How do you create basslines?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Harry Lime, Oct 17, 2001.

  1. Listen... I replied to an ad in the music section...a band that plays pop/punk/power-pop (Goo Goo Dolls/Foo Fighters/Blink 182 in one he says) was looking for a BASS player. But I've only been playing bass for three months. But I've been playing guitar for two years.

    Here's the deal...I've basically been emailing back and forth with this's only him (the guitarist) and a drummer. I guess for now they want a three-piece band. I don't really know. I've told him my situation...that I really dont' know any songs on my bass...and that I can only play scales at the moment. He seemed to be alright with it. But he's just asked me in his second email to me if I could come up with basslines to their original songs.

    So how would I do that? He says, he'd help me out...but I'm not sure if he'd know how...or not. So what do you say to me then? I'm not sure if I should join the band since I'm so inexperienced. But I mean, if I'm offered into the band if we meet up, then I definitely will say yes. It'd help me musically I'd think...make me practice more...I'm not really into that style of music he described...I mean, I like it, but it's not the kind of music I'd start on my own in a band. But I'm open to all kinds of music so... Thanks in advance for any helpful advice or suggestions...especailly on the basslines and joining a band good or bad...thanks.
  2. What i always do is ..

    first play the same thing as the guitarist plays, and then expiriment till you get an alternative to the guitarist's play that sounds cool.
  3. Thats exactly what I do. The first couple of times through I'll just play the root notes of whatever chords the guitarists are playing, then when Im familiar with all the changes, I'll start playing around and experimenting until I find something that sounds cool.
    If they have a new song I also get them to record their guitar part onto a tape, then I'll go home and play along with it over and over until something sounds cool.
  4. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    i look and listen to the root notes the guitarist plays but most of all i try to use those notes to "walk" on the drums
  5. Ívar Þórólfsson

    Ívar Þórólfsson Mmmmmm...

    Apr 9, 2001
    Kopavogur, Iceland
    I usually look at what the guitar player is doing, then I play the root notes and try to find some beat or grove to synch with the drums.
    When I´m familiar with the song I start adding and changing the bassline until I find something that I like.

    This varies with each song though....On some songs I tend to follow the guitar closely, on other songs I´m one with the drums.

    You just gotta try and figure it out.
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000

    What do you guys do when there's no guitar player around to look at? What if the guitar player doesn't know the song either? What if you're reading chords off a chart (you guys can read chord symbols, I hope).

    Emulating what the guitarist is doing is only good if the guitarist knows what he's doing. This might work fine for some music styles, but you might want to try different methods.

    I look at guitarists too, sometimes, but if you know the chord progression of the tune and the tempo, You can play the root (or root and fifth) of the chords on the strong beats (in 4/4, beats 1 and 3) and use your knowledge of scales to find notes that lead smoothly into the next chord.

    A bassline, in my opinion, is the synthesis of a piece of music's structure and harmony translated into a single melodic line. What you do to achieve this synthesis depends on your knowledge of music, your command of your instrument and your musical taste, meaning you can use any device you like to make the line work, including but not limited to hammer-ons, pull offs, slides, glissandos, playing legato or staccato, dynamics and repetition.

    Finding the balance between what the music requires and what we feel we should play is the first step toward developing a style. For every piece of music, there is one "generic" bassline which gets the job done, but is not very gratifying to us as musicians. Having the taste to embellish that "generic" line until it turns into something that sounds like no one else but oneself is both the challenge and the reward of being a musician.

    Will C.:cool:
  7. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    no problem, if there is no guitar player around, i'll start from the beginning, i'll choose the roots notes by myself. what's the problemwith that?!?!?!
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I have always looked at the bass line as the structure of the song.

    It should start with the guitar so you are not musically opposed what he is doing, but your main groove should be with the drummer. IT is "bass"ically your job to glue the drummer and the guitar player together.

    The other key for a bass player (although you see this in older music more than today's stuff) is to create transition. All to often, bad bands sound like they wrote three riffs and said play this, then this, then this and back again.

    The bass player can take out some of this away, by jumping up an octave for one time through a riff and then back down or even better, getting away from the root to create a different substructure of the chord.

    I always took it upon myself to create that tension and then transition from part to part. Sort of like a drummer filling from part to part.

    Other than that, any cool little riffs to fill voids, contrary motion and other elements of color are always nice.

