Alongside the drums, the bass guitar is the backbone of almost any band, driving the song forward while complementing the other instruments in the mix or arrangement.
While the bass is often overlooked in favor of flamboyant guitar licks or anthemic vocal chimes, when locking into a solid groove, it’s an instrument that has the potential to shine brighter than a Pink Floyd concert on a rainy winter’s night.
A bass groove can make or break a song arrangement, taking it from musically mediocre to sonically epic with a small selection of well-timed notes.
Creating the kind of bass grooves that will make your music stand out isn’t as tough as you might think, even if you’re not a prolific bassist. And we’re going to show you how in simple terms with our step-by-step bass groove creation guide.
But before we do, let’s look at the anatomy of an exceptional bass groove.
Solid bass groove examples
As a musician, producer, or songwriter, you no doubt know about the likes of Flea, John Paul Jones, and Jaco Pastorius—all epic groove masters known for taking the bass from rhythm to lead with their iconic styles.
While these guys are or were able to show off and take a walk at will, they all have one thing in common: they served their core role before doing anything showy or technical. In short, they picked their moments to shine, sparingly, and always put the bass groove first.
Before we explore our bass groove examples, let’s consider the dos and don’ts of creating a solid bass groove:
1. Build your groove around the root notes of the arrangement.
2. Make sure the main or ‘anchor’ notes of your groove lock in with the kick and snare, or if the song is acoustic, or semi-acoustic, ensure it locks in with the main chord changes and dominant (or most prominent) rhythmic patterns.
3. Add additional notes, fills, and elements of flair tastefully, making sure they add value to the song.
1. Fill space needlessly. Remain silent or let your notes ring out if it benefits the feel and overall sound of the song.
2. Overuse busy or ear-pleasing fills or runs; this will only serve to muddy the music, detract from the core groove and take away the impact of your impressive handywork. Playing something epic consveratively and when the time is right will pack much more of a musical punch.
3. Play a groove or bassline solely to showcase your skills and distract from the song’s most powerful nuances, parts and melodies.
With this in mind, here are two definitive bass grooves that are strikingly different but noteworthy in their own way.
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Dani California” (verse)