moving past syncing bassline with kick drum

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by remo, Jun 23, 2005.

  1. remo


    Jan 15, 2005
    I’ve been playing in this band for about two months, all the material is original and written before I joined the band. I’ve played bass for about 6 year but never played bass in an original band before. The bands sound is soft/alt rock. It's pretty straight forward pop music really.

    I listen to lots of chart pop music and other stuff and often hear the bass just simply syncing with the kick with a run here and there in certain spots to highlight main parts etc… I have adopted this style in my bassline creation in this band but now I’m getting negative feedback from the band that my parts are TOO in sync with the drums and not flowing enough. I hear things like “its all nice and neat but it does not fit the song”. And "play more wit the vocals than the drums"...

    I do agree my parts are simple (just syncing with the kick and adding a run here and there) but I’m also very conscious of “over playing” and don’t want to ruin the songs with too many bass notes…

    The drummer has quite syncopated kick drum patterns which I think already give me enough “notes/beats” to follow. i feel that the drummer needs to simplify his parts if anything. Less cymbals, tom "parts" and fills at every oppertunity (I've mentioned this but the rest of the band seems to like the overplaying)... I'm staring to feel the band wanting MORE parts (bass, drums etc) because they are not confident enough to simply let the songs stand up on their own without the sonic "overstuffing".

    What I’m trying to figure out is why does the “bass locking with kick” method work on these pop songs I hear on the radio so well but in my band I’m asked to write more melodic and flowing basslines (song within a song kind of stuff)…

    I think our music needs simple basslines that are mainly roots and a few scalier runs here and there… So how does one come up with more un-syncopated and melodically flowing lines without cluttering the song with too many notes??? Should I start chugging out 8th’s in the choruses and drop a note here and there?

    This is a pretty complex post so to simplify it: what is the next step from syncing your bassline with the kick and just backing up chords with root notes? :confused:

    If anyone can suggest some songs I could listen to for a "complicated but simple" bassline in a pop song please let me know...
  2. If the drummer plays complex, syncopated lines with the kick drum, then you're probably best off sticking with simpler lines. Half notes and quarter notes and eighths. You don't need more complicated lines; what you need are independant lines (but which still fit the song!). So if everyone else is syncopated, then you be simple and melodic. Outline the chord progression, using mostly quarter notes, sometimes with eights as passing tones. Don't ignore the kick, but don't follow it exactly. Generally, the drummer will probably be trying to emphasize the beat, to anticipate it, or to avoid it to make a "space". Be aware of this, and go with it. If the drummer is trying the third route, then how can you help? Hold a note, or insert a rest? If the drummer is trying to anticipate the beat, or emphasize it, then maybe you should join in, and play an accented note. Start with a measured 4 beat line, and hold, shorten, or drop notes to fit. Above all, have a melody. Don't just outline chords. Make it fluid. On the other hand, don't be afraid to just play the roots if that helps you make a fitting melody.

    What I'm trying to suggest is that you lock with the drum a little less closely. Decide which beats are truly important, and only lock with them.

    I don't know if I've really helped, but I tried to give you at least a little food for thought. A snack for thought, maybe? Without hearing your band, it's hard to say any of my post actually applies to your situation.

    I like Alkaline Trio's basslines, if you're looking for some melodic playing that also stays with the rest of the band.

    I should have read more closely. After writing all that, I see that you're already on the right track. Just remeber that melodic != lots of notes. Melodic == well connected notes. There's nothing wrong with chugging eighths, but don't forget: it's perfectly okay to make them move. If the song's rhythmic demands seem to call for eighths, play them, but feel free to change notes. Playing two eighth notes to a beat but structuring your line around the quarters is a perfectly valid way to build a line. It's also just fine to play eighths for a few seconds, then a quarter or a half note. Roots are probably a good starting place, but I'd stay away from "scaly runs." Thinking in terms of scales when you're trying to create a melody will get you into dullsville. I'm not advising against playing in key; I'm just trying to point out the difference between "I'll just run down the scale here" and actually playing what you feel fits.

