Pro Audio Files

Tips for Creating Bass Lines (Part 1)

Transcript
Hey guys, Matthew Weiss — theproaudiofiles.com and theproaudiofiles.com/workshops. That’s where you can find my new Workshop Series.

The Workshop Series are tutorials that are inexpensive that are aimed at one very specific subject, like mixing vocals to an instrumental 2-track. Something where I can just really dig into one very specific topic and get really fleshed out over the course of an hour to an hour and a half.

Okay, so this video here is going to be about creating convincing and grooving bass lines. Things that we can incorporate into our production, whether we’re doing Hip Hop, or we’re doing some programming type stuff for a Rock thing where we’re not playing an actual bass, or whatever it may be. Just things that we can think about that might not be in our vocabulary right off the bat, unless we happen to be bass players.

So this is going to be a two part video, and both parts are really important. This first one is going to be conceptual. It’s going to be talking about the things that we need to understand when thinking about what a bass line really is. The second part is actually going to be my buddy Samik. He’s a fantastic producer, goes by the name, The Symphony, and he’s going to show you how to do this stuff using virtual instruments.

So let’s talk about the bass here. When we’re laying a bass part, we usually want something that starts off as something simple that’s complimenting whatever our melodic line is. So maybe we’ll have a bass line that sounds something like…

[bass]

Right? That would be a very simple bass line. It’s got your root chord goes down to something that works off of the seven, or four, or something like that, and then it turns around and comes back to the one again. So it’s a really simple walking kind of movement that we’ve got going there. Nothing special about it, and if we put a drum groove behind it, it’s going to sound like it exists, but it’s going to sound kind of bland.

[drums, and bass]

Right? It’s there, the notes are there, but nothing really special is happening. So the first thing that I want you to start thinking about is ghost notes. These are little things that are fill articulations. Like, little thirty-second note pickups. So if you’re programming, if you’re doing some sequencing or whatever, and you have your one beat is the root of the chord or whatever…

[bass]

Then maybe you have something that comes in right before that beat, just to kind of pick it up.

[bass]

Like that. So instead of playing…

[bass]

We play…

[bass]

Now, that might not seem like it’s that important, but if we put it into context…

[bass]

Right? We suddenly have a lot more of a groove there. There’s something more happening, and it makes it just a little bit more, you know, what is called pocket. Something that creates this sort of interplay between the rhythm and the actual notes.

[drums and bass]

And then we can also sort of create a rhythmic figure around those notes, so instead of maybe doing, like…

[bass]

We could do, like…

[bass]

Or…

[bass]

You know, just like, almost thinking of it like a kick drum.

[bass]

Alright, something like that. Once we start doing that, then we start having a bit more groove and action going.

[bass and drums]

Right? Little pickups, little accent notes. Haven’t changed the actual line, we’re just putting in little groove things to make it work.

The other things that we want to think about are things like little articulations, like glissandos. Glissando is just when you slide a note through, so instead of doing like…

[bass]

We do…

[bass]

Or…

[bass]

We would do…

[bass]

So like, in this particular line, we have a little accent moment. We have…

[bass]

Then there’s that pause.

Now, that pause might be important. We might want to keep that, because maybe something else is there that’s helping to connect the groove, but if there isn’t, maybe we do that on the bass.

[bass]

Right?

[bass]

So both of those glissandos would work. The last thing that we need to be thinking about, or maybe not the last thing, maybe it’s really the first thing, but what we need to be thinking about is that when we’re playing a real instrument, a lot of the groove comes from the sensibility of the note. Like, the texture of the note. So for example, there’s a difference between playing it muted…

[bass]

Versus playing it open.

[bass]

Like, the notes kind of run into each other when we’re doing the faster ones.

[bass]

And that also might have a little bit more mid-range, so if I was doing a Rock line, I might be more interested in doing — like, if it was less notes and it was kind of a Rock type of groove, I might be doing…

[bass]

Right? Because we get those cool little mid-range buzzies, plus the bass kind of acts like a bed for everything. But if I’m doing something that’s funky, and a lot of times, when we’re doing Hip Hop bass lines we want something that’s funky. We want something that’s tighter. We don’t want the one note to bleed into the next, so we do a muted tone, where the fingers lie across the string and keep it damped.

[bass, muting notes]

Right? I could mute it super tight.

[bass, muting]

Sorry for the fret buzzes.

[bass]

Keep that space open. We don’t really have to worry about our low end ever getting muddy, because we’re controlling the dynamic duration of the note. Then the other things that we can think about are little textural stuff, like the glissando, which I mentioned, or maybe like we work into a slap thing.

[slap bass]

Or pops.

[bass]

Whatever might come up. You know, there’s all sorts of articulations.

[bass, playing with articulations]

But to think about that is like what a real bass line would be doing in the circumstances, and then go from there.

Alright, so check out the next video where Symphony is going to walk us through how we would do this using strictly virtual instruments, and click that link right here. Alright? Until next time, guys.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.

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