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How do you guys write your basslines?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by r6mile, Mar 21, 2006.

  1. I'm just a noob (well not a total noob, I've playing for a year, but you know... xD). I have a band and we're starting to write our own songs. We base our songs on chords, and to write the basslines, I always use the scales (basically because I don't know another way to do it xD). I mostly use the 1st note of the scale (of course), the 3rd, the 5th, the 8th, and sometimes the 4th. I also play the lower 5th, and sometimes I even play two notes at the same time, usually the 5th and the 8th. For the endings I usually play arpegios. How do you guys write your basslines?
  2. flatwoundfender


    Feb 24, 2005
    I don't really think about scales so much, only as brief blueprint as to what fits, mainly I play what I feel. Sometimes you'll find stuff that theory told you doesn't work works. I play it as I here it. I play something that makes the song groove.
  3. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    I take it you are playing original music, otherwise, as a beginner, I think it's a great way to learn by copying the original bass player for the music your band is covering. If you are writing bass lines to original music, listen to other recording artists and study what they do. I usually start out with the root notes and build something out of that, unless a driving root note will do it. Then add driving the root note with making every other note an octave, then maybe use part of a scale to bridge yourself to the next chord in the song. There is no finite equation for this - I think you need to listen, listen, listen to somebody you really like and take from them what you like - add those components to your songs. You can take them now and understand what they are musically later, too.

  4. morf

    morf Banned

    Feb 17, 2006
    Ive never learnt scales or chords by heart, although alot came naturally. The way I do it is, I find a melody I like in my head, sing it to myself, and do my best to find it on the bass.
  5. I am fortunate enough to work with a song writer whose music really 'speaks' to me. What I mean by that is when I hear him play his rough draft on guitar, I can very clearly 'hear' in my head the drum beat that should go with it and an idea of the approach my bass line should take.

    So for me, listening and getting the idea of the feel kicks my bass lines in the right direction. An example would be; I hear his part - it sounds to me like a song Elvis Costello might write - so I hear a really strong, tom tom heavy drum part in my head (like what you hear in 'Peace, Love and Understanding' - So then I hear my bass part... Peddling heavy to compliment the heavy tom toms... then opening up and really moving around during the verses - in the choruses, build the tension up to the resolution...

    Hear the 'idea' in your head and sing it to yourself. Then write on top of it.

    I use the chord progression to help me know where my idea actually goes on the neck... but not to dictate the part - I let the idea dictate the part.

    My Formula (I have never thought about having a formula... but here it goes...)
    1. Listen to the rough draft
    2. Associate it with things I have heard in the past - Sounds kind of like 'Bowie' or ' Anthrax' or 'XTC'
    3. Imagine the beat and how my bass line works with that beat - peddaling, rolling, arpeggiating, etc...
    4. Get the chord progression specifically and map my idea to that chord progression.
    5. Based on those chords, refine the idea that is mapping over them and discover the hidden gems that come from the relationship of the chords bring.

    One could look at step 2 and say, "Oh, man... you copy other parts?" - But that is not the case. What I do is use stylistic choices that have been done in past songs to give me a framework to build upon. If you wanted to create a house that a lot of people wanted to live in, you would not reinvent the world of architecture, you would choose a Victorian or Ranch or Tudor style and add touches and stylistic variations that are specific to you to make that Tudor style house uniquely YOU.

  6. Try rhythmic variations while the song is still in the "formation" phase, once you know the basic chord structure of the song.

    It's not only the notes you are playing, but when you play (or don't play) and how long the notes last.

    Also, pay attention to what the vocalist is doing. Assuming they are developing the vocal line over time, listen to it and how it changes during the song. Try to draw reinforce the feel of the vocal with what you are playing.
  7. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Don't worry about writing basslines. Just play whatever feels good when you guys rehearse, and eventually you'll wind up with lines that you like for each song.
  8. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Good post, Man.

  9. narcopolo


    Sep 12, 2005
    richmond, va
    it depends - if i'm laying it down with my band i'll generally start by just hitting the I on 1. i'll try adding to it as we play, mentally noting which additions i like and don't like. i try to fit it into a rhythmic framework that is similar, though not married to, the kick. i like to pick up on, and often double or compliment, key melodic phrases (like jamerson did in following the vocals on ain't to proud to beg). i also like to consider the style of the song, and work my style around it - i.e. i'll consider the I-V style if we are doing a country song, or driving eighths for a new wave style thing. that comes from paying attention to recordings and watching performers.

    if it's on a song i'm writing, all of the above may apply, but sometimes i'll get lucky and just happen upon a sweet lick or two, which the band will form around. that's my favorite.

    if this stuff is a bit too complex for now, you can always write out the chords and assume that you want to be hitting the I on the first beat of each measure (though this may change over time).
    now, your bassline is going to come from connecting those dots: how are you going to get from A on 1 to C on the next 1?
    hope that gives you a good start!
  10. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    A background in theory and chops are critical to my bass line writing. I think with bass, more than other instruments, you really have to know what you are doing.

    It really depends on the genre and the atmospheres you are trying to put together as a band.

    In my band, I write a lot of the music, so many of the songs are bass-driven. What I write by myself is often the bass line.

    Dont be afraid to experiment and do things outside the norm. I try different tools that I have until I find something that is fun and suits the song- whether it is super percussive syncopated rhythms under the guitar, wide arpegios, tons of open space or long notes, or melodic lines using only tapping. Have fun and keep learning your instrument.
  11. NegatroN


    Mar 22, 2006
    When writing bass lines I concentrate completely on the drums, especially the bass drum. Of course your tone has to fit to the guitar riffs, but in my opinion the bass has to play with the drums primarily.
  12. bassist15


    Mar 6, 2006
    I tend to jsut play what feels good. And sometimes my guitarist will have a bassline he already woudl like to play so that can help sometimes too becasue it coudl acualyl be something you never thought of. I add my own flavor to his lines too. Also another thing that i did once was , my guitarist played this really cool intro , and I figure it out and played it throughout most of the song it it sounded real funky on the bass. Jsut learn that sometime simpler can sound better. You dont HAVE to like play a million notes . LEaving space sounds good alot of the time.
  13. I am lucky enough to have a very good memory and can remember many of the grooves I put down. Perhaps try writing the notes on a good old fashioned blank stave?
  14. paulodumb


    Jan 16, 2006
    ypsilanti, mi
    Listen to a lot of music where you really like the bass playing. This builds a vocabulary in your brain of what you want to sound like, even if you can't play it yet. When you get to actually trying to lay something down, try to imagine what you want it to sound like before you even play it, and then shoot for what's playing in your head.
  15. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    Listen to the sing and IMAGINE the bass line... then figure out how to play it.
    Don't let your technique dictate the line.
    your CREATIVITY should.

    and I agree it helps to imagine what your favourite players might do in a given situation until you think you've found your own style and voice.

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