#1
When I have an idea for a song, the part I'm always the least satisfied with is the bassline, because what I usually end up with is playing only the root plus some chromatic transition notes, and I feel that that's not appropriate for the songs.

Of course I've set the bar for myself somewhat high, because I compare everything I write to my most favourite bass line (Mike Dirnt's playing for Green Day's "Welcome to Paradise", see the video below), but even if I try to spice up simple bass lines with fifths and octaves, it sounds too artificial to me. Like somebody wrote it following a textbook example.

I don't know if that's just me being too critical of myself, but has anybody any suggestions on how to make rock and punk bass lines sound less boring? I feel like everything I know about music theory (using chord tones, scales, introducing the upcoming chord with its fifth, and so on) sounds bad when I try to incorporate it into my playing.


Welcome to Paradise bass track:

Last edited by HashtagMC at Mar 18, 2017,
#2
The question you should ask yourself is not 'is this bassline interesting.' The question is 'does it serve the song.' In fact, that doesn't apply only to the bassline, it applies to everything you write.

I started in bands when I only played bass. The songs I wrote for those bands were naturally bass oriented. Would I be wrong in assuming that you aren't a bassist first and foremost?

Anyways, everything you write should be serving the song. Some of the greatest songs have really simple basslines, but when it comes to playing them as a band, so much fun, and anything more than that simplicity would detract.

Maybe try writing a bassline first, and then write around it, as an exercise?
#3
You're right, I started out as a guitar player (five years so far), and I picked up the bass out of necessity, fell in love with the instrument instantly.

Well, the thing about serving the song is exactly the thing. I usually have a rhythm guitar that plays palm muted power chords in the verse, and some distorted riffs over it to give it for the "groove", which sounds pretty nice. That's what I want for the low end too, because just eights root notes don't do the songs justice, or at least that's what I think. The most "interesting" I've had so far is something like this:


   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
D|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A|-7---7---7---5-7-|---7-7---7---5---|-7---7---7---5-7-|---7-7---7-------|
E|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-------------7---|
#4
Does the rhythm guitar normally play straight eighths or similar? If so, try limiting the rhythm guitar to whole notes in the verse. This will give you a bit of space to work the bass in. There's a lot of competition to be heard with two guitars, a bassist, possibly a vocalist.
#5
Rhythm Guitar does eights. I've recently started cutting some frequencies from the guitars to make space for the vocals and perhaps the bass. When the rhythm guitar plays whole notes, the song sounds boring, like the guitarist (me) wasn't fast enough for 8ths.

I've just been playing around a bit, like you said, write a bass line first, and I've come up with something nice. I wonder, though, it sounds good even though it doesn't fit any scale. The chords would be E something, D major, A major, B major, and the notes used are A B C# D D# E F#. Now I'm confused, how come it fits C#, D and D# in it? Is that like a key change in the middle of the chord progression? So far, I've always tried to apply the scale the song was in.
Last edited by HashtagMC at Mar 18, 2017,
#8
I know that sounds flippant, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't use theory. It's great when I know what I want to say to someone I've never worked with before. Just don't let it define how you write. Write first, then worry about describing it.
#9
The real core to a good bass line is often in the rhythm rather than the root, 3,5,7 or whatever. Most of the time (no rules remember) that is going to relate to what the drums are doing more than any other instrument. Basslines tend to be either kick drum led or snare led. 

I quite like the idea of a 'groove skeleton' a rhythmic device of two emphasized beats that pretty much repeat through the song, or may change between verse and chorus of course. They are usually going to be the first and second played notes of the bar and often land on the double kick the drummer will make on the kick drum, it's explained better here http://www.dummies.com/art-center/music/bass-guitar/how-to-use-a-groove-skeleton-with-the-bass-guitar/

Go back to your Green day song and have a listen to how the bass bounces off the double kick the drummer uses when all the instruments are together and the more complex little runs are away from that point mainly. 

IMO a great bassline often sounds almost as good just playing the rhythm with just the root or with dead notes.

Thanks by the way, I quite enjoyed a coffee break working out what Mike Dirnt was doing. Greenday really craft some good songs
#10
I find it really helps to first ask yourself "What do I want to contribute?" If there's already enough going on melody-wise from the guitars and vocals, then the best thing to do might just be to play root notes, but even then, you have choices. You could play steady quarter or eighth notes to drive the song. You could only play along with the drummers kick to emphasize their groove. You could just play the root note once or twice when the chord changes, emphasizing the changes and those beats.

