I want to play prog-rock bass....where do I start?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Fassa Albrecht, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. I LOVE anything to do with prog-rock and recent events have really pumped me up to learn a completely new type of music. So I've set my heart on learning how to play and write prog.

    Question is....where do I start? What would you count as the essentials of prog and how should I go about writing prog-rock basslines?

    Any help?
  2. Play melodies and not roots.
    expatmuso likes this.
  3. Play some Rush. Take it from there.
  4. I'm thinking more of original basslines....
  5. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    If you're not already, take bass lessons, as theory is key to prog, due to the odd scales & time signatures.

    It also depends on what you mean by prog?

    To some its RadioHead & Mew, to others it's Yes & King Crimson, to others its Mastodon.
  6. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Theory and a high level of techincal proficiency are pretty key.
  7. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    Start practicing scales and modes. All of them. Master those in all keys.That will get you started.
  8. Hoover

    Hoover Inactive

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City

    I don't believe the original progenitors of "prog rock" knew much music theory at all.

    King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Moody Blues... almost none of those guys had a musical education beyond singing in church or taking some private guitar lessons. (I know Rick Wakeman is an exception, studying at the Royal College Of Music).

    What they did have was big ears, copious instrumental facility that allowed them to execute whatever ideas they conceived, a willingness to explore different sounds & expose themselves to a wide variety of music, and the conviction to pursue their muse without worrying whether or not it sounded like what everyone else was doing.
  9. Prog rock is such a broad term, and the bass styles vary tremendously across the spectrum. So it would really depend on the type(s) of prog rock you want to play.
  10. You can't write a prog rock bassline if you don't know what a prog rock bassline is. Learn a few lines from bands you like, and you'll have a much better perspective on the style.
    Ellery likes this.
  11. If you haven't already, visit the Progressive Rock Archives.

    There are a lot of bands and genres represented. Loads of free mp3s too. Might give you some ideas.
  12. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Get a really spiffy cape. Maybe John Turner'll sell you one of his.:ninja:

    Failing that, I always start learning a new style by immersing myself in it through listening to everything I can get my hands on. Once you can sing the lines, playing them and eventually making up your own lines is cake.
    tangentmusic likes this.
  13. A couple of more suggestions...

    In addition to listening to a lot of prog rock, listen to a lot of classical music. Start transcribing and analyzing the parts that interest you.


  14. Like this guy?



    My radio/CD player seems stuck on ClassicFM (the UKs biggest classical station).....
    tangentmusic likes this.
  15. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Let's see, my second band calls itself a prog rock band and here's why we think or songs are prog:

    -most of our songs are pretty long
    -they have many different parts
    -we use a lot of odd meters
    -we often use unusual chord progressions and key changes
    -we try to mix rock with lots of different musical styles

    This pretty much covers it, I guess. We also swore to ourselves not to overdo it so that the results still sound musical (which is always a good idea, in my opinion.)

    I can't really explain how I come up with bass lines, though, I simply try to work out something that sounds good, fits the music and isn't all over the place. I only try to add "extra" stuff to it (e. g. high notes, more melodic parts) when I think there's room for it. When I write music/riffs, I try to come up with interesting rhythms, chord changes and not-so-common note choices.

    By the way, when we write music, I'm usually the "hey, let's add a key change/chord change here" guy; I don't like it very much when a long song keeps on droning around the same tonality, a well-done key change can really spice a song up, but of course it isn't always needed.
  16. To me prog is mainly just being creative and open minded...
  17. CapeBass

    CapeBass Guest

    Learn a lot of 2 octave scales, the modes, altered scales such as Super Locrian etc.. and try not repeating the same riff twice. Just be creative.
  18. From a previous post of yours I think you're already familiar with them, but Muse is a great band in my opinion, even from a strictly Prog Rock perspective. Practice improvising to some of their music, that should keep you busy for a while.

  19. the_hook


    Apr 9, 2008
    This thread's a bit old but makes good points...

    What I did was learn songs from other Prog bands first: a lot of Rush, then once I got good at their music I looked at Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Mastodon, Yes, Genesis, the list goes on, but these are the 'big names' in Prog. Learning the songs on bass (I eventually added synths and pedals) gives you a good 'foundation' of that type of music, getting you used to time changes, key changes, with parts that move from heavy metal to jazz to blues, etc. I'm now trying a 5 string bass, just to get that added lower range.

    Then find some people into making original Prog music and see how much you learned from doing covers. That's the direction I'm going in now.
    NealBass likes this.
  20. Bass_Thumper


    Oct 20, 2009
    Madison, MS
    +1 to this. Whatever it is that you consider prog, learn the basslines back and forth and this will help you understand where they are coming from musically. It's such a technical style (which I love btw) that I can't imagine attempting that style without ever learning at least a few basslines by your favorites.