How to Make Beats, The Bassline Part 1

Just like adding a melody or chord progression to your beat, there is more than one way to add a bassline to your beat.

Three of my favorite ways to add a bassline to a beat are inserting a loop, playing a virtual instrument or playing a real bass instrument like an acoustic or electric bass guitar.

What is a Bassline?

A bassline (also known as a bass line or bass part) is a term used by beat makers and in many popular genres of music.

Though basslines can be played by many different types of instruments, in beat making they are most commonly played on bass instruments.

Basslines work along with the drum part and the other rhythm instruments to create a clear rhythmic groove. And just like the drums, basslines can be used to influence and drive the rhythm and the feel of an entire song.

There are three main methods for adding a bassline to your beat. We can play a real bass instrument, virtual bass instrument or insert a bass loop. Let’s take a look at closer look at each method.

Real Bass Instruments

Adding a bassline to your beat with an electric or acoustic bass instrument probably gives you the most control out of the three methods. Assuming you can play the instrument, you will be able to pretty much play and record a bassline to any pre-existing melody or chord progression.

Although you don’t necessarily need a bassline to have a complete beat, it is still one of the more important instruments in a beat. Along with the drums, the bassline is responsible for the groove, feel and timing of the beat. Using a “real” electric or acoustic guitar will give you much control over this while performing and recording the bassline.

Using a “real” electric or acoustic bass instrument also gives you the option of tuning the instruments to your preference and adding external hardware effects or software plugin effects to manipulate the sound and texture of the bass instrument.

Here, it should be noted that you will have less control once the bassline is recorded. Yes, you could simple re-record your bassline once you have realized the changes needed, but this can add minutes to hours to your workflow. Unless you are pretty good at playing and recording the bass instrument, this is probably not the best method if you are short on time.

However, if you are not really picky and don’t need complete control over groove, feel or timing, you could simply choose a virtual bass instrument or a loop as your method for adding a bassline to your beat.

Virtual Bass Instruments

The virtual bass instrument method will give you the most flexibility. Unlike a “real’ bass instrument, you have way more control after you have tracked the bassline. Since you will be selecting your preferred bassline from a list of preset bass sounds, you will be able to control lots more of your bass sound after you have already recorded the performance of your bass. This will decrease the time it takes for you to get a bassline recorded. However, try to avoid spending too much time deciding on your desired preset. Any amount of time you gain from recording the midi notes of your bassline, will be lost with every second you spend searching for a bass preset.

One of the draw backs of using a virtual bass instrument is that we get distracted by having too many choices. Too many choices becomes something I like to call negative inspiration, where inspiration back fires and turns into resistance.

Although you have much control over many things after you have recorded your bassline; like timing and melody, with a virtual bass instrument you have less control over something us musicians often call “the human feel.”

Human feel (human error) is about the feeling a rhythm or groove gives you. Without it, a bassline can feel or sound lifeless. It can even sometimes feel too computerized or robotic. Many beatmakers agree that you can sort of achieve a more human feel by tracking with no quantizing or allowing some of your mistakes (human error) to stay in the midi recording. However, when it comes to the feel of music, us humans tend to be pretty sensitive to generic vs real. It is possible, but very difficult to simulate human feel with a keyboard. I don’t recommend this method if you are after a more organic feel and you are short on time. Since it’s based on feel, it can be very time consuming trying to get it just right.

Bass Loops

Bass loops are another way to add a bassline to your beat. Although you have less control of the melody, timing and groove, it is a simple and very fast way to add a bassline to your beat.

Because a bass loop is a pre-recorded bassline looped as an audio file, you won’t have as much control over the melody, timing, or sound of the bassline as you would with a virtual or real bass instrument. Bass loops are also harder to just throw in with pre-existing melodies.

However, using bass loops can increase inspiration and boost creativity. Loops will make us stretch and get creative, cutting, pasting and rearranging to make the bassline fit with the pre-existing music. Bass loops can be both fun and frustrating depending on how much experience you have working with loops. You either have to start with the bass loop and play your other instruments and sounds around it, or try to make the loop fit with the pre-existing melodic phrases and patterns.

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