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improvising Bass lines

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by K_Fenplayer, Dec 15, 2000.

  1. K_Fenplayer


    Dec 15, 2000
    Hey I've been playing for about a 1/2 year and am starting to get into making my own bass lines from chords, funk/rock whatever, any suggestions on how a bass line can be made more interesting?
  2. i have what people call "no talent" so i just kinda jump around and sing and stuff

    no actually when i write bassline i just take the guitar chord and make up my own little fills by using major and minor scales

    its probably easier for me since i play punk though. i think that funk would be different
  3. Hello K,

    When I started out I found it hard to improvise because I just didn't have the basic tools (knowledge of scales, timing etc) to do so.

    From my limited experience (there are loads of people on this forum more able than myself) there are generally 3 areas in which to make it 'interesting' without having to be Jaco/AJ/Flea/insert bass god of choice here:

    1. Rhythm: Syncopate the line, don't just play on the 'one'.

    2. Melody: Within the chord changes of the song use the relevant scales to make the bassline say something.

    3. Harmony: Don't necessarily be tied down to the root of the chords your song uses - experiment and try playing from the 3rd/5th/whatever of the chord structure of the song.

    BTW Don't get bogged down making something more complicated than it needs to be - I feel that groove and locking in with my drummer is more important than burning frets.

    I hope this helps a bit; there is LOADS of stuff out there to help you. Get a teacher. Get books/CDs/Internet lessons. Practice. Practice with your favourite songs. Practice with your mates. Get some gigs. If what you do makes people want to dance/wiggle/mosh/pogo you have, in my (small) mind, cracked it. Have fun :)

    I have gone on a bit so I'll get off before I get lynched by the moderators ;)

    [Edited by smoothergroover on 12-20-2000 at 09:10 AM]
  4. K -

    Learn your scales and arpeggios, ESPECIALLY your arpeggios. The arpeggios will give you the notes to work from for the chords, and the scales will give you the notes to connect them together. That will cover the harmony and melody that smoothergroover talked about.

    For rhythmic ideas, listen and steal. We all did it ;). Just work out what your favorite players are doing, and give it your own "spin". Oh yeah, and have fun!

    Like smoothergroover said (man, he's smart, ain't he? :D), if the audience is moving to your groove, you're doing it right.
  5. K_Fenplayer


    Dec 15, 2000
    Thanks everybody! I think I have some new ideas from what you've said. I'll work on the scales and arpeggios, and in the meantime, jam and see what happens.
  6. Grooving with the drummer is the most important thing you will ever do. Playing with a drummer is the only way you can practice it! For advice on any aspect of playing, get into any of the books by a guy called Ed Friedland, or suss out back issues of Bass Player magazine. If you're serious about improving, get a teacher and learn to play jazz, even if you dont like jazz it's the most helpful music of all for improving your knowledge and your improvisational skills. Many top rock bassists can play some jazz, and this helps them come up with interesting lines.
  7. dj falkroy

    dj falkroy

    Dec 27, 2000
    Along with learning the arpeggios, you should learn the inversions. Like, instead of playing an F major chord with the root on the 1-E, try playing it with the root on the D string, 3rd fret. so your fifth will be on the A string, 3rd, your third is on the G string, 2nd fret, and you have a lower octave third on the E. If you learn how to play root notes in the middle of the arpeggio like that, you can get interesting sounds and it helps a lot in coming up with melodic lines.
  8. Addition to what has been said, I also might add that whatever type of music you normally listen to directly/indirectly influences your style of playing.

    I found this out when I was playing along (or "bass karaoke" as my dad calls it sometimes) to Delerium's <I>Karma</I> (the last album to be learning bass from but play with music that I like). After playing along "Forgotten Worlds" (a normal staple), I let it go to the next track "Lamentation" since I wanted something different and I haven't heard it since I first listen to the entire album. I found the root note and starting doing this "British psychedelic rock" style of playing (Roger Waters' early days in Pink Floyd is the best example I can think of that illustrates it) where I slide to the octave above it on the same string (hey I have two octaves on one string... I can afford it :)). Eventually, it branched into other bits with the change of mode but that first improv became the "theme" of the bassline (since I came back to it every so often in order for it to "make sense"). I discovered from then on how important early Pink Floyd is to my style of playing (as well as other snippets from here to there).

    I guess the point of this "rambling" is show how musical influence can direct your style of improv playing just as much as the song you're playing or how you want the bassline to sound according to the "rules" (or the lack thereof in several cases).

    Derek J. Power
  9. arpeggios? what are these? can someone please explain. sorry if I sound dumb. :)
  10. With my very limited knowledge of music theory, I feel ill-equipped to answer this, but I'll just throw in my 2¢ for good measure. :)

    Anyhoo, I know a LITTLE bit of music theory, and this makes coming up with bass lines a lot easier for me than it was a few months ago, when I knew right up next to no music theory at all. I tend to pick a key (or 2) and just fiddle with the notes in there, hopefully sticking to something that sounds decent...and some of the stuff my bandmates have found very interesting. We might even get a couple instrumental pieces down. :D

    Oh well. My worthless HK 2¢ :D
  11. GlassBullet


    Sep 9, 2000
    this'll make me stoopid, but whenever we improved i just picked a scale in that key and played whatever. usually i do minor penatonic blues, it's always fun.

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