Bass Lick of the Week #11

This exercise is a rock bassline that is built on the E minor pentatonic scale. This line was written to be played with a plectrum and sounds great with some mild distortion/overdrive.

This bassline makes use of an important scale - the minor pentatonic. This scale is a great choice for rock basslines, but is also useful for funk, pop, jazz... just about any style of music really! In this case we’re using the E minor pentatonic, which is derived from the E natural minor scale. The difference between the two is that the minor pentatonic omits the second and sixth degrees of the natural minor scale, in this case, F# and C. These are the semitone intervals within the scale, and removing them creates a more open sound. It’s a great scale to build a rock riff from.

When learning this line, it’s important that you stick to the picking pattern that’s written between the staves. Doing so will ensure that you start each beat with a downstroke, which is a more comfortable way to play. This means that in some places of the line you will begin a phrase on an upstroke. A good example of this is the third beat of bar 1: because the A is tied from beat two into this beat, we don’t play until the second semiquaver subdivision of the beat (down-up-down-up). consequently, if you play this note with an upstroke, you will then fall easily back into the logical picking sequence.

In the fourth bar of the exercise a C is played - this note does not belong in the E minor pentatonic scale, which makes its use here all the more striking.

I recorded this line using a Fender Marcus Miller Signature bass, which is one of my favourite instruments for aggressive rock lines. I also used the EBS MultiDrive distortion pedal, set as follows - Drive: 3 o’clock, Mode: STD, Volume: 10 o’clock.

To download the backing track and PDF worksheet for this exercise, please visit the Free Stuff section of the website.