Look at Greenday. Guitar-wise, Welcome To Paradise is a complete bore of a song. The chord changes do a great job of creating movement under the lyrics, but there's really nothing special going on otherwise. This is a great opportunity for the drums and bass to throw in a lot of fills and flashiness to keep the song interesting. In this case, the bass really provides more melody than the guitar does. However, then the chorus comes along, and the goal of the bass becomes not to provide melody, but to put some drive under the openness of the vocals, so he focuses on low root notes, and doesn't really provide any fills until the very end of the chorus when it becomes time to get flashy again.

I highly recommend listening to some Interpol basslines. Their bassist, Carlos Dengler, is one of my all-time favorites, right up there with Flea, Chris Wolstenholme and Mike Dirnt. He does everything from playing melodies way down the neck, to completely ignoring root notes, to grooving around on his own rhythm, but he also knows when it's time to just chug along and drive the song. The songs I would check out would be PDA, Evil and Obstacle 1.
Last edited by herby190 at Mar 20, 2017,
#11
Another trick is to look for parts of the melody you'd like to emphasize. Below is an example of mine that demonstrates this; the bass plays mostly root notes (though it changes octaves), but it plays on beats that emphasize certain parts of the melody, creating a strong connection between the melody and rhythm of the track during the first couple measures on each chord, after which the bass starts to do its own thing to build toward the chord change and separate from the melody before reconverging.

https://soundcloud.com/cause_in_effect/our-sky-above-your-fears-below-extrospection-may-2014
Last edited by herby190 at Mar 20, 2017,
#12
It doesn't matter as long as it fits, that's what I found out. Of course if you have quick chord changes you can't really do much except follow the roots. When the chord transitions are longer, then you can basically solo throughout the whole song. Put big fills in the last beat or 2 of a measure, or you can do something like moving up or down the neck through the appropriate notes for the key while the guitar just plays the root. stuff like that. get creative. Here's one of our songs, it's nothing complicated but i think my bass line is appropriate but fun as well.

I'm a dirty fuckin' punk / i sell myself for a beer
#13
The band I'm currently in played our first "real" gig yesterday, and I found during recent rehearsals that "doing the Mike Dirnt" sounds nice for upbeat songs. By that, I mean going up and down before a chord change, like this:

   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G|-----------------|
D|-----------------|
A|-3-----3-5-3-2-3-|
E|-----------------|

Or this:

   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G|-----------------|
D|---------5-3-2-3-|
A|-3-----3---------|
E|-----------------|

Also, I tried doing fifths and octaves again, and it wasn't too bad, I played this over A minor:

   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G|-----------------|-----------------|
D|-----------------|-7---------------|
A|---------7-------|---------7-5-3-5-|
E|-5---------------|-----------------|
#14
Quote by herby190
Look at Greenday. Guitar-wise, Welcome To Paradise is a complete bore of a song. The chord changes do a great job of creating movement under the lyrics, but there's really nothing special going on otherwise. This is a great opportunity for the drums and bass to throw in a lot of fills and flashiness to keep the song interesting. In this case, the bass really provides more melody than the guitar does. However, then the chorus comes along, and the goal of the bass becomes not to provide melody, but to put some drive under the openness of the vocals, so he focuses on low root notes, and doesn't really provide any fills until the very end of the chorus when it becomes time to get flashy again.

Now that you mention it, that makes a lot of sense regarding Green Day's older albums. Back in the days, it was just Billie on the guitar, no lead, so then, Mike did all the melody stuff under the rhythm guitar work. "Dookie" is full of songs that are driven by the bass line. "When I Come Around", "She", "Longview", "Welcome to Paradise", "Nice Guys Finish Last", and so on.

Then during "American Idiot", their style changed. There were solos now, they had Jason do the second guitar more and more, and Mikey started playing nothing but root notes. I guess given your above explanation, the "melody" part had been taken over by the lead guitar, making it more appropriate for Mike to resort to simple 8ths.
#15
Look over classical organ music. I started out playing pedals, heel and toe with both feet, on old pipe organs. 
You'll find there are some amazing bass runs that almost stand on their own. 
Then look over a bunch of old MoTown music. Hell, you can even look at Ross Valory playing Journey songs as a model. 
Then check out John Entwhistle's bass work with the Who. He and Keith Moon had more influence over the actual sound of that band than anything that Daltry or Pete did. 
#16
Quote by dspellman
Look over classical organ music. I started out playing pedals, heel and toe with both feet, on old pipe organs. 
You'll find there are some amazing bass runs that almost stand on their own. 
Then look over a bunch of old MoTown music. Hell, you can even look at Ross Valory playing Journey songs as a model. 
Then check out John Entwhistle's bass work with the Who. He and Keith Moon had more influence over the actual sound of that band than anything that Daltry or Pete did. 

