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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink How do you go about learning a song on bass?

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Do you copy the song note by note, do you improvise/compose your own parts to the song, or both? sorry for the stupid question.

Gio, are you playing with a drummer? Typically you have to collaborate with the drums so that your bass sits in with the kick drum or vice versa. So it really depends on if your drummer is playing the same exact beat as the original song.

Danny Snyder

Latest project - Now That's What I Call SURF

I tend to try to learn it note for note. Depends on the song. Live versions are almost always different than recorded versions, so I’ll make some changes if necessary. Bass lines can be horribly hard to hear. Sometimes I change the fills and runs around a bit to fit the song if I can’t make out all of the original. Also depends on how the band plays it.

Will

"You're done, once you're a surfer you're done. You're in. It's like the mob or something. You're not getting out." - Kelly Slater

The Luau Cinders

Work it out until you get it. —

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I usually start by playing the melody and then branch out to a proper bass part.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.

synchro wrote:

I usually start by playing the melody and then branch out to a proper bass part.

Synchro from Gretsch-Talk? Hello! Nice to see someone here I know. Didn’t know you were a surf player.

viking_power wrote:

synchro wrote:

I usually start by playing the melody and then branch out to a proper bass part.

Synchro from Gretsch-Talk? Hello! Nice to see someone here I know. Didn’t know you were a surf player.

I love doing Surf tunes, when I’m not trying to sound like Chet. Smile FWIW, a Gretsch can sound great for Surf music.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.

Gio wrote:

Do you copy the song note by note, do you improvise/compose your own parts to the song, or both? sorry for the stupid question.

It's pretty simple usually) A D E, than repeat)

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I usually do a chart for my bass player with the chords and any additional notes needed. Unless you're a pure cover band and trying to mimic the originals, I discourage learning note to note. But if you are working on your technical side then note for note is better. See some of the links for Backing Tracks and Tablature in SG101 Download section.

If you are just trying to chart chord patterns I can send you a sample of the excel sheet I use.

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Angle of Attack CD - BANDCAMP

Last edited: Oct 05, 2021 09:45:10

When I first commented on this thread, I was pressed for time, but today I’ll try to explain further.

If I’m learning a new song, whether guitar, bass, or whatever, I always start with the melody, which gives me the basic flow of the song. Once the melody is “under my fingers”, so to speak, which is to say that once I’m familiar with the melody and can ply it fluidly, I start to think about the chord changes and how they support the melody. Even if I am playing strictly a lead line, knowing the chords helps to find more efficient fingerings, because melodies usually come down to tension against, or resolution with notes of the chord. So if I’m playing a song in C Major, when the C chord is in use, I’m most likely fingering out of a C Major triad (or arpeggio), if the chord changes to an F Major, I am most likely fingering out of an F Major triad (or arpeggio).

With bass parts, it’s usually a matter of roots and fifths of the chords and connecting notes. Even if the bass part is a complex walking bass line, it’s most likely going to stayed anchored to the root of the fifth of the chord, or possibly the third. When I’m playing bass, I’m usually selecting fingerings based upon simple, one octave arpeggios.

The only other thing I would offer is that you can start simple and add complexity later, if you feel that the son requires it. Simple alternating bass lines of roots and fifths will take you pretty far. With just a little bit of thought towards connecting tones, a simple root/fifth bass line can become a thing of real beauty.

Guitar has been my main instrument since the days of the Beatles, but I love playing bass. It’s sort of fun to lay the foundation of a song and just keep it going in a steady fashion. I find that playing bass, and being solid, requires strict discipline and is good practice for my lead work. It’s one thing to play a lead line where you can play right on top of the beat, behind the beat, or even push the beat slightly, but it’s quite another matter when you are the beat.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.

I first started out playing bass, so as a teenager I would try to learn songs basically note for note. But most of those songs were simple.

These days I would tend to learn the chord progression of the song first, so as to follow along with root notes, then expand from there. But in some cases, the original bass line has a lot to do with generate the feel of the song, and deviating from that can take away from that. So learning note for note is important in some cases.

Hey Gio,

Welcome to SG101!

The answer to your question depends on your ultimate goal for the song and what you want to get out of it.

Do you want the song to sound authentic, correct, vintage, retro, true to the spirit and time in which it was composed?

Or do you just want to make it your own from the get-go?

Do you want to really get inside the song and understand it deeply, or do you just want a quick, cool end result?

If it's the former--it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to learn the bass line and attempt to replicate the tone on the record EXACTLY.This is an extremely valuable lesson and will teach a tremendous amount about amps, strings, types of basses, eq, speaker cabinets, picking techniques, picks, recording techniques as well as 60s bass line philosophies, registers, mixing, what's best for the song rather than the individual player, and on and on. This is how to learn Surf music at the core. Go to the source and STUDY. Do the work. Research and homework is fundamental.

If you don't understand the inside and outs of the original, you can't really intelligently, thoughtfully or consciously change it, because you never really learned it in the first place. How can you change what you don't understand?

Then again, if you just want to keep it all light, shallow and float on the surface, who cares in the first place? Just make up your own anything right off the bat. But at that point, isn't it just becoming your own song anyway, so why not make it 100% original and not even have a connection to the cover track at all?

Insect Surfers
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Tikiyaki 5-0
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Fiberglass Jungle - Surf Radio

My son wanted to play bass with me at an affair featuring the music of the Ventures. At first, I thought not.. as he played simple bass lines - quite well - in a punk band.
"OK, so show me what I have to play", he said.
SO - I did. I remember starting out on guitar playing the simple bass lines on the "Play Guitar with the Ventures" LPs to get my fingers coordinated; then the lead guitar followed; the chord work was last - when my fingers were in sync.
The bass lines in the early Ventures tunes were pretty simple - root, fifth and dominant 7th mostly. Bob Bogle even admitted as a much to me when I met him at an event years back.
So - my son stepped up to the plate, learned whatever I could teach him, and did quite well.
He's a solid bass player.. I wouldn't want to have anyone else playing bass behind my lead guitar lines.
J Mo'

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