usual "not a lot of experience" caveat, I've tried sketching out some songs for my band to develop. Since I'm the one originating them, I start with lyrics (and some idea of a melody) and then a bass line -- usually in that order. So far we've only pecked at them a little but the drummer figures out what he wants to do from the bass line and the guitarists' chords come last, picking chords off the bass.
  8. I always like hearing how other people do it, starting with the lyrics seems odd to me just because we can crunch out the music faster than lyrics. We've always got a 5-6 song lag :help:

    (ie songs that are finished, except don't have lyrics)
  9. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    I've made a couple of songs with the bassline first. I always make the music before I make the lyrics anyway, but I feel it's a lot easier to do find chords/riffs on guitar first, and then put the bass there. Not to say I don't make new riffs on bass. But whole songs are easier to do on guitar/piano IMO.
  10. onebigtrip


    Jul 21, 2009
    Flagstaff, AZ
    i second this. creativity is not a structured process. our band writes songs based on who has the riff. Sometimes i'll bust out a new bassline and we go from there. sometimes the guitarist plays a new riff and we go from there. then the refining and structuring of the song can begin.
  11. If you listen to composers that play bass as their main instrument, I believe they have the bass line more integrally involved in the song.

    Listen to Dave Holland's, Charles Mingus', Avishai Cohen's, Jasper Hoiby's (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=36153) work....it sounds more bass-centric and to me more interesting....I like groups led by bass player/composers for just this reason. I guess this is more applicable to jazz than other genres, tho.
  12. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    I start with the bass line most of the time when I write. So there. :)
  13. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    At the risk of sounding like I'm joking, I usually have a fully arranged sound in my head and then work backwards to isolate the instruments and figure out what everything is actually playing.
  14. FilterFunk

    FilterFunk Everything is on the ONE! Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    Agreed! Even though I was very young and fairly new to songwriting back then, I thought it was weird that she was so rigid about the process, and so dismissive of the role of bass in a song.
  15. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    With my band we usually make the drum line and bass line first. Then guitar, then vocals.

    Our songs typically end up sounding fairly funk-ish.
  16. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
  17. can_v


    Feb 2, 2010
    Not very often, i have to say. Unless, I'm in the mood of writing something instrumental. But then again, I normally lay down the drum groove first, then bass line.

    If i remember correctly, there's only one vocal song with my old band that I started a with laying out the bass line first.
  18. XtheDeadPawn


    May 24, 2008
    Yes. I sorta do it cause it's hard for me to emote when doing a vocal track without something. I got like 20 odd songs on my Tascam DP01 like that. I don't know how to edit the length of the ghost tracks though so they just sorta hang out there on the recorder I can't upload 'em either cause hotmail won't take their length. It's been two years for some of 'em. I don't think I am good at DIY and I'm in a punk band!
  19. FilterFunk

    FilterFunk Everything is on the ONE! Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    Same here. When I write the bass line first, it's usually a funky song.
  20. Maxi


    Mar 4, 2008
    Sydney, Australia
    I write a lot with bass first, but that's just because I tend to play bass way more than guitar (could have something to do with me being absolutely terrible at guitar).

    But most of the time I'll have lyrics somewhere, and music somewhere, and I'll just kinda match them up. Usually because I can't play the music I hear in my head :p

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