A good bass line plays a vital role in creating a groove in most genres of music. It drives rhythmic accompaniment to the main instrument melodies, making songs more cohesive.
Why do we humans like a lot of bass?
As humans, we like a lot of bass for a variety of reasons.
Groove & Rhythm
Good bass along with drums, provide the foundation for rhythm. Strong cohesive rhythms can act as a pulse, engaging listeners to enjoy and even move
Frequency & emotional response
Low frequencies can have a powerful emotional impact depending on depth and intensity. These can evoke human response feelings of excitement and in contrast, even melancholy. These are especially found in EDM or hip-hop where the bass is so low it enters sub. Read more audio terms here.
Texture & melody
Good bass adds texture to a complete musical sound. It complements the mid/higher-pitched instruments in a rich spectrum of cohesive melody.
1# Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly & The Family Stone
Bass player Larry Graham created a new groove sound using his bass. In this song, he introduced his slap bass style of playing. This involves slapping his thumb in a percussive style across the strings.
You can hear the bassline as soon as you start the song, complementing the guitar and vocal melodies. Graham’s slap bass innovation adds a funkiness that has since been replicated countless times. Today, the slap bass is recognized as a foundation of funk music and many use it to add a driving pulse to their tracks.
Such is the popularity that sampling platform UJAM even released a Virtual Bassist Slap as part of its bass guitar software. You can get 30 styles with over 350 individual phrases, including slap and finger-style.
2# Another One Bites the Dust by Queen (1980)
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen features arguably one of the most famous bass lines ever played. It is instantly recognized within seconds by most. Written and played by Queen’s bassist John Deacon on his Fender, it has become an iconic 80s sound.
The bass lines groove is layered by the vocal melody and other instruments. The sound is unique thanks to Deacon’s flat-wound strings. Another One Bites the Dust lives on as one of Queen’s best-selling singles.
3# Around the World by Daft Punk (1997)
Good bass and subby sounds are present in EDM or electronic dance music for energy. This song from Daft Punk provides just that. The song kicks off with its bass line melody. The bass sound is creatively boosted by their use of the Teletronix LA-2A Leveling Amplifier. (click here to check its price)
Daft Punk are known for their bass-heavy dance music, and that’s all put on display in Around the World. The song begins with a simple bass line with steady drum beats, catching the listener. Then, as the seconds tick by, electronic melodies build the sound. This creates a lively and energetic vibe and the bass keeps everything moving.
4# Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz (2005)
Feel Good Inc.’s bass line is instantly catchy and groovy, making it easy to like. Gorillaz bassist Murdoc Niccals is noted to have recorded with a Gibson Flying V. A bass perfect for beginners to experts alike.
Like the previous songs, Feel Good starts with a bass and drum beat groove. The bass is constant throughout, briefly dropping out in the chorus to create that melancholy space for the vocals.
5# 12 Juin 3049 by Caravan Palace (2012)
Caravan Palace are described as an electro-swing band which is a genre that is quite hard to imagine without hearing.
With 12 Juin 3049, They transport you to a speakeasy wine bar inside a submarine from the future. The song features one of the best vibraphone solos you’re ever likely to hear.
The role of this bassline covers all 3 reasons mentioned why humans like a lot of bass. It creates texture, groove, and emotional response as it slides around with its own melody.
It’s clear the bassist is recording with an upright electric bass imitating a double bass. The way the bass melody slides up and down the fretboard creates a smooth soothing space. It’s impossible not to bop your head in agreement.
The band uses traditional instruments like double bass, guitars, and piano. We love the melodic lead clarinet, which is one of the hardest instruments to learn. They tie these together with a Novation launchpad which allows for samples and sound manipulation. The Novation Launchpad often appears in the band’s videos.
6# Starboy ft. Daft Punk by The Weeknd (2016)
Starboy is one of the more modern examples in this article. It’s by The Weeknd, named the world’s most popular artist with 111.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Now, this song has lots of sounds to unpack. First is the heavy bass which is an 808 bass line. This is a tuned and pitched sub-bass coming from a classic drum machine. There are also sections of the song with synth bass, making this hit by The Weeknd a great example of layering different bass sounds. This track is great for demonstrating a unique bass made with a bit of creativity.
7# Wonder by Galimatias (2020)
Wonder is the most recent release on this list. Galimatias is an electronic, hip-hop, and lo-fi artist who uses advanced production techniques.
In Wonder, he surrounds listeners with a calming sub-bass texture accompanied by world instruments. The melody in the mids seems to bounce between the left and right pan creating an ambiance.
He leaves so much space for the sub-bass to thrive, adding only 1 minimal lead melody at a time in the form of his vocals. Once his modulated vocals finish, an eastern melody leads. This signals a stronger sub-bass coming in together with a more structured drum beat. It is a kind of gentle drop, which then drives the rest of the song.
We like a good bass line in a track for many different reasons. Hopefully, these bass songs have offered some inspiration or sparked some ideas for your next production.
Written by Janice Tobin.