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Fastest way to come up with basslines?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by StarAttraction, Sep 2, 2019.

  1. StarAttraction


    May 19, 2013
    Hello all, first, I'd like to thanks everyone who contributes to this wonderful community, I've learned so much through out the years of watching this forum

    Now, I have to come up with basslines for about 60 songs and I've beeen given few weeks. Some are easy to figure rock 8th notes songs. Some are more complicated, but overrall, most songs are easy

    Obviously I do not have to come up with something too fancy and complicated, just some basic basslines that could work well within the show.

    The thing is, that there are no tabs / sheets for those songs, all I have is the guitar chords, and my ears

    What are some fast ways to come up with simple basslines?
  2. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Once you know the chord just follow the chords and play notes from the chord.

    C = R-3-5 and then something to fill out the 4/4 measurer so R-3-5-8 with 8 being the root in the next octave so 8's normally end up being a safe note for any bass line. So would R on the first beat and the 5 on the 3rd beat.

    Yes you do need to know what notes are in each of the chords, but, take heart all chords have a root and a 5 is almost always safe so R-5-8-5 can be your go to bass line for both major and minor chords.

    Is there more? Sure, but, you will remember it better if you find the spellings for all the chords in the song you are working with yourself. Google chord tones.

    Happy trails...
  3. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    Damn, making up original bass lines for 60 songs in a couple of weeks, I couldn't do it, or rather I probably could, but I'd refuse since I'd know I would end up with a way less than ideal hack job.

    But since you somehow ended up in this situation let me at least try to give you some hopefully useful advice.

    Generally, if you got a reasonable amount of experience with creating original music, primarily and firstly go by your gut feeling, intuition and instinct, and then polish off the raw material you came up with this way by going over it again more methodically and analytically.

    If you haven't got much experience then here's how you could approach the task, first start following the chord progressions by playing the root notes of the chords, then add a few 5th and eventual some other notes from the chords played here and there, perhaps even a couple of short scale runs that fits the chords as well every now and then, in that case leaning against the main melody could be one way to approach it, and then for figuring out a fitting plucking rhythm listen to both how the chords are strummed by the guitar, in case of keys hammered by the key player, and probably most important listen to the drums, especially the kick and snare.

    Using that method ought to give you at least a somewhat decent passable result.

    Also remember that sometimes just picking 8 or 4 notes on the root will be perfectly fine and might even be just what that part of the song really needs.

    If you haven't even got any recordings but only guitar chord sheets for the songs though I'd say they gave you a pretty hard and crappy job there, but at least if that is the case, with that kind of task they assigned you to, they can't possibly, at least if they have any form of reasonable and normal sense of reality, expect much from the result.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    peter nicholas likes this.
  4. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    That's a lot of material to have to come up with in a short amount of time. It's great that you have the chords but what about melody and a general sense of what space you have to fill? I often like bouncing off the melody to some degree so I'd want to know what's going on in that department. Same thing for any other rhythmic aspects of the music. Drum beats? Rhythm guitar patterns? Of course, you can come up with some ideas and tailor them to better suit the song once you have all of this other information - but ideally you'll have an idea of this stuff up front.
  5. StarAttraction


    May 19, 2013

    All those songs are covers, so I can listen to them through youtube :)

    I guess I'm just going for the classic root locking with the drum kick, and maybe add a fifth and a fill every now and then
    dr doofie, bass12 and JohnArnson like this.
  6. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    Sounds like that ought to do the trick reasonable well, and yes, listening to, eventually also play over, the original songs would definitely be advisable.

    That it's just covers makes your task considerably more reasonable and realistically possible, still, with that many songs in such a short time span, and with no bass clefs or tabs provided, they can't within reason expect much more from you than what you have in mind doing.

