rockabilly bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by rockabilly guy, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. rockabilly guy

    rockabilly guy

    Jun 23, 2013
    hey all just found this forum and hoping you guys can help me.I have been into rockabilly/rocknroll for a long time, and have bit the bullet and got myself a bass guitar and amp. (money wont go to a double bass YET) What im looking for is some help into getting me started on the wonderful world of rockabilly/rocknroll bass, any advice on tabs etc would be a great help. I should mention im not a raw beginner, thanks guys/gals :bassist:
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Go to and type in Stray Cats they have some great tabs and the the Stray Cats have that great sound.
  3. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Bass Guitar for Dummies is a great get started book. Your public libary may have a copy. is a free site. One of the better free how to play bass sites on the Internet.

    Fake chord sheet music. Why fake chord? The bands that play your music will be using fake chord and will expect you to play from fake chord. Google the following:
    guitar chords, "name of the song" the comma and quote marks help in the search.

    The major scale pattern.
    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    Want to play over a C chord?  Place the box's R over the
     C note on your 3rd string 3rd fret and the box will
    automatically place the correct notes for the C chord
    under your fingers. 
    Using your fake chord sheet music; see the Cmaj7 chord and know that R-3-5-7 will make a good bass line for that chord. Then when the G7 chord comes up you fingers just know that R-3-5-b7 is what you will need for that bass line. Listed below are the chord tones (notes) you will need to get into muscle memory.

    Basic Chords
    • Major Triad = R-3-5
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5

    7th Chords
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7
    • ½ diminished = R-b3-b5-b7
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7

    See a chord and play it's chord tones. As every key will have three major, three minor and one diminished chord it's a good idea to get your major, minor and diminished bass line chord tones into muscle memory so when you see a chord your fingers just know what will work. Now the song may only give you enough room for the root, or root five - adapt and get as many chord tones into your bass line as needed. Root on 1 and a steady groove from the other chord tones plus something to call attention to the chord change is what we do.

    First things first -- Root on the 1st beat and then the 5 on the 3rd beat for R-5 when that gets easy and you can keep up with the music throw in an 8. R-5-8-5. That is about all you will need for Rock-a-Billy for quite some time.

    Bass Guitar for Dummies will have how to hold your new bass, how to tune it, how to get sound from it and how to mute some of that sound - all the gotta know stuff.

    Good luck and welcome to the bottom end.
  4. chuckhughes2


    Dec 7, 2008
    I don't want to be mean, but I want to make sure you hear this.

    You would be better off selling your bass guitar and amp to finance an upright bass, even if you could not afford an amp right away. The playing technique for rockabilly upright is so different from the technique for electric bass that they might as well be two different instruments. Electric bass will not deliver the correct slapped sound. A very small percentage of upright bass players ever manage to become good rockabilly slappers. Get the videos by Lee Rocker, and Kevin Smith.
    You should be able to find a used serviceable upright on Craigslist for $300-$400.
    When it comes time to join a rockabilly band, they will be looking for an upright SLAPPER, and will only take you playing electric bass if they can find no upright player. I am speaking as a 30 year professional rockabilly guitar player who has known and played with many bassists.
    Best wishes!
  5. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    If you are not going to get an upright bass, then I think simple (half?) notes on the root would work best.
  6. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are.

    Along with a foam string mute, flatwound strings and most likely a P Bass.
  7. cdactivist


    Feb 1, 2013
    From someone who knows the scene (but doesn't follow it) I Share the thought - rockabilly needs an upright
    In the UK, you may well be frowned upon for just playing electric
    ... And whatever you do, don't start poppin away on an electric