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the secret to ska basslines?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bigwig, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. Bigwig


    Dec 27, 2003
    im joining a ska band, and ive been listening to ska for a couple years, but i just cant understand how they have some of those funky flowing basslines..
    is there any bassplayers that play in ska bands, and if so
    would you say most ska bassists know actual scales, or just find a groove and go with it?
    thanks alot.
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Every bassist should know scales, and id bet my hiney that any professional bassist does as well.
  3. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Yes. The secret to making basslines is knowing your stuff, and groovin'. The real secret to making a bassline is this.

    "Don't be a stooge, just make a frickin' bassline already"- Me
  4. It sounds like you're looking for some type of theory/scale formula for writing ska bass lines, which I doubt exists. I would think it's just like writing any bass line, which you can do using scale theory or playing by ear. I prefer to come up with a bass line in my head and hum it out first before playing it, it's easier for me since I'm not great with all my scales yet.
  5. Bigwig


    Dec 27, 2003
    i see..i just thought there may be a secret to how some of those guys have basslines that have nothign to do with the guitar or wind instruments, yet still fit and flow with everything that is going on. but ill stick with it and just try to be creative.
  6. goat


    Jan 18, 2003
    Bournemouth, England
    Um, answering your question a lot of Ska is strongly based on the use of repeated triads (root note, min/maj 3th, 5ths, and the octave.

    Use these a lot in the groove of the song to get a damn nice flowing line, you'll listen to ska and realise in a lot of songs the bassline is actually pretty similar.

    Also you're going to want to add in notes building up to the next chord. So sayyour going from a D (A5) to an E# (A8) you could play something like:

    G                7
    D            7      4
    A 5 5 5 5             7  8
  7. goat


    Jan 18, 2003
    Bournemouth, England
    Oh and just learn the flippin pentatonic scales to start with, easiesty things to remember, improv a lot in them to hammer them into your mind

    great for all types of music
  8. Bigwig


    Dec 27, 2003
    thanks alot, very helpful post.
    this may sound lame, but does anyone know a site with all the scales for bass..in tabs?
    i cant read music on bass..only on piano.
    thanks alot.
  9. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    A lot of lines are built around minor scale riffs, just something I notice.
  10. spots


    Feb 7, 2004
    boston, MA
    arpeggios and lots of them especially major ones
    well it seems that way to me...
  11. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    You know, the Pentatonic scale is great for not just Ska, but Funk, Latin and Raggae.
  12. EmmSee


    May 23, 2004
    Boston, MA
    Know your scales...

    Ska is like walking basslines at fast tempos... and lots of those triad figures too, which is from walking.

    TRANSCRIBE!! That's the best way to learn from the great ska players you like.
  13. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Ahh.. right... a major-major part of that stuff you're supposed to know, though, is your scales.
    Ah, yes - triads! Triads are great - they're chords, of course; 'broken-up' chords. I've heard some say that the reason 'bass is easier than guitar' (yah, right.) is that 'you don't need to learn chords' (oy.) -- OF COURSE almost any decent bassists knows chords! How else can they properly pull together a progression, and weave the melody in with the progression, and 'point to', or lead up to the next chord in a progression. Of course, chords are built from scales.
    Whoah..! Now you sort of reversed yourself, Goat - you can't build the triads of a key from a pentatonic scale! ...and they're way-more great for lead guitar playing (or bass playing that sounds like blues or bluesish-rock guitar) than for bass playing - in fact, not only does every blues bass part that I can think of (not many, by the way) have more than the notes from the pentatonic scale in them, but guitar leads that even sound quite 'pentatic' can commonly have seconds and sixths in them! Why not learn the whole scale?
    What?.. Aww, c'mon you guys... Don't get Bigwig off to an awkward start, here.

    Surely pentatonic is easy, but if you're starting from scratch, it's maybe (just maybe!) just a little easier to learn than minor (I assume you mean the blues-style minor-sounding rock pattern), but it tends toward just memorizing patterns on the neck, whereas learning the minor scale only has two more notes (ONE more, if you subtract that common passing tone or whatever that's between the 4th and 5th), and it'll musically make more sense! Once you start to get to know a proper seven-note scale, you can easily build triads in any inversion for any chord in any key - can't say that about pentatonics!

    I think that I got really held-up on bass (back when I used to play the first time around years ago) because of learning pentatonic first. I could never get how to work with the chord progression of a song - how to 'work the chords into a bass line' (I could play clichet-sounding guitar licks, though!..), and it was so hard for me to play melodies (...unless they sounded just like blues-licks) - and playing a harmony to a melody (in-key, that is) would have been just another world - daunting to-say-the-least!).

    Learn complete scales! It's easy to grasp that a pentatonic "generally leaves out the second and sixth, and often throws-in the note between the fourth and fifth"; it's harder for music to make sense if you only know a five-note ('penta') scale.

  14. I would definitely recommend knowing your scales, and playing walking lines based off of those. Many bass players in the ska genre get away with playing a lot of root/3rd/5th arpeggiations, but the good ska bassists write big elaborate lines that hop all over the place...its tons of fun.
  15. Against Will

    Against Will Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2003
    Big Sound Central
    Bass is the platter that a ska song sits on, it's essential that you be concious of what the drums are doing and understand when and where to play. Ska drums tend to be pretty sparse and straightforward, so it's all about tact. Seeing as ska drops the one, a lot of bassists pack the remaining beats with a tight, simple boogie line, then drop off with the drums, come back with the boogie line, repeat. This helps give ska (and it's derivatives, reggae, dub etc.) it's 'bounce'.

    Listen to the Slackers for inspiration.
  16. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    A lot of what makes ska and reggae "is what it isn't." The bass and drums work together leaving holes in places where they aren't a lot of the time. I think you'll find that developing effective ska and reggae bass lines will take less notes...and throwing them in places that are contrapuntal to the rest of the band.
  17. Bigwig


    Dec 27, 2003
    wow thanks alot guys, i really appreciate all the words, i think its time i sit down, shut up and crank it, and think of some fun stuff that i have fun playing.
    ill let you know how it goes.
  18. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    activebass.com is a very cool resource -- you can get scales, arpeggios, chords, etc. and you can easily switch between different ones, hear them played, play along...it's a very cool resource! plus there are lots of user-submitted things (riffs, exercises, etc.) that you can try out.


  19. Bigwig


    Dec 27, 2003
    thanks again
    [god i love talkbass]