stoner rock bassline logic and feel

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Phaidrus, Jul 20, 2022.

  1. Phaidrus


    Oct 25, 2009
    Always liked stoner/desert rock but never played any. Since forever I've been playing either old school funk and its contemporary variants or dub reggae, for which genres I do have the feel and the technique and I pretty much know what I have to do. But with with stoner rock I can't quite figure out what the basic idea of the bassline is. For example, in funk you focus "on the one", as Bootsy has famously theorized. But with stoner? I have the impression the bassline accents the root of the chord and may play some simple fill or lick every now and then. But I could well be wrong. Is there any "method" to it?

    Two tracks to illustrate the point. In the first, if I hear correctly, it goes back and forth between Emin and Dmin but can't figure out the logic of the bassline, if there's any. GOAT (my current favorite) are not a stoner band strictly speaking but this track is, more or less.

    More repetitive and hence structured but still not yet fully understood the bassline in the Fu Manchu track.

  2. ugly_bassplayer


    Jan 21, 2009
    Get a pile of records and get to work
    Transcribe and play along to those tunes

    Woodshed ftw
  3. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Speaking of the genre as a whole, it's usually judicious use of the blues scale and either aeolian or phrygian with the corresponding harmonizations. The minor seventh to root motion you hear in the first track you posted is super hip in all adjacent genres as well.
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  4. I don’t think it’s as easy to pin down as funk and reggae, where the emphases on certain beats (the 1 in funk, and 1 and 3 in reggae) are such integral ingredients of the genres. I think of stoner rock as essentially lo-fi ‘70s hard rock and proto-metal, detuned and slowed down, with a bit of jamming thrown in, so maybe it would help to approach it like classic rock until you get a feel for the idiosyncrasies that make it “stoner.” If you want to do more than just hold down the (ultra) low end, listen to how Jack Bruce and Geezer Butler spiced things up in Cream and Black Sabbath, respectively. Scott Reeder was no slouch in the latter days of Kyuss, either. I think tone plays a larger role than technique, though—hopefully you’ve got a ridiculous Sunn stack or similar to get you there :bassist:
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2022
  5. Phaidrus


    Oct 25, 2009
    Thanks. You mean, it's an E minor 7?
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  6. Phaidrus


    Oct 25, 2009
    I recently acquired a Green Russian Big Muff to stack it with a tube drive pedal and a tube preamp through a 2x12 cab, so tone wise, although no SVT+fridge, my rig sounds alright.

    Excuse my ignorance but what would be the classic rock bassline approach? One reason why I never played rock, although I like some subgenres of it, is that I don't quite get the logic of the bass, which seems to me to basically support the guitar chords. But surely there's more to it.
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  7. Good question :laugh: I suspect you and I are coming at rock bass from almost opposite directions. Metal and the heavier side of stoner rock are riff-based more than chord-based. The simplest and, often enough, best approach is for the guitar and bass to play riffs in unison, with the guitarist(s) sliding (I+V) power chords up and down the neck and the bassist playing the root notes of those power chords. I personally like when they play variations on the same general idea and try to work that into my lines (it helps that I’m my own guitarist :laugh:), but even so it’s easily unison riffs about half the time for me.

    I can compose and play riffs all day and night. While I can keep up with chord progressions, it’s definitely not my natural approach after decades of listening to, composing, and playing various genres of hard rock and metal.
  8. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    don't forget to take a few Geezer style extended fills!
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  9. Phaidrus


    Oct 25, 2009
    OK, I'm starting to figure it out. :woot:
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  10. Isaac_James


    May 20, 2021
    Eugene, OR
    That'll do you very nicely. I have done some playing around with my Muff (not the green russian but the bass big muff) and I've found that judicious use of a low and high pass filter cleans up some of the mud that a lot of folks don't like. Particularly with a pedal that doesn't have a wet/dry blend like the green russian, that can help keep some definition in your sound.

    I haven't listed to much Goat but I really enjoy the track you shared. Thanks for sharing, they're going in the rotation for sure.
  11. Phaidrus


    Oct 25, 2009
    Thanks for the tip. I've also ordered the EHX Hot Tubes, which may have a sweeter response to bass guitar than the Muff.

    And hijacking the thread may I add a short track list of GOAT & Co.

  12. daveX99


    Jul 28, 2020
    I don't have much to offer in terms of advice - I listen to lots of styles of music and 'know what I like' without fully understanding what makes one genre different from another. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Goat track in here - I have a couple of their albums and really dig them. Hadn't heard that particular track before.

    One of the things I like about them is that they actually seem to have an African/Mid Eastern vibe going with their instrumentation and rhythms (not so much in the particular song you posted, maybe). Keep in mind that I don't necessarily know what I'm talking about. :)

    I like the Fu Manchu cut as well, but that sounds more punkish. I need to think more about what Riff Ranger means (#7 above), but I think he's on to something about the style being riff-driven as opposed to a chord progression (I don't think I even heard a chord change in the Fu Manchu song?).

    Anyway -- good luck & have fun.

    edited to add: Phaidrus added a post while I was typing with a bunch of Goat tracks -- the ones from 'World Music' ('Diarabi' & 'Golden Dawn') are examples of what I'm talking about wrt Mid Eastern sound.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2022
  13. Phaidrus


    Oct 25, 2009
    Yes, indeed, that's what makes GOAT so special to me. They manage to combine disparate genres - stoner rock, afrobeat, European folk, middle eastern folk, Pink Floyd (Ummagumma era) licks - that I really like and never thought probable or even possible to reconcile. I mean, Fela Kuti + stoner basslines + banshee vocals!
  14. So, I should listen to GOAT.
  15. I can’t say I’ve seen anyone hijack their own thread before. Well played!
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  16. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    For me, it's all about the Kyuss and Nebula.

    The former's guitarist famously formed QOTSA, the latter came outta Fu Manchu.

    The style, for me, is stoned and repetitive Sabbath.

    In many ways, it's about the drums.

    Never heard Goat before, kinda like stoned and repetitive Sabbath meets Tull.

    And helium, lotsa helium for the singer.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2022
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  17. definenredefine

    definenredefine Nobody likes a drummer... Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2022
    North Carolina
    That's what I got out of that as well.
  18. definenredefine

    definenredefine Nobody likes a drummer... Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2022
    North Carolina
    All of this. Start with Sabbath, then Melvins' slower stuff, then Kyuss, then Sleep.

    Oh, and get yourself a jean jacket, post haste.
  19. Isaac_James


    May 20, 2021
    Eugene, OR
    I haven't played with the Hot Wax but from demos I've heard, it's pretty sweet and I think it'll also do the job for you.

    And thank you for more song suggestions. If I may return the favor, Goat reminds me quite a bit of the Swedish psychedelic rock band Dungen. They're well worth seeing live if you have the chance.

    That "middle eastern" sound in stoner rock often comes from the use of the flat 2nd added to a blues scale, I'm not sure if it has an official name but I think of it as "Phrygian blues". Crank up your OD/distortion, play some riffs using that scale... instant stoner rock!
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  20. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Oh yea, Melvins!

    But ya really need Buzz' 'fro ...