    @StarAttraction Just edited this post after you read it and added this piece of advice:

    Though if there are any notable bass parts that stands out as iconic or defining for some of the songs it would probably still be a good idea to at least approximately get them down reasonably well.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    gln1955, jamro217 and StarAttraction like this.
  7. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    If they are cover songs, then just learn the bass lines to the songs!
  8. StarAttraction


    May 19, 2013
    Im also willing to print the chords, and look at them during our rehearsals, theres no way in earth I could remember all those songs

    For me, the hardest part is trying to figure out what the original bassist plays on those songs
  9. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    60 songs in a couple of weeks, with nothing but the guitar chord charts and the audio of original songs as they were mixed on the respective releases to go by, no bass clefs or tabs or isolated bass tracks provided, and no notes of how the cover band in question arranged those songs either, also memorizing all those parts in such a short time span, I don't think that would be realistic for anyone.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  10. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I mean, if you think it will be easier to write your own bass lines for 60 songs, then go for it. Personally, I would not know what to do if I were in your shoes.
  11. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    Start with the roots and follow the kick and toms
    then expand to the chordal structures
    use some 3rd or 5ths for modal variety.
    add scaled walk ups and downs when appropriate.
    BOOG likes this.
  12. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    I guess just do the best you possibly can do under those terms and hope the band who assigned you with that task have at least some sense of realism of what is humanly possible and reasonable to expect under those circumstances.
  13. Llewellen

    Llewellen Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2016
    Vancouver Island
    If they're all original songs, creating 60 good and interesting lines from scratch in a few weeks and having it all sound tight is a formidable task. You will need to learn the chord progression for each song, the chord tones that fit therein, some approach notes, and then try to associate it all harmonically and rhythmically with the melody line, etc. Good luck. A lot of good session players would pass on that task.

    If they're covers, "borrow" from the original record, at least until you get going.
    BOOG likes this.
  14. AboutSweetSue


    Sep 29, 2018
    Lebanon, TN
    Try Chordify, follow the notes and get good at winging it.

    I’ve done singer-songwriter gigs as a hired gun. It can be a pain learning vast amounts of material, but it’s doable if you’re committed, and don’t mess around.
    cheapbasslovin likes this.
  15. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    I learned 50 in 2 weeks with no charts and only the original recordings. It’s doable if you really put in the time.
  16. CyberSnyder

    CyberSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I Endorse Alien Audio Basses
    Originals or covers? Ulimate Guitar has a ton of tabs.
    vancamp and wildman2 like this.
  17. BOOG

    BOOG Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2016
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Use theory, maybe?
    Minor scale...
    Am Aeolian chord scale
    Bm7b5 Locrian chord scale
    C Ionian arpeggio
    Dm Dorian arpeggio
    Em Phrygian etc..
    F Lydian
    G7 Mixolydian
    Whatever key combined with the chord progressions should be functional, yes?
    TonyP- likes this.
  18. All you need is time, and chords. If you know the drum beat, itll come out a lot better. But, you can always feel that and adjust when actually playing the songs. But, you got the meat. It shouldn't be too hard to rock it.
  19. OogieWaWa


    Mar 17, 2013
    Oak Harbor, OH
    You got this. And I have an example to show that!

    I just played 47 covers Saturday at an outdoor festival; after getting a call from another bass dude that was supposed to do it; that a "new" band needed a guy, but he couldn't fill in, big issues with his father's health. I got that call on Thursday mid-morning.

    55 hours until showtime!

    I'd only actually ever played a dozen of the songs live, and there were 25 that I wasn't familiar with or even not have ever even heard before. OK, I'm a moron but I took it. Here's why.

    "New", as in lead by a just-turned 16 yo guitarist/singer/prodigy kid, Hunter. There was also a good drummer, Mike, that was about 33, and the kid's mom Heather on about 1/8 of the song vocals, great voice. Mostly old and rock-ish blues, and 'outlaw' country (Johnny, Willie, Waylon and both Hanks) and some southern rock and some pretty hard classic rock, and 60s=70s hippie chick pop songs. The kid is amazing, sounds like any of those deep voiced folks, shreds like you wouldn't believe; strums well, cavorts around on the stage; fearless. Hates modern music. Nice kid, too, and very supportive family.

