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What can I do instead of doubling the guitar?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TheIndieKid, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    Its really great that there are so many different ways to approach this... otherwise we would all sound the same.

    There are a lot of great ideas here that Im gonna steal for myself!!! Lol
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  2. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    What can I do instead of doubling the guitar?

    chops + experience + imagination = better basslines
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  3. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    The answer is quite simple, as it was said before: Play the song's bassline.
    You said when you're covering you're doing that, but what about originals. Every song has a bassline.
    It might be that you haven't discovered it yet, but it's bound to be there.

    I can tell you that having a look at other musical styles, the ones where the guitar is not riffing around and there is no clear, evident path for the bass to follow, will be a great help.
    I did turn my back on the heavier rock and metal genres and had a foray towards funk, reggae and soul.
    This took a lot of work for me, because I suddenly had to play in a totally different role. Especially in reggae influenced stuff, there are many parts where the bass is playing prominent on the 1 while no one else does - not even the drums. The other instruments are playing offbeats and the drummer plays one drop, basically hitting everything at once on the 3 and doing ghost notes and as little hihat as possible in the remaining time.

    Later, when I joined a guitarist and drummer to form a trio to do heavy rock and post punk and got back into well known territory, simply playing the root note of the power chord in the same rhythm pattern the guitar is playing became a tool to make that part tighter instead of being my default mode. I tried out basslines and quickly locked with the drummer. His face and his playing showed me whenever I hit something he liked a lot and whenever I did, his playing would compliment mine and vice versa.

    Basically learning any style of music can make you a better player in another one.
    Bring those polka skills to a death metal band and see for yourself. It works.

    Also looking at trios (or constellations where the instruments are git/bass/drums) helps a lot.
    When I tried to step out of the rhythm guitar's shadow and be a bassman instead of a -1 oct pedal, my biggest influence was Geezer Butler. On the early Black Sabbath albums, he's keeping himself busy while Toni Iommy is playing leads or soloing, and even on some of the riffs, he's playing on his own.
    That lends so much more power to those parts where bass doubles guitar.
    And it fills up the space that's free when the (only) guitar goes from riffing to lead playing.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  4. aldaa

    aldaa Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2017
    What genre/style are the originals? With a lot of faster metal and anything “busy” with power chords, it can be a little more difficult to not double the guitar. It’s easier to venture off when the music is more groove based or non power chord based.

    You mentioned Pino and his stuff with D’angelo. His music has a lot more space - it’s not a sonic assault of 16th note power chords. Music with space provides an easier opportunity to not double guitar. With rock and metal, it seems more common to use little chromatic/blues scale fills or runs. Also, using a different root note to add different feels to a chord someone is playing. I’m not a huge theory guy, so I can’t give specific examples, but I hear it a lot in jazzier stuff.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  5. bobba66


    May 18, 2006
    Arlington, Texas
    Triple the guitar, with a 12 string bass!:woot:
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  6. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    Or an Otaver pedal... ;)
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  7. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    As has been mentioned, there is no single answer to your question OP. Sometimes pairing with other instruments is good, sometimes not. I tend to not like doing that myself - I'm of the camp that feels that as a rule , it is waste of an instrument to double someone else's part. That said, it can have a lot of impact to jump on someone else's line for a certain line of lick.

    Most of my original's work is in a jazz/latin/funk/fusion setting, so it may be different for what you are working with. Most of my lines evolve with time. I almost always start very simply, following the chord progression, leaning heavily on roots and fifths. As I get comfortable with what the drummer is doing, I may start grooving with him or I may groove opposite of him - in jazzier type settings, it's often the bass who keeps the beat tracking while the drummer explores the edges. But regardless of the primary approach, I rarely do it one way through a full song - I like to weave in and out of pairing with other instruments at different points in a tune. When a line is doubled, it adds emphasis; when everyone is doing their own thing it broadens the sound and feel.

    Our song evolution is quite interesting. A lot of our early stuff was developed by just me and the KB player(songwriter) and I wound up kind of developing the groove. When the drummer came on board, he pretty much locked with what I was doing (was very cool to have someone do that!). But more recent songs are developed by all three of us and I really enjoy having a rhythm base already established before my line gets established - my lines area lot more interesting when I build them off of his beat.

