Following on from what we’ve looked at previously in the bass column, here are a few more ideas for expanding simple chord progressions and bass lines with rhythmic and melodic ideas. Hopefully practicing these will open you up to new melodic ideas help you break new ground with your playing.
Figure A is a Bb major-based groove with a VI, II, V type turnaround. It’s fairly straight ahead rhythmically so let’s shake things up a little.
Figure B works on the same progression, splitting the C minim on beat 3 of bar 1 into two quavers to break things up a little. The quaver rest on beat 1 of bar 2 creates some movement with a walk up from D to F. Bar 3 retains the G sound but moves from low G up the octave with two semi quavers before playing C quavers in the last bar into an anticipated low F (as the V).
Figure C is a simple chord progression in a rock, pop or heavy style played as simple semi breves and minims. Figure D starts to expand on some possibilities taking the A minor tonality of bar one and using the root, 5 and octave to add some extra movement. Bar 2 takes F major and creates a major 7 sound with the E natural on top. Bar 3 again uses the typical root, 5 and octave with the D falling on the 2 and for an anticipated/ early feeling. Expanding on the F to G sound of Figure C this time we’ve used a D note on top (the 6th in relation to F major and the 5th to G major) to create some extended chord sounds.
Figure E then takes a rhythmic approach choosing to stay on an A as a pedal note across the whole progression. This can take some time to get your ear familiar with as it will create tension (hopefully in a good way) that will then work beautifully when resolved either back to the normal progression or moving to another section. Rather than keeping the rhythm simple, Figure E uses a mixture of note values to create a slightly disjointed feel both on and off the beat which can be a great contrast if the chords are being played straight as in Figure C.
This idea of tension is everywhere in music and creates feelings and movement that sound like they want to go somewhere. Just be careful overusing these ideas as it can sometimes get too much. Lines can be simple and aren’t there to just show off your prowess – you only need to play what’s required. However, often there are subtle sections of rhythm or added note choices that can add that little something that really helps a section to stand out. Some knowledge is needed to get into extended chord sounds and rhythms but also being creative and trying things is important too – what’s the worst that can happen?!