How to Play Pop Rock Style Grooves on the Bass Guitar

For pop rock, the bass guitarist needs to support the vocals. The term pop is short for popular music, which refers to a style of rock that’s popular with a wide range of the general population.

For example, have you ever heard of a band called The Beatles (with Paul McCartney on bass)? How about Elton John? (Several bassists play with Sir Elton, but the great Pino Palladino and Dee Murray stand out.) In pop music, the song tells a story, so you don’t want to overshadow the vocals with an outrageous bass line.

This example shows the quintessential singer-songwriter groove (using only the root) that you so often hear in pop. The beat is divided equally and often is set up (approached) by an eighth note. The eighth and quarter notes are the most frequent note choices for pop bass lines.

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Listen to this pop rock groove. Check out how the line starts out simply and then gets more complex as you add notes. You can also watch this pop rock groove.

This pop rock groove uses a major tonality. When playing this groove, you add the 3 and 5 to fill out the chord (here, a major). Make sure you start this groove with your middle finger on the root.

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This example shows a pop rock groove that uses notes in the dominant tonality. The first half of the measure sets up the feel for this groove. The second half of the measure is much busier; it prepares for the calm first half of the next repetition of the groove.

The groove builds up tension and then releases to a satisfying resolution. You use notes from the Mixolydian mode for this groove. Start with your middle finger on the root to keep your left hand in position.

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This example shows a box groove (no shifts) that uses the dominant chord, the mode (Mixolydian, in this case), and a chromatic tone outside the mode. Remember to start the groove with your middle finger on the root.

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