Create powerful and memorable bass riffs with this simple process.
There's no set order for these steps and they're just simple guidelines to get your creative juices flowing.
Step 1 - Choose A Tempo/Length
Do you want a face-melting metal riff or a chilled soul one? Choose the tempo you want your riff to be and then set the bar (or measure) length. Most riffs are 2 or 4 bars long but there really is no rule here.
Step 2 - Pick A Style
A riff is really just a repeating pattern and many different styles of music employ them - especially on bass. Here are a few styles that you can pick from:
Think of a band or specific bass player you like and start your idea off from that point.
Step 3 - Harmony
The scale choice you make is crucial. The Phrygian mode is used a lot in metal, Dorian in funk and jazz, Mixolydian in soul and blues. Again, those aren't hard and fast rules but merely suggestions that work.
Choose a scale and then move on to the next step.
The minor and major pentatonic scales are used A LOT in riffs so start there!
Step 4 - Set A Rhythm
A riff is simply a repeating pattern comprised of some notes and rhythms. In step 3 you chose a scale. Now apply a simple set rhythm to some of those notes. Here is where you bring the tempo and the style together to create a bass line. Experiment then experiment again.
Keep doing this until you come up with good ideas.
Make sure to try your best to use your ear to work out your favourite riffs. Glean as many ideas as you can from these and listen to them through the lens of this four step process.