Melody in basslines

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by SeanE, Jan 9, 2006.

  1. SeanE


    Sep 20, 2005
    Over the last few months, I've rededicated myself to the bass. So I've been practicing a ton, back to the basics with a metronome and a new scale method thanks to Pacman. My playing is opening up to a whole new level. I've always been a pocket player and I don't aspire to be Vic or Jaco, but something funny is happening to my lines. They are getting more and more melodic. Not necessarily more busy. In fact, I'm playing less busy on most tunes.

    Specifically, I play a lot of countryish lines and I find I'm almost unconsciencely leading or doubling the melody between chord changes. I noticed it even more when I played with keyboard play last week. I felt like I was competing with his RIGHT hand too much, if that makes sense. I back off my passing tones to give him more space, and after the jam I asked if I was too busy. He laughed and told me he was too concerned with not being too busy himself to notice if I was. Now that I know what notes are available all over the neck, I'm afraid I'm abusing the knowledge.

    So I guess I'd like to know this, how much melody most of you use in your playing? Is it just a style thing? Mostly, our band is two or three voices, drums, bass, and acoustic guitar. With that line-up, I feel pretty good about using melody, but we are doing some shows with keys, and that's my main concern. I'm talking rock, not jazz. When you are creating lines for a small groups, how much do you act as a lead instrument?
  2. kenlacam


    Nov 8, 2005
    akron, ohio
    As a bassist currently experiencing a similiar situation, I find that I have to stay in the pocket, even though I find that I am somehow creating more melodic lines when i practice-it feels as though my ears are opening more and expanding. it is an exciting feeling.
    So with that being said, my advice is go with the flow-less is always more, in a band situation...just keep it light with a little flair thrown in here and there for good measure,but it's very important to never overplay-guitarists hate that.
    That's my 2 cents. :bag:
  3. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I'm in a bit of a different situation than you, but I'd like to add that playing melody is just fine, and I recommend it. My situation, all the music comes from myself and my guitar player, so I want to be creative without being like every other bass player/guitar player combo out there. So, I play little melodies when it fits, and play harmonies with the guitar player.
  4. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    If you want the advice of an old man here goes. Think of the bass in the role it actually performs in a group setting. It is the beauty of the bass as an instrument. The bass is what sows together all aspects of the arrangement. It is rhythm, it is the basis for the overall chord structure, it ties elements of the melody to canvas of the group.

    The best players that I know are continuosly jumping on and off what other instruments are playing, darting in and out much like thread when you are sowing together a garment.

    Done correctly the counter play between the rhythmic, melodic and chordal elements in a composition within the context of the bass part will help the listener hear the whole and not just an assembly of disperate parts.

    This is, or can be, true even if your main concentration is on simply holding down the pocket. It is true even if you are attempting to be a minimilist. It is especially true if you are a hyper player who is pushing the speed and ability limit. For the later it is because if you are playing more it makes it doubly important that you are still integrating with the other instruments in a way that all compliment each other and so people "in the know" don't hear you and say "he/she sucks".

    After thirty years of playing I couldn't play any other way.
  5. SeanE


    Sep 20, 2005
    nice reply, spin. After another long rehearsal with the keyboard player, I feel more comfortable with the balance. I got joined up with a duo after they had recorded a well produced album with studio musicians. Until now, we've been playing live w/o lead instruments, but the record is full of keys and lead guitars. I've tried to integrate some of the those lead lines, but when we brought in keyboard, of course he is doing the lead stuff. Now that I'm getting used to each other, we aren't clashing so much. It's nice be able to lay back and pick my spots more.