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How To Create Your Own Bass Lines Using Devices...

...and it's both easier and harder than learning to surf!

The day before I came to write this email I was sat on a (cold) beach in Cornwall in South West England watching a surf school instructor give a lesson to beginner surfers.

The first thing he did - as you can see from the picture - was get the surfing wannabes to practice some basic surfing moves with their boards planted on terra firms.

Those moves include lying flat on the board and “front crawling” their arms as if they were paddling out in the surf, getting from lying down to their knees, and getting from their knees to surf position.

My friend Mark - whose been surfing for over 40 years since he moved to Cornwall when he was 19 - observed that the beginner stages were needed to familiarise the surfing wannabes with their equipment and the basic moves they’d need.

But that the minute the surface that their boards were on (i.e. the sea) started to move that surfing suddenly became exponentially harder. One of the reasons why being that the way the sea moves is unpredictable due to combinations of tidal forces and winds.

In some ways this is a great metaphor for learning how to create your own bass lines.

It’s hard to get up in front of an audience with a band and suddenly jam songs that you don’t know. The chord progressions, the tempo, the rhythms the drummer is playing, the way that the chordal players are playing the chords….all of these things pose the same challenges to a bass player as the sea on a windy day poses to a beginning surfer.

The good news is that just as there are surfers who can do death defying things with their boards in white water conditions there are bass players who can fearlessly create bass lines on the fly in the most complex of musical situations.

The second piece of good news: for both surfers and bass players this is a learned skill.

For surfers it starts with surf school.

For bass players who I have the privilege of teaching, learning to create their own bass lines starts with a process called deliberate composition.

In order to start out learning how to create bass lines I teach in a similar way to those beginner surfers with their boards on the sand. And I take tempo and rhythm completely out of the equation.

And I get my students to compose a line to a simple set of chord changes using deliberate composition where you literally compose a line with a pre-written rhythm one device at a time.

This allows the student time to work out what device they would like to use, to use a device that connects from the current chord to the next chord, and then play that slowly to ‘audit’ their work and check that in fact it does lead to the next chord.

When they have finished the first bar…they can move onto the next bar. And the process starts again.

But rather than talk about it, I’d prefer to show you.  Here's an 8 bar bass line that was composed by a bass player probably very similar in abilities to you for an assignment in Day 7 of Rock Bass 101 (now called Cracking The Rock Bass Code):

And here's what this sounds like - this is me playing though, not the student who composed the line:

Click the blue CONTINUE button for the next article in the series when I'll share some of the feedback I gave on this example and talk about some of the devices being used.   And I'm pretty sure you already KNOW some devices without necessarily knowing their name and function.

Paul Wolfe/www.how-to-play-bass.com




Previous Articles In The Series

#1 They Laughed When I Pulled Out My Bass - But When I Got Up To Play! https://how-to-play-bass.com/rb101-they-laughed

#2 The Core Functions Of A Good Bass Line - https://how-to-play-bass.com/rb101-core-functions

#3 The Multiple Benefits Of Practicing Devices - https://how-to-play-bass.com/rb101-multiple-benefits