Rhythmic ideas such as quavers, semi quavers and dotted notes added some extra flavour along with incorporating the 5th and repetitive riffs/motifs. So let’s plug in our vintage J or P, slot in a dampener near the bridge jump into some more examples. (Please note – vintage J or P and dampener are optional!).
Figure A starts with a II – V progression in the key of D Major (so Em7 to A7) which can be heard in hundreds of soul/funk tunes. Using crotchets the first bar plays low E, the next bar open A and bars three and four then play the same progression up an octave. This could be played as a medium tempo straight soul/funk groove.
Expanding on root notes Figure B then adds some movement from the Em7 to A7. Bar one moves diatonically E-F#-G and then plays G# on beat four which moves nicely up a semi tone to A on the first beat of bar two. Continuing the ascending movement bar two plays A-B-C#-D which then leads into E in bar three. This bar is the same notes as bar one but played up an octave before the last bar moves in a descending fashion A-G-F#-F. Whilst not overly difficult Figure B now has more harmonic content and creates movement from Em7 to A7, a nice contrast to Figure A.
Figure C takes chromatic ideas and adds more rhythmic variety. Similar to Figure A and Figure B this bass line aims to move from the root notes of Em7 to A7 with both diatonic and chromatic passing tones. The extra quavers combined with crotchets then help with this movement and rhythmic variation.
Lastly Figure D combines all the previous elements with some more syncopation. The first three beats of bar one are essentially root and fifth with the tie and semi quavers creating a bouncy Motown feel. This type of phrase can be heard on tracks from Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder and more. Beat four then moves from B chromatically down to Bb which gets us to A (the root note of A7) on beat one of bar two. Playing over A7 bar two uses a descending quaver line A-A-G-G-Gb-Gb-F-F which again combines both diatonic and chromatic notes to lead into Em7 in bar three. Another root and fifth type lick is played at the start of bar three before two Bb quavers take us to bar four (A7). This bar starts with a classic rock/blues/soul arpeggio styled lick/bass line. Outlining the A7 chord the lick starts on the root note (A) then moves from C to C# before playing E and F# (the fifth and sixth of the chord respectively). This sound has been heard in countless musical situations and is a common and important lick for guitarists and bass players alike to have in their arsenal.
Hopefully this gives you some more ideas and material for playing in a soul style and for constructing soul sounding bass lines. The chord progression can be simple and often the bass line has moments of simplicity (both rhythmically and harmonically) but you can then add some subtle touches to give it a more syncopated feel a la James Jamerson, Bob Babbit and the like!
Missed last month’s bass lesson? We got you, fam.