Bass Guitar Lessons – Playing To the Kick Drum – > In all of our lessons we talk about the importance of bass players keeping the rhythm and timing of a song. This of course is not all a bassist is supposed to do. We need to support what the other musicians are playing, while also taking the lead role of driving the direction and feel of a song. That’s what is so cool about playing bass – we get to fulfill the responsibilities of playing several parts that are vital to making a song sound good. But if we are looking at what a bass player should focus on first, keeping the rhythm of a song should be at the top of that list.
One of the best ways to focus on keeping the rhythm and timing of a song is by playing the right bass notes in sync with a drummer’s kick drum. In the majority of playing situations a bassist can make playing in time to the kick drum the focal point of his or her playing. Notes can be played directly on beat with the kick drum, while adding additional notes and fills in the right spots. There are also many times when a bassist will need to play notes as an offbeat to the kick drum. But even when playing on the offbeat, the kick drum it is still the focal point of a bassist that is supporting and driving the rhythm and timing of a song.
Below are a couple of songs that provide good examples of bassists playing in sync with the kick drum:
Below is the isolated bass and drums track for the song “Do It Again” by Steely Dan. Bassist Walter Becker is playing the bass line in sync with the kick drum essentially throughout entire the song. He is also adding fills at the right time, but always comes back to playing with the kick drum. As a result he is keeping the rhythm and timing, while driving the direction and feel of the song:
Below is the isolated bass and drums track for “Santeria” by Sublime. The bass line in this song does a lot – from carrying and supporting the melody, to serving as the foundation for the rhythm and timing. But notice how much bassist Eric Wilson plays in sync with the kick drum throughout the song. He diverts from this and also plays a lot of fills, and plays on the off beats and back beats (which gives the song it’s reggae feel). But his focus always comes back to playing notes directly in sync with the kick drum:
A lesson on playing to the kick drum is a great place to also cover the concept of “leaving space”. When a bass player is leaving space he or she is essentially playing less to make more “room” for other instruments or vocals. For example, when additional guitar, keyboard, horns, or vocal parts are introduced, the bass line should often scale back and play less. This is a good time for bassists to focus on the rhythm, hunker down, and simply play along in sync with the kick drum pattern.
Below is a video from pro bassist Danny “Mo” Morris that goes over the concept of leaving space (this is a free lesson courtesy of JamPlay Bass Lessons). It’s a great example of how to focus on the rhythm and timing of a song. When playing the bass line he is essentially locking into and playing along with the kick drum:
The video above is a free sample lesson from JamPlay Bass Lessons. If you’re interested in accessing more lessons like these (and hundreds more), check out the JamPlay Bass Homepage. Bass Player Center also published a review of their site and services – click here to check it out!
Thanks for checking out our lesson on “Playing To the Kick Drum”. Hopefully we’ve given you some help and insight for understanding how to lock in and play in sync with the kick drum – and how important this is to playing bass lines that make a song sound good. As always thanks for visiting Bass Player Center!