A bassline (also known as a bass line or bass part) is the term used in many styles of music, such as jazz, blues, funk, dub and electronic, traditional music, or classical music for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played (in jazz and some forms of popular music) by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, cello, tuba or keyboard (piano, Hammond organ, electric organ, or synthesizer).
In unaccompanied solo performance, basslines may simply be played in the lower register of any instrument while melody and/or further accompaniment is provided in the middle or upper register. In solo music for piano and pipe organ, these instruments have an excellent lower register that can be used to play a deep bassline. On organs, the bass line is typically played using the pedal keyboard and massive 16' and 32' bass pipes.
Basslines in popular music often use "riffs" or "grooves", which are usually simple, appealing musical motifs or phrases that are repeated, with variation, throughout the song. "The bass differs from other voices because of the particular role it plays in supporting and defining harmonic motion. It does so at levels ranging from immediate, chord-by-chord events to the larger harmonic organization of a[ sic ] entire work."
Bassline riffs usually (but not always) emphasize the chord tones of each chord (usually the root note, the third note, or the fifth note), which helps to define a song's key. Basslines align with the drums. Other rhythm instruments join in to create a more interesting rhythmic variations. The type of rhythmic pulse used in basslines varies widely in different types of music. In swing jazz and jump blues, basslines are often created from a continuous sequence of quarter notes in a mostly scalar, stepwise or arpeggio-based part called a "walking bass line". In Latin, salsa music, jazz fusion, reggae, electronica, and some types of rock and metal, basslines may be very rhythmically complex and syncopated. In bluegrass and traditional country music, basslines often emphasize the root and fifth of each chord.
Though basslines may be played by many different types of instruments and in a broad musical range, they are generally played on bass instruments and in the range roughly at least an octave and a half below middle C (roughly the range of the bass clef). In classical music such as string quartets and symphonies, basslines play the same harmonic and rhythmic role; however, they are usually referred to as the "bass voice" or the "bass part".
Most popular musical ensembles include an instrument capable of playing bass notes. In the 1890s, a tuba was often used. From the 1920s to the 1940s, most popular music groups used the double bass as the bass instrument. Starting in the 1950s, the bass guitar began to replace the double bass in most types of popular music, such as rock and roll, blues, and folk. The bass guitar was easier to transport and, given that it uses magnetic pickups, easier to amplify to loud stage volumes without the risk of audio feedback, a common problem with the amplified double bass. By the 1970s and 1980s, the electric bass was used in most rock bands and jazz fusion groups. The double bass was still used in some types of popular music that recreated styles from the 1940s and 1950s such as jazz (especially swing and bebop), traditional 1950s blues, jump blues, country, and rockabilly.
In some popular music bands, keyboard instruments are used to play the bass line. In organ trios, for example, a Hammond organ player performs the basslines using the organ's pedal keyboard. In some types of popular music, such as hip-hop or house music, the bass lines are played using bass synthesizers, sequencers, or electro-acoustically modeled samples of basslines.
Basslines are important in many forms of dance and electronic music, such as electro, drum and bass, dubstep, and most forms of house and trance. In these genres, basslines are almost always performed on synthesizers, either physical, such as the Minimoog and the Roland TB-303, or virtual, such as Sytrus and ZynAddSubFX. In hip hop, producer Rick Rubin popularized the technique of creating basslines by lengthening the bass drum decay of the TR-808 drum machine and tuning it to different pitches.
Chinese orchestras use the zhōng ruǎn (中阮) and dà ruǎn (大阮) for creating basslines. Other, less common bass instruments are the lā ruǎn (拉阮), dī yīn gé hú (低音革胡), and da dī hú (大低胡) developed during the 1930s.[ citation needed ] Russian balalaika orchestra use bass balalaika and contrabass balalaika.
Australia's indigenous music and some World music that is influenced by Australian music uses didjeridus for basslines.[ citation needed ]
In classical music, the bassline is always written out for the performers in musical notation. In orchestral repertoire, the basslines are played by the double basses and cellos in the string section, by bassoons, contrabassoons, and bass clarinets in the woodwinds and by bass trombones, tubas and a variety of other low brass instruments. In symphonies from the Classical period, a single bassline was often written for the cellos and basses; however, since the bass is a transposing instrument, and it is notated an octave higher than it sounds, when cellos and basses play the same bassline, the line is performed in octaves, with the basses an octave below the cellos. By the end of the Classical period, with Beethoven's symphonies, cellos and double basses were often given separate parts. In general, the more complex passages and rapid note sequences are given to the cellos, while the basses play a simpler bassline. The timpani (or kettledrums) also play a role in orchestral basslines, albeit confined in 17th and early 18th century works to a few notes, often the tonic and the dominant below it. In a small number of symphonies, the pipe organ is used to play basslines.