    I find that I often try to provide a counter-part to the rest of the song - if everyone else is very busy, I tend to keep my parts simple; when everyone else is relatively static, I tend to get a little busier. But there is no simple "one size fits all" formula. Every song has it's own groove - it's just up to you and the drummer to find it.

    Some of the good comments that I've read bear repeating:
    - Listen to the song and try to feel what it needs - then do your best to create that feel.
    - Record what you're doing with the band and adjust as required. I've completely overhauled complete songs because my initial thoughts didn't sound good in the mix. And you can't always hear this mix while you're playing.

    And while we're in the "listen" category, listen to songs of other artists performing similar music and lift some of their lines. This will give you a solid starting point that you can then begin your own vocabulary.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  8. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Believe it or not, there are some stellar punk bassists out there who write some busy and unique lines. Paul Simonon had a killer line on London Calling (amongst many others), please don't flame on me but Mike Dirnt of Green Day had some cool lines like in When I Come Around...it played along with the guitar but the fills and such made it stand out and sound cool. Not a punk band, per say, but David J Haskins of Bauhaus was IMO the king of "Doing your own thing" on bass in a rock band. She's In Parties and In The Flat Field both come to mind as good examples.

    In a blues group and that can be hard to do, but keeping a strong tie to the drums can afford you a lot of room to wander around the pentatonic scale on bass. Similar to Bootsy's funk formula, hit on the 1 and just make sure you come back after you dance around a bit. It's done me well in many a genre :)
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  9. zubrycky


    Aug 22, 2011
    For start, outline the chords.
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  10. I never was much good at writing songs - I could never come up with anything that sounded either (1) any good or (2) didn't sound exactly like something else I was listening to at the time. But without trying to sound too full of myself, I believe I was pretty good at coming up with original bass lines for songs our guitarists and/or keyboard player wrote. This was my process. I don't claim it's the only way, or even the best way, but it worked for me:
    1. Separately from actual song writing, constantly work on your knowledge. Listen to lots of different types of music and take note of what the bass player is doing, and whether you like it and think it works or not. For example, I was never much of a Simple Minds fan, but some of the bass lines on their early albums are amazing and were a huge influence on my style in the late 70s/early 80s. Also, while I don't know much theory, I did play guitar for a couple of years so I know the difference between chords like A, Am, A7, and the different notes I'd play in a scale for those chords. Think about harmony. What notes from a chord might you play other than the root? If the chord is a C, you might play an E. If the chord is an E, you might play a B. A little theory never hurts.

    2. Now, at song writing time, start by working out the groove. Does the songwriter have a feel in mind? Has the drummer come up with a good beat? Feel free to be the groove if you come up with something good.

    3. Next, just play the root notes until you get used to the chord changes and the structure of the song. As you do this, some simple things will come naturally, like if the chords change from E to A it's easy to put a little two or three note run up the E string to get the bass from one to another. You might not keep a lot of these in the end, but that's OK.

    4. As the band is playing the song together, think about what kind of bass line the song needs. Sometimes a busy line is the right thing, sometimes the song needs space and being busy would kill it. Sometimes the best thing is for you reinforce the guitar riff (think "Sunshine Of Your Love"). Sometimes you need to drive the song (say the words "Smoke On The Water" and everybody thinks of the iconic guitar riff, but listen to how it's actually the bass driving that song by not doubling that riff).

    5. Now start thinking about the actual notes you want to play. Embellish. Add a few notes here and there. Think about having the bass line develop during the song, starting simply in the first verse and getting busier in each verse. Try some of the harmonic notes from #1. Some of them might not sound right, depending on what the song is doing. Try doing the opposite of what the guitar is doing. For example, if the guitar goes up from E to A, try going down from E to A. As you play around wih different notes, what do you hear in your head? Do you get a "riff" of you own?

    6. Take the song home and work on it on your own. Most of my best bass lines came after working on them for a while, and sometimes you need to do this on your own - you can't always keep telling the band to stop while try something else.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  11. zubrycky


    Aug 22, 2011
    I hope that helps.

    TheIndieKid likes this.
  12. zubrycky


    Aug 22, 2011
    I hope that helps.

  13. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Richmond , Va
    Follow the rhythm pattern of the melody, and if there are chord changes, make them sound logical.
    TheIndieKid likes this.

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