    The key is to play enough but not too much. You aren't in contest with the rest of the band.

  9. Well.. i write 90 % of the songs anyway.. so first i make some phat guitarrifs, and then make the bass-parts to go with it..
  10. Just listening to the song without the bass. I just naturally, (or so it seems), mentally hear a bass line to fit. It may just come from listening to a lot of music over the decades. I don't know - being surrounded by music before I could talk and starting piano lessons as a child may just make it seem natural.

    Sometimes a hook or even a drum pattern will let me hear a bass line in my head.

    Given your low level of experince with the bass, I'd play it safe and go with what Allo and the lizard are talking about - play roots to the chords for starters. The embellishments with your fretting hand/your plucking hand will come. They'll come faster if you do like I do - play along with recorded music and steal some patterns!. And as Chasarms says, pay attention to that drummer's right foot!

    What happens with playing along with recorded music is it gives you a sense of the "geography" of bass lines - what they look like as shapes, (except jazz).

    One thing that may give you some relief is that songs by people who have just started making their own songs often sound a lot like those of established artists. First one I ever composed was for piano and it was nothing but a Debussy ripoff.
  11. octaves are your friends. play up higher sometimes. if you make it melodic until the part of the song where the whole band locks in and rocks, then it's that much more effective.
  12. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    What I do:

    1) Know the chord progression - not just the root notes, but the actual chords - is it a 7th? A minor?

    2) Listen to the drummer - as part of the percussion team, it is essentially your bassline FITS with the drums

    3) Listen to the melody - the bassline needs to FIT in with the melody as a harmony counterpoint

    Then 2 choices here:

    I either:

    Listen to the song, and sing a bassline that I think fits in with it, then play it


    I play the root notes of the chords on my bass, and then expand from there - either accenting the full chord by playing an arpeggio, or by playing inversions and alternatives to the root note, or by playing a groove/ riff or wherever my fingers take me :)

    - all the while keeping points 1, 2 and 3 (especially 2) in mind
  13. I used to play along from the guitarist, occassionaly I'd play a fifth, or third inplace of one of the root notes. This livens up the song, and gives it more layers, If you can combine it in a nice run, then it sits right in. (It took me ages to get the hang of this, keep trying though.)

    These days I listen to the tune more, playing along, I can't (or don't choose to) always see my guiatrists hands, so I have to listen, this makes a far better bassline.

    One tip for starters if you're doing it by ear, when the guitar 'falls' (goes to a lower chord) try to go up to a chord that fits the tune. And I don't just mean the octave!

    It's worth stopping when you've got a bassline (or riff) just to think it over in your head. How does it sound away from the music? And how do each of the parts fit with the various instruments?

    Good luck!
  14. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
  15. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    big wheel your :rolleyes: is completely useless. mine was a stupid answer to a stupid question... which is the sense to ask what do we do without a guitar player?
  16. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Mind your tongue, kiddo.

    My initial question was not a form of criticism and it wasn't even directed at you personally, hence the :rolleyes: . Maybe I should have said "Senza Parole".

    Why you got so worked up about it, I'll never know.

    I don't think my question was stupid. I'll defer to your opinion regarding the quality of your answer.

    If you don't understand why I ask, I see no reason you should bother trying to answer it.
  17. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    I usually get most of my ideas for bass lines from the lead vocal in the song mixed with the chords and the beat. I try to find a part that complements all three yet is still distinct.

    Sometimes I will imagine that my bassline is actually a background vocal part or sometimes I just try and play the lead vocal melody.

    I like to listen to a song at least once without playing a note before I try to come up with a bass line so I can hear the structure of the entire song.

    Also I would suggest you stop practicing scales and start practicing arpeggios. Scales dont sound musical. As my percussionist friend says "Garlic in, garlic out."
  18. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    big wheel:


    senza parole
  19. OK what is an arpeggio? And why don't scales sound musical?

    I've been playing a fair few years now, and I've taught myself. It took me slightly longer than it would take most people to pick up things like scales, adn I obvioulsy haven't got as far as arpeggios yet. I've heard of them... but!
  20. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    No need to swear when asking a question.

    An arpeggio is when you play the notes of a chord in sequence rather than all at once.

    Scales don't sound musical if you just go up and down the notes of a scale without attempting to fit into the harmony of the song.