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Pop songs

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bassnovice, Sep 14, 2005.

  1. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    In music right now we have to create a pop song *groan*. My groups one is coming along alright but the bass line I created is very bland. I started of just playing the noted from the chords which sounded really boring then but in like transitional noted which made it sound a little better but still not very good. I have sort of ran out of ideas and thought that maybe someone here might have a idea or can show some light onto this topic.

    Any Ideas appreciated
  2. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    the standard stuff to spice up your bass lines:

    use of octaves

    register changes (i.e. echo the same phrases an octave up)

    variation of dynamics

    connect the chords using a mixture of scalar movement, arpeggios & chromatic movement#

    echo, double and/or play counterpoint to the melody

    use of rests (play nothing at all if it works for the song!)

    different techniques to vary the timbre of your notes

    effects like chorus, flange, distortion

    and all the other stuff I forgot...
  3. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    Wow thanks those are good pointers.
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Indeed they are.. noted! :)

    Also, since it's a pop song, remember that they most important thing is the melody. A good pop song is catchy and easy to sing along to. Every instrument is there to support that melody and the bass is no exception.

    You could try taking parts of the bass line out before you try adding stuff in. Bass has so much impact when you leave a few bars space. Leaving space creates anticipation because the bass is so important in pop music.

    Take Shania Twain - Man I feel Like Woman as an example. It's my least favourite song I have to play, I hate it, but it is the perfect pop song, fills the dance floor EVERY time. Anyway, the 1st verse has no bass at all and when it kicks in for the second verse it's just crochet root notes. Simple, not at all challenging to play, but far from boring for the punters on the dance floor!

    Personally, I get a real thrill out writing thee most efficient bass line I can. Honing it down to just the notes that matter.
  5. narcopolo


    Sep 12, 2005
    richmond, va
    honestly, for a straight pop song, keeping it mostly simple is the best advice.
    that doesn't mean it has to be bland - by all means make it interesting. but at the same time it's important to remember that, in a pop context, your job is fairly straight forward: establish the tonality (holding down the roots), establish a groove, and form the glue that holds the band together. i tend to think of my role as the "designated driver." especially if the rest of your ensemble is showing off or rocking out, you can actually impress more by sitting back.
  6. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    Listen to some 'noteable' pop bass lines:

    Funky Music - Wild Cherry
    Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
    Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
    Sweet Emotion -Aerosmith
    Brick House - Commodores
    Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
    Squeeze Box - The Who
    Some Like it Hot - Robert Palmer
    American Pie - Don McLean (that's a barn-burner bassline!)

    And how about some easy ones that say so much:

    Taking Care of Business - Bachman Turner Overdrive
    Bad Case of Loving You - Robert Palmer
    Keep Your Hands to Yourself - Georgia Satellites
    Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks
    What I Like About You - The Romantics
    Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles

    A bassline does not need to be note-filled or overly complicated to drive a song. Remember that the vocal melody is what makes pop music work (for the most part), so you should leave a deep pocket for vocals and when they are not there, fill in with notes that fit what the singer is doing.

    Good luck with your tune. Are you going to share it?
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Oh yeah, and check out Paul McCartney's bass lines in The Beatles! :)
  8. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    Thanks guys. Now I don't mean to sound like i'm a baby and I need you guys to do all this for me but im still getting a boring bass line for this, but me and one of the guitarists are meeting up tomorrow to continue and fix up the song and I want to have a nice bassline to show her. So I would like to know if you wonderful bass players with years of experience have any ideas? I know you have already given me some excellent pointers. But I i'm not very good at writing my own lines especially for a pop song a genre that I usually keep away of. The chords for the verse so far are just C-G-Dmajor-F with a standard 4 chords a bar. in 4

    Thanks guys, you're great
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    is it really D major or is it D minor?

    what kind of feel/tempo is the song?
  10. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    It a fairly sombre tune, that is fairly slow in the verse but there is a change a tempo where the chorus is a bit faster. I'm fairly sure its a Dmajor, but if it doesnt sound right it is most likey a minor.

  11. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    tonight i'll write out a few 4-bar examples of the kinds of things you could try & post em up
  12. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    Wow, thanks for taking the time out to do it. Your a champ
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Try experimenting with roots on one chord, then root, 3rd and 5th on the next chord, and so on. Try being busy-ish on one chord and sparce on the next? Playing whole notes for three bars, then round up with crochets in the last bar on the F?

