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How to make a better Bass line

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by theirishdude05, Jan 21, 2003.

  1. theirishdude05


    Nov 8, 2002
    I need help making a bassline. Whenever me and my friends get together and make a new song, but the basslines just seem....boring. I just use copy the lowest note in the chord that one of the gitauars are playing, than add some licks or differences in. How do i make a better bassline?:confused:
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    How is your theory? If you think of any given song there are usually certain scales or modes that will work throughout the whole song. Studying Scales and modes will help you know what notes WILL work theory-wise, then use your creativity and inventiveness to decide what notes you'll use. It is always best to know the reasons behind something before you give it your own signature.
  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Study scales. Ignore modes.
  4. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Aside from the standard teacher/theroy/practice advice that everyone include myself usually gets. I'm going to suggest listening to more music. Here's a story, about a man named Matty, who was play bass that wasn't funky at all, until one day Matt made a funk CD, and now the funk from Matt's finger flows... THE FUNKY BUNCH, THE FUNKY BUNCH.

    I really can't believe that I don't do drugs or drink.
  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Jazzbo, I'm wondering why you say to ignore modes...even though I don't study them as much as I would like, I still find them to be useful when constructing a bassline or soloing. I am curious why you don't find modes important. definatly Scales are more important, but modes(the -ian series) are scales in and of themselves.
  6. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Neither can we Matt, neithr can we...:D ;)
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    They're definitely useful. Very useful. But let's be honest, does The Irish Dude need to worry about the propery voicing of a Dmin7 in response to the the pianist's voicing? Probably not. Does he need to wonder whether or not we're working on melodic minor versus phrygian versus aeolian? Probably not. (Although I may stand corrected).

    I see it like this: When you're really gritting your teeth and trying to understand how to construct some sort of a bassline that works, do we need to fill our heads with b3, b6 and b7 versus b3 and b7 only versus, whoa! what's that? only b7, what scale is that? Probably not.

    I hear a lot of talk around here about modes, and it's fairly often by people not playing jazz, where they're probably important from the very beginning.

    If you want to jam some blues, or play some classic rock, or some Santana, or something you hear on the radio, there's a good chance you're trying to fly before you can crawl.

    Learn your major and minor scales. (Look, there's two modes right there!!!). And then spend a lot of time with those. A year even! Understand that your major, minor and pentatonic scales can get you very very far. Cause what's gonna happen is you're going to play those so much that your ear begins to develop an understanding of how things work. And then, all those people who say things like, "you know, I know my scales but I don't see the importance of theory," will begin to hear how the scale functions. They'll begin to realize that the natural chord from the fifth degree of the scale is dominant, and they'll start to understand why, and they won't yet have a need to match that to Mixolydian or anything else.

    If The Irish Dude posts back and says that he's trying to solo Rhythm Changes, then okay, that's one thing. If that's the case then it's time to sit down and understand functional harmony on a whole nother level, but until that time it's entirely possible that The Irish Dude is hanging out with some guys, who are saying, "Well, I'm playing a little E, and then a little A, and then I'm playing a little C minor chord thingie." And The Irish Dude is saying, "Well hell, I can play a little E, and a little A, and a little C, but I want to get more interesting." So instead of making The Irish Bloke think of A Lydian and C Aeolian, let's tell him, "Practice those scales a lot! I mean, a lot! Practice the arpeggios a lot."

    Let's tell him, "Practice the arpeggios like crazy. And play around with the rhythm of just the basic triad, 1-3-5. Do different stuff with just those 3 notes. Then, add the 7. Irish Dude, do you know the 7? If not, check out Jazzbo's lesson on the home page. And then Irish Bloke, when you're jamming with these guys on 1-3-5-7, playing all around with the rhythm, then we can add some other scale/chord notes, or some chromaticisms."

    But if you tell him that you've got phrygian, locrian, lydian, melodic-minor, harmonic minor, aeolian, ionian, major pentatonic, mixolydian, minor pentatonic, bebop major, eastern scales, blah blah blah. When you tell him that, you put the cart before the horse.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree with Jazzbo as well - I played in pop-rock groups for 10-15 years quite happily without ever knowing what a mode was - although I could play the arpeggio of any chord, you cared to name and could even play these on keyboards.

