Electric Bass, a composition instrument?

8 Dec 2023 Simon

The Bass Guitar

Does it have a role in composing music?

The bass guitar is well-known for its ability to provide a solid rhythmic foundation in music. However, the electric bass guitar is a versatile instrument that can play a crucial role in composing music across various genres. Its unique tonal characteristics and rhythmic capabilities make it a valuable asset in creating a strong foundation for a musical composition.

The bass guitar often plays the root notes of chords, helping to outline the harmony and provide a sense of stability. It can also contribute to the harmonic structure of a composition, in addition to introducing melodic elements. Furthermore, the electric bass guitar offers a wide range of sonic possibilities through the use of effects pedals and loopers.

Voice leading on electric bass

Voice leading is a concept that is often associated with harmony and the smooth movement of individual voices within a chord progression. Although it's commonly discussed in relation to choral or keyboard harmony, voice leading can also be applied to the electric bass, particularly in styles where the bass plays a harmonic role. To achieve this, you can start by playing chords on the bass and thinking more like a piano player rather than a bass player. When piano players move from one chord to another, they usually don't shift from the root position of one chord to the root position of another, but instead slightly move their fingers to transition into the next chord. As bass players, we tend to prioritise the root because of the rhythmic foundation role we play, but by practicing this technique, we can become proficient and gain complete knowledge of the fretboard. This technique has advantages beyond composing, as it allows for smooth and harmonious transitions between chords. The technique can be applied to any bass guitar, however basses with extended ranges (such a 5 string tuned EADGC and 6 a string) beyond the standard 4 string bass tend to be preferred.

Although I was taught to play piano at an early age, most of the time I prefer to compose music using the electric bass. Maybe because it is my main instrument and thus it is the voice which best represents the ideas I need to convey. All twelve tracks in the album Crossing had their beginnings as a demo played exclusively on bass and a looper. Here is an early demo of the track which would later become The Tin's Solder Last Dance on the album. The next step would be to work on the arrangement of the track by adding other instruments as necessary. Apologies for the not so perfect audio and the playing but this was never meant to be heard outside of the studio and it is being shared exclusively with the readers of the newsletter.


Now here is the video of the track as played live during the launch of the album.

There is obviously much more that can be said about this topic. But this week the Newsletter turned out quite lengthy. Leave a comment if you wish to read more about similar topics. More news coming up next week on the progress of the new album.

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