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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. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    Because OP is asking where to get started. Get started by keeping it simple and locking in with the drums and following the changes and main riffs/theme of the song. Once comfortable with the songs, you should be able to figure out where you have room to explore and expand in that direction.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
    red_rhino and LBS-bass like this.
  2. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia living la vida loca Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Yeah, that's not it. My first impulse was to bring in some R&B/soul/funk flavor. But that really ain't it. Next I got to walking, and... nope. There's definitely no room for tumbao. I just have to embrace the straight eighth pulse, and maybe cop some pentatonic minor licks for fills. I only have to learn them in like 3 keys. :)

    My biggest problem, as several astute observers have pointed out, is overthinking it. I appreciate the perspectives here.
     
    NKBassman likes this.
  3. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    Agree with this. There's a lot of rock that isn't very simple, but you still have to step out of the habit of wanting to walk everything in order to play it.

    However, 95% of what's being played in clubs to people being paid to play it is dance music, which tends to focus on the rhythmic elements to get dancers on the floor, with bass as a rhythm instrument that couples closely with the drums in order to bridge the gap between pure percussion and chordal instruments. That's not always the role, but in this context, it's a good bet.

    I second the suggestion to listen to anything John Paul Jones has done; Entwistle as well. Those two guys were accomplished players who could embellish tastefully and also lay down a solid groove where desired. With Jones you'll also get a variety of styles, as Led Zeppelin grew out of blues-based music and then sort of took of on their own direction with Jones driving a lot of that material.

    When you listen, play close attention to the way the drums and bass work as a unit. The bass will still be doing all sorts of fills and embellishments, but always, always, always in sync with the drums, even when they are not playing notes at the same time. They will always be referencing each other in some way. There's really not much comping for a rock drummer although Moon and Bonham were both pretty busy players by rock standards.
     
    Esteban Garcia likes this.
  4. J-Mags

    J-Mags

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    I'd say if you've been playing jazz, you ape Cliff Williams and Dee Dee Ramone for at least a month, just to sideline the part of your brain that's questing. Then you open it back up again.
     
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  5. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Possibly. But I’ve failed more than one player on their audition because they couldn't stop swinging the beat. Sure, some sub-genres of rock occasionally go into a swing beat (or even a bossa-nova for that matter ;)) for a chorus or bridge. But it's not (in my experience or opinion) what rock is about or where it wants to go. To me swing is more a pop thing. Rock is more about syncopation when it wants to get fancy.

    So that said, if a jazzer or pop player were thinking about getting into rock, I’d suggest going light on the swing thing. At least until they get a better feel for where it’s appropriate in a particular song.
     
    LBS-bass, Esteban Garcia and JimmyM like this.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Because he's not familiar with the styles and idiosyncracies of rock and roll bass playing yet, and jazzers jumping right into playing rock and roll from a background devoid of it very rarely sound good. Most sound downright sad at first. And the same can be said of those going in an opposite direction, or jumping into pretty much any genre without some experience. So you play it safe till you get more familiar with it, and then you can start adding in the things that make you sound like you.

    Just like when I came from a rock and roll background and started doing jazz gigs...loved players like Mingus, NHOP and Jaco, but there's no way in heck I'd ever jump right into it playing like them. Nope, I played it safe, learned how to do basic walking bass lines, listened to some classic stuff in the styles of the music I was supposed to do, and pretty much stuck to the basics. Still do to a certain extent, as I'm still not as versed in it as others. But I can do it and not embarrass myself unless it's bebop or really difficult fusion because I started from square one. Esteban's got a big head start because he's got the facility and knowledge to where he can listen to rock classics in the styles of his band for a couple months and absorb enough to sound quite competent. But until then, he needs to learn to crawl before he can walk. He's already rebelling at some of the idiomatic things that make rock and roll rock and roll, but at least he knows it and wants to make the effort. So that's why people are telling him to play it safe for now, and it's good advice.
     
  7. This is all fair and true. I was hasty in my comment.
     
    NKBassman and JimmyM like this.
  8. J-Mags

    J-Mags

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    The caveat to this is that you can't ape Dee Dee Ramone because it's physically too difficult, at least not without wearing your bass at your knees and practicing picking downstrokes all day. Someone not already committed to punk rock minimalism can be forgiven for not going there. When confronted with this, I decided that I'd continue alternate picking they way my jazz guitar bro teacher from eighth grade taught me in 1980. I did practice making my up strokes and down strokes more uniform.
     
