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  1. #1

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    Suppose you have a bass line and nothing else. (Maybe a bass line and a beat / drum loop.)
    How do you go about adding chords?

    This is not a theoretical question, as in 'what are the rules?' or even 'how is this generally done?' but rather, a personal one: how do YOU go about it?

    I'm not looking for anyone to do my homework for me. I've done this enough times to know 'how this is generally done.' But I wonder how else one might do it.

    For me, generally, the more I like the bass line, the more sparse I want the comping to be and the fewer changes I want. If the bass line is what I'm drawn to, it tends to be a 'groove' song where the guitar chanks are on the high strings and there's a lot of space between them.

    Just thinking out loud, not pressing any point of view.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Well, the two obvious choices would be to use the bass note as the root of the chord or choose a chord that kind of rubs against the bass note in an interesting way. Fun to record a bass line and experiment.
    Agreed: busy bass line, sparse chords.

  4. #3

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    I usually try different things in my daw and see what sounds best. I might have something in my head, then try it and have it sound horrible lol. I think in broad terms, mainly: what rhythms do I want to use? how thick do I want the voicings to be and how much space should they take up? and what harmonic choices should I make?

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilpy
    Well, the two obvious choices would be to use the bass note as the root of the chord or choose a chord that kind of rubs against the bass note in an interesting way. Fun to record a bass line and experiment.
    Agreed: busy bass line, sparse chords.
    Even though I grew up with the standard guitar heroes for a boy my age (Hendrix, Page, Clapton, et al), the older I get the more I realize I was influenced by guys whose names I didn't know at the time: Reggie Young, Steve Cropper, Cornell Dupree, Jimmy Nolen, Catfish Collins. I like short, tight guitar bits that lock in with the groove and you just don't want them to end. (Or go anywhere else, really.)

    I still love this the way I did when I first heard it. Good to see the band live (first vid) but the sound's not so great. (Notice members of CCR peeping from backstage.) So we add the single version.




  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    Suppose you have a bass line and nothing else. (Maybe a bass line and a beat / drum loop.)
    How do you go about adding chords?

    This is not a theoretical question, as in 'what are the rules?' or even 'how is this generally done?' but rather, a personal one: how do YOU go about it?
    I try to let the music dictate where it wants to go.

    That's kind of airy-fairy nonsense, but it's really what I try to do. I play the first idea and try to imagine what the next thing should be.

    So, it's sing it, or imagine it, but somehow try to hear the harmony in your mind.

  7. #6

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    Ran across this article on the subject.

    Creating Chord Progressions From the Bass Line | The Essential Secrets of Songwriting

    When I come up with bass lines (-that is, start with one) it tends to be a lot of stepwise motion....

  8. #7

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    I’ve got this idea of doing a book of jazz and pop ‘rules of octave’ where each bass note in a scale is harmonised by a chord and you can use that as a way of working out harmony for bassline which is a thing people learn when they are studying baroque continuo playing

    Stylistic harmony is a good thing to get into

  9. #8

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    My single note playing is so chord tone based, maybe even more so for bass lines, that most of the time I already know the chords I'm playing over on a bass line first songwriting tune.

    I have done some more modal type of tunes where I'll just put down a bass line and drum track and single line improv in a DAW and then improvise the chords, but those are kind of floaty harmonic modal things.

    For a non modal tune, I'd record as much as I could... maybe bass, drums, melody, and then just start throwing chords against the wall and see what sticks.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    Ran across this article on the subject.

    Creating Chord Progressions From the Bass Line | The Essential Secrets of Songwriting

    When I come up with bass lines (-that is, start with one) it tends to be a lot of stepwise motion....
    "Limit the use of altered chords... Using lots of altered chords pulls the music away from your chosen key".... yes maybe, but I'd take that with a grain of salt if you're a fan of venturing away from the key center, (like Steely Dan). Other than that I like that article.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    My single note playing is so chord tone based, maybe even more so for bass lines, that most of the time I already know the chords I'm playing over on a bass line first songwriting tune.

    I have done some more modal type of tunes where I'll just put down a bass line and drum track and single line improv in a DAW and then improvise the chords, but those are kind of floaty harmonic modal things.

    For a non modal tune, I'd record as much as I could... maybe bass, drums, melody, and then just start throwing chords against the wall and see what sticks.
    That sounds familiar! When I made demos on a 4-track decades ago, that's what I did, go part by part. First a drum beat and a guitar part. Then another and another and a vocal. Sometimes---more than a few---I wound up with nice guitar tracks in a key I found it hard to sing in, so the vocal suffered as a result.

    And then there's Black Sabbath, which I listened to a lot as a kid: the bass line is (roughly) the same as the guitar line and that's the same as the vocal line. (And that worked because Ozzy's range allowed in; mine? Not so much....)

    I think at bottom (so to speak) what I really like are lines that move. I should learn counterpoint because I think that's what I really like---moving voices that complement each other. (Freddie Green's comping worked like that, producing countermelodies on the G string.)