    F leading to C has those two clear scale patterns movements down from a 5th above or up from a 4th below to C. Real simple, it works :)

    Play with the rhythm a little, perhaps play crochets for one bar, then quavers the 1st two beats of the next bar and back to crochets again?
    Try anticipating beat one of every other bar, or pushing into beat one with a quaver on the and of beat four?

    All these ideas are useless really without hearing the tune, they're just ideas. You should literally, try ANYTHING to get the ideas flowing :)

    Try putting down your bass and singing a bass line first?
  14. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    Thanks i'll consider those when i'm sitting down with the guitarist tommorow. I can't really play any chords myself and I have a really bad memory when it comes to tunes, so I can't really see how it sounds with the chords.
  15. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    Even if they're using a Dmaj, have them try D-minor, it will make the song flow better, trust me. If they instist on the Major, try using C instead of F.
    You can play the progression with Dmin as follows to keep it flowing:



    If they insist on playing the D major, change the 3* to a 4. The flatted third (in this case F from F#) is what implies the minor in the D chord. Notice here that it starts to make sense, the progression goes from the root to the 5th (C to G) and again from the next chord's root (G) to it's 5th (D). Then you go to another chord tone, but instead of the D chord's 5th (A), you go to it's minor 3rd (F) rather than to it's 3rd (F#).

    As far as my tab above goes, it's only a guideline, you should look at the noters and see if there are different places that you would like to play them that might fit the song or your style better. If you want to play B on the A-string, 2nd fret instead of the E-string, 7th fret, then you should go for it. Also, don't be afraid to liven it up with some passing tones, such as when going from C to D, use A-C#-D (frets 0-4-5 on the A string) a' la' "Brown-Eyed Girl". Throw in a chromatic link, such as when you go from the B in the G chord to the D, you can go B-C-C#-D. I used some octaves, but you don't have to. There's no rule that says you have to play an octave every time. 4ths add a little something to the song. There is no such thing as a 'wrong' note, so long as it sounds good in the context of the tune.

    You don't have to land on the root for the 1 of every chord, but pop music usually works right if you do. If you look, there is a 'pattern' that I follow above. I'm playing the root-3rd-5th of every chord, and I threw in an octave on the C, D, and F chords. Of course, I flatted the 3rd in the Dmin.

    Take some time, look it over and use what works for you.

    Good luck.
  16. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    i've knocked up a couple of different examples of ideas you can try...


    rhythmically you're on your own, and are best off listening to the drummer... but here's what's going on harmonically... i've assumed that the D major is actually the correct chord and that it's in there because it adds a chromatic thread from G-F#-F...

    the chords: C / / / | G / / / | D / / / | F / / /

    A. a basic bouncy line using mostly roots, 5ths and major 6ths... the D major chord, we've emphasised the F#, and used it as the last note we play before the F chord... if the chords suggest chromatic movement it's sometimes good to highlight it... it can add character

    B. a scalar line with a couple of octaves thrown in and plenty of off-beat notes.. can work if the drums are pounding out a boring straight 4 beats

    C. connecting the chords using chromatic notes

    D. use of octaves... in the chord of D major, we're not playing the root but the 3rd (the 1st inversion of the chord) and making an interesting chromatic connection between the G and F.... might not work in the context of your tune but worth hearing how it sounds

    E. use of add9 tones... just another ingredient to try

    this is not all you can do obviously, but a few ways of joining up the dots... listening to the drums & melody is obviously your starting point
  17. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    All good points, cowsgomoo. I noticed that bassnovice mentioned that he doesn't know chords well, nor can he memorize well, so it's very possible that he doesn't read staff. Only guessing, but they are probably playing a D5 power chord, so it's up to him to set the tone of the chord.

    There are so many ways to translate the progression, but w/out hearing it, there's not much to go on. Your suggestions are excellent, I only hope he can read the standard transcription.
  18. Bassnovice


    May 4, 2005
    Those lines are great, i'll try them out with the guitarist today. See how they go, and yes I can read this music. Thanks for all the help everyone, i'm sure they will go excellently once I modify them a bit to go with the music. This song is going to be awesome thanks to you all.