Move that bass line – on guitar

Moving the bass line on guitar is not for the faint hearted. In many cases when you’re in a band or creating rhythm tracks for recordings, you don’t wanna move that bass line. In fact, you don’t even want to play those bass notes. But when you decide to play solo, suddenly the task of carrying the bass line falls on your lap. It also hits your crotch, but let’s not go there now.

Thinking in shapes

guitar strings over fretboardFrom any given chord shape you can move notes. Or at least attempt to move them, depending on the difficulty of fingering. And I mean any note up and down the fretboard. If you choose to move the melody line, it will most likely be – though not in every case – the top notes of the chord. If you however want to move the bass line, you will be changing the bottom notes. Let me illustrate how it goes, with the help of common chord shapes.

Bass notes create the flavor

Our first starting point is a C major triad with an F in the bass. Notice that I wrote them as slash chords, so you can easily follow the moving bass line under the static chord:
move that bass - C chord
Take a listen to the audio example of the above progression here: Moving bass line under a static C chord, mp3

The second example starts with an F major triad, with a Bb note in the bass, that we are going to move down. Here it is:
moving bass line - F chord
Listen to the audio of the above chord progression here: Moving bass line under a static F chord, mp3
As you can see and hear, it works. Not only that, but this nice sounding trick can be a useful tool of your playing. All you have to do is internalize as many movements like these as you can. Once you have built them into your playing, they’ll become part of your style. That means you’ll be able to call for them pretty much automatically.

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