Many songs have several elements that make it enjoyable to listen to and add to the depth and texture of the music. One of these elements is bass. Having bass in a song serves two purposes. First, it complements any percussion in a song as a rhythm instrument. The bass should reflect and interact with percussion and/or drums. Second, bass helps any musical instruments carry the main (or root) notes of a song, whether it be a singer, guitar, keyboard or other instrument.
Things You'll Need
- Bass guitar
- Recording equipment (optional)
- Paper and pencil for transposing music (optional)
- Original music or recorded music, minus bass tracks
Listen carefully to the percussion in the song. The bass is part of the rhythm section so it must be complementary to any drums or other percussion. Bass and percussion work together to make a song "tight." The main notes played by the bass are accented (more prominent) and coincide with the accents of the percussion.
Listen next to the instruments or vocals being sung. These instruments serve as the foundation for the bass line, as far as creating the actual sounds that accompany the rhythm. Find the "root" or main notes the instruments are playing or the singer is singing; this will help form the basic bass line.
Add bass to the music after listening to both the percussion and main notes. The idea is to combine the root notes that were determined in such a way that they fit with the rhythm pattern of the percussion in the song. This takes a great deal of practice.
Make the bass line more intricate after the root notes are in place by adding additional bass notes between and around the root notes. Begin with the root notes and the rhythm pattern initially, then move on to more complex interaction with the rest of the music as you become more experienced and comfortable.
Record or transpose (write down) the root notes as you create them, that way you can add to them later. Even with these notes, it takes a good deal of time before you make these notes fit with the rhythm of the song. In musical terms this is often called "staying in the pocket." This means keeping the bass notes in close relation to the percussion.
Keep bass notes on the same accents (noticeably louder or easier to hear hits on percussion) to create the "groove" that often makes it easy to dance or move along to the beat of a song. Bass notes often follow the accent of the kick drum or the snare drum.
Tips & Warnings
- You have to have a good knowledge of the notes in the song to create bass to add to it; go slowly. Transcribe the song in sheet music if you know how to read music.
- Stick to the main accents of song at first, when playing along with the percussive instruments. This will help to learn how to stay in the pocket, find the groove and eventually add to the flavor of the music with additional notes.
- Remember the bass is part of the rhythm section. Reminding yourself of this will help you keep it simple and not stray away from the bass' job.
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