    And you thought your post was complex! I'm gonna' quit while I'm "ahead." Get what you can out of this. Practice creating stand-alone melodies in your spare time. No post would be complete without a reminder to practice :rolleyes:.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I've always thought that bassists who attempt to lock in with the drummer have it backwards. I think the drummer should be trying to lock in with the bass player instead, for the exact reason your band told you what they said...because it makes for more interesting basslines and more interesting music all around.

    I have mixed opinions on this nebulous concept of "locking in." I can see where it does make things sound tighter in a rhythm section that might not be that strong, and sometimes it can sound really massive. But then again, there's a lot to be said for just ignoring the drums and plowing through them with total disregard. Berry Oakley of the Allman Brothers Band did this expertly. Listen to some old Allmans stuff that he played on for examples. Also, though many people don't take them seriously as musicians, KISS has many examples of music where Gene Simmons just steamrolls over what Peter Criss is drumming and it works great. John Entwistle did his best to steamroll over Keith Moon in the Who, though Keith did his darndest to steamroll over Entwistle, too.

    You can't tell the drummer this or he will rebel against it to spite you, but you need to make the drummer come to you instead of you going to him. Start playing lines without listening to him. Just go and have fun with it. I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that you will eventually hear him adjusting what he plays to work with what you're doing.
  4. As a drummer, I control the tempo. It's my job. Everyone else needs to have great time and follow what I do -- including the bass player. You will never find a drummer looking to a bass player to dictate the tempo -- well not a good drummer. It's not his job. Most songs will speed up if you let the melodic instruments run the show -- unless they are super tight musicians.

    I've seen too many drummers "roll-a-coaster" a song by trying to flow with the pushing and pulls of a band. Sure there is some room to breathe but a drummer has to maintain the BPMs.

    When a bass player starts over-playing or plays around the beat it just makes things sound loose in my opinion. Some trio rock bands like that sound however as it fills up more air space. Personal preference I guess.

    To me rock bands are about precision, tempo, tightness, dynamics, vocals and stage presence. But that's just me.

  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Dammit! Who let the drummer in??? Get out of here! There's nothing for you here! :eyebrow: :D

    Ox, I'm not talking about controlling the tempo. I'm talking about the parts and how they mesh up. The bassist shouldn't be letting what the drums do dictate his part. He should be getting his ideas from the main rhythm instrument, and the drummer should fall into something that goes with what they're doing.

    I don't disagree with you with what you say about overplaying, but it's not about overplaying, either. It's about coming up with parts that work. Saying that the bassist should make the drummer come to him isn't the same as saying play a bunch of crap and make the drummer deal with it.
  6. remo


    Jan 15, 2005
    thanks for the reply's guys... definite food for thought... As the tunes (including drums) are pre written but my lines are not, I get the vibe from the band it's my lines (or lack there of) that is the problem, not the drum patterns. Our music style is somewhere between Maroon 5 jazzy groove and straight forward pop tracks like John Shank's (producer/songwriter for "entertainers" like Ashlee Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Hillary Duff etc...).. what I mean by that is straight ahead 4 chord verse same 4 chord chorus but louder middle 8 etc etc.. generic pop stuff.. but it sounds great.. I really like our songs and want to get these lines right.. I will try the "write without the drums" approach and see what I come up with... can anyone suggest some other pop bands who's bass player writes moving melodic lines? For some reason my whole collection has "kick synced basslines"...

    cheers fellaz...
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    The Beatles
    The Rolling Stones
    Led Zeppelin
    The Police
    Duran Duran (say what you will but John Taylor's pretty darn good)
    Most Motown songs
    Stone Temple Pilots

    I wish I could think of some more recent rock/pop with cool basslines that are melodic, but there really isn't a whole lot.
  8. JimmyM -- I think I hear ya. :cool:

    There are alot of killer riffs that kinda lays out a canvas for the lead, bass and drum to work with. Locking onto the bass drum works well with MANY rock songs -- but not all :)

  9. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    If you're trying to get more creative and want to lock with the kit, try focusing on his high hat. A lot of bassists completely ignore it, but to most drummers it IS the clave, amd it might give you a break from some of your patterns.
  10. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
  11. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Many drummers i have discussed syncing with actualy told me that THEY sync with the bass, then the rest of the band syncs with the drummer. Ask the drummer if he/she is willing to sync with you on certain parts of the song.

