OK, I understand numerous scales (pentatonic, every mode of the major, etc.), but when I make bass lines, solos, whatever, I find that I get stuck in this box of just kinda running through the scales and randomly picking notes from the scale.

Instead of actually forming lines that sound good, I usually end up playing things that sound OK, but not really good or emotional, which is what I'm wanting.

I really want to be able to use my knowledge of scales/intervals to create emotional and well written pieces and improvisations, but I feel that my theory knowledge is ultimately holding me back because I get stuck inside this metaphorical box when I play of just following the scale and not picking the next note I play because it sounds good, only because it "works".

When I see guys who are constantly playing things that sound good, it blows my mind because I know I should be able to play like them, but I can't. I am extremely frustrated.

How do I solve this problem?
Slappa tha bass
Last edited by hootie37 at Apr 20, 2014,
The problem most likely isn't your note selection. You can make a run of the same note sound interesting- dynamics and phrasing are two very important facets that are often overlooked. When I started looking into solo bass pieces and more melodic lines, I didn't study bassists- I studied vocalists. Best thing I ever did.

Coming back to note selection though, when you're writing, just change one note at a time. A song I used to play in my uni band had an ascending/descending major scale run twice through. The run starts on A, and resolves back to A via:

A 7-5-4

on the first run. On the second run, the phrase after (which was the prechorus) started on C# (A -4-). So what ai did was, instead. Of the tabbed line above, I played:

A 7-6-

And held the D# before going to the C# at the beginning of the prechorus. It added a bit of tension right before the prechorus. Two notes became one changed note. Sometimes that's all the difference. Hope that made sense.
Use your ears. You posted a similar question to Musician Talk.

Theory doesn't really tell you what to do. Theory is not limiting you. You are just misunderstanding theory as strict rules that you need to follow. That's not what theory is. Theory can explain anything you do in music, no matter if it sounds good or bad. You can use all the 12 notes and it's "theoretically correct" - or in other words, theory can explain it.

You have learned some random scales. Don't play them scalarly. Learn to play them musically. Learn their sound. Learn how they differ from each other. I would actually suggest learning the major scale well and then learning other scales. See how other scales differ from the major scale. What notes do you need to change to get the dorian scale? How does it sound like? Sound is the most important thing in music. You need to get rid of the randomness. Play what you hear, don't try to play "correct" stuff because anything you play is "correct". What sounds good to you is good.

And yeah, note choice isn't everything. Rhythm is really important. And when it comes to bass, it may be even more important than note choice. If you play a boring groove but good notes, it won't really sound good. But if you play an interesting rhythm just using two notes, it can sound awesome. With just the root (or octave) and minor 7th you can make lots of groovy basslines. You don't really need a lot more than that. Try using just E and D notes and make a rhythm based bassline. Forget about all the other notes - you don't need them. Sometimes it's good to limit yourself to just a couple of notes because it makes it easier to focus on other stuff like rhythm.

Also pay attention to your sound. You can play the same line differently. For example legato and staccato are two different articulations. You can also play it softer or harder. Or play nearer the bridge or neck. They all give different kinds of sounds. Note choice isn't everything.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.


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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 20, 2014,
I'm no music theory expert, so there may be more efficient approaches. What has worked for me is simply playing the scale and attempting to improvise with it until it's so heavily ingrained into my head and muscle memory that I can essentially hum a tune in that particular scale, and then my fingers follow.
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What you are missing is LEARNING OTHER SOLOS. The way to learn to solo is learn other solos you like and steal and replay them. Eventually you develop a vocabulary that you can transpose into different keys and such. Learning other solos and playing other music is more important and more valuable than learning scales.
Who are you playing with?

I'm not convinced that the bass makes a good solo instrument, I'm certainly an accompanist not a lead musician so I only create 'mood' within a band situation. There are a whole load of isolated bass lines on Youtube from really well known recordings, to me they all sound dull out of context of the song. You are probably being to hard on yourself.

I'd also repeat the advice to look at your phrasing and rhythm and to keep it simple.

However if you are at a level where this is becoming limiting then have a look on this site which is really from intermediate to advanced and should give you plenty of inspiration http://www.scottsbasslessons.com/online-video-bass-lessons

have fun!
Your problem is not uncommon. Great leads come from scales, but great lines come from chord tones. Start practicing your major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc. chords and check out the relationships of the notes to each other. Listen to the chords. Listen to the tones of those chords. Then see if that does not give you some more innovative and interesting ideas.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley