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Southern Rock Bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by omie, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. omie


    Apr 5, 2011
    Long Story...

    I'm a self taught(more or less) bass player, riff rock-bluesy bass is my thing. I recently joined my first pure classic rock cover band and I've been having a blast. I've known for years that: A working knowledge of the blues scale, pentatonic and 1-4-5's will get you far in Classic Rock and knowing that, I'm pleased to have easily learned well over half the 40 song set in 3 practices; Deep Purple, Amboy Dukes, Santana, Grand Funk, ZZ Top, SRV, Joe Bonamassa.. Fun! I've had trouble with a couple of songs and sat down for a little self practice and realized that I was having a tough time purely with the Southern Rock/Country boogie songs!? Bluesy.. riffs.. 1-4-5's!?

    I'm missing something but can't put my finger on it. I can pick out the notes, I can hear the run/returns from the 1 to the 4 to the 5 back to the 1. But I can't play it or fake it to my satisfaction. I can play 'Keep your hands to Yourself' but I'm missing almost every run.

    This is painfully obvious on a simple bass line like The Black Crowes 'Hard to Handle', I know every single note in the song, up and then down and the guys I'm playing with say that what I'm doing is 'fine', but I know; something is wrong! I'm not hitting the groove like I should and it bugs me. When I extrapolate this to much more difficult bass lines like.. 'Gimme Three steps', 'Train Train' or 'Black Betty', I'm lost... I shudder to even consider any Allmans. I'm not automatically grooving with the drums and I can't feel or understand how and what the transitions are and often I'm having a tough time playing the main riff in a way that satisfies. Don't get me wrong, I don't have to play these things note for note but...

    I feel humbled by some of the great bass playing and foolish that I've not had appropriate respect.

    If anyone has any helpful tips or approaches to this style of bass playing it'd be appreciated.
  2. Rocker949


    Apr 20, 2005
    I'm in no position to give a definite answer. But a studio engineer once remarked to a guitarist and me that in Southern rock there is a tendency to play behind the beat. That could be an answer. As for Berry Oakley, I think he is doing some idiosyncratic playing with a pick.
  3. bassbombs84


    Dec 26, 2008
    The key to learning different genres is getting the style in your head. Listen to it, a lot. get drunk in a field with your buddies and crank up "live at the fillmore" by ABB. listen to muddy watters and charlie patton and waylon jennings and hank williams. you have to "get it" before you can play it. good luck!
  4. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    I tend to agree with Rocker949.
  5. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Try listening to some soul music, then rock it up, but keep the soul feel.
    As said it is a lazy feel that moves around the beat, on the beat to keep it stable, ahead of the beat to drive the song on, behind the beat to hold it back.
    Listen to some of that Deep Purple feel, it's swing, pure swing, the band is rocking but what pace is playing could easily be for a Glen Miller or Count Bassie song....that why Purple rocks, because Ian Paice does not..he swings. There is an old saying, it's all Rock 'n' Roll....it's just some bands forget the Roll part in their eagerness to Rock. :)
  6. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    I'm 99% certain you're playing your parts too fast. I'm not being critical, just speaking from my own experience. I grew up playing Marshall Tucker, Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Blackfoot, etc... It's all a little "lazier" than it sounds.

    Also, the drummer needs to be on the same page as you. If he's pushing hard, it won't work.
  7. Don't just know the notes, know the songs. Especially in the jamming stuff like Black Crowes and ABB the bass will lock up with not only the Drummer, but the Rhythm guitar as well. Try to ride the line between the two accenting each one when it feels right. Also, try to remember that most of that stuff was made under the influence of the weed (if not other things) and that will lend a more relaxed feel to the groove.

    In the case of ABB stuff, you're going to need to practice the lines that always appear in the songs (the SIGNATURE lines) and then be able to play counter melodies to the lead guitars. That's going to take time.

    One last idea to consider, I'm guessing that you are just in the beginning of your time with the band. This makes it considerably harder. You need to get used to the drummer (and he with you) before things get really happening. Especially when you talk about how stuff feels. Just give it time and be patient and it will start pulling together.
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Pickstyle seems to be the norm for Southern rock bass and the lines tend to be more "guitar-esque" than some other genres.

    Agreed with others that the trick is to lay back on feel even when the bass line is busy (which is often). Keep at it... It will come in time and a lot of those tunes are such crowd pleasers you'll generally get a lot of slack.
  9. omie


    Apr 5, 2011
    That's a lot of great info.

    I sat down again after my post to play some of these songs with more success. Playing behind the beat.. yes.. that! I still need some work connecting the 1 to the 4 to the 5.. but playing behind the beat seems to have been the biggest problem for why I didn't feel I was grooving. Going to spend more time practicing and then I'll report after I play with the band again.

    For something with a 'lazy' feel, the bass lines are very 'busy' and very musical.
  10. shadven


    Dec 30, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    I rock therefore I am.
    I agree with this too. I am basically a finger player, but I switch to a pick when I need too. Also, chunk out the song, pick 2 bars at a time and work on those, after you do this a few times, the whole songs comes together. I hate to admit it, but watching bass players on Youtube play a certain section has really helped me "get it" on something I have been struggling with. It is humbling when it's a 12 year old, that isn't all that good, but is able to stumble through the part I have been struggling with.
  11. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    Something that helps me get parts down that I just can't quite work out is subdividing the beat. I will clap along to the beat and sing the line. This usually works for me pretty quickly. If I still can't get it right, I will write it out. Like others have said, after I get the part placed correctly, it's all about feel at that point.