Writing better bass lines

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Clydesauce, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    Recently, I left one band I was playing with because we weren't really serious and I had other friends that I played with all the time for fun that just want to play music like me. We started a band a while ago and not until now have we started writing our own songs. Our guitar and drums are really strong and I am proud to say we have a good singer. The problem is me in my eyes. I feel the genre we are building/ playing needs stronger bass lines. I am a decent player in my eyes. I can play yyz with ease if that says anything, but when it came to my old band, pop punk rock, I played basically 4 notes on repeat the whole song. I understand that scales are used to make more complex bass lines, but how do I connect them to make that sexy line?

    If I need to clear it up more I will, I am not the best with presenting my questions. As well, the genre is kind of like mix megadeth's sound, with Sabbath, with Nirvana and The Doors.
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Even if you are not interested in jazz itself, IMO learning the basics of walking bass lines will be a big help in being able to come up with your own lines for any type of music. Learning the inversions of chords is also recommended. If you are interested in getting a walking bass book, I would recommend this :


    The Ed Friedland books are also great but IMO the one above is the best to start with.

    Dave Marks has a series of lessons on walking bass. Later on in the lessons, he deals with inversions.


    Finally here is a link to chord tones and inversions :

  3. Exadon


    Jul 3, 2013
    Dude I'm in the same boat as you. My guitarist is killer, and I'm a pretty swell vocalist, but I feel like my bass riffs are just kind of holding things together.

    I mean, I know that's the job of the bassist, but I'd like to get a second to shine here and there.
  4. MarcTheRogue


    Mar 27, 2013
    I say the best way to right bass lines is to have a good rhythm. No rhythm, no good bass lines. But since you can play YYZ, I think you're in good shape. Doing scales and arpeggios as little licks that are still in key are very important for building a good bass line. Just be sure to be on time! Also chords on a bass sound nice as well. I would sparingly use them since the end result might become a bit muddy. Hammer-ons for faster scale licks will become your best friend. In smoother, lighter moods for music, harmonics fit in nicely. Just, be sure to remember to add in some wow-factor. As in, your own little flavor and personality to your musicianship. Odd time signatures are good too, only if your band is okay with them, and they don't sound like a giant mish-mash of copied and pasted licks that feel they should in different songs altogether.

    Also, the process of notes are a must to remember.

    Notes > Scales > Chords > Arpeggios > Arpeggios that involve tapping and make other bass players want to quit. :bassist:
  5. MarcTheRogue


    Mar 27, 2013

    This also helps too. I had a better image that is more in depth, but it won't let me upload personal photos from my drive on here. If you like, OP, I can message it to you via email.
  6. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    Thanks for all the input. I will look into those links. and thanks mac. I have been playing bass for 5 years now, almost six and literally i just learned to play other peoples songs. I can look at any tab or learn it in the first try and maybe second time, mistake free. I will look into what you said more. I only know the word arpeggio, not what it means. haha you have to get motivated to get better i guess.
  7. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I agree with those recommending theory, jazz and so forth but do you ever just sit and listen to the scratch tracks to see what basslines start showing up in your head?
  8. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    Yeah that is how I have been coming up with the lines I have. I have found some zepplin, metallica, sabbath, and some other bands bass tracks and I listen and I just at one point turn it off and try and create the next line which I really never do but it gives me ideas for mine.
  9. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    An arpeggio is where the notes of a chord are played one note at a time as apart from strumming them altogether, as a guitarist would. Ninety percent of the time, a bassist will play arpeggios.

    Here is yet another link to check out. It is worth starting at the beginning of the lessons and working your way through the exercises.

  10. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    haha I found that out. This is one of the reason I sometime wish I got lessons and didn't self teach myself. I taught myself how to play but not how to get better.
  11. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef is modulating in time. Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    Southern California
    Learning scales is great. I also agree with jallenbass, sit with some scratch tracks and try to hear the bass line in your head (or sing along to it), then figure out the notes in your head. If the guitar player is really good, there's no shame in asking him what he thinks would be a good bass line to compliment what he is playing. I look at most of my bass lines as good middle ground or compromise between the rhythm of the drums and the melody/chords of the guitar (or other prominent lead instrument).
  12. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    Thanks for the advice. I will work on it. and thank you to everyone that said something. If you have any other advice or things you do I would love to here them because I am in the mood to learn it all.
  13. devilstone


    Nov 22, 2008
    Torrington, CT
    Definitely the tip above, talking with guitarist is KEY. You can write the bass lines in the world, if they don't either mesh well with, or provide the right amount of contrast to the guitar part, it will sound bad. Scott Devine has a good series on building bass lines, check out his site also.
  14. vbchaos


    Sep 5, 2011
    Groningen, The Netherlands
    Uncompensated endorsing user: fEARful
    Just sing to it - it sounds so stupid, but it helps!
    My bass teacher always said "the essential talent is to be able to play what you actually hear inside your head".
    I make bass-riffs almost always this way. Most of the times our guitarist comes up with a riff or a hook-line. I repeat in in my head over and over again and sing to it. After some time you get the hang of it. Strange enough when I sing to it I do very different sequences of tones as I would when I play.

    We have one guitar and one bass. These two instruments must carry it all - they must run with each other but not play the same. You have to add someting to the other without running away too far. Your connection with the guitarist is essential. Sit together and look for something. Our singer always gets pissed when we start with new songs because he is has nothing to do the first hour when we figure out riffs and beats :)
    When I jam I also sometimes have crazy riff idea. Fiddle on the scales, take some strange beats. After 5 minutes, you have something. Might not be song-worthy, but you never know how riffs actually become real riffs.
    Current song we are working on: I had a freaking bass hookline and I worked it out for bass and guitar as a kind of stoner-rock song. Our guitarist liked the riff but stated "there must be a second riff". I played the riff over and over again when our drummer kicked in a 7/8 beat and brought me out of me beat. While I struggled, I accidentally created a new one, that fit perfectly :)
  15. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    thanks mate will try that too. I started getting some better sounding lines.
  16. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    You can learn an awful lot about constructing great bass parts by listening to Beatles records. Check out how McCartney underpins a tune.
  17. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    +1. I worked through Ed Friedland's "Building Walking Bass Lines" years ago, because I wanted to learn to walk lines through jazz changes. The book also had the unintended effect of giving me a whole new vocabulary of concepts I could apply to rock and other styles. I would bet his "Building Rock Bass Lines" would be a tremendous help to you too.

    Fair warning: his "Walking Bass Lines" book is all in standard notation, where the "Rock Bass Lines" book contains tab too. Working my way through "Walking Bass Lines" is part of how I learned to sight read.
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG

    Jinglesmeowmeow likes this.
  19. Zootsuitbass

    Zootsuitbass Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2011