How to Play Hip-Hop Style Grooves on the Bass Guitar

Hip-hop entered the music world in the 1990s. This style features a fat (“phat”) bass groove that sounds more laid-back than some of the other funk styles. Hip-hop is all about the message; the bass groove provides an important but unobtrusive accompaniment to the vocals.

Although the bass line isn’t busy, it’s well timed and repetitive. The feel and attitude are the most important features of the hip-hop groove. Raphael Saadiq is a well-known hip-hop bassist; he’s best known for his work with D’Angelo and Tony Toni Tone.

Start this hip-hop style groove with your ring finger.

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The tonality in hip-hop is often minor, but it may occasionally be a dominant tonality. Notice that the groove doesn’t move much from its starting chord. The tone is usually much darker than the bright funk style.

Here’s another groove in hip-hop style, this one for a minor or dominant tonality. Start this groove with your middle finger.

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This example features a groove for a major or dominant tonality; it’s for the happy hip-hoppers. Start this groove with your middle finger.

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As you listen to these hip-hop grooves, notice the long spaces between each note. Hip-hop grooves often use lots of space and only a few notes.

A synthesizer is sometimes used to play (or even double) the bass groove in hip-hop, but nothing grooves like the real thing.

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