  12. +1

    Most songs often start out with ME making up the melody, then the guitarist play what I play and the drummer locks in with what I played first. THEN i change what I play, the drummer locks in with the SONG, not just me. This leaves room for me to play out a bit.

    So lets say I write a rock riff, which i often to first off. The guitarist with jam along with me and the drums will come in and lock very nicely. Our drummer is very talented so he like's to do his fills here and there, which add some great flavour. So then I play along and figure out what key I'm in, then change the whole genre of bass that I'm playing. Often to jazz, blues or heavier metal. Basically that means (dont tell the drummer this or he'll kill me) that I have brought him to me, he's locked with what I played first, and I've left him to do what he will.

    Also you'll find by doing this, the drummer will be locked no matter what you do, they mainly keep the same beat, temp etc. All up, you have alot more breathing space.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Stephan Lessard & Carter Beauford...especially the early stuff.
    IMO, a current example of a busy drummer with a melodic bassist within a Pop/Rock milieu.
  14. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Listen to Tony Levin (on most Peter Gabriel records, for example).

    It is true: some songs are better served with a bass line that is simpler than the bass drum. Me and my drummer lock up our bass parts only on the songs that need more of a groovy feel.
    On the softer songs, I'll think of the simplest I can play, and play about half of that. If two notes can be replaced by one, make it so.
  15. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    Listen to The Smiths/Andy Rourke.

    Also, Sting and The Police.
  16. Mickey Shane

    Mickey Shane what goes here?

    Feb 23, 2003
    Denton, Texas
    Many of the above mentioned artists are quite skilled at playing harmony bass lines. Think barber shop quartet with a bass in your hands.

    If you're not familiar with harmony patterns, now would be the time for exploring that aspect.

    Good luck!
  17. mtnckr


    Jun 30, 2005
    Nowadays I also listen Carlos D. from Interpol. He has such a great and uniqe approach for bass playing. I recommend you to play not only the root notes but other notes in the chord or even out of the chord notes. You should be brave enough for that. Trial and error method is so usefull I think. Of course the more you try, the better results you get.
  18. cossie


    Apr 29, 2005
    I could be wrong, but i'd recommend listening to The Pixies, Kim Deal's stuff IMHO isn't all just kick drum timed and she plays a lot of 8ths.

    just my 2 cents
  19. ghostbaby


    Jul 14, 2005
    I didn't get the sense that the last poster was saying that the drummer should follow the bass player's tempo, or that the bassist should be dictating the tempo of the songs, or even that the drummer should be somehow altering the tempo mid-song. It's more like, everyone in a band should listen to each other and not get hung up on "I just made the best part for this song and it can never change."

    For example, let's say you have a band that has been around for a couple of years. The guitarist quits, and they have to find a new one. At first, everyone's parts stay the way they used to be. But eventually, the drummer thinks, "Hey, I like how he emphasizes this one note; I'm going to hit the hi-hat then too," or something like that. The bassist probably does something similar, maybe he likes a part in the guitarist's solo, and plays it with him at some point. My point is, that in a good band where everyone is listening to one another (the ideal situation), each member is influenced by the other members. It's probably a bad idea to say "I am the drummer; everyone follows me; I do not change."

    Hmm. Looking back, I'm not sure I necessarily wrote anything related to the other posts in the thread. Oh well, I still think what I wrote is valid, so it's staying. :)