 Good points.
Here's an example of the space that John filled between gutiar licks.

#17
Wow. That's really impressive. Besides Limp Bizkit's cover of "Behind Blue Eyes", I'd never heard anything of The Who, but now I definitely got to look into their music.
#19
I tried writing something, and came up with this bass line (it's in Drop C, because I practised Skillet's "Monster" shortly before):

bpm = 97

   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
f|-----------------|-----------------|
c|-----------------|-----------------| (x3)
G|-----------------|-----------------|
C|-0-0-0-5-6-6-6-5-|-3-3-3-4-5-4-3-2-|


   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
f|-----------------|-----------------|
c|-----------------|-----------------|
G|-----------------|-----------------|
C|-0-0-0-5-6-6-6-5-|-2-2-2-3-4-4-4-5-|

I made some Grunge-like stuff out of it afterwards. It sounds pretty nice (to me), even though it completely disregards harmony and music theory. I play C5, F#5, D#5, F#5, D5 and E5 over it.
#20
Your best bet to get out of simple 4/4 rhythms and root/5th note lines is to listen to and play with drummers who know all sorts of interesting rhythms.  A drum machine is also of great use.  Just pick interesting and unusual rhythms and listen for melodies that go along with them.  It'll break you out of your rut.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
#21
Learn some bass lines - you can't think like a bass player unless you get some riffs under your fingers

I find it helps to write a riff on bass first , then add guitar etc, that makes it easier to get out of th3 root note rut
#22
Two and a half months later, I gotta say, what worked best was the "try writing a bassline first and then write around it". Got some really nice bass riffs out of that, and I found that it was way easier to come up with a chord progression to a bassline than the other way round.
#23
Quote by HashtagMC
When I have an idea for a song, the part I'm always the least satisfied with is the bassline

Are you playing an actual bass? Keyboard? Shifted guitar?
You can do a couple of things, insert your bass playing as a place holder until you get an actual bassist to write something focused, or you can sit down for a month or more playing bass as your primary instrument.
Then you get more clued into what bass players are thinking.

Also what delirium said, it should serve the song, when I tried to do bass parts with an actual bass I played it like a guitar, adding too many licks, it was too "busy" for a proper bass.
The songs always sounded like 4 guys trying to out play each other.
Keyboard bass was easier for me, but that always sounds like keyboard bass.

Edit: And then I read the post above mine and realize it's not an issue any longer...SMH.
Last edited by 33db at Jun 10, 2017,
#24
Actual bass, and I am the actual bassist. I've been playing bass for almost a year now (started last August) and I've learned lots of basslines from songs I like since then, so I think "getting clued into what bassists think" isn't the problem. I know my bass and its place in a song, and I know that it's not just an oversized guitar, if that's what you're hinting on.

When I have two guitars (I think I wrote that in the original post?), I've come to find that only roots is most times what serves the purpose best, but with only one (rhythm) guitar, lots of bass licks isn't necessarily wrong, it adds the "drive" to songs.
#25
Like I said, the "bass first, compose around it later"-advise was the best to get me to compose riffs and licks. Even if I couldn't use them sometimes, because they were taking away from the guitar too much, trying to compose songs primarily for bass showed me lots of things I could incorporate into my playing.
#26
Quote by HashtagMC
Actual bass, and I am the actual bassist. I've been playing bass for almost a year now (started last August) and I've learned lots of basslines from songs I like since then, so I think "getting clued into what bassists think" isn't the problem. I know my bass and its place in a song, and I know that it's not just an oversized guitar, if that's what you're hinting on.

When I have two guitars (I think I wrote that in the original post?), I've come to find that only roots is most times what serves the purpose best, but with only one (rhythm) guitar, lots of bass licks isn't necessarily wrong, it adds the "drive" to songs.

Naw not hinting at anything, I was using my experience as a guitarist trying to add bass to my songs.

