Tips On How To Create Basslines (With Music Theory)

This is one of the big questions for many bass players. How do I create my own basslines? I explain a few key areas to focus on in this video lesson. Read through this post and check out the other videos too but be sure to bookmark this page as there's a lot of info here.

I create basslines every single week for clients around the world via my online bass recording service (www.onlinebassplayer.com). If you've played bass for as long as I have (nearly 30 years!!) then you see the patterns. You really don't need to have played bass for very long at all to get this though.

Here are some of the things I talk about in the video and some further lessons going into more detail.

Scales

These are the building blocks of basslines. Any bassline you love is made from some scale or the other; either in the form of consecutive notes from the scale or triads, arpeggios, and chords built from it. In short: You need to know scales. The major scale is the most common one in western music.


Relative Minor

The major scale sounds bright and happy but life would be boring if it were all smiles and kittens right? Every major scale has a shadier relative called the natural minor scale. This gives us a darker sound suitable for rock and other styles.

Chord Progressions

Songs are usually made up of chord progressions. Every scale forms a set of chords which act as a palette of colours. Like an artist, a songwriter can organise these chords into an order that sounds pleasing to the ear and, hey presto, you have the beginnings of a piece of music. You as a bass player can play tones from the chord along with scales to make up a cool line.

Triads

A triad is the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a scale played one by one. Bass players use them all the time.

Arpeggios

An arpeggio is the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 8th (octave) notes of a scale played separately. You can add other notes from the scale to create a whole range of different sounds. Arpeggios (or chord tones) are what bass players play all the time. It's really important that you understand these.

Chords

Chords are just triads or arpeggios where you play the notes all together rather than separately. Bass players rarely play them although they can sound really effective in many situations. It's good to know them anyway as you can always play the notes one by one and it sounds like you have a more traditional bassline anyway. Knowing chords is also useful because you can read chord charts much more easily.

The Pentatonic Scale

This is your secret weapon. Don't tell anyone but you can play these five notes for the rest of your life and it will get you through so much music in so many different styles. Not only this scale, of course, but it's used loads...

The Blues Scale

The addition of one note to a pentatonic scale creates a blues scale. This is a sound you will hear not just in blues but in rock, funk, pop, metal, and jazz. It's such an easy way to add spice to your basslines.

Articulations

There is a lot more to music than just notes. Phrasing, groove, feel, timing, rhythm, and flair all contribute to the magic. Articulations add life and character to your lines.

Modes

A mode is a kind of like a scale within a scale. The major scale has seven different notes in it and you can start a new scale from any one of these seven notes resulting in seven new collections of notes with differing patterns (and, therefore, sounds). We call these modes. They can make your bass playing go from monochrome to technicolour.


Rhythms

A bass player is part of the rhythm section so that should give you a clue as to what you need to master. Add some cool rhythms to your notes and you have yourself a great bassline.

Well, actually, maybe you could say:

The right note choices + interesting phrases/rhythms + articulations + groove/timing/feel + heart/spirit + the right style + fitting into the context of the song = a great bassline. Click To Tweet

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