There are two main categories of bass players. Those who started because the band missed the bass and…the others.
Bass has always been an underrated instrument, it doesn’t lead as guitar and it’s not considered as cool as drums, and, of course, no one does ever remember the bass player’s name.
But what if I tell you bass is the most particular instrument of the band?
It has, in fact, a fundamental role: it’s the bridge between the rhythm and the harmony.
Imagine you’re walking on an unstable floor, like when you take the tube and you risk to fall all the time: this is what happens when the bass player is not doing his job!
Your bass line is gonna be the band’s engine, the floor on which all the instruments stand. The bass player has his work cut out in connecting the drums with the other instruments, and he does it through a powerful mean: groove.
Creating a groovy bass line is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. It can make the difference between a song and a hit. And guess what? There are no magic formulas or secrets to make it work!
However there are some tricks that may guide you in the process, and today I want to explore them with you. So, let’s see together what they are!
Use the right number of notes.
You don’t have to overplay to create a solid groove. Music is full of amazing bass lines built over a couple of notes. Think about “Another one bites the dust”, “Come together”, “Another brick in the wall”.
Attention to the accents.
Remember you’re the glue between rhythm and melody. If you’re playing with a drummer, you can decide to follow his beat or you can create your own pattern and let the drummer follow you. In any case, you and the drums have to work together as a rhythmic section. Listen to the strong movements and indulge them to create a “sound carpet” on which the other instruments can move freely.
Pauses and notes have the same value.
Let the music breathe, you don’t have to fill all the space.
Many notes often means much confusion.
A solid groove must be direct and make the listener move the foot. It has to be easy to remember.
And now the primary question:
Which notes to play?
If you have to build your groove on chords someone gave to you, check them out before to play: first of all, you’ll have to play the fundamentals.
If you’re playing on your own you have no limits, follow your creativity, choose notes you like and work on them.
Notes and beat are interchangeable, so you can decide to start from the beat and find notes once you got a rhythm you like. While you’re creating the beat, listen to the drums accents or the rhythm of the guitar if you play acoustic.
Now you have the beat and the notes it’s time to add some grace notes.
Every music genre has its preferences on this. Disco music, for example, works a lot with octaves. Heavy metal likes fifth intervals and funky music often uses sevenths.
Look at the chords and their accidentals, play scales and arpeggios on them to feel the sound and choose following your music taste.
Looking for references is always good. Listening to other musicians and what they played before is the oldest way to learn music.
Experiment. Play any idea you have in mind, try different patterns and lines until you find the perfect one. There’s more than one way to play a song, and the one you choose contributes to create your own phrasing and make your sound recognisable to the listener.
In this article I tried to give you some advices to create a groovy bass line. But at the end I think that the most important thing is to feel the music. I know it could sound trivial, but the reason is that it’s true! You could apply these instructions step by step and still not be able to do it, and instead you could know absolutely nothing about all these stuff and come up with a wonderful groove you played following just your instinct. As I said, there are no magic formulas for music, but only knowledge you can use to make it work better for you. For this reason I prepared for you this week a new music theory lesson that may help you in understanding music a little more. As usual you can find it in the download zone.
Let your creativity flow and see what happens!
See you next week,