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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. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003

    I'm in the opposite situation from OP. After college, I didn't play jazz for more than two decades (college), then joined some jazz combos, looking for more opportunities to play. You have to open your mind (and your ears).
    LBS-bass likes this.
  2. Ductapeman

    Ductapeman Ringmaster and Resident Geriatric Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2016
    The West Pole
    I started life as a drummer, but I got better
    1} Always hard to go wrong with a plain-jane P-bass. 2) Try thinking of yourself as part of the drum set, and the charts will open up like magic.

    Edited for typing in the drk
    J-Mags likes this.
  3. b/o 402

    b/o 402

    Jul 14, 2015
    DC & RVA
    1. Learn the entire Motown greatest hits catalog by ear.
    2. Learn the entire Beatles catalog by ear.
    Ductapeman and Mushroo like this.
  4. sears

    sears Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    ec, md
    You have pretty much defined "rock." Add "4. ambiguous lyrics." Maybe playing rock bass isn't as easy as it sounds!
    Esteban Garcia likes this.
  5. 7615


    Nov 19, 2015

    Do not swing!!!! If you want to wreck rock - swing it. Outside of 12/8 bluesy - and even there minimize the swing notes. If you make it swing it really won’t mean a thing - as it won’t be rock. Jazz drummers who think they can rock is a pet peeve. Funky upbeats - nope - bad idea. Learn the genre - dragging it into jazz or funk - bad idea. Learn the genre first - you say there is no space - for wrong genre feel? The underlying feel is eighths not swing. I have had many a heated discussion with jazz drummers who come off with attitude - jazz is superior - truth is they can’t play an eighth feel!
    LBS-bass and Esteban Garcia like this.
  6. Far fewer subleties in rock. Things tend to be over the top especially with guitarists and some drummers. Find a pianist or keyboard player who knows his/her s**t and you will be in better company. To be convincing rock need a steady propulsive pulse. All too often I hear the over used 1/8th note "machine gun" that can get boring pretty quickly. Lots of triads and dominant chords. Pentatonic scales are used a lot especially by guitars. Speed, flash, and energy rather than refinements. Theatrics can matter.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  7. grinx


    Mar 24, 2003
    Raleighwood, NC
    if you can't rock out with your **** out, you shouldn't
  8. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    When it comes to Rock I tend to think along the lines of Baroque - especially Bach. Same sonic density, speed, and precision with a lot of things going on. Our job is to provide the impulse and drive while finding a musically appropriate and interesting line to add to the mix.
    LBS-bass and MonetBass like this.
  9. J-Mags


    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    Haha. That's my gig! At first I tried to break it up, to my band's consternation. Now I've embraced it, and found inspiration in placing a rest here and there, playing some eighth note melodies, and knowing where every note is gonna go. It's harder than it looks. Where there's less information, you need more attention to detail in order to get it to groove.

    I still get into tiffs with the drummer about my occasional use of effects or half-time bass parts, but she's helped me more than I've helped her.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
    stretch80 likes this.
  10. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    Lock in tight with the drums. Kick and/or snare depending on the beat/part/song/whatever.
    If the guitars are doing some riffy stuff, double some of the riffs occasionally to add some spice.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  11. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Another hint. If the drummer brings out his brushes, it'll probably be a ballad, i.e. a slow song. Just one root at the chord change then nothing more till the next change tends to call attention to the lyrics being sung.

    Another example of less being more.
    Rilence likes this.
  12. 707GK


    Jun 13, 2013
    Northern California
    I would recommend starting with the root and figuring out the feel of the songs, and then branching out from there as needed. Rock bass is just as much about what you don’t play as what you do play. Take advantage of dynamics and tone changes with your right hand. As others have said, locking in with the kick and hi hat are great tips. Bass is a supporting role in most rock and is the glue between rhythm and harmony.
  13. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    Lots of good suggestions here but have we determined which flavor of "rock" the OP needs to learn? Might just be me, but saying "rock" is just like saying "pasta." There are dozens of varieties. (Some of which, for example, DO swing...)
    LBS-bass, NKBassman and 707GK like this.
  14. 707GK


    Jun 13, 2013
    Northern California
    Unfortunately this doesn’t tell us much. This is like saying, “I play horn jazz. Jazz with horns in it.” Could mean so many different things. Dream Theater falls into what you’ve described, and so does Blink 182, but they are so so so far from each other in terms of how a musician would approach the music.

    Do you have more specifics?
  15. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    3. Throw it all away.

    It's good experience, but I wouldn't start with Motown or the Beatles when trying to introduce someone to "rock" bass playing. Both have very melodic styles of bass playing, which is cool, but not quintessential "rock" by any means.

    It's hard to suggest where to start though without knowing more about what style of rock is being talked about... Rolling Stones. Pink Floyd. Led Zeppelin. Thin Lizzy. Black Sabbath. ACDC. Guns N Roses. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden... all rock (some metal), but each with completely different styles of bass playing. Could make better suggestions if we knew better what the OP was playing.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
    Esteban Garcia and red_rhino like this.
  16. MustangWally


    Feb 5, 2019
    Houston TX
    I have only ever played rock really but if it helps I always want to play a line that will get people up and dancing - it has to drive the song and it absolutely has to have killer rhythm and be so tight with the drums that folks will assume bad things about you two. So long as your drummer has a rock-solid steady feel you can build from that. If he is a funk man you are golden but those are few and far between.

    Sorry I can't help more that that.
  17. red_rhino

    red_rhino Gold Supporting Member

    This was going to be my advice as well. Many rock players (myself included) initially learned by playing along with recordings, by ear, no theory involved. Any formal understanding (i.e. theory) of what we were doing came afterward. It's not that jazz doesn't have groove or feel, but rock groove and feel is different and, IMO, best learned by doing. I know quite a few really good jazz players who are clueless about how to rock.

    Rock threads its way thru many other musical genres including blues, pop, and jazz. You probably know a lot more about it than you think you do. I would start by listening and playing along with a bunch of classic 70's rock and then work your way backward and forward from there.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  18. higain617


    Sep 12, 2013
    In all fairness, modern Metallica and The Eagles are pretty similar.

    I was pretty influenced by melodic players like Peter Hook and Barry Adamson. Post-punk bands yielded lots of great bassists.
  19. This thread is bizarre. Why are we content to encourage the OP to keep it simple and uninteresting? Sure, less is more, and eighth notes on the root are a safe home base, but why can't he apply his musicianship to explore whatever he wants?

    There's almost no limit to what you can find within "rock music":
    • Composition: Walking bass, countermelody, harmony, pedal point, bass solos, staccato, legato, swung, straight...
    • Technique: Fingerstyle, pickstyle, slap and pop, tapping, harmonics...
    • Tone and effects: Scooped, mid-forward, fuzzy, distorted, filtered, octaved, chorused...
    • Cross-genre influence: Blues, swing, jazz, funk, dance, classical...
    • Function of the bass within the band: Driving, grooving, harmony, lead...
    Thorny1 and Esteban Garcia like this.
  20. I think mambo4 has the right take on this.

    In general, I'd say start pounding root notes with a rhythm that compliments the bass drum pattern, add some leading tones between chord changes, and save your magical jazz/blues for the fills leading into the next section of the song.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
    Esteban Garcia and LBS-bass like this.

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