Create Your Own Ad-Hoc/Improv Bass Lines

After reading @connellj65’s recent post regarding his audition at a local intermediate school band, it brought back memories… Some good, some not so good, but, those memories always left something behind that I could learn from…

I’m starting this thread to hopefully help new beginner players who would some day want to either play or jam with groups prepare for what may lay ahead… Not to scare anyone away, not by any means, only help so that you can have a bit more of an edge when you strap on that bass and go to pluck that first note in front of (and with) other musicians…

Living in the Southeast USA, Country and Southern Rock are fairly dominant genres of music. Most of it played live at open bars and night clubs, and even at restaurant’s at nights during the summer months… Many will often encourage visiting patrons to join in on a song or two with vocals, or with an instrument… The first time I played bass at one, I was terrified - even though I had played guitar with other bands earlier in life… I was still NERVOUS and a bit anxious… Then, I remembered… I’m playing Bass,… I’m part of the Rhythm section,… All I need to do is watch the rhythm guitar player to see what chords he’s playing, use my ear and… BINGO!! Hit the roots and let the groove take it from there…

Here’s a song from actual “Triplet” sisters who attend the University of Georgia… Not a great recording, but it doesn’t have to be (they still got a hell of a following on and off campus) - all that’s important is to watch the guitar player as she forms simple chords. Additionally, and something we bass players ALWAYS deal with when playing live, is the guitar CAPO… Notice it on the 5th fret…

Anyone willing to add a bass line??? There’s no “Right or Wrong” bass lines based on what someone has already created and recorded… There’s no “Mixing or Tone” required since this recording is totally RAW… All that basically matters is Root notes and Timing… Actually, that’s really all any band or group looking for a bass player is focused on during any audition… Oh, other than maybe "personality’… :thinking:

Is this something you new beginner players might be interested in??? There are a few here who have and still play in bands or jams… @lee_editorial comes to mind right now,. but I know there are more who can provide some really good input and direction…

The Castellows - Date Country (Silo Sessions)

Keep On Thumpin’!


Right on Lanny! I know everyone is wired differently, but for me from day one my thought was to hopefully get to the point of playing with other people. And now 5 (or is it 6?) years later, I am still trying to run before walking. I am attempting to set the record for how long it takes to complete this course! I am not lying… I posted the very first post on this forum so I’ve been around a while- yet here we are and I have still not finished the course. I think I currently might be on module 8? I probably pick back up and do a lesson or two, maybe 3 or 4 times a year. I will eventually get through!

But after saying all that- I literally had the thought earlier today when I practiced a few songs for an upcoming rehearsal: If I was not involved in a band project, it would be difficult to keep the enthusiasm, motivation and inspiration alive! I started a 90s alt rock band a couple years ago and we only rehearse once per month. We’ve had major personnel changes with our singer and drummer so we have not managed to get out and play live yet. However, learning a couple of songs and continually adding to the set list is what drives me. I have not progressed to an intermediate level bass player by any stretch of the imagination. However, I think I can keep good time with the drummer, hit the basic notes when the guitars are changing, and no one seems to mind that I am not noodling around like someone who actually knows what they are doing.

Your exercise or “challenge” of adding bass lines reminds me of things I’ve done when learning new songs. After figuring out the basic idea via tabs, I will often search youtube for cover versions of the same song. Sometimes I can find a cool acoustic version or something without a lot of bass, and then improvise what I’ve learned, but at a completely different tempo or style. Its a lot different than just playing along to the original song/artist. I think its really helped prepare to play with others where the guitars are different, tempo is not the same, the vocals are not as precise, etc.

I think the main thing is: if you enjoy the bass- please realize you don’t have to be at a really high level to get with other people. Don’t put that dream off until you have confidence and more expertise. Try to find the right situation- you will be surprised at how fast you will improve just by playing with others.

Most guitarists, drummers etc. will welcome you with open arms if you can just keep decent time and hit those root notes (and occasionally 5ths), even if you play simple versions of most songs like me!


I can relate, man. I was a rhythm player for decades before I played bass in a band, so chord progressions and strumming timing were baked in.