In chamber music, the bassline is played by the cello in string quartets and the bassoon in wind chamber music. In some larger chamber music works, both a cello and a double bass are used to play the bassline. In a Baroque era (ca. 1600-1750) piece accompanied by basso continuo, the accompanying musicians would include a chordal instrument (e.g., harpsichord, pipe organ or lute) and a number of bass instruments might perform the same bassline, such as the cello, viol, double bass, theorbo, serpent (an early wind instrument), and, if an organist was present, the lower manual of the organ and the low-pitched pedal keyboard. In 2000s-era performances of Baroque music, the basso continuo is typically performed by just two instruments: a chordal instrument and one bass instrument (often harpsichord and cello).
[The bass part is] the groundwork or foundation upon which all musical composition is to be erected.— Christopher Simpson 1667:19
[The bass part is] the base and foundation of the other parts, since one builds them upon it.
[The bass part is] the foundation of harmony.— Gioseffo Zarlino 1561:239, 1558:179
In many genres of modern traditional music (ranging from folk rock to blues) and popular music (ranging from rock and pop to reggae to funk), the bassline is generally played by an electric bass player. In rockabilly, psychobilly, traditional blues and bluegrass music, the bassline is played by a double bass player. The bassline uses low notes that provide a rhythm while simultaneously setting out the foundation of the chord progression. The bassline bridges the gap between the rhythmic part played by the drummer and the melodic lines played by the lead guitarist and the chordal parts played by the rhythm guitarist and/or keyboard player. In most traditional and popular music styles, the bass player is expected to be able to improvise a bassline which they base in the chord progression of a song. When a bassist is playing a cover song, they may play the bassline that was originally used on the recording. A session bassist playing in a music studio is expected to be able to read a bassline written in musical notation. Bass players also perform fills in between the phrases of the vocal melody, and they may also perform bass runs or bass breaks, which are short solo sections. Rhythmic variations by the bass, such as the introduction of a syncopated figure can dramatically change the feel of a song, even for a simple groove.
"In any style, the bass's role in the groove is the same: to keep time and to outline the tonality. When developing bass lines, these two things should always be your goal"
[One] may view in it [(the bass part)] all the other parts in their original essence.Thomas Campion 1967:327
A walking bass is a style of bass accompaniment or line, common in Baroque music (1600–1750) and 20th century jazz, blues and rockabilly, which creates a feeling of regular quarter note movement, akin to the regular alternation of feet while walking.Thus walking basslines generally consist of unsyncopated notes of equal value, usually quarter notes (known in jazz as a "four feel"). Walking basslines use a mixture of scale tones, arpeggios, chromatic runs, and passing tones to outline the chord progression of a song or tune, often with a melodic shape that alternately rises and falls in pitch over several bars. To add variety to a walking bassline, bassists periodically interpolate various fills, such as playing scale or arpeggio fragments in swung eighth notes, plucking muted percussive grace notes (either one grace note or a "raked" sequence of two or three grace notes), or holding notes for two, three, or four beats. Some songs lend themselves to another type of variation: the pedal point, in which the bassist holds or repeats a single note (often the tonic or the dominant) under the chord changes.
Walking basslines are usually performed on the double bass or the electric bass, but they can also be performed using the low register of a piano, Hammond organ, tuba or other instruments. They can also be sung, as is done by some a capella vocal groups. While walking bass lines are most commonly associated with jazz and blues, they are also used in rock, rockabilly, ska, R&B, gospel, Latin, country, and many other genres.
Walking bass in the pedal keyboard part of Baroque organ music (J.S. Bach's Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland , BWV 659, from the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes):
Other walking bass lines can be heard in the opening movements of Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 22 (nicknamed "The Philosopher"), Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 and Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1.
Walking bass often alternates quarter notes:
giving rise to the term.
