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What to do in repetitive songs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DerrickShaney, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. DerrickShaney


    Jun 18, 2011
    St.Cloud MN
    Hey guys. I am playing in a new Dirty Blues band ala The Dead Weather / Black Keys. I was looking for a little advice on writing basslines for these songs. Most of them are based on a single riff hook that is quite repetitive throughout the whole song.

    I am not terribly creative when it comes to writing basslines and I am wondering what the standard for playing songs such as these would be. I do not mind repeating the same riff throughout and keeping the beat however I feel like there is a trick to make it sound nicer.

    So I guess my question is. How would YOU play a song that was very repetitive? Just looking for a little help/advice to make the song sound as best as it can.

    Below is a link to our sound cloud page with some rough recordings for practice purposes. Take a look and any advice in which direction I should take would be greatly appreciated. :help:

  2. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    My last band played Use Somebody by Kings of Leon. It's a pretty simple song, so I got bored with it. To liven it up I went back to see what the guitar chords were. Then I listened to the Who in Live at Leeds for some inspiration. Rather than riding the root note, I asked what would John Entwistle do and used the chords as my guide. It worked. I'm jus a hibbyist, not a professional musician, so I was a little intimidated at first. Still, trying something and messing up was better than being bored. Just try and see what you come up with.
  3. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    As a general rule, when doing a 12-bar blues I begin with a simple line, and get more intricate with each go-round ... and often end the last go-round much as I began ... simple.
  4. headband

    headband Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2013
    Lake Havasu City
    Work with the drummer, and get tight. As was stated, start simple, modify a bit, and return to simple at the end. I also find it helpful to move up the neck and then back down during some solos - it helps to bring tension into the song. Last - give your notes some space. A little air in the song goes a long way, when done tastefully. Too many bass players overplay, IMHO.
  5. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I Grow Organic Carrots
  6. In practice if they don't mind, or over a loop at home if they do, try a few things like:
    *playing the same part in different registers and different positions on the neck each time around
    *switching to being behind the beat or ahead of the beat in the chorus or the verse
    *adding ghost notes or passing notes in certain sections on an alternating basis (do it this time, not next time, etc)
    *playing a totally different part if it fits (this might not work), like switching to a pumping 16ths feel with no walking notes at all and really drive the bass a bit
    *add a touch of harmonics here and there
    *walking notes of various kinds

    stuff like that....if/where appropriate.
  7. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    It's always a solo of sorts. Keep it simple and don't steal focus from other musicians. Know your place and make good use of it.
  8. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    On the old Sting records when he had Darryl Jones playing with him you could always tell the songs where Sting was playing the bass and where Jones was playing.

    Even when Jones played something simple, like root three or root five or some repeated rythnmic pattern, his playing was noticeably better. His tone was better, each notes was given full and equal value, and his sense of rythmn was flawless. What impressed me the most was that all that added up to playing that was really propulsive, it really made the songs snap and at the same time gave them depth. By contrast, Sting's bass playing, while certainly very good was sometimes more complex but it was ponderous and heavy and dragged the song down.

    You can't emphasize the fundamentals too much. Even if you play a very simple repeated pattern throughout the song you should strive for a consistent tone, consistent volume, consistent rythmn. Most of all, keep in mind you are playing music, and what you play should sound pleasing and interesting to the ear, no matter how simple.
  9. phoenixjmw


    Jul 9, 2013
    I did check this out actually... I notice at the end of every measure the drummer does a little fill while you seem to be waiting for the progression to come back to the 1 chord.

    I also where an overstated bassline would be too much with the songs you have posted. However what about keeping the simplicity of the bassline for most the song but adding some more little fill licks at end of the measure along with the drummer?
  10. toking up helps. I think after Paul dropped acid he got more creative in these situations too.
  11. MotorCityWest


    Aug 25, 2013
    I struggle with this myself. I've only been playing bass (or any other instrument) for two years.

    I often feel like I'm not "good enough" or that I'm not being "creative enough" when I come up with basslines that are mostly root, root-third, or root-fifth. Even though it is what I hear in my head and think it sounds good, I still feel like it's not enough. Of course it depends on the song and style of music, but simple with fills and pick-up notes often sounds tastefully good in punk/rock/garage/blues that I play.

    Then when I get compliments from far better and more experienced musicians that I've been fortunate enough to play with regular how much they like what I came up with, it puts a smile on my face and makes me think that I am my own worst critic and think it is natural to be harsh on oneself, especially during beginner/intermediate part of our journey.

    I like the sound yall got going, think it sounds great. Besides asking here..which is awesome, be humble enough to tell your bandmates that you are not sure if you are "feeling" what you got going and get feedback or suggestions if they think you should be doing more or less.
  12. cica


    Sep 18, 2012
    When I play Friend of the Devil, instead of running down the riff, I work up it from low to high with notes that compliment the run. That way, I'm not just mirroring the lead guitar; I'm harmonizing with it.
  13. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I would play a repetitive bass line most likely, and concentrate on the pocket. One could also vary the line with each verse and chorus making each one a bit more complex each time.
  14. Listen to a lot of music from this genre and simply steal what they do... You don't have to reinvent the wheel.

    Your singers sound amazingly like the singers in a band I used to dig back in the day called "Sky Cries Mary" Check out the album "This Timeless Turning"
  15. gastric

    gastric Professional product tester for hire

    Jun 8, 2009
    Raleigh, NC
    Source Audio BETA tester
    Repetitive doesn't equal bad. :) at least for the listener. But it's often very hard to keep your interest as the person trying to play it. Some good suggestions here.
  16. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    I love the hypnotic effect of repetition.
  17. Also you can take advantage of repetition to practice accuracy as well as playing positions and finger plucking choices that you're weak with. Build up some blisters on your 4th finger for a change. .... try billy sheehan alternative 3 finger right hand technique.
  18. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    Simple, repetitive songs can be a bass players wet dream and some of my favorite playing has been done on simple, singer songwriter stuff…

    Focus on the groove

    Leave space for your notes…oftentimes leaving several rests in the music and than coming in with your bass on the upbeat can be very cool.
  19. I used to find a reflection from one of my machine heads and beam them on patrons eyes. They never knew I was doing it on purpose.;)

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