It’s all in the ears after a while.


Hey @Lanny, that’s a wonderful idea! Brings back memories of early jams and reminds me of the gig in two weeks …

I’m in a bit of a time crunch today, so I’ll just throw out that I’d noodle some C, F, Dm, Am, possibly look for something like a G or E in the part where they drop their voices.



Actually, I’m kinda thinking that you DO have that record @lee_editorial Lee!! :laughing:

Know exactly what you’re saying… I had to back off playing in a band, but do stay involved by working with a couple beginner guitar students. Just staying actively involved with them helps keep me motivated and inspired…

So true!! One thing most bands really don’t want is a showboat bass player… With most bands, it’s the Frontman and Lead Guitarist who kinda don’t want that spotlight moved away from them… You can always tell (feel) when you and the drummer lock in and carry a song…

In one band I played in about three years ago, the band leader made it a point to express this exactly!!.. He would always say, “Play the music ‘OUR’ way… If the audience wants to hear the song as it was recorded, then they can just listen to a damn CD!”…

Absolutely!!.. Three parts “Timing”, One part “Roots” will always get your foot in the door… I remember a practice one evening that went well into the early morning hours… I was BEAT!! Tired and just plain worn out, but the band leader decided that we needed to press on just a little longer. I pulled out a folding chair, sat down, and placed my P Bass on it’s stand (still plugged in… Can’t remember what song we were working on, but according to the drummer, I just sat there with my eyes closed and plucked the E string on that bass every time he hit that kick… He’d tell that story and always end it with,…“Damn guy can play bass in his sleep!!”… Quite the compliment…

Yes, Yes!!.. @MikeC… I to played mainly rhythm for years so the transition to bass was sorta natural… Again, timing and chord root notes - then listening for change up progressions…

Jams are so much fun - Kinda like a box of Chocolates,… You never know what peice is gonna be pulled out to play, and then once you kinda get into the groove, it sort of changes on it’s own… Good Luck with that upcoming gisg @antonio!!

Cool… Let us know what you come up with… Listening to and working in note changes based on voice dynamics is a cool tool…

Keep On Thumpin’!

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So here’s one to work on that is pretty easy - other than it is (on guitar) CAPO’d on the first fret… This is something that when playing live gigs happens all the time - you just need to know what to do as a bass player… You can do it!!

The notes (for bass) in this song are: D; E; G and A… All in the key of D… Just remember that they are played on guitar CAPO’d at the first fret which means that you will need to play those notes one fret higher on your bass keyboard…

There are some great walk up and walk down riffs that can be created and added, but to start with, just listen and play roots for now… Quarters or halfs, even wholes if need be…

Over time you’ll feel your own groove that will make it your own… maybe even some walk up’s and walk downs in certain spots.??.. Create and call it your own… So damn cool!!

Good Luck!! Have Fun!!

Keep On Thumpin’!


I will definitely spend some time adding some instruments and playing around with them. I just had to download the sound file … these girls are really distracting combo.


Way cool @wellbi!!! Lobe the great link!!…. I’m not the greatest on linking music to play to…. Thanks!!


In the case of Soundcloud, this forum system handles the links on its own. Just have to insert the link and the player pops up after posting it.


@Lanny This is a great idea! Thanks for throwing it out there. One of the nice things about country for beginners is that once you work out the root notes, you can often take the next step by just playing every other note as a lower 5th. And the nice thing about a lower 5th is you just need to move your finger down to the next string on the same fret.

(This is the basis for playing Folsom Prison Blues in Module 11 Lesson 1.)

Once you have Root-5th-root-5th down, you can take the next step by trying to do a simple one or two note walk up or walk down between chords.

So for example, here’s how I worked out the first verse of Castellows’ Date Country:

[NOTE: Sorry for the wonky non-standard notation below. Doing this in a comment window in a variable-width font is not a great way to illustrate what I’m saying, but I’m not in a position to do a nice tab.]

