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Writing a bassline?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jtm3183, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. jtm3183


    Feb 10, 2014
    How do you guys go about writing a bassline? I want to focus more on my music and making basslines and recording what I do, usually they just hit me randomly when playing but it doesn't happen that often.
  2. Above link done on mobile but should be alright
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    A good idea is before you go near the bass, play the piece of music or song that you want to put a bass line to. Then try humming a bass line. This "frees up" the brain a little, because it does not also have to concentate on theory, where to place the fingers, or actually playing.

    When you have something that you like, then play it on the bass.
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    The video listed above is a good place to spend some time.

    Let's take a little side trip to find what a bass line should cover.

    The melody line (the tune) and the chord line (the harmony) to sound good together should share some like notes. Not a big problem as the songwriter takes care of this for us. The songwriter will place the harmonizing chord where it is needed in the song. If we play the notes of that chord we also harmonize with the melody. Or put another way, if we play the notes of the active chord we sound good with what is going on in the song.

    So let Google find you some fake chord sheet music on the song you want to play. Much quicker than transcribing by ear. If what you find is not exactly like you would like, change it. The fake chord gives you the chord progression that someone thought was correct. Sometime it is not correct, but, most of the time it is close enough to start building a bass line from.

    So your bass line should share some of the melody notes -- or notes of the chord that has been placed at a specific spot in the song. You have a choice. The easier route is to play notes of the chord that is active. You and the drums provide the rhythm and your bass line if drawn from the notes of the active chord also harmonizes the melody, i.e. you will sound good.

    Question now is how many notes are necessary. One like note per measure gets harmonization - that is why roots just by themselves work. Some say our job is to call attention to the chord being played and we do this by playing the root note of the chord on beat one. That's safe -- and boring. What else can be done?

    In a nut shell, follow the chords and play as many of those chord's notes (tones) as the song dictates are necessary. Ed Friedland has written several books on this subject and I now turn you over to him.

    Good luck.
  5. jtm3183


    Feb 10, 2014
    Thanks! I have a way to do it myself, I was just wondering how others did it. I've noticed it takes different approaches for different genres. I'm wanting to start recording an EP or something and I'll be doing all of the instruments on it if I do it
  6. Sometimes I won't write lines per se and look at solidifying with the drums or I'll write a line which exaggerates the notes in the chord. Do I want it to be melodic or counter melodic? It can be trial and error sometimes but if you are aware of what notes will sound good and what won't, your more than half way there.
  7. jtm3183


    Feb 10, 2014
    I'll usually end up making a line that's pretty busy, and more times than not I'll cut notes out of it and groove it up more. Usually when I write them I write reggae/ska lines so usually it works well. Or blues stuff. Or I do walking arpeggiated lines, usually they sound great with reggae or pretty much anything
  8. I'm working on my own lines at the moment, just 4/4 stuff using basic scales and chord tones (triads) or a technique I am currently working on. I also leave notes out or hold for 2 8th notes or leave a space for an 8th note to add some groove.

    Dead notes are also cool to get in to add some funkiness.

    Try playing to a drum beat and make sure your following the time and something will start to flow, adjust as you go until you like what you hear.

    That's what I do anyway.
  9. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    My original situation is in a 80'scrossover/thrash type band. The riffage is a lot like old Testament/Slayer/Anthrax/DC Hardcore...

    I am influenced by Geddy, Steve Harris, Frank Bello, Mike Dean and many others from this era....

    I will let our guitar player play the song all the way through first and just listen. Our drummer also plays along since they are husband and wife, and they write together. This gives me an idea of overall style/feel direction, as well as seeing what the chord changes are. Also, this usually lets me know right away where NOT to play "stuff".

    On the second run, I start mapping out the root bass line. This is usually a pretty simple bass line that also follows much of the picking rhythm

    by the third run, I start deciding where I want to let the guitar or drums come through, and I start making bass parts that become "counter parts" in some areas.

    We are always letting the song arrangement evolve as well. We usually record the last version, and then I listen to it as the week goes. the part will continue to evolve as the song goes through my head during the week.

    The busyness of the line heavily depends on what is going on in the other parts and also the vocals. I do not shy away from playing "notes", but I make sure they are for the sake of the song, and not for my sake. I feel like my job in the band is rhythm guitarist/bass player, so sometimes I will harmonize with the guitar parts, and sometimes I am pounding the root. I am actually a drummer by trade, so I also feel liek I am the "alternate percussionist" in some situations and play lines that interplay with the drums.

    My bass lines are always evolving. We have songs that are 7 years old, and I play them way different now than when I wrote them. Some parts stay the same, some change.

    Other players say that I sound like "I have studied the style very well". The bass lines fit the songs very well and help support what they need to.

    A little "thing" I throw into some of the songs are references to my idols. Recently, it is the main riff from "Madhouse" by Anthrax, the little 3rd interval that descends chromatically. I do stuff like this to keep me interested, and to see if my buds in the scene can catch them.
  10. I play with a pick and recently started using dead notes. Hiding them behind drums, and letting the notes you choose ring through adds more funkiness/forward momentum to the song:)