    I told him I just wanted to make sure I got an invite to his First Grammy party 10 years from now. He thinks I was kidding. I am not.

    It turned out I really had heard 12 of the 25; so now I'm down to 13ish insurmountable problems. Thanks mom and dad for playing all that country and blues stuff in the 60s at home. Break things down into what you already know, they aren't a problem!

    Anyway, the blues weren't a problem, and surprisingly neither were many of the country and rock tunes. Blues I know. Walking and bouncing the 1-5 will get you through almost all of the country. That was a start.

    First, listen to each song you don't already know well, undisturbed, try to start picking out the chord pattern, and see if you can specifically notice where things are like bridges, breaks and key changes (we had 7 of those and I only missed one, temporarily.) Fortunately I had the info on what key everything was in.

    Listen for the bass "hooks" and learn those, otherwise just make sure you know the chord pattern for each song.

    Then play along with them a little one at a time just to get the "gist" of each song, the feel of it.

    This is where you steal stuff from yourself and any other bass player you can think of; there's only a dozen notes, really, all the combos have been hit at least once or twice, at least the good sounding ones. Just pick whatever you can think of that most fits.

    You are going to practice with the band, right? You're ready. NOTHING is better than playing with live musicians!!! We had 3 hours together that Thursday night, got about 1/3 of the way through (I was still on the 25 number until then, finally figured out the 13 after practice that actually needed work.) 47 to 13 in three hours. Yeah, I'm still fearing the worst, but not as much.

    The next thing; sit back and listen to them again. Do that frequently, you have time. It DOES add value, lots, but it just doesn't seem like it, it almost feels unproductive. Play through them again, but more intently. Then go goof off and let your subconscious work on it.

    Saturday early afternoon we got together for another couple of hours just to go over the few I had problems with and the female singer tunes. Another practice for you.

    That's about it; the bridges, breaks and key changes WILL screw you up if you let them, don't. Watch out for the verses or choruses that pop up to the 4 instead of starting on the 1. The rest, if you know the chord patterns, is just playing along and having a good time.

    Saturday night was great! The nerves left after the first three or four songs. Yeah, I told them to expect it, and I flubbed up maybe 6 to 8 songs a bit (I told them half!) until I caught on to the chord progression, but basically that's about it. The half-toasted fest crowd didn't even notice. The drummer made things really easy, very steady and easy to groove with. The kid was on fire what an inspiration! Mom did good, I even had backing vocals/harmony for most of her oldies (Big Yellow Taxi, Son of a Preacher Man and a couple more.) We even did an original on the fly; he told me the chord pattern and away we went, I think even he was impressed. Thanks again Mike drummer guy.

    What a blast, never thought I could do that; hey, you never know until you try, but you never know unless you try either!

    Edit: I slept 16 hours on and off Sunday, still can't believe it. And yeah, you'll do great, too!
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    raphaeld, B-Lo, Bodeanly and 2 others like this.
  20. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    Tackle the easiest ones first, that'll get the list down. Next, concentrate on any that have signature/iconic lines and learn them. Third, leave the toughest ones for last, that way you don't waste the little time you have on a couple of tunes. Make sure to check each tune for sudden changes in tempo, starts/stops, modulation, etc. Even an easy song can be a train wreck if you miss something. Depending on the difficulty of the list it could take as little as one night. I remember learning two sets worth of material in a couple of hours once. The key was that it was basically all the same. '50's Rock'N'Roll. C-Am-F-G or I-IV-V. I made sure I knew the keys for each tune. Don't forget the cheat sheets taped to the floor during the gig. Best to you, and I hope this helps.
    DirtDog and CarpeBasso like this.

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