I would add that some of the more melodic stuff doesn't necessarily use the root in the bass, think bass note "A" while guitarist plays C major triad, and that sort of thing.
You're one or 2 notes of a chord played by you and the guitarist.
#27
I've always worked from the chords.
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#28
This probably isn't your thing but, Flea has a very good way of incorporating *root into songs
Here's an example: 




He's playing a crapton of rhythm without being tied to the roots. 

One thing I do is write bass riffs that pop in and out of the roots. Kinda like the RHCP song I posted. I started off with root notes, then branch out from there within the same few bars. It can be tricky depending on the song. But it's really cool when it locks in nicely. 

Another thing, I tend to write the bass after I discover the main melody or 'theme' of a song. This wasn't intentional but I ended up being more creative playing the bass by playing around the singers notes instead of guitars. Sounds weird saying it like that but It helps a ton and I usually end up having to cut back my ideas for bass lines - I end up with a lot - and sometimes it gets too out there and I have to simplify it

I think I'm enjoying writing for bass more because I can play (and be creative) against the drums, singer and guitar  
Quote by LivinJoke84
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Last edited by Phazon at Jun 15, 2017,
#29
Quote by Phazon
This probably isn't your thing but, Flea has a very good way of incorporating non-roots into songs
Here's an example: 




He's playing a crapton of rhythm without being tied to the roots. 

I love what he is doing but it's almost all root notes, plus the octave which is also the root (and a few dead notes). It's a great example of just how much you can do with just the root and a good rhythm.
#30
Phil Starr Yeah my bad. They are root notes. But the idea is that for the listener, it's not your typical 'bum bum bum' of the bass-roles root notes. 

This thread made me think about it... and damn I love writing for bass
Quote by LivinJoke84
I cant be naked. I have a huge fear of leaving a stain wherever i sit. Especially if its really warm
#31
Yeah, I hope that wasn't too picky, it's just the tabs were on screen. The point for the OP is that you can do a lot with just the root and root/fifth if you pay attention to the rhythm. If one of the worlds best bassists comes up with root based lines then there's no need for any of us to be embarrassed if that's what we end up with.

I don't write songs but play live a lot. In that situation the main thing a bassist has to do is keep the band together so I tend to go for the simple. It's way more important that I don't make mistakes and help support the band than that I sound good.Once I've got the chord changes The first thing to listen to is the drum pattern, then whoever is the lead at the time, singer or guitar usually. If I get to play a song regularly only then do I add any fills or runs. 

Interesting comment above about playing with one guitar rather than two. You play far busier bass lines in a trio compared with a bigger band usually.
#32
Wow, he's really getting a buttload of energy into the song with just one and a half notes (root and octave) plus some transition... impressive. Not really where I wanna be as a bassist, but it's for sure a good lesson on rhythm. I gotta play around with that a bit.
#33
Quote by Deliriumbassist


It's a good debate as to who had greater influence on modern electric bass playing - Jack Pastorius or John Entwhistle.

John Entwhistle was the original who brought bass to the for along with Jack Bruce and Andy Fraser. Must admit initialy I wasn't too keen but I soon appreciated it.
G&L L2500
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass 5
Ashdown RPM pre-amp
Ashdown Little Giant 1000
300 watt 15" powered cab
450 watt 15" powered sub bass cab
2x10 + horn
1x15x10 + horn
#34
Quote by Deliriumbassist
Sack applying scales. Music theory describes what's going on, it isn't a set of rules.

Sadly that is what mant guitar teachers teach their pupils, if you look on another section on this forum you'll  see speople asking what scale does so and so use on a particular song. When I transfered from guitar to Bass the biggest aid for me was knowing chord structures.
G&L L2500
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass 5
Ashdown RPM pre-amp
Ashdown Little Giant 1000
300 watt 15" powered cab
450 watt 15" powered sub bass cab
2x10 + horn
1x15x10 + horn
#35
 I usually start with the guitar chords.  Classic rock uses root fifths, country uses fourths. Sometimes there's a lick to   learn so I start with root 3rd or 5th and see what it sounds like. Right now I'm working on Dirty Little Girl by Elton John.  I started with the chords from the guitar tab   here:

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/e/elton_john/dirty_little_girl_crd.htm

 For the opening riff I use:

