How to Write a BASS Line with Harmony
Step 1. Low
Harmony is when two or more notes are played together. And sadly, it’s rare to hear harmony in a bass line. The word “line” is actually used to convey the fact that it’s a melody, not a harmony. That’s how rare harmony is on the bass!
You see, most producers think the bass frequencies are too low to play harmony. In other words, if you play two notes together, it’ll sound like a rumbling mess. But, that’s not true. That only happens when the two notes are close to each other. For example, if your root note is a low A, and you play a D above that. It doesn’t sound very nice if you play the D that’s five semitones above the A. But, if you play the D an octave higher, so it’s now 17 semitones above the A, it sounds absolutely beautiful!
Alright, so now we know how to successfully add harmony to a bass line, however, we don’t yet have a bass line to add it to. So, step 1 is to write a cool one-bar rhythm on the root note. And we’re using A natural minor. Then, copy and paste that rhythm to three other notes, so you’ve got a four-note bass line over four bars. And feel free to throw in some passing notes to smooth the line out.
And a shoutout to the British band GoGo Penguin, and especially their bassist Nick Blacka, as this lesson is based on the title track from their beautiful new album “Everything Is Going to Be OK”.
Just before we jump into the next step. If there’s an artist you want us to hack, drop us a comment on YouTube.
Also, are you new to music theory? Or are you experienced, but you want a refresher? Then download our FREE BOOK (link opens in new tab). It only takes 30 minutes to read, then you’ll have a solid theory foundation that you can instantly apply to your songwriting and producing.
Step 2. High
Now it’s time for the fun part: writing another line over the top, so you’ve got two lines playing together. Start this step by choosing what note you want to use for the harmony over your root note. And this is where Nick Blacka was super creative, as he actually used one high note that sounds good over all four bars. You don’t have to do that, but it’s very cool, so we did something similar in our example. We used D as our high note for three bars, then we varied it in the fourth bar.
Once you’ve chosen your high note, write a cool rhythm for it over your root note in bar one. Then, copy and paste that rhythm into the remaining three bars. Once you’ve done that, feel free to add some rhythmic and melodic variations to keep things fresh. But you don’t have to do that, if you just wanna keep things simple.
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