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    So you CAN ape Dee Dee Ramone! You don't have to stand and play just like him to cop his basic feel. I alternate pick as well because my hand would fall off if I didn't, and like you I worked hard at making my down/up strokes more uniform, and I have no problem copping that Dee Dee groove.
     
    bolophonic likes this.
  10. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    Alternate picking ftw.
     
    JimmyM likes this.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Whoa whoa whoa! If someone wants to hear what you can do for walking bass lines in a strict and simple rock and roll context, one need only look at a few early songs by Kiss. "Rock And Roll All Nite" is all walking bass lines. Or "Strutter." Or "Love Gun." And I think you'd especially appreciate Gene's bass line in "100,000 Years." People like to call him a lousy bass player, but he's one of the most underappreciated rock bass players in history, and while there are certainly better out there, if he wasn't dressed as a clown-like vampire and spit fire, he'd be a LOT more appreciated.
     
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  12. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    I know JPJ has been mentioned many times in this thread already, but he really was the king of integrating different styles into rock context. Also look to any of the great southern rock bands: Creedence, Skynyrd, Allmans, etc for more excellent waking bass in rock.
     
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  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    ^This.

    Don’t ever underestimate the sophistication of a musical genre just because of it’s seeming simplicity.

    First time I sat in with some genuine heavy duty blues cats after coming straight out of a hardcore six year stint playing 70s era prog style was eye opening. I figured: “It’s just I-IV-V right? Eight or twelve bars, with or without the “quick change” and turnaround. Piece of cake. I should be able to cut this one by mail.”

    Well…fortunately I didn’t go in with an attitude to match my level of confidence and make a complete ass of myself. I put two and two together (my Mom didn’t raise any stupid children) pretty quickly and immediately dropped down to basic playing to just hold down the floor and the beat. This stuff was subtle. And tricky despite its seeming simplicity. It was almost entirely by feel with very little of the precision timekeeping I had become accustomed to. And there were stylistic conventions, and riffs, and a bunch of other not so little things I was clueless about that you were just expected to know if you were a blues man.

    So the lesson learned was (to borrow from an old Rod Stewart tune):

    I firmly believed that I didn't need anyone but me
    I sincerely thought I was so complete..

    Just look how wrong you can be

    So yeah. I completely agree with @JimmyM. Go in with a beginners mindset. And walk it before you try to run with it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
    J-Mags, JimmyM and NKBassman like this.
  14. J-Mags

    J-Mags

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    It's not the same. It really doesn't sound the same, even when you're good. Alternate picking rocks, and a lot of great punk bassists have always done it, but it doesn't have the same recurring blast of energy. You can make it smooth, and you can make it loud, but you can't engage the pick against the string quite the same way. The perpetual down stroke has its own vibe. Whether anyone would really notice is another story. I like the Ramones, but I've never been enough of a fan to play their music correctly, which requires a lot of physical fortitude. Even when I was a kid, I liked the Buzzcocks, Black Flag, et. al. more.

    My failure to play the Ramones correctly extends to many instruments. I'm not an expert drummer, but I took it upon myself to learn to play, largely so I could play on my own recordings (learning to program didn't seem like as much fun). I told myself that when I could play a mid-to-fast-tempo Ramones song correctly, I'd be playing drums fast enough to satisfy myself. It never happened.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  15. sowilson

    sowilson

    Jul 5, 2013
    A lot of good suggestions. My addition is learn to keep very accurate timing (just like you have to do for Country) and simplify your selection of notes. Simple with great timing - from there you can branch out. Be prepared to be the main time keeper in a rock band as many rock drummers are horrible at keeping time.
     
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  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    So I would say to you...

    1. You certainly CAN engage the pick the same way. It takes practice but you can do it.

    2. If nobody notices it unless they see you, then you're pulling it off.
     
    NKBassman likes this.
  17. J-Mags

    J-Mags

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    I think it makes a difference in that kind of music if the guitar player and bass player are using the same motion.

    Ultimately it's immaterial, because, I'm not doing it (and I play punk), and you're not doing it, so basically we're debating how disappointed to be when we go to see a Ramones cover band and the bass player is playing upstrokes.
     
    Mushroo likes this.
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Mike Dirnt would disagree.
     
  19. J-Mags

    J-Mags

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    He cheats, but so does Billy Joe!
     
    JimmyM likes this.
  20. SpazzTheBassist

    SpazzTheBassist

    Jun 20, 2006
    youre welcome

    what kind of rock is it? In your OP, you mentioned there were no deeper chord structures or diatonics. Theres plenty of rock that does, but theres big differences in composition in rock for bands like Saga than a band like The Ramones........How many pieces in the band? This can also impact basslines
     

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