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Suggestions for cleaning up a bass line

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by NationwideBass, Jan 12, 2008.

  1. An original song our guitar player wrote, and I really like it. But during the verse I'm just pounding on the root chord and the whole thing sounds muddy to me. I'm looking for tricks, suggestions on what maybe you do to vary away from what the guitar is doing to keep the mud at a minimum?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Play some rests. No, really!
  3. southpaw76


    Feb 20, 2007
    Charlotte, NC
    Playing rests is definitely good advice. I would say alternating where you place your rests will give your fundamental a more syncopated feel.

    Once you get the feel of that down, I would also suggest playing around with triads and alternating them. You would be surprised how easy it is to create a melodic line just by alternating the root, third and fifth :bassist:......
  4. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    What does the song call for?

    If the bass doesn't fit in on the verses, don't play. Drummers do this all the time... If the crash doesn't fit on a certain part of the song, he won't hit it. Watch your drummer. When he hits the kick drum, hit the root with him. If you want, you can hit an 8ve up when he hits the crash (or snare), too. Otherwise, don't play. Maybe you'll like it :)

    Hope this helps,
  5. steve66


    Sep 17, 2005
    South Florida
    Syncopate the root with some dead notes to keep the momentum going
  6. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything. - Chick Corea

    Think of the song on your head and keep your hands off your bass. What bass line do you hear for the song. First think of the root movements, what is the bass drum doing? You hear any connecting tones between the chords. Your ear will guide you, sing in your head the bass line you think would fit. Now figure that out on your bass.

    When the bass is in your hands the tendency is to limit yourself to what you already know and do. When you use the bass in your head and your ear guide you not your hands.
    scyzoryk likes this.
  7. Thanks guys! These are great suggestions and I'm already starting to get some good ideas! Keep em coming!
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Sometimes a bass line is like sculpting. You start with a huge piece of marble that has no real form and can be quite unattractive. You chisel away at what doesn't belong, losing more and more marble. Addition by subtraction. You continue to get rid of what doesn't fit, what isn't right, until you're left with a masterpiece. This doesn't mean that all basslines should be sparse, (right Rocco Prestia?), it just means that often you end with less than what you started with.
  9. tjh


    Mar 22, 2006
    I alternate measures during long sections ... hit a root on one measure, then fill out the next with something clean and simple, but on the beat ... as the section ends, fill it out with leading tones to the chorus or whatever ... another very simple thing is to change position on your non fretting hand, closer to bridge may clean up the 'muddiness', etc ... keep it simple
  10. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets

    (Post Of The Day)
  11. Agreed. This is starting to look more and more like the right answer. Thanks everyone!
  12. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    My trick is very simple, know the song key and i watch 3 things... Hihat, Kick, and Snare...

    Hihats dictates my note selection, 1/8 notes, 1/4 notes..
    Kick gives me my PULSE for the accents and groove
    the snare gives me 2 things, either i will play the octave on the snare hit (usually against an 1/8 note beat), or create ghost notes on the snare beat(1/4 beats usually), to simulate a snare hit.
    Its amazing that when a drummer hears me doing this they will always drop out for a moment to see if i am able to maintain the beat of the song, this seems to give them the freedom to do a little more within the beat and we start working together to create a melodic groove... I don't do anything elaborate, i keep it simple and use my fingers, no slappin or poppin. I think back to Jamerson and that style of bass playing.

    And the space between the notes is the most important part... i love adding the "human" factor to songs/riffs and not playing exactly on the perfect beat. I hesitate on one selected note every time i play the same line.. i feel it gives it a much less computer/midi feel and adds back in the human touch.

    Also i tend to stick to the root as much as possible during the verses on songs and open it up on choruses a bit...Singers usually feel more comfortable when they know that at least one melody instrument is maintaing pitch for them.
  13. tswd


    Jun 20, 2007
    Since you asked for possible tips and tricks, I've found this one works OK for me from time to time. Pedal the root on each beat and alternate the 4, 5, and octave between beats. Still gives the driving root feel, but breaks up the muddiness a little bit. Even gives you the option of some cheesy little counter melody with those 3 other notes.

    The 4 and 5 are the same whether the chord's major or minor, so as long as they don't go and flat the 5th or something you can use this anywhere.
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