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Rock 'n' Roll bass for a non-rocker (who knows how to play the bass)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Esteban Garcia, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia living la vida loca Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Hey gang,

    I've got a spot in a rock band, but rock ain't my thing. Great guys, good musicians, and interesting original material, so I'm sticking with it.

    Who can point me to their favorite quick and dirty "rock bass for a musician who already knows how to play bass" resource, pref online?

    Things I'm struggling with:
    1. density of sound. There just aren't a lot of spaces. Not sure how much to build a wall vs. keeping the lines more open underneath the guitar and drums walls. Obvs trying to play with/around the kick and stay out of the way of the vox, just not finding there's a whole lot of space there.
    2. squareness of the beat. If it don't swing, do it mean a thing? (Rhetorical question. I know I'm stuck with this, unless I can corrupt the drummer to bring the funk on some of the material.)
    3. harmonic structure. All dominants and minors. Definitely no major 6ths or 7ths in the material we're playing. And not much in the way of diatonic scales.
    Anyway, fumbling my way through it, trying to keep it simple, getting help from the BL/song writer on what kind of lines he has in his head. Other than some walk ups/downs, not a lot of walking, and only a little space for some funky upbeats here and there. Find myself playing a lot of straight eighths on the roots, which doesn't sound wrong, just a little bland.
  2. bassboysam

    bassboysam Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2001
    Ottawa, Ontario
    you pretty much summed it up. rock/metal does not really follow much the classical conventions. not nearly as much room to strech out, and it can be tough to make streching out sound good. my approach is to focus on the chord tones and not worry about the overall key as a lot of material is not diatonic.
  3. bfields


    Apr 9, 2015
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I'm no rock band expert myself, but to me that sounds partly like their problem, not yours. It's very easy for the guitar to turn into this ever-present blanket that just covers 90% of the spectrum. Would they be open to more rests, or adjusting their tone somehow, or just turning down?

    For the rest, I'd be busy making playlists and listening and transcribing my favorite bits. If you're doing covers, that's easy, if it's all originals, try to figure out what their influences are and listen to them.
    FretFree and LowActionHero like this.
  4. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    You don’t necessarily need a funky drummer to be in the pocket. I have played with some very un-funky drummers, but as long as their chops are strong, I have found a way to compose bass lines that swing.

    I suggest finding some rock bassists who’s work you admire and studying how they composed the bass lines that influenced you. Or any bassist of any genre, really. Turn them into your teacher.
    higain617 and MonetBass like this.
  5. RichardW


    Feb 25, 2016
    near Philly
    Plenty of great rock bassists (and guitarists, drummers, keys, and singers) grew up in other genres like jazz, R&B, country, and gospel. Just play what you feel and ask your band mates for feedback about what works best for the song.
    red_rhino and G Aichele like this.
  6. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Old time Rock is a I-IV-V dirt simple venture. Less is more. Lock with the drummer's kick and be happy with roots and 5's. OK an 8 will not get you any fish eyes. R-5-8-5. Bout the only other chords beside the I-IV-V would be a vi thrown in somewhere in the middle.

    Let Google call up some fake chord sheet music on the songs you think they will be using. Follow the chords and fall into a groove with the drummer. Less is going to be more.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  7. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Is it possible we're overcomplicating things here?
    Flaco, red_rhino, Waltsdog and 6 others like this.
  8. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia living la vida loca Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Nashrakh, eJake and Bass Boy like this.
  9. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia living la vida loca Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    The list of rock bassists who influenced me is zero members long. And Ray Brown, Charlie Mingus and Cachao aren't much help, since walking, extended chords and tumbao ain't it.o_O

    Three chords and the truth. I dig it.:thumbsup:
  10. What kind of rock? There’s a lot of different territory there!

    What are the other instruments?
    red_rhino and Plucky The Bassist like this.
  11. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Minor pentatonic scales are your friends here. But yeah, keep it simple, and as mentioned, study other rock bassists and see what they do in particular contexts.
  12. ha


    Rock band/guitarist turn down! This place ALWAYS cracks me up.... ;)
  13. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia living la vida loca Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Guitar rock? Bass, drums, guitar, vocals.
  14. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia living la vida loca Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Nah, it's me. :) I mean, the guitarist is the songwriter, and he doesn't overplay for the genre. The volume is totally manageable, we practice with IEMs, and I can always hear myself. I just don't know how to comport myself in a rock idiom.
    bfields likes this.
  15. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    There really is no specific way to comport yourself in a rock idiom. I can’t tell if you have any interest in learning about rock and roll, but the most interesting bassists out there are people who are drawing on a wide range of influences. When I was attempting to reinvent myself as a bass composer instead of a root player (20 years ago), I sat down with a pile of classic albums and learned them front to back. It helped enrich my vocabulary on the instrument and allowed me to study the mechanics of constructing a bass line with movement and energy. One of them that sticks out in my mind was Santana III. Very dynamic rock with a Latin influence. There are many bands with a jazz influence if you were interested in learning about that branch of the tree.

    Mostly, my recommendation is to view your experience as an asset instead of a liability. You could be bringing ideas to the table that nobody else would think of.
    MarkA, red_rhino, MonetBass and 3 others like this.
  16. DownWithTheDown

    DownWithTheDown Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2011
    Dallas / Fort Worth
    I think what he means is, is it more Metallica or Eagles? More Zeppelin or REM? There are many different genres. Sublime is much different than Van Halen.

    Maybe ask the songwriter who his influences are.
    ObsessiveArcher, And I and Ekulati like this.
  17. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    Major, minor pentatonic
    P bass
  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Rhythmically, you lock in with the kick drum and the hat, in that order.

    There are a number of great rock bassist who started with jazz - Jamerson, Jack Bruce.
  19. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin is my go-to suggestion for rock bass

    BUT that assumes you are a heavy blues based type of rock

    "rock" is too broad a term without examples of specific "sounds like" bands.
    ask your band mates for examples of the sound they want

    4 piece guitar drum bass vocals "rock" bands include:
    Led Zepplin
    Van Halen
    Red Hot Chili Peppers
    The Who
    The Kinks

    all of whom sound quite distinct
  20. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    youre overthinking it.....rock is the art of imperfection.....just lock in and play

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