Many boogie-woogie basslines are walking bass lines:
Walking bass often moves in stepwise (scalar) motion to successive chord roots, such as often in country music:
In this example, the last two quarter notes of the second measure, D and E, "walk" up from the first quarter note in that measure, C, to the first note of the third measure, F (C and F are the roots of the chords in the first through second and third through fourth measures, respectively).
In both cases, "walking" refers both to the steady duple rhythm (one step after the other) and to the strong directional motion created;in the examples above, from C to F and back in the second, and from root to seventh and back in the first.
In bebop jazz, the walking bass has a stabilising effect, offsetting and providing a foil to the complexity of the improvised melodic lines, for example in Sonny Rollins’ “Blue Seven”.
A bass run (or "bass break") is a short instrumental break or fill in which the bass instrument (such as an electric bass or a double bass) or instruments (in the case of a marching band) and the bassline are given the forefront.The bass part for a bass run often differs from the usual bass accompaniment style, in terms of the register, timbre, or melodic style that is used, or the number of notes per beat which are played.
A bass run may be composed by the performer or by an arranger prior to a performance, or it may be improvised onstage by the performer using scales, arpeggios, and standard licks and riffs. In some cases, a bass run may incorporate a display of virtuoso techniques such as rapid passages or high notes. During a bass run, the main vocal or melody line usually stops, and in some cases, the percussion or drums may also stop. The technique originated in the marches of the "Sousa school", though its resemblance to call and response techniques familiar to African American musicians indicates an earlier origin.
In a rock song in which the bassline consists of low-pitched quarter notes played on the electric bass, a bass run may consist of a rapid sequence of sixteenth notes in a higher register, or of a melodic riff played in a higher register. In some cases, the bassist will select a "brighter"-sounding pickup or increase the treble response of the instrument for a bass run, so that it will be easier to hear.
In a heavy metal song where the bassist was ordinarily playing low notes without overdrive to accompany, for a solo, they may turn on a fuzz bass pedal and use a wah pedal to create a more pronounced tone (an approach used by Cliff Burton), and then play an upper register riff or scale run. Some shred guitar-style bassists may do two-handed tapping during a bass solo (e.g., Billy Sheehan).
In a pop song in which the bassline consists of notes plucked on the electric bass, a bass run may consist of several bars of percussive slapping and popping. Bass solos and guitar solos are rare in pop. In the rare cases that instrumental solos occur in pop, they are often played by synthesizer or, in some bands, by saxophone.
In a funk song in which the bassline already consists of percussive slapping and popping, a bass run may consist of a virtuostic display of rapid slapping and popping techniques combined with techniques such as glissando, note-bending, and harmonics.
In a jump blues tune in which the bassline consists of low-pitched quarter notes played on the double bass in a scalar walking bass style, a bass run may consist of a bar of swung eighth notes played using a percussive slap bass style, in which the right hand strikes the strings against the fingerboard.
In a swing tune in which the bassline consists of low-pitched quarter notes played on the double bass in a scalar walking bass style, a bass run may consist of a descending chromatic scale played in a higher register.
In a bluegrass tune in which the bassline consists of low-pitched quarter notes played on the double bass on the root and fifth of each chord on beats one and three (of a 4/4 tune), a bass run may consist of a walking bass line played for several bars.
In a psychobilly band, a bass solo will often consist of a virtuostic display of triple and quadruple slaps, creating a percussive, drum solo-like sound.
In a marching band context, a bass run may consist of a several bar unaccompanied passage composed for the tubas and sousaphones which displays either rapid passages of notes or higher-register techniques. In New Orleans jazz, the tuba may provide a walking bass line similar to that of the double bass.
Bass ( BAYSS) (also called bottom end) describes tones of low (also called "deep") frequency, pitch and range from 16 to 256 Hz (C0 to C3) and bass instruments that produce tones in the low-pitched range C2-C4. They belong to different families of instruments and can cover a wide range of musical roles. Since producing low pitches usually requires a long air column or string, and for stringed instruments, a large hollow body, the string and wind bass instruments are usually the largest instruments in their families or instrument classes.
The double bass, also known simply as the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.
Funk is a music genre that originated in African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bassline played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer, often at slower tempos than other popular music. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves that create a "hypnotic" and "danceable" feel. Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.
