Who shares songwriting duties with their guitarist?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BusyFingers, Oct 21, 2017.

  1. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016
    Are you a bassist that writes songs with your bass? Do you have a guitarist who is willing to write to your basslines?

    Could you share some of the songs you've written? I'd like to hear how the guitarist is approaching writing to basslines.

    I ask this because I love to write music, but sense that it would be hard to find a guitarist willing/able to write to basslines.
  2. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Your thinking is stuck in a box a bit. A GOOD guitarist should be able to recognize a bass line style and accommodate it with a tasteful guitar part. A GOOD bassist should know their harmony and what they're outlining to tell the guitarist, and/or hear a guitar part and compliment it with a bass line.

    Some of this is on you. If you are playing a sensical bassline true to a STYLE, then a guitarist familiar with the style should be able to make sense of it and play over top. If you present an off the wall, avant garde bass line that is in no way steeped in a stylistic tradition, he may or may not be able to hang with it.

    So are you capable of doing that, and are you familiar with different styles? "Hey man, i wrote this pretty cool bassline in the key of F. It has sort of a Motown feel. Here are the changes." With that you just gave him a good amount of information to play off of. He now knows the key, the chords to the song, and the feel. If he is good, he might play something solid on the first take.
  3. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Furthermore, you may need to beef up your songwriting ability. A bassline on it's own is not a song. Songs have keys, harmony, time signatures, tempos, styles, melodies, and forms. I encourage those that want to write music to learn about all of these things and consider them when writing material. It helps to be a little proficient on the guitar or keyboard to work out harmony, but it can be done on the bass too. If you can get all this information and present it to another player that has some know how, the whole process will be pretty easy and painless.

    Myself, i pick up the acoustic guitar when i want to write material so i can work out the melody and harmony. Basslines come later, but it doesn't have to function this way.
    Pedal2DaMeddle, jamro217 and Sumaru like this.
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    After I had been playing bass a couple of years, I started teaching myself a little guitar, in part just so that I could use it for songwriting and be able to communicate better with guitarists. I'm not that good of a guitarist but it does help. Like @Seanto said, if you want to write, even if you don't take up guitar or piano yourself, you should learn enough basic music theory to be able to tell a guitarist what key you're in or what the chord progression is.

    I don't have any one writing process; sometimes the guitarist has a riff and I make a bassline to it; other times I start with a bassline and then I figure out what the guitar should do; other times I have the bass and let the guitarist figure something out.

    Here's one where I wrote the bass first, then I did everything around it:

    In this one, on the other hand, I did the bass and let the guitarist do his thing with it:

    This was one where the guitarist had a riff and I put bass to what he had:
    gregouille23 likes this.
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Most good songs are written around the hook, regardless of what instrument it's played on. Could you imagine staying awake to My Girl without the bass line?
  6. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016
    Is it really limited to either avant garde or something derivative from a genre with a highly limited range of notable sounds and style?

    I'm thinking more indie/alt/rock which is a very broad genre, and could mean many things stylistically.
    Seanto likes this.
  7. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016

    I'm a guitarist and a bassist, though the last couple years I've mostly played bass. I feel comfortable writing music on either guitar or bass, but my question rises from past experience in trying to find guitarists comfortable writing to basslines and my own frustration attempting to come up with guitar over an already created bassline.

    This may be due in part to utilizing 8th notes and creating busier than average basslines that could carry a song on their own with limited guitar support, if necessary.
  8. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I think you're on the right track. No not limited at all necessarily. For instance, telling someone you are going for an indie/alt sound definitely provides some good info. You can then supplement that with added info if you would like, for instance if reminiscent of another song or band. Or any other adjective to get the point across. "Latiny" Funky" "Driving"
  9. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016
    That's a good example of a song written on bass first. I'm sure McCartney wrote some stuff on the bass first.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    In my Prog jam band we write separately and together, all three of us. If I wrote a song on bass and the guitar player didn't want to do it for any other reason than he thought it sucked, then I wouldn't be in that band.
  11. RickyT


    May 29, 2015
    We both write songs in our band. We'll email stuff to each other, sometimes a riff sometimes an entire song. Somethings get shot down, somethings become a song. I've learnt to not be precious about things, if it's not working revamp it or move on.

    This is one off our last EP that I wrote. We never jammed this in the rehearsal room, it was all via email.
  12. Sumaru


    May 16, 2013
    Being a lead guitarist who has "crossed over" to playing bass (not out of necessity, but desire, it was pure!) I find that it is easier still for me to write on guitar and add the foundation later. Seems backwards, but it works. The guitar players seem to lend more creedence to this approach and get onboard faster.
  13. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    I write most of our songs structure-wise on bass and the guitarist will either put his own thing over the bass lines or take my ideas, change it for the better, and then it becomes a collaboration. The drummer has ideas about transitions and changing something up here and there. The singer writes all the lyrics and we might change some things to accommodate those.

    The first song is unchanged from what I brought to the table. The second song wound up being totally different from what I came up with after the guitarist got a hold of it.

    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  14. Spent


    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    We all contribute but the best stuff is collaborative. Quite a number of songs come from the drummer and I jamming while the guitarist tunes, plays with pedals, etc. More often than not the guitarist writes most of the music and I do 99% of the lyrics; unless we need references to dragons or wizards (he’s...unique).
  15. For the most part our guitarist/singer writes our stuff and I put bass lines on it, but a few songs started from mutual jamming, and a few others I wrote myself, both on bass and guitar.

    I started learning guitar well enough to play at home and start writing stuff on it, because I had guitar riffs in my head and the best way to work them out was to do it myself.* I might make a quick demo recording with guitar and bass and give it to the guitarist. Once he learns the riffs we then set about jamming around it and turning it into a real song. Since he has to sing it, he gets a lot of leeway about how to arrange it. I also write lyrics now and then.

    *Also, I happen to love the sound of electric guitar and it also opens up a whole new world of GAS...
  16. Ross W. Lovell

    Ross W. Lovell

    Oct 31, 2015

    Are you writing a whole song or a bassline?

    Not sure I could write a song around just a bassline.

    You could write a perfectly good bassline but not like the chords/fill and subject matter I write about, so from my perspective, you need to bring more to the table.

    I don't usually write basslines, I will record a demo with a cursory bassline. There might be a phrase/measure I would like to incorporate, but I'll have my bass player give it the once over. We usually are sympatico on what works and what doesn't.

    I must be getting better at bass, she must think I've improved over the years, or has just managed to get used to me, no more funny faces. Yeah!
  17. Whil57


    Aug 7, 2013
    Long Island
    Can you put a generic chart around your bassline. Gives some direction, without enforcing some one elses part.
  18. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016
    I mean like writing a song: verse, chorus, bridge, the whole 9 yards.
  19. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016
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  20. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers Guest

    Nov 26, 2016
    Thanks for sharing your music, everyone.
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