Back in the day when there was no Internet every music store had a noticeboard where you could find hand written ads for instruments, where teachers would advertise for pupils.
And where you could find Bands looking for players.
At the time I lived in Birmingham in the UK. And back then there were a number of good music shops around the city. Birmingham even had a bass only music store.
I found an ad for the first real band I joined in that shop. It gave a phone number. And said what kind of player they were looking for.
I called the guy whose number was on the ad – a guy called Lee who turned out to be the drummer. He told me a bit more about the band – they were a local funky-rock band (think “Kiss” and “Sexy MF” style Prince) whose name I knew as they’d placed well in ‘battle of the band” style competitions in the area.
And they were holding open auditions a couple of weeks later. I booked a slot and got the names of a couple of songs to learn for the audition.
Fast forward two weeks and the audition came and went. I got a call back to go and have a beer with the guys and a week or so later got a call that if I was still interested then I was their new bass player!
I remember at the time being really excited. These guys had some big ambitions and they’d given me a cassette tape (yep, that’s how ‘back in the day’ it was) with the 4 or 5 songs they’d written that they wanted me to learn. Plus there was the songs I’d learned for the auditions too.
The first rehearsal was going really well. We played through the songs they’d given me – both the originals and the covers. And the drummer made a couple of rhythmic suggestions for the lines I’d learned and we incorporated those straight away.
…until the lead singer said to the guitarist: let’s start working on that song we wrote on Saturday.
Lee – the drummer – gives a count in.
And they start playing.
A few bars in the singer signals them to stop playing . And everyone looks at me.
Them: Why aren’t you playing?
Me: Um. I don’t know the song.
Them: Jam along.
Me: (Gulps) Ok. What key is the song in?
The guitarist rolled his eyes. Song turns out to be in E.
Me: What kind of line do you want me to play?
More eye rolling. The technical description of what they wanted ended up as: like the other songs. Only in E. And to fit this song.
What followed was about 10 of the most excruciating minutes of my playing life.
The rehearsal came to a shuddering end pretty soon afterwards.
A day later I got a phone call saying that I wouldn’t be needed at the rehearsal the following week. And that was it. I was sacked!
The following weekend I scoured the local music shops to see if there were any books available on how to create bass lines so that I could try and work out how to avoid this situation happening in the future.
The only bass books available at the time were the Carole Kaye books. And Tony Oppenheim’s SLAP IT! So that was a strike out.
I asked a musician friend of mine what he would have done. Although he was primarily a guitarist, he had been a bass player in a band in the 70s that had had some success on the UK’s very niche (and very small) country and western scene.
His answer: transposable riffs.
Me: What are ‘transposable riffs?”
Him: You know. Things you can play on different chords. Like the blues.
And he showed me some simple patterns. Root-Third-Fifth-Third.
That sort of thing.
When you’re creating your own bass lines, then these kind of repeating scalar or chordal patterns that you move around depending on the chord of the moment can be a good place to start creating bass lines.
But as I found out over the years that I researched and practiced creating your own bass lines, it’s only one piece of the creating bass lines puzzle.
If you’re interested in finding out what the other pieces of the puzzle are….you can read the next episode by clicking the link below, and I’ll tell you how I learned the second piece of the puzzle from learning to play some walking bass lines for a jazz gig. Here’s the link: