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How to write songs

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by eedre, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. eedre


    Feb 26, 2007
    St. Louis,MO
    How many of you out there can compose an entire song from scratch on the bass?

    Lately, following the the last couple of days with my lead vocalist mentioning leaving my band, I've been trying to exercise creatively instead of becoming more technical with the bass. I can write bass lines with no problem given the groundwork for a song has been laid out already. More and more I'm facing the fact that I can't write a song using ONLY a bass. The reasons are possibly that you have to write a song on the principal instrument in the song. Guess I should dig out the old acoustic guitar...
  2. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    It's very tricky business trying to compose a straight rock n' roll song starting with the bass line, and frankly I think that's too complicated for me. Whenever I want to write a rock piece, I find an acoustic.

    Composing on bass creates a whole different monster IMHO and IME. Whenever I start writing on bass I generally end up with one of three things: a rockabilly type swing piece, a mellow jazz piece, or a jazz-funk slap groove. Most of it I can't use in the bands I'm in, but it's interesting nonetheless. I like it. :D
  3. I hate to say it, but the same goes with me. My bass lines take the entire song and condense all the musical ideas into one line.

    with that said, I also pick up a guitar to start off.

    Other than that, when I write a song, I either: focus on telling a story, or have a very specific goal in mind.
  4. eedre


    Feb 26, 2007
    St. Louis,MO
    The Achilles Heel of the bass :(

    The problem is, to play something on the bass that sounds like anything - you need other instrument(s) - or it's too busy to accompany a rock song.

    I write a lot of chordal stuff when I'm by myself (always been fascinated by the huge sound of a bass chord), but I understand where you're coming from, and I've been there. But almost everything I write is 15th fret and up... which would crowd the guitars
  5. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    I do the same. I think it's to do with the fact that when I write a bass line for a song, I write it to the drum beat, and I fill in the spaces. Trying to do that with no music to write to is just too much of a headache...
  6. FronTowardEnemy

    FronTowardEnemy It is better to go unnoticed, than to suck

    Sep 19, 2006
    Plainfield Illinois
    I have just recently written a song for my band using my bass only. I came into rehersal with it, the rest of the guys liked it, they gave their input on the intro and outro and we recorded it. I used the Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love technique. The bass riff was able to be turned around and the rest just fell into place. Unless you are one of the elite, writting a song on the bass is a very difficult task. The song is "I Say" on my bands myspace page.
  7. I wrote a little tune for valentines day. Basically, I took my acoustic bass and started playing "two bass lines at once."

    and then after that, I wrote another bass line to go with that.

    I'm quite proud of myself :D

    That was a very special moment, I highly doubt I'll write anything like that for a while.
  8. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    Amen to that...

    Trying to show some of the crazy funk inspired stuff to my rock guitarist leaves him scratching his head and eventually going "**** this, I need a drink..."
  9. eedre


    Feb 26, 2007
    St. Louis,MO
    I wish I had a portable drummer with a volume knob that I could pull out of a gig bag.

    The drummer and I come up with some great stuff when the rest of the guys are busy doing something else... or until they tell us to shut up :D

    It's different though. The D&B stuff has different emotional depth than piano/guitar... and it's not my favorite kind.
  10. My best friend (bass player) that I played in bands, jammed, recording projects since I was in high school used to come up with the idea for a lot of our original material.

    Sometimes he'd just have a simple bassline, present it to the band then I (keys) or\and the guitarist would create the chords and the singer would create the melody.

    Other times he'd have basslines including all the changes (e.g. verse, chorus, bridge) and we'd still fill in chords\melody.

    This is new territory for me as well as a bass player now since I'm used to writing with chord changes on keys. But it's not too hard to create songs\arrangments on bass by basslines if you have any idea of song structure. As in: Oh this riff starting on G is cool. I'll play it for 4 bars. Then I'll play it again starting on A for 4 bars. Ok. That can be a verse. Then I'll play this other cool riff I made up in D for 8, that can be a chorus. Etc, etc...

    He wasn't a virtuoso on bass and at the time had minimal to zero harmonic theory knowledge, but he knew how to get the idea out of his head to his hands to his bass and to us so that it could become something.

    Some of the best songs we wrote started with his bassline and our drummer's groove.
  11. Rockthesnakepit


    Dec 11, 2006
    one thing i do when writing is once i come up with a bass line, i try and simplify it (overly so) and then take it to the band. This way, the guitars can easily take my simplified work as a root line kinda deal and work out a good chord progression. Then after they have a rock riff i go back to the fuller version i first came up with and it'll usually blend real well and add to the song. its a weird process that some may find stupid but it works pretty well for just bass-to-song writing. (although i guess its not technically a full song on bass)
  12. That's EXACTLY how we did it too! Leave enough room for you or your bandmates to realize the harmony to build on your kickin' bass line!
  13. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I wrote almost all of my songs on the bass and continue to. I did however write several newer ones that started on a guitar but for me, it was more natural to start on bass. Sometimes it starts with chords and double stops, other times its just the chord progression. And, since I am big into harmonics (something I naturally discovered on my own, no Jaco-influence or musical teaching) I composed alot of stuff playing the root and then ringing out melodies with the harmonics and its some of the coolest stuff I do.
  14. eedre


    Feb 26, 2007
    St. Louis,MO
    Any recordings?
  15. What if the principal instrument in the song IS BASS?:D:bassist:
  16. skaismyhero


    May 21, 2006
    Dayton Ohio
    my band has had three songs based off the bass line. 1 we kept and is a favorite the other we ditched and the third is in the process of being made. It is hard but it can be done.
  17. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    I pretty much have given up on writing on bass since I usually come up with stuff that is way too busy for a band with two guitarists, so I just write on keys, guitar or in my head instead (flesh out a nice chord progression and then add the subtle chords qualities and melody).

    The only times I'll write a song around a bassline is if I have a specific idea of how the bass line should sound in the mix. when I have this in my head, the whole work becomes easier.
  18. I also go for the acoustic guitar for songwriting :bag:
  19. wingnut


    Apr 18, 2007
    Las Vegas Nv.
    I write on both, depends what I hear in my head at the time. Sometimes all I hear is the bassline, sometimes I hear the lyrics. For me, whatever started the song in my head in the first place is what the song is started on.
  20. Last call

    Last call

    Aug 27, 2007
    I write all my songs on bass.. its the only instrument I have so I guess I have no choice really.


    i wrote the basslines to all these songs(except for the mario brothers cover and the talking heads song) and sent them to my brother via email and he recorded guitar over my bass..

    mp3's for ease of listening in a zip folder

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