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Writing a bass part where there is no room

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by phishaholik, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. phishaholik

    phishaholik Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2005
    Portland, Oregon
    I'm in a band right now with some of my old friends. It's a metal band, which isn't my favourite genre right now, but they are really talented and it makes me a better player. The drummer and guitar player have been playing together for about nine years and most of that time it has just been the two of them. Because of this, the drummer pretty much locks with the guitar part instead of me. My only choices seem to be either I also follow the guitar part or just play eight notes. Even playing eighth notes doesn't work most of the time.

    I'm having a lot of trouble writing a bass line over some of the parts. All the songs are in drop D or D flat and there is a ton of riding the open D with pulloffs and whatnot. The guitar player rarely, if ever plays any chords. Any ideas of what I could possible do when the guitarist is playing the open D with a lot of hammer ons and pulloffs? The drummer just follows him, so there is no room for a separate bass line and they don't seem to understand that a bass needs a little room to breathe or it just turns to mud. I can't just double the guitar parts a lot of the time, nor do I really want to. I've had a lot of conversations with both of them about making some room for me, but nothing seems to change. I have a feeling that they both kind of feel that a bass should just fill out the sound of the guitar. I'm not down with that at all. The guitarist can just can an octive pedal if that's what he wants. I don't want to waste my time just filling out the sound of someone else's instrument. We have a bunch of songs that sound good overall, but there are times in many of the songs where I just drop out because I have no idea what to play. Also, I would consider myself mostly a blues bass player, so I don't have a lot of experience writing bass lines for metal songs.

    Any help would be appreciated,

  2. Alcyon


    Jan 15, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Lamb of God's John Campbell does something kind of like what you describe... He basically follows the guitar (albeit in a simpler fashion) and plays most of the hammerons and things that they do, and then holds the rhythm tightly with the drummer while the guitarists solo or play lead lines. On the other hand bassists from bands like Destroy The Runner tend to play backing riffs using other notes in the same key, sort of building an atmosphere behind the guitars. Both bands are worth a listen.
  3. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    You could try using counterpoint lines to the guiar parts instead of doubling them for some passages.

    You might try playing less notes and instead go for the power foundation approach ala AC/DCs Cliff Williams (not really a metal band, but a powerful band to be sure!). Playing quarter notes and holding whole notes instead. A lot of times less is more in basslines.

    Maybe try coming up with simplified versions of the fast guitar riffs that accent and fortify the dominant notes on the accented beats. The point of this would be to lay a strong underlying foundation to the stressed notes and beats.

    Hope this helps a little
  4. You need to listen to more metal and figure out the kinds of bass lines you like that fit well with metal songs.

    Some kinds of metal really don't have much room for bass, so some bassists develop interesting playing styles like Gorguts, Korn, Mudvayne, Tool etc.
  5. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Do what cello player get stuck doing a lot and play "footballs" a lot of whole notes to give a bottom to all the insanity on top. It the drummer and guitar player are flailing away then someone has to be a foundation player. Like alway singing is the answer. You have tape of the tune or even in a rehearsal sing what comes to mind that might fit. When you sing you think more musically, maybe you will come up with a line, counter melody or counter rhythm , maybe just roots is what fits. Try playing tenths if the chords have thirds.

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