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How do YOU create fills in your basslines?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rickter, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Rickter

    Rickter Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    The title says it all. How do YOU approach the creation of fills in your basslines? I am trying to improve my basslines when I am working from charts that only give the chords or roots to work from, but the rest is up to me. So....

    What are your preferred methods for adding interest to your lines? Do you have a favorite pattern that you borrowed from one of your influences? Is there a particular scale form you use the most? Do you like to throw down a pentatonic scale? What goes through your mind when you play a fill or is it all muscle memory?

    Interested to see how different players approach this aspect of playing. Know I can learn from you guys, so looking forward to some real eye openers.
    Lazarus27 likes this.
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Think of something that sounds good in the context of what everyone else is playing. Play it.
    Turock, Growlmonkee, 40Hz and 3 others like this.
  3. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    One way is to work the major scale wherever the progression lands in the moment. For example, for a C A G chord progression, build a melody for each chord from the major scale. When the progression is on C, make a melody off of a C major scale. When it's on A, do the same off the A major scale, and so on. Or, like a lot of blues standards do, repeat the same melody for each chord in their respective chord scale.

    Another way is to use intervals to create two note chords in the same manner.
    Tennesseemick and Rickter like this.
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    This approach has always worked for me. Well, 80% of the time, anyway. But I have no set way of figuring out what fills to play. Each individual situation dictates what I do. Sometimes I don't even do fills. It all just depends.
  5. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    New Jersey
    Depends what the drummer is doing. That's #1.

    If the guitarist is playing a chord that sustains for a couple bars I'll add a high register 6th or 7th to it. Really adds depth and color.

    Sixes and sevens aren't played enough in rock music.
  6. FingerDub

    FingerDub Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2016
    I'm doing less and less fills these days, truing to be as solid as possible so I feel you on that.

    OP, 1st, 5th, octave.

    And learn the POWER of the chromatic walkup.
  7. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    New Jersey
    YES. Like what Greg Lake does on Court of the Crimson King after the instrumental break.

    At 2:48
    vishalicious and FingerDub like this.
  8. FingerDub

    FingerDub Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2016
    Great example bro.
    LowEndWooly likes this.
  9. Yes, roots then fives and if more is needed I normally grab the octave eight R-5-8-5. But there is really all kinds of things you can do. Friend will use R-3 instead of R-5 - in his Country music. Sounds good to me.

    I think the trick to this is to get the non-chord tones into the mix. The 2, 4 and 6. I seldom go above the 8, but all of the second octave awaits you. Unless you experiment with the second octave you probably will never use it. You gotta try stuff out then file it away - like what you are asking for in this post -- so when there is a need you can reach in and grab what this songs needs.

    Full four note chord tones R-3-5-b7 normally do not come into my music, but, if I played jazz this would be a must. And then there is that secondary dominant thing that sounds good (dominant note of the upcoming chord as a lead to the next chord), but, takes a little thought so it never gets into my bass line. Chromatic, and or, diatonic runs are a no brainer and they do get into my bass line quite often.

    With my music, Country and Praise, certain things are expected; Country wants to hear the R-5 with a walk to the next chord. Praise is roots to the beat with one, if you are lucky, run somewhere in the song. Anything more than that get's fish eyes from the guys. So whatever is expected and locking with the kick drum is what I normally do.

    This does lend itself to less being more.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2016
  10. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    By feel.
    I after I learn the structure and roots of a song, as I play it with my band, I explore different ideas as they hit me while I'm playing. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Luckily the other band members (beside the drummer) either ignore me or can't hear me, so they give me pretty wide latitude to write my own parts. I suppose if I was doing something really distracting, they'd speak up.
    vishalicious likes this.
  11. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I have a mental catalog of the sound of licks and fills of players that have influenced me. This isn't to say I sat down and learned their stuff note for note but rather is the result of a lot of listening. If it's in my head it's available to reshape for different situations in a way that over time has become my own.

    Another thing is I hear all music I play as a conversation and approach interacting with other players this way. Say something interesting and avoid non sequitur.

    Also for me music never ever starts with theory. The theory is only useful to me to explain and unfold what I'm already hearing.
  12. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    How do you figure out what to say next in a conversation? Do you plan it out ahead of time, or do you wait till you're involved in a conversation and react to what's being said.

    Music is a language. Just like we don't plan what we're going to say talking to other people, for the most part, it's best to understand your musical language well enough to react, and interact with those on the bandstand with us.
    tfer, bolophonic, Jhengsman and 15 others like this.
  13. Rickter

    Rickter Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Use chromatics very frequently to do short walks up or down, or for passing tones. An excellent suggestion.
    Tennesseemick and FingerDub like this.
  14. TedH


    Dec 6, 2014
    Westchester, NY
    I took an improvisation class and it was taught by alto sax players, which was great. Point being, listen, transcribe and adopt what other instruments do in songs that you like as you will find all sorts of things in higher and lower registers. Then when listening to songs, hum/sing something that fits in with the piece, and figure out how to play that. Chord tones and scales are your friend, so find the full chords, not just the root or the song key, to the piece and go from there.

    It may not take 10,000 hours, but it does take a while before fills come naturally while you are playing. Like many things, it can be easy to add too much (kind of like when students learn how to use commas, or bass players get their first 5-string), so taste and note choice are your biggest guides. When all else fails, keep it simple or stick to your primary role.
  15. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    This youtube teacher has some cool ideas. Here's one on developing use of root and 5th into more melodic bass lines:
  16. FingerDub

    FingerDub Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2016
    This guy does livestreams on Youtube also and they are quite good as he takes questions from the viewers.
  17. I'm a hobby/hack bassist with no formal training so grab a grain or two of salt…

    I ask the guitarists what notes are in the chords they're playing. I then work to match fills to those notes in their strumming, picking, and even vocals. When they go high, I may go low or stick with the root. When they go low, I turn my amp up. :bassist:

    We have no drummer so I have much freedom above the 5th fret for accent pops and walks.
    Maureen M and Rickter like this.
  18. TedH


    Dec 6, 2014
    Westchester, NY
    What you are describing are what are called chord tones (i.e. the contents of a chord). Learning the notes of various chords, that is the 1,3,5 and 7 of major, minor, dom7, min7, maj7 will open your playing massively. Do a little bit of searching and watch this video from Scott Devine. Really good stuff.

  19. Rickter

    Rickter Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Definitely dig Scott's vid series. Very informative. Quality stuff.
  20. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    Develop your knowledge of chord tones and scale patterns to the point you don't have to think about it. Then stop thinking and just play. The minute I (actively) think about what I'm going to do next is the minute I overthink it and F it all up. Happened when we were grooving on a blues tune between verses. Got caught up in the moment and the drummer liked what I was doing enough to shout out encouragement/appreciation and in that second I wondered what I was doing that was so good and poof gone, :laugh:

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