Figured bass, also called thoroughbass, is a kind of musical notation in which numerals and symbols indicate intervals, chords, and non-chord tones that a musician playing piano, harpsichord, organ, lute play in relation to the bass note that these numbers and symbols appear above or below. Figured bass is closely associated with basso continuo, a historically improvised accompaniment used in almost all genres of music in the Baroque period of Classical music, though rarely in modern music.
The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of electric guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.
A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instruments, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Some music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.
In music, a quartet or quartette is an ensemble of four singers or instrumental performers; or a musical composition for four voices or instruments.
In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.
A bassist, or bass player, is a musician who plays a bass instrument such as a double bass, bass guitar, synthbass, keyboard bass or a low brass instrument such as a tuba or sousaphone. Different musical genres tend to be associated with one or more of these instruments. Since the 1960s, the electric bass has been the standard bass instrument for funk, R&B, soul music, rock and roll, reggae, jazz fusion, heavy metal, country and pop music. The double bass is the standard bass instrument for classical music, bluegrass, rockabilly, and most genres of jazz. Low brass instruments such as the tuba or sousaphone are the standard bass instrument in Dixieland and New Orleans-style jazz bands.
Accompaniment is the musical part which provides the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece. There are many different styles and types of accompaniment in different genres and styles of music. In homophonic music, the main accompaniment approach used in popular music, a clear vocal melody is supported by subordinate chords. In popular music and traditional music, the accompaniment parts typically provide the "beat" for the music and outline the chord progression of the song or instrumental piece.
Lead guitar, also known as solo guitar, is a musical part for a guitar in which the guitarist plays melody lines, instrumental fill passages, guitar solos, and occasionally, some riffs within a song structure. The lead is the featured guitar, which usually plays single-note-based lines or double-stops. In rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, punk, fusion, some pop, and other music styles, lead guitar lines are usually supported by a second guitarist who plays rhythm guitar, which consists of accompaniment chords and riffs.
In jazz, comping is the chords, rhythms, and countermelodies that keyboard players, guitar players, or drummers use to support a musician's improvised solo or melody lines. It is also the action of accompanying, and the left-hand part of a solo pianist.
In music, a pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing tones. However, the pedal point is unique among non-chord tones, "in that it begins on a consonance, sustains through another chord as a dissonance until the harmony", not the non-chord tone, "resolves back to a consonance".
A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.
Jazz bass is the use of the double bass or bass guitar to improvise accompaniment ("comping") basslines and solos in a jazz or jazz fusion style. Players began using the double bass in jazz in the 1890s to supply the low-pitched walking basslines that outlined the chord progressions of the songs. From the 1920s and 1930s Swing and big band era, through 1940s Bebop and 1950s Hard Bop, to the 1960s-era "free jazz" movement, the resonant, woody sound of the double bass anchored everything from small jazz combos to large jazz big bands.
Bass pedals are an electronic musical instrument with a foot-operated pedal keyboard with a range of one or more octaves. The earliest bass pedals from the 1970s consisted of a pedalboard and analog synthesizer tone generation circuitry packaged together as a unit. The bass pedals are plugged into a bass amplifier or PA system so that their sound can be heard. Since the 1990s, bass pedals are usually MIDI controllers, which have to be connected to a MIDI-compatible computer, electronic synthesizer keyboard, or synth module to produce musical tones. Some 2010s-era bass pedals have both an onboard synth module and a MIDI output.
An organ trio is a form of jazz ensemble consisting of three musicians; a Hammond organ player, a drummer, and either a jazz guitarist or a saxophone player. In some cases the saxophonist will join a trio which consists of an organist, guitarist, and drummer, making it a quartet. Organ trios were a popular type of jazz ensemble for club and bar settings in the 1950s and 1960s, performing a blues-based style of jazz that incorporated elements of R&B. The organ trio format was characterized by long improvised solos and an exploration of different musical "moods".
Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts in a performance of jazz music. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.
This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.
Heavy metal bass is the use of the bass guitar in the rock music genres of heavy metal and hard rock. The bassist is part of the rhythm section in a heavy metal band, along with the drummer, rhythm guitarist and, in some bands, a keyboard player. The prominent role of the bass is key to the metal sound, and the interplay of bass and distorted electric guitar is a central element of metal. The bass guitar provides the low-end sound crucial to making the music "heavy". The bass plays a "... more important role in heavy metal than in any other genre of rock."
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