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Writing bass parts

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    Writing bass parts

    As a guitarist, I mainly notice bass when it's off somehow and I almost always do bass with plugins and MIDI. I've increasingly found that my guitars just get less punchy when I add the bass...

    How do you do bass on punchy riffs, especially with faster parts?

    1. Follow the guitars more or less exactly
    2. Make a simpler version of the guitar riffs
    3. Fall back to more of pedal on root and maybe even slower (quarter notes instead of 8ths on the guitar for instance)?

    Historically I've almost always done 1 but I kind of feel that the guitars stand out more when you do 3, without losing the glue between bass and guitars...

    It's impossible to answer without hearing your music.

    Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica all have completely different approach to this.

    It all depends on the music, and intented feel/vibe as well as the actual arrangement of the instruments*

    * = for example, when Iron Maiden are letting the guitarist play harmonized leadguitars, Steve Harris generally stays on root note, but when the guitarists play simpler chords Steve usually finds space to do his more intricate bass lines. And they usually have the bass very upfront in the mix, sometimes as loud as guitars.

    Judas Priest (not talking Priests mid70s material, Im talking from 1980 and forward) often has the root note pumping at all times, with guitars taking all the spot light at all times. Bass is literally a background instrument both in the mix and playing style.

    Metallica often follows the guitar riffs a lot note-by-note, for creating that tight bulldozer wall-of-riffs that they are known for. They also have the guitars very upfront with bass taking the backseat, but not like Judas Priest. Of course, we dont talk about And Justice For All here.


      Something like this:

      Riffs for a new song:


        There's also the question if the bass should be more staccato to follow the guitar chug or more sustained to get more of a wall of bottom end.


          I follow the guitars because I'm a good guitar player and a shitty bass player.


            Depends. Most often I follow the guitars just like 90% of metal bands do, especially extreme metal bands. However, when the guitars are clean, I let the bass be a lot more free with zero need to follow the guitar (other, of course, than being in the same key, sounding good, and all that jazz). And even with distorted parts, the bass doesn't necessarily completely follow the guitars. For one thing, I'll sometimes use chords where it's kind of unclear where the root note is and depending on which single note the bass plays, the overall sound will be completely different. It doesn't even necessarily have to be a note in the chord itself (but could logically fit into the chord). I've also done parts where maybe the first time is instrumental with no vocals or lead guitar and the bass is super busy but when the part comes around again, there's a guitar solo over top, so the bass is much more simple and restrained so as to not distract from the solo (but to many people might sound cooler this way). You also could play the same root notes as the guitar but just not play them the same way. Such as slapping the root notes at times where the guitars are not playing those root notes. You can also play the same root notes as the guitar but add short runs when switching between chords. It really just comes down to how you want the bass to sound in the song. I've written songs where both guitars are playing completely different things that come together to make a nice complete picture, and in those cases, you might ask "which guitar should the bass follow?" But it doesn't need to follow either. It could play different notes that further build. They may be different instruments, but you can still approach them like a single chord with one guitar playing these notes, the other guitar playing these notes, and the bass playing a note that neither of the guitars are playing but that fits into perfectly.

            Like Ced said, there are a ridiculous number of different approaches you can take.


              Depends. I try to take the drums and the beat and follow that for parts where guitars are more open, but on faster stuff, follow the kicks. On extremely fast stuff, say, 16ths at 200bpm, I'll bring bass back to 8ths (say on a blast) to follow kick, or to just be more pulsy and have some definition that gets lost at stupid speed

              I'll also play passing notes on bass, or use it to modulate a riff by playing a root that isn't the guitar


                I try to think "what would Martin Mendez do?"


                  Originally posted by osiris View Post
                  Not a lot of room there for the bass to deviate. A couple ideas:

                  --In that verse section where the guitar is chugging on single notes, you could have the bass go up an octave at the chord change to provide an energy boost there, even if not at every repeat of it.
                  --In the guitar arpeggio part, you can have the bass do a simple melody bit on the same hits as the arpeggio notes--basically spelling out the chord but adding a passing note or two. That might depend on how much other stuff you intend to have going on there in the full arrangement.

                  In general, doubling the guitar riff on bass *doesn't* mean you play it exactly the same. One of the main functions that bass provides in any genre is flow and "swing". Metal guitar riffing focuses so much on mathematical precision and 'punch', but the whole thing really comes alive when you add a bass part with the right amount of swing despite playing the same notes. When you're playing it on bass, you need to feel that "flow" as you're doing it. It's how you accent certain notes and put in just the slightest amount of rubato so that the bass goes around the locked-up guitars just slightly. Not so much as to sound sloppy or off, just a slight amount in a fast technical context like this.

                  I can't really describe it any better than that, and that sensation is one of the reasons I really enjoy recording bass on my projects.


                    Great inputs, thanks.