The lesson covers how to play bass lines using root notes. One of the most basic yet commonly used patterns when playing bass are root note patterns. The role of a bass player is to emphasize the root notes of chords while playing them in rhythm. There are countless songs where the bass pattern is simply playing the root notes of chords in time throughout the progression of a song.
What Are the Root Notes?
Root notes are the main (root) notes of a chord. So the root note of the chord A major is “A”.
If a song has the chords of Amajor, Cminor, and Dmajor the root notes would be A, C, and D. A guitar player or keyboard player may be playing all of the notes in the chord, while the bassist is simply playing the root notes with an emphasis on playing the root notes in time to keep rhythm.
Play All Root Notes
When playing root note patterns you can play them anywhere on the bass. For example, if a root note is A, you can play the A anywhere on the bass. The diagram below shows where all the A’s can be played on the first 12 frets – at lower and higher octaves.
Here’s a video of me playing the diagram above (I’m also playing the high octave A on the 14th fret)…
Keep Rhythm and Time with Root Notes
While playing just root notes may seem too simple or boring, there are many situations when that’s all a bassist should be doing. In fact one of the main roles of the bass is to emphasize root notes and keep time and rhythm.
The phrase “less is more” is one that definitely applies to playing bass. Playing too many notes and fills can muddy a song and take away from parts and instruments that are playing more of the melody and lead parts. Playing just the right amount of notes and playing them in time to help “glue” all other parts together is what playing bass is all about. And in many cases this involves just playing the root notes to the beat and rhythm of a song.
Examples of Songs that Use Root Notes as the Bassline
Here’s a video of me playing “Call Me” by Blondie. This is a great example of how root notes are used to create a powerful bass line. There are of course fills, but for the most part the bassline is comprised of the root notes…
- Verse – D, A# and G, A
- Chorus – D, F, G, A#
- Bridge – E, B to F, C and D, A#, G, A
Here is the isolated bassline (bass only) for Call Me:
“Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad – The bass line consists of the root notes D, G, A, and B. There are a few walk ups/downs, but the entire bassline is very much root notes:
“Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone – This bassline consists of the root note of G throughout this entire song:
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Play bass lines using root notes