(chords D and Cmaj)

root 3rd 5th 6th 7th octave from D major , then same pattern for C major

D D D F# A B C# D

C C C E G A B C

#36
The best friend a bassist can have is a competant drummer who you can get in the groove with.
G&L L2500
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass 5
Ashdown RPM pre-amp
Ashdown Little Giant 1000
300 watt 15" powered cab
450 watt 15" powered sub bass cab
2x10 + horn
1x15x10 + horn
#37
HashtagMC on this example

   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
D|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A|-7---7---7---5-7-|---7-7---7---5---|-7---7---7---5-7-|---7-7---7-------|
E|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-------------7---|

you could try adding in some octaves as well to make it a little more interesting, something like this 


   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G|---------9-------|---------9-------|---------9-------|-----------------|
D|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A|-7---7-------5-7-|---7-7-------5---|-7---7-------5-7-|---7-7-----------|
E|---------------0-|-----------------|---------------0-|---------0-5-7---|

I usually find that octaves are a good way to make a song sound more interesting even without straying from the root note. Of course that will depend on what the rest of the band is doing too.
Last edited by scottr7 at Jul 14, 2017,
#38
Quote by HashtagMC
Like I said, the "bass first, compose around it later"-advise was the best to get me to compose riffs and licks. Even if I couldn't use them sometimes, because they were taking away from the guitar too much, trying to compose songs primarily for bass showed me lots of things I could incorporate into my playing.

HashtagMC  Another way to stand out from the guitars is to make the rhythm/melody mimic the vocalist (if you have one) and follow along with the vocal line. It will help separate your bass from the guitars
#39
Funny you mention octaves. In the band I played in until yesterday (school band, graduated yesterday) we had one song where there wasn't much room for a bassist. We played Adele's "Someone Like You", and since our guitarist needed a capo 'cause he couldn't/wouldn't play the song the right way, my job was to make sure the right bass was played even though he played it wrong. (Sounds a bit weird, basically, the second chord is fretted like an A/G#, but the notes that are actually played (C# E G#) make it C#m/G#. He would play a G with Capo II, so an A major, and I had to supply the G# bass).

That song doesn't need much of a bassist, so I played root at the beginning of the bar, and octave at the beginning of the next bar, sounded rather good for such a simple thing.

Vocalist... well, right now, I'm in a phase where I write lots of songs without knowing lyrics to them (had that the other way round some time ago, lots of texts, couldn't come up with melody), so there's not really a vocalist to follow.

Wasn't better with the school band either, our vocalist didn't practice once and thus messed up constantly, was often out of key, missed a beat, or got the rhythm of the lyrics totally wrong, which led to omitting words and whole lines to keep up with the rhythm she'd gotten wrong. Usually, she would start a line on the wrong beat already, then singing parts too slow or too fast, and then the time for the next line would have come and she hadn't been halfway through the first line. But when I pointed that out to her, she always bitched at me and insulted me, claiming she had no time to practise (I told her, if she would've listened to the song ONE time a day and sung along, she would've had 50-some practices till the upcoming gig). We once told her to learn the lyrics to "Nothing Else Matters", week later, she showed up for practice and said "I listened to the song one time" and thought that that was enough.
#40
The bassline itself doesn't need to be complex. You can write a fairly simple bassline and just play it a bit more freely, a bit like the main melody doesn't need to be sung in exactly the same way all the time - the singer may change some of the rhythms and maybe add some embellishments. Sure, you need to know your role and you shouldn't overplay. But you can base your playing on a pretty simple bassline and just add stuff to it based on how you feel. It's a lot about using your ears, listening to what the other instruments are playing and reacting to that. And if it doesn't work, you can always go back to the simplest form and it will most likely sound just fine. In most music an interesting bassline is one of the least important parts of the song. As long as the bass is playing notes that fit the chords and rhythms that fit the music, that's usually enough. Sure, there's nothing wrong with interesting basslines, and if a song has a great bassline, that's of course a plus. But writing the most amazing bassline isn't really something that you need to worry about that much (unless you play disco/funk).

Remember that many times in bass playing groove is the most important thing. I think bassists should learn the feelings of different kinds of grooves. When you listen to what the other instruments play, that may suggest a "Latin feel" or "funk feel" or whatever. And you can use those as the basis of your bassline. So if the drummer plays a funky drum beat, you may also want to play something funky. It's important to listen to where the accents are placed. But different kinds of grooves are best learned by just listening to what the rhythm section (guitar, bass, drums/percussion) does in different styles. And even though you are playing rock and punk, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take influences from other genres too.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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