Creating Bass Lines for Jamming


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When I first started studying Jazz I had a problem with being able to practice on my own. The issue was that as a rhythm guitar or keyboard player you often play everything but the root note of the chord. In other words you are the harmonic and color provider. On top of that you may be supporting a horn player that is responsible for melody lines. This makes it a bit difficult to hear the whole sound when you are playing those notes without a root to develop on.

Of course there are the play-a-longs you can purchase that you can work with to accomplish some practice time. These are good, but I was needing even more basic than what is typically available. I was struggling with playing the jazz chords and voicing and only needed the bass note.

Soloist by training

Being a solo pianist by training I was not used to working with other musicians. It was difficult to stay with the changes when you are concentrating on so many other things. Even though most of these where just simple blues structures.

A Potential Solution

Here's a solution I came up with to help me solve my dilemma.  With my notation software I was able to create bass lines and then export to midi file and convert to mp3 for playing on my I-pod or burning down to CD disk. This was took a little time, but wasn't overly hard to get accomplished with a little patience and some free conversion software. Itunes may have even been the import conversion, but I don't recall at the moment because of all the others I've tested over the last few years.

What was really cool is that I created the bass line at different metronome speeds. Taking it a bit further I translated the bass lines to other keys. I had the key of C, F, Bb, and G all available to work with.

The real trick became in laying enough repeats in to get a 4 or 5 minute practice line to be able to work the song.

Did it work

It was a novel idea and had a practical use. I can't say it worked out the best for me, but it did give me options. Of course I was off doing so many other things I didn't actually use my creations all that often. When I did, it was challenging and reinforced the need to work with metronomes and really look to play with other musicians.

Using the created bass lines also provided rhythm. There are of course many drum machines and recordings that can aid in keeping musical time. I think that the point here is that you need to consider the bigger picture and be creative by working with aids that can help in your learning to play music outside your small world.

There are a number of high and low end programs that can help you. I'll be adding some reviews in the future, but for now you can get out the couple we have tapped and the links here for current offerings.

Have you come up with any creative ways and inexpensive ways to overcome a problem in your studies?

Recommended sources:

I've used several programs and will be adding some more information on some of the notation programs available. Print music, Songwriter, Scorewriter are all good reasonably priced packages for the average user. Here are some current ones to check out. In the $30 to $60 range you can get good basic notation software that will meet 80 to 90% of your needs. On the high end Finale and Sibelius rule and there are a couple of offerings in the mid $100 range like Make Music.

I've recently updated a whole section for notation software on the main site. Check out what the current range of programs available are here: Notation Software. Here's a few to check out, let me know if you have experience with them and how you would rate them.

Phil - Teach Me Bass Guitar September 6, 2011 at 8:13 am

Very good idea with the notation software. I know some drum machines can program bass lines and can also be useful for practice.

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