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Theory behind the lick.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MCBTunes, Jan 28, 2005.

  1. I was wondering what kind of theory is behind a rock/punk bass lick/riff. They are catchy etc, Like muse "Hysteria", or "Carousel" by Blink-182 both awsome bass tunes.... My guess is that Mark Hoppus(blink) doesnt know theory(or much). So where do these things come from? If it is theory, is it just a major with all the notes mixed up to sound good?

    My licks/riffs sometimes sound ok but its usually carp, but theres no theory behind it. What kind of theory am i missing?

    Help please =).
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    All music theory is is a collection of observations and descriptions of the relationships of sounds. It doesn't matter whether or not you understand the theory of gravitational attraction, you still stick where you're stuck, right?

    Your riffs/licks (sigh, again) may sound like fish (carp) to you because you haven't yet really made any kind of connect between what you're hearing and where it is on the fingerboard. Or hearing with enough clarity to identify the pitch so you can find it on the fingerboard. So you're just hunting and pecking.

    The nice thing about working with a teacher is that they can put together a program that ties conception and understanding (theory) with the ability to hear and identify what you are hearing (ear training) with the ability to express what you are hearing on your instrument with a minimum of hunting and pecking (technique).
  3. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    The ability to create a simple catchy melody (a.k.a. riff, hook, earworm, whatever) is grossly underrated even by many musicians. Theory knowledge doesn't guarantee one that ability. That said, theory can only help, it won't hurt.

    If you want to be melodic, then it helps to play lots of melodies (TV jingles aren't a bad place to start). This is something I should do more of... I tend to concentrate on rhythm and groove.

    You could also learn other bassists' riffs and try to create variations of them (changing the notes and/or rhythms slightly).

    Experience is invaluable. Whatever methods you choose, just keep at 'em diligently and you'll get better.
  4. If I were you, I would go ahead and start learning a little about theory. Beginner books like "Bass Guitar for Dummies" will break you in slow. Lessons are never a bad option. I've learned so much at www.musicdojo.com that I am forever grateful. But as they say here in Mississippi, there are many ways to skin a cat. If you have $$$ for lessons, find a a teacher and take them. If not, start reading every thing you can find. The internet is a great tool, and there are many great instructional books out there.
  5. learn vocal lines and imatate it on bass for melodic playing
  6. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    I knew a guitar player who would open up a book and say a phrase from the book at random, and then play that phrase on his guitar. Trying to get the guitar to sound like the words. He was working on getting new sounds into his head, and then getting them out of his guitar.

    And yea, he was pretty good.

  7. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    The theory behind those licks and riffs is just the post game analysis. You don't need to know any theory to sound great. You do need to be able to execute what you hear and feel on your instrument to sound great. You do need to be able transmit what's in your head harmonically and rhythmically to your instrument. This is a thing that comes with only with time, time, and more time. Time listening, time playing, time practicing, time on the planet.
  8. Kevjmyers


    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    Great advice but I found the "Bass for Dummies" book emphasizes staying 'in the box' and to do whatever it takes to be the laziest bassist around as far as technique goes. This book preaches the path of least resistance too heavily IMO.
  9. Just to make a small point here: I haven't seen the book you mention, and you may well be right about that particular work. I just would like to put out the idea that the whole point of good technique is precisely to make things *easier*--that is, to get the best results while doing no more physical work than you have to, and thus to be lazy in an efficient way. This is true even of technical things that seem unreasonably hard at first--the idea is to make things easy and efficient later. So in a sense, technical laziness, properly understood, is a good thing!;)
  10. You have a good point, but I still think this is a good place to start for those with no music background whatsoever. It definately should not be the only book in ones library, but it is easy to follow and will not scare a beginner off as easy as other books may. Just my opinion though.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think this is the key - any pro musician you hear (no matter what you think of them ;) ) is doing it all the time, playing their instrument every day and being able to play what they want to hear - the more time you put in, the better this gets!

    Having been at this forum for many year now - it's always amusing (ironic?) how the main things people are looking for, are shortcuts and instant gratification - when the only "secret", is that you need to put the time in! :)
  12. Kevjmyers


    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    Absolutely! I just get frustrated because enough people in the world think bass is easy and this book does nothing to help our case that its just as complex and intricate as anything else. I just don't want newbies attaining false aspirations and thinking that this is all there is to the bass world.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    FWIW, I like Bass For Dummies(it's not the only book I own, either. Maybe 1 of 50+?). I didn't really take stock or even notice what the book's take on "technique" is/was. For me, it's a book for entertainment value; maybe if I had such a book back in the early '70s...who knows, maybe I would feel differently.

    IIRC, I did see a Music Theory For Dummies or an Idiot's Guide To Music Theory. I didn't open the book up so I can't really comment.