Walking-esque line advice

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Hawkbone, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. Hawkbone


    Mar 23, 2009
    Hey all, my buddy has written a cool traditional song and I'm inspired to write a bassline for it. My first time writing something on my own and my theory is shaky at best. Got one idea so far and I'd like to bounce it off some brains before proceeding any further. The tune is in D, 4/4. The first two lines of the verse use the progression: D F#m Em A

    My initial idea is to descend from the root of the 1st three chords and then walk up from the A to the D in the next line. Something like:

    D B A G
    F# D# C# B
    E C# B Ab
    A B C C#

    Am I on the right track or should I just stay at my day job?
  2. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    How do you write a traditional song?!?

    Anyway, based solely on the chord progression, there's nothing really wrong with what you wrote but the real question is how it relates to the melody line.

    Take your progression: D F#- E- A. Now figure out the arpeggios for each chord.

    From those arpeggios, try to find lines that lead smoothly from one chord to another in a way that harmonizes the melody line wherever possible.

    That's the super-simplified description of the process. But it's only one of any number of processes that can give good results. Don't be afraid to try things out just to see what works. (Regardless of what music theory says, if it sounds good, it works!)
  3. How does it sound? Right away the D# on the F#min chord looks risky, but it does depend on the melody. The next note I wonder about is the C# on the Emin chord. Could be a C? Again, depends entirely on the melody and the mood you're trying to set. But in general some parallel motion and then contrary motion at the end to turn it around, without playing it myself it could work. Also, the rhythm often makes more of a difference than he notes, but I was sort of assuming this is a walking bassline?
  4. Hawkbone


    Mar 23, 2009
    haha, time travel of course! I don't really know how to categorize it other than to say it's a song that lovers of traditional Celtic music will probably appreciate. Atlantic folk maybe?? :)

    Thanks for the input, that's exactly what I was looking for. I want to rough out a line or two to try out the next time we sit down to jam, but I didn't want to proceed too far along a path that (theoretically at least) didn't have a chance of being a good fit.
  5. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Safe bass lines:

    As the chord is active in the song - how much room do you have for that chord, i.e. in 4/4 time is there one chord per measure? Fine; four 1/4 note chord tones (or rests) per measure. If there are two chords per measure you only have room for two 1/4 notes per measure. With that in mind, read on.

    • Root on one. R-R-R-R -- pound out roots to the beat until the chord progression changes to a new active root note.
    • If it needs more chord tones add a 5. For example R-5-R-5 or R-R-5-5, it's your bass line any combination of roots and 5's make a safe bass line.
    • Still have some room add an 8. R-5-8-5 Up to this point you are generic and will work on major or minor chords. On a diminished chord the 5 needs to be a b5, but, how often do you run up on diminished chords. Roots, fives and eights will play a lot of bass. And the pattern is easy to maintain.
    • Still have room insert the correct 3 or 7. R-3-5-7 or R-b3-5-b7. It's here you get specific as to major or minor bass lines for major or minor chords.
    • We've used the R-3-5-7 & 8 so far. Love 6's with a major chord (R-3-5-6), help yourself to 6's, the 2's and 4's make good passing notes, but, do not stop on them; keep them passing.
    • No reason to go into the next octave. Take care of the bottom end let the solo instruments have the higher octaves, i.e. the 9, 11, & 13 are not necessary in accompaniment bass lines. Of course that is my opinion.

    Want to flow to the next chord. Use chromatic or diatonic notes X number of frets above or below the next root. Target the next root note and then miss it by X number of frets - then walk to it one fret per beat and be on the root for the chord change. Easy to do, hard to time. Timing will take some work. Mark the lyric word you will need to leave on so you hit the chord change dead on. Normally one beat per lyric syllable works out.

    On the C root (4th string 8th fret) going to the F... C#, D, up a string, E and land on F. On F going to G. Back up and get the E, F, F# and land on G. Now on G going to C. Several ways of going here I usually go back toward the nut with diatonic notes; F, E, D and drop down a string for C.

    Major Scale Box.
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    Good luck.