  1. Figured out the root chords by listening and by watching their fingering (damn capos!):
    C, F, and G, four beats on the C, then two beats each on the F and G:

C C C C (G string, 5th fret)
F F (D string, 3rd fret)
G G (D string, 5th fret)

  1. Switch every other note to the lower 5th except the last line:

C G C G (Each 5th is played on the same fret, one string lower)

  1. Figured out a simple walk up or down between chords:

C G C G…F#
G G… B

  1. Repeat the process for the chorus and rest of the song.

Does this approach/explanation make sense to anybody other than me?


Most excellent!! Makes good sense to me @bfrederi1 … Cool thing is as you mentioned, once you get the root notes ironed out, you can add and use fills walk ups or downs as you feel… Really makes for good practice when you can tie in to a song by watching rhythm guitar players play chords, and use your ear. Even better practice when you have to figure out what to do on bass when a guitar capo is involved… So glad you took this one on… Songs such as these are always in my practice routine, and I find myself playing them a bit different each time I practice… Really helps stir up the musical imagination.

Keep On Thumpin’!


[quote=“Lanny, post:11, topic:45152”]…and I find myself playing them a bit different each time I practice…

@Lanny I’ve seen you make a similar comment on at least one other thread and I gotta tell you that approach is a breath of fresh air. I’ve seen people agonizing over their inability to play a song exactly, note-for-note like whatever version they are trying to emulate. Worse, I’ve seen people criticize others for not doing so. (Note that I’m not talking about BassBuzz here, just in general.)

IMHO that kind of perfection copying should be reserved for tribute bands, marching bands, and symphony orchestras. Beginning musicians should be encouraged to play music they like to the best of their ability and not sweat the details. As they improve, they can get closer to perfect copying if they so choose.

Glad to see you emphasize that approach.


@bfrederi1… YES,YES, so have I… Note for Note, Tone for Tone… We are here as “Beginner” bass players… Most all have taken the B2B course… Then what??.. Granted, there is the 50 song challenge, there’s Covers,… All of which seem to focus on Note for Note, or Tone for Tone as the original song was played and recorded… To me, a totally an un-realistic, far fetched, and backwards ending to having gained a great foundation into playing music… Not saying that is’s a bad thing, just saying that there are more options to move forward playing bass.

If a person really wants to move into playing live music (which is another option) in either a band or at a jam session, being able to keep good time and use those roots effectively are the things that matter… Tabs, music sheets,… none of that is available at an audition… Matter of fact, most auditions will have you play a couple songs that you know, but then surprise you with things they’ll throw out just to see how you react to something you may have never played to before… It happens…

Being able to take a song, jump in and at least hit roots is Real Life shit… Having a portion of your practice time devoted to doing just that not only prepares a person for those auditions, but it also develops and ear and an eye to not only hear, but see what’s going on around you with other musicians… Over time, and practice, other things will begin to develop. Things like walk up’s and downs, 5ths and octaves, playing in different areas of the neck for effect or to accentuate vocals… All without having to even “think” about it…

I could not agree more… Most all the groups I’ve played with never wanted “Note for Note”… You want Note for Note?.. Play the CD… Music is an expression of who WE are at the time, and what WE feel at the time… Do we play it to impress others, or do we play it to feed and satisfy our inner souls??.. Good music is very personal to each and every one of us individually…

Lets do more songs like this…??..!!.. Might be a cool exercise for others to join in on…

Keep On Thumpin’!


I’m glad you started this @Lanny!

This whole exercise expands on what Josh talks about in Module 15: How to jam in different musical scenarios. A lot of what we focus on in the forum stops before we get to this point. This presents a different side of what I need to learn, that’s for sure.

I hope to, one day, be able to play by ear. I think it’s going to take a lot more of doing stuff like this to get there.

You can do it in a text document and add the HTML pre tags. Like this… HTML pre tag ( It’ll end up looking like the text below.

SONG NAME - Band Name

Tabbed By:


    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &   1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

| /  slide up
| \  slide down
| h  hammer-on
| p  pull-off
| ~  vibrato
| +  harmonic
| x  Mute note

The more you practice doing it, the easier it gets… After awhile it just becomes second nature…

Cool info on that HTML pre tag trick also…

Keep On Thumpin’!


That is very cool, thanks for sharing!