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Your thoughts on repetitive basslines?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by A Mirror Somewhere, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. A Mirror Somewhere

    A Mirror Somewhere

    Jun 16, 2014
    You know the ones that either literally or almost literally stay the same throughout most of the song....Do they bore you, playing or listening? Do you think they have their place in a given song/genre?

    Frankly, if it's not some over-noisy, rehashed synth line in a techno song or something I can appreciate it as much as any other bassline in a number of senses.

    The ultimate has got to be Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Such effectiveness and cool in just 3 notes. I've heard a version with a regular bassline and it's not nearly as powerful.

    Others are "Chain of Fools", "If I Needed Someone", and I really like "Body and Soul" (Love & Rockets) where after a mostly steady bassline David J bookends the song with these lovely, heavy runs - and those runs would not be nearly as effective if not for all the buildup.

    Also I'm wondering is there a musical term for these kinds of figures? Ostinato maybe? I've seen the term Static Harmony, in reference to If I Needed Someone, used exactly once but it seems to make sense.
    Robus likes this.
  2. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Papa was a Rolling Stone has such killer bass tone. IMO, The bass in songs like these has a ton in common with Drums. Drums in songs like these might be mistaken for boring also. But it has to be done that way. The trick is throwing a tiny tasteful fill for your own personal satisfaction and maybe the appreciation of other musicians. The general listener just doesn't have a clue what the bass is all about. I have spent my life pointing out cool bass lines to listeners. Every now and then somebody "gets it"
    That all being said, I dig jamming the bass on songs like these. It's not boring for me at all.
    Short-scale likes this.
  3. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    This one never bores me! Try it for 6 or 7 min and see if it's a challenge to keep the
    groove steady.

    zoom to 3:05 in to get to the 'repetitive' bass line...

    Phalex, Jay Mastro and StayLow like this.
  4. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Whatever makes the song. Hell, I play country music and/or blues (often!) and nothing is more repetitive. No matter, the song moves, the groove is there, and folks are dancin'. Works for me.
  5. I'm quite a fan of "hypnotic" basslines - simple, repetitive. It isn't exactly the same through the whole song, but one example that comes to mind is a song that my cover band is currently doing, "The Luxury" by The Tragically Hip. Songs like Billie Jean also would fit this bill for me.

    Anyway, I really like these types of lines, I love it when the bass can be the pulsing heartbeat of a song.
    Short-scale, HolmeBass, Remyd and 2 others like this.
  6. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    I admire the consistency and lack of ego.

    In many cases it's much harder to sustain a steady, repeated line than to be moving around all over the place. You can hide a lot of clams in speed and movement, not so much so in a clear static line.
    pacojas, RxFunk, Stewie26 and 5 others like this.
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This has nothing to do with Technique. Moved to Miscellaneous.
  8. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Oh **** yeah, baby! You know, Billy earned the nickname "Lint" because he's SO deep in the pocket!

    I think another reason this works is that the snare hit is almost always changing in each bar, but just about everything else in the drumbeat stays relatively stable for at least multiples of 4 bars.
  9. Rocker949


    Apr 20, 2005
    @A Mirror Somewhere
    For "If I Needed Someone," you could try listening to the George Harrison Live in Japan version for some slight variations with Nathan East on bass.

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  10. devntran


    Dec 24, 2013
    Depends for me. In a fast song I actually love it because it's easy and I can do stupid stuff more easily.
  11. Everyday People by Sly & the Family Stone.
    One note only, on the back beat so deceptive & really needs a tight band to get a solid groove. Awesome song.

    Can't Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie.
    Catchy as all getup to play live.
    maves75 likes this.
  12. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    It depends on what's repeating...
    Neil Young has a song called T-Bone.
    It's just over 9 minutes long--has three chords and 7 words.
    But i love playing it and listening to it--yet other songs get boring--so the groove is very important in those cases.
    bswag likes this.
  13. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    Lots of good examples already. Let me add Season of the Witch by Donovan.
    Donovan - Season Of The Witch (1966):
    jj4001, Wooly John and bswag like this.
  14. I'd have to say the ultimate repetitive bassline is the following....

    Short-scale and Remyd like this.
  15. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    If that is what it takes to support the rest of the song then I have no problem playing a repetitive bass line - in fact I do that quite a bit when playing blues ... it is actually a challenge to keep it really solid and simple, to not be tempted to throw in licks everywhere and overplay. Really simple and naked is to me more difficult than busy basslines, every timing mistake is noted immediately. And you have to stay really concentrated to keep the groove throughout the whole song, I have been known to drift off and think of other things while playing these songs, at least at rehearsals. :)
  16. avvie


    Oct 12, 2010
    Maui, HI
    You are awesome.

    That is all.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  17. Repetitive bassline? :)

  18. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Your bass neck needs a setup, it has a serious back bow problem.

    Funny video. :)
    Flad likes this.
  19. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    There is no virtue in quantity of notes nor cool arpeggios for sake of displaying your skill on the bass. The virtue and skill lies in your ability to make the song sound like it should sound regardless. I can imagine a 7 minute song where the bass is nothing but repeated low E whole notes. The playing of the part may be boring, but the song will sound good.
    Part of it may be that I am not listening to me. I am listening to the whole band and fitting me in to it.
  20. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Man, a repetitive bass line is sooooo challenging!!!!! Trying to play the same bass line for 3 to 4 mins without screwing up. I guess that's where a programmed bass synth comes in but then that is cheating, isn't it?

    Although there are many repetitious bass line songs out there, Huey and The News have 2 songs that are just killer for me. Although I'm not totally sure that they are a bass guitar or a bass synth.

    Working for a Living
    and I Want a New Drug

    Fun but challenging to play all the way through without screwing up.

    Excellent thread TBer, A Mirror Somewhere!!!
    blindrabbit and BassChuck like this.

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