1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)


Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by phaneo, Jan 6, 2005.

  1. phaneo


    Mar 14, 2001
    Fort Worth TX
    Can anyone tell me if there is a certain type of scale that reggae bass is based around. It seems to have a distinct sound to it, and it seems like any song can be transformed to reggae just by changing the bass line. I've been playing it more and more with my band, so I was hoping to get it right from the start. I don't want to have to rewrite anything later. Thanks for any help.
  2. Superdave


    Apr 20, 2003
    St. Louis, MO
    Most reggae is in minor keys, that doesn't mean that a lot of it comes in major, but just to give you an idea. It's a lot about feel, and it'll come to you with time. Listen to a lot of reggae and try to transcribe the basslines, it should help your playing.
  3. If you do a search on this forum you'd get a couple of threads on this subject which will explain a few points
    Other than that one advice is the notes not being played is just as important as the notes being played
  4. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    The key to reggae is the feel. Most of the time the bassist is comming in on the off beat and not the one count.
  5. In my experience the reggae basslines are mostly composed of triads, with a lot of roots and fifths. But as Cassanova says, the key to reggae is that laidback feel. I don't know how to explain it, but the best way to learn that feel is to listen to a whole lot of Bob Marley. Aston "Family Man" Barrett is a great reggae bassist!

    If you're playing the kind of reggae that has swing -- rather than straight 8th notes, experiment playing with different amounts of swing.

    Jus feel it, mon.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    IMO, the scales/chords, etc are almost irrelevant.
    As the others have already mentioned...it's FEEL & TIMING.
    Too, the same can be said for other musical styles.
    What I'm getting at is this-
    ...you can play ONLY the ROOT note & with Feel & Timing you can make that Root into Reggae or Rock or Funk or a Shuffle or Ska, etc.

    How long or how short you play your notes also factors into the equation.
    For a driving Rock line in 1/8th notes...you may want to use long/full value notes.
    For something a little more funkier...shorter/staccato notes.
    For Reggae...maybe some combination of long vs. short notes.

    Also, you can have things that fall(primarily) into a-
    1/4 Note feel
    1/8th note feel
    1/16th note feel
    Tripletted feel
  7. (trying to describe the reggae feel) It's almost like you stall some notes, and as JimK noted, there is an importance in making notes short and long.

    How can you learn this feel? Listen to as much reggae as possible, and most importantly, play with a reggae drummer. One of the drummers I had the opportunity of playing with for quite some time was a real reggae drummer, so he showed me lots of cool stuff.
  8. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I have not listened to a lot of reggae, but I usually like the lines I hear.

    Laid-back, perhaps behind the beat a bit. Lines are often sparse - lots of space - with simple diatonic note-choices.

    Bass doesn't seem to anchor the bottom as much as in other genres - more likely to add color rather than root-on-1 type of foundation.

    Good luck with this great music.
  9. phaneo


    Mar 14, 2001
    Fort Worth TX
    Cool thanks guys. That's kind of what I've been doing. I think one of you hit on a good point about a reggae drummer. My drummer is awesome, he is mainly a rock drummer though. I had the oppurtunity to play with a good reggae drummer a few years back, and it was a little tough for me. I had pretty much only played rock. There is deffinitely more space and feel to reggae drums as well as the bass. I guess it's something we both need to work on together.
  10. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000

    I forgot to mention this in my first post and you reminded me about it in yours.

    The laid back feel is usually a shuffle. The best way I can explain what a shuffle is, is "a lazy, laid back, behind the beat feel"
  11. it comes down to playing with feel and heart.

    Reggae is not as technical as people think, it could be in minor or major.

    Thing is reggae is not based on 4/4 like people think. Bob Marley may have played "rockers" reggae, but most reggae is based on West African time signatures. Listen to Maurice Ekpo (Fela Kuti's bass player) and Robbie Shakespeare and you'll notice what I'm talking about
  12. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    Feel is VERY important but like all music the other musicians contribute trimendously.

    Everybody's Talking about playing behind the beat. Well for the bass thats true BUT the CHOP(ie the skank the Back beat thing the Guitar and Keys do witch is incredibly important every thing swings off of it) is anything but Behind the Beat if anything its Pushed slightly. If your Guitar player or Keyboardist doesnt feel this You will be acused of dragging if you play behind the beat.

    In a Roots Style I feel the Chop is ahead, the Bubble(the thing the Hammond player does) and the Drums are on the Beat and the Bass is Behind and its all played with a subtle compressed sound the Feels SMOLDERING.

    Yes its Deffinetly that kind of music the some tunes Fall in between Striaght and Swinging Some are dead striaght most deffinetly swing and alot fall in between. Be very aware of where you want to define the swing and hold it right there.

    I seen reggae notetaed in Cut time and 4/4.

    Oh yaeh Triads and Holes (ie Space) in the Rhythm.

  13. Yeah, as a keyboardist, bubbling was one of those things I just HAD to learn. The skank is traditionally composed of an organ (Hammond B-3, of course), electric guitar, and piano. This must be played very precisely, but right in the pocket.

    And then the cool thing about Reggae is that you can mix different layers of swing. For example, the congas might not be swinging at all, while the bass and drums are swinging. That's what gives it that really cool laid-back feel. You can also put in fills in a swing song that are completely devoid of swing.
  14. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I'm starting to think that some serious study into the the structure of reggae would be good for a bassist who plays any kind of music.

    I've only even become AWARE of this idea of playing 'on top of' or 'behind' the beat in the last half year (since I've been on TB, actually). I did have an adea about what I guess I sort-of considered 'a slight, strange kind of shuffle or swing or something', which I think is what I was percieving this as. Now this is the first I've considered of some instruments playing in front of, and some behind at the same time!

    Reggae is fascinating to me.

  15. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Do an internet search on "the one-drop". The reggae / ska feel is more about rhythm than it is about note choices, although those are important as well. The one-drop is a rhythmic way of playing the bass line.
  16. The that my friends and I were talking about reggae is that the (good) musicians are physically very lazy but musically very tight. Because it is so hot there (and most of them are likely high to some extend) they don't want to exert themselves too much, but at the same time they know how to make people dance. This is why is close to impossible for most non jamacians to play reggae, not only are we not used to the way they play but we also don't know what it's like in jamacia, and with this music the place is key to the music.