    In the second or third week of studying Jazz though, it became apprarent that I needed to know what "Dorian Minor" was!! :D
  9. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Sounds good...I see your point Jazzbo, I guess its just hard for me to realize what it is that any given poster might be after sometimes, I guess I really am more rooted into Jazz than I thought, and I can barely walk a bassline ;)

    Thanks for taking the time to give such a verbose, yet direct answer to my question Jazzbo :D
  10. Well, I have very little (some) formal training, in music or in bass playing, but have been doing pretty well for myself in playing covers and doing a little improvising on my own for over 5 years now.

    What I've found lately is that I can sing a bassline to almost any song (okay, at least sing it in my head and be in pitch!) and make it work. That being the case, the challenge is to translate what's in my head to the fretboard. I find this comes from just spending a LOT of time playing the instrument and become a master at RELATIVE pitch. Once I can get what's in my head to come out of the bass, my work is done. More and more, I don't even have to think about it. What's more, this is all done without a single thought to theory, modes, and whatnot. Of course, I know what the root of the chords is in each song I play, but don't really give any thought as to whether the guitar is playing a C major or a C min7; I guess I do know how they sound and what notes will work at that particular time in the song, but it goes back to the fact that my brain will not let me pick a note that's wrong at that point in time, so if I can just get the sound to my hands, I'm there.

    Maybe I'm rambling now....
  11. Ed,

    Good stuff. I have no doubt that I'm mostly regurgitating musical phrases etc. that I've heard and maybe played before, now that you bring it up. But I'm not sure that this is really all that different than how we "speak" on a regular basis, nor how we want music to sound.

    I say "Hey, batta batta" while my team's on the field, and all who are "in the game" know what I'm referring to and what it means. Now, I could say, "Hey, my opponent who is in the batter's box and attempting to gain a hit against my team and thus obtain a victory, I want you to not be successful in this endeavor", but this is out of the ordinary in this context and thus just not right.

    I think our musical audiences, and ourselves, want to hear that which we are somewhat familiar with, and this goes hand-in-hand with how I guess I compose a bassline. Most would agree that a musical score needs to repeat rhythms and patterns within a song, as this becomes recognizable to the listener and makes them feel they "get" the song. Otherwise, we'd just be improvising and all going our own ways and coming up with a bunch of muck (jam bands take note!).

    Now, I am NOT saying that I think overproduced, sugary, non-creative songs such as those heard on pop radio today are a good thing, as I think they're taking this idea too far, way too far. But I don't think that every composition we come up with needs to be groundbreaking to make it good. Triads have worked for a long, long time.

    What I'm trying to convey in this post and my first one on this thread, is that I think most of us have in our heads what we want a song to sound like, and the challenge most of us have is to properly translate this to our instrument.

    Course, I could be wrong....

  12. I have no doubt it is I that you describe here.....:p
  13. Download the song, "The Wait" ... Metallica's versoin.

    You will learn SOOO much about solving your problem once you listen to this song.

    Bass fills..you will be much smarter my friend. :D
  14. Gents,

    Excellent thoughts and postings. Let me take a stab at providing input. I'm not a pro and only have a modicum of theory and talent, but I can certainly relate to the struggling greenhorn.

    When we're first starting to develop lines, I couldn't agree more that you should limit your toolbox to the major, minor, penatonic, and possibly the blues scale.

    I would suggest just taking a song (set of chord changes) and jamming with the song over and over again. Play around with the respective arpeggios for each change and see what you come up with.

    You should know enough theory to understand that if you're playing the '2' of a major scale, e.g. D in C major, you should probably start playing with minor arpeggios first and see if you find something you like.

    I guess we all have our favorite licks that we keep coming back to, but if you're playing around with a tune long enough, you can usually squeeze out something kind of cool and original if you open your mind and discipline yourself from playing those same old lines that feel 'oh so good.'

  15. Also remember that less can be more. If you don't really know what you are doing, throwing in fills to make the song more interesting may also make the song more irritating. You won't realize this until you record, playback and really critique yourself.

    My basslines have improved by 100% by playing the root and using simple, strategically placed fills. I've ditched riffs - most of my fills are the walking bassline techniques in Ed Friedland's book - just trying to connect the root notes in a coherent manner.

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