Bass Lesson

This month we look at more riff based ideas utilising displacement, rhythms, open strings and syncopation. Remember that a good bass line can rely on a number of factors and be as simple or complex as you like – it really depends on context as long as it sounds good and feels good to play.

Figure A works nicely over an 80 BPM straight funk or R&B groove. Get those fingers working on the semi quavers, aiming for an even and consistent tone. Pay attention to note length too, keeping the semi quavers tight.

With a descending minor pentatonic motif at the start of each bar, Figure B uses a repetitive rhythmic phrase, and then a variation each time to create some interest. You can try incorporating hammer-ons and pull-offs for different articulations or faster tempos, but also try playing them fingerstyle to work your strumming hand. Over a straight rock or metal groove it might also sound cool to add some distortion or gain for an edgier sound.

Figure C works as a B minor sound over a slow funk, R&B or reggae drum groove. Playing either quavers or semi quavers on the start of each bar creates a strong rhythmic foundation, which then leaves the rest of the bar for some variation and extra colour. Bar 1 extends the B minor sound with a higher descending line of D, C#, A and F# which creates a minor 9th sound. The descending phrase in the second half of the second bar utilises the open G note for a nice variation to playing both the F# and G as fretted notes. Although they are played as semi quavers, and obviously individual notes, the F# and G almost create a clashy sound when played this way, as there’s a split second where you can hear the two notes together. Alternatively try deliberately letting the open G note ring to hear some cool overtones. Bar four finishes the line with a typical reggae styled phrase.