Treating the Bass Line as a Second Melody

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:

You’ve got a great melody and a chord progression that works. So what can you do to add life to your song? Activate the bass line. Making the bass line do something other than just sitting on the chord root gives life to that aspect of the song, and will increase the energy level. In that sense, you can almost consider the bass line to be a second melody.

This is especially important if your chord progression goes back and forth between two chords. Here are two MIDI files. The first one gives a basic i-iv-i progression. The second one animates the bass line, giving it some motion. These are just basic MIDI files, so they’ll sound a bit lame for that reason. But hopefully you’ll hear the point I’m making: giving motion to th ebass line gives the listener something else to hear other than just the melody. In that sense it adds an important aspect of transparency to the musical texture:

EXAMPLE 1 (Static bass line): Example 1

EXAMPLE 2 (Moving bass line): Example 2

Sometimes, “static motion” is actually desired, and so don’t automatically assume that every piece you write needs to have a moving bass line. But if you’re looking for ways to add interest and motion to your song, consider animating the bass line. One word of caution: it can sound a bit lame if the bass is simply doing what the melody is already doing. So get the bass line moving, but don’t simply duplicate the melody. Come up with something unique.

FOR A LIMITED TIME: Gary’s newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books. Read more..

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  1. Hi Barry – Sorry about that… the samples are in the post now, opening in a new window when you click on them. Also, I’ve responded to your MIDI question in the MIDI post.


  2. Where are the examples? Also, I asked you a question in your MIDI orchestration post – could you take a look at it?

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