What makes music come alive. True, there are exceptions, but practically all of my favourite music has interesting bass lines:

If you're a musician, and you want to sell your music to my ears, pay attention to detail, and most of all, to the bass lines.

A common, and very effective, technique is to let the bass play faster lines, while guitar, organ or voice lay down the chords.

If you don't happen to know any of this music, the point is that a lively bassline is an established technique for spicing up music, that works well in all kinds of genres. There really is no excuse for not bothering with the bass.

A good bassline is something i think many people overlook in a song. A bassline is, however, essential in letting the listener put certain chords into context. One song can sound completely different with different bass notes, or with a different style of bassline (as far as rhythm, instrument, technique). Over the years i've learned a few techniques for making decent basslines in my compositions. Some of these tips apply to all genres, though in particular, they might be especially helpful for those who write rock, pop, funk, jazz, video game, ska, etc, anything with a good beat, and maybe even certain styles of techno.

Generally, a bassline can't be too complex while a melody (lead) is going on. It's a bit taxing on the listener, i'd say. If there's a nice, active melody and an active, (relatively) complex bassline, the two clash, the listener has a hard time focusing on one thing and the music begins to suck. For the same reason, two people can't improvise solos at the same time in jazz. Stuff clashes.

To start writing a bassline, make something simple for one or two measures (or however long your first chord in the chord progression lasts). What i'd do next is pretty much copy the same rhythm and the same pattern the notes take, but with the next chord. Do this for all chords. After all of this is done, you can make a few imbellishments. Maybe add a few grace notes, or a few variations from the maeo rhythmic scheme.

For something a bit more advanced, try synchronising bits of the bassline with the drums. A bass note sounds a lot fuller and supportive if it lands with a bassdrum. It kicks more and feels well mixed, and tight. on the whole, if a bassline interracts well with the drumline, it proves even less taxing on the listener, yet more enjoyable because the groove is being held by both the drums and the bass. At other times, though, it can be good to establish a solid, repedative rhythm, and use the bassline as another rhythmic source, syncopating, going against the drumline.

When a chorus comes, it's often nice to dummy the bassline down a whole lot. Maybe just make it the bass note of the chord, repeated, with a simple rhythmic pattern. Sometimes though, if the lead in the chorus is made a bit simpler, a little bit more room for the bassline is allowed. Most often, the chorus is the part of the song most remembered. Often times, everything in the song gets simpler in a chorus, rhythms and phrases get repeated a lot more, and lines become a lot less complex.

These are just a few simple tips... I've seen friends begin composing and they tend to go all out with everything. Insane, complex drumlines with intricate basslines and intense, crazy leads... Maybe try some of these tricks out, or tell your bassist a few of them. Sometimes less is more.

The balance between bass line, rhythm and melody is illustrated clearly in different styles of dance music. Styles with more syncopated drums (nu skool breaks, UK garage or drum and bass) tend to have the bass line as a very central element to the songs, with the other instruments often being designed to complement the bass rather than the other way around. In these styles, the bass line rather than the bass drum tends to provide the main 'kick' to the rhythm (some drum and bass tunes actually use a tuned 808 bass drum sample as the bass sound) Often, the bass sounds are distorted so that the harmonic content of the sound includes more high frequencies, leaving less space for other sounds in the mix. These techniques are flooding over more and more into pop music, especially R&B of the Timbaland / Neptunes / Missy Elliot variety. If that doesn't count as pop, how about Britney Spears? 'Baby One More Time' has a great rythmic bass line.

At the other end of the spectrum is music where the bass line is of the simple, off beat, matched to the chords variety. This is most obvious in commercial trance, music with a very simple rythmic element, where the chord structure and melody are more important. The bass sounds here tend to be simple and deep, with the higher frequencies filtered out. Once again there is a crossover in to pop music; Steps, Vengaboys and Aqua being obvious examples.

You could argue that dance music took these techniques from hip hop/funk and eighties europop respectively, but over the years, the demands of the dancefloor have honed the techniques to the point of maximum effect, the ideas taken to their logical conclusion. As the commercial trance disaster of 1999 (I'm speaking from a UK perspective here) proved, this is not always a good thing!

Top Bassline Records;
Azzido de Bass - Doom's Night (Timo Maas Remix)
Roni Size & Reprazent - Brown Paper Bag
Stanton Warriors - Da Virus
Daft Punk - Around the World
Buddy Rich (covered by All Seeing I and, indeed, Britney) - The Beat Goes On

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