Bass Groove – The Most Overlooked Aspect

Bass Groove – It Took Me Years To Realize One Thing

Groove – It’s THE most important aspect of what you do as a bass player. Sure, you might like shredding and playing a bunch of fancy stuff, but it’s your groove that will get you gigs consistently and make you the most popular person on the bandstand.

Most bass players just ‘play their part’ but never really get into the nitty-gritty details of what they’re doing – and the number one thing they don’t pay attention to is…

The Length Of Their Notes

This may not sound very important – they’re either long notes or  short notes, big deal!

Damn straight it’s a big deal!!!

Can you imagine “Another One Bites The Dust” with all long notes? If not, try it. Don’t allow any space between the notes.

Bass groove breatheIt sounds awful!!!

There’s no room for the bassline to ‘breathe’.

Or think about any walking bassline you’ve ever heard. Now imagine it with super short notes.

Better yet, try playing a walking bassline with super short notes. Once again…

It sounds awful!!!

Don’t make this mistake when you’re playing or creating your own bass lines.

There’s no hard and fast rule about the ratio of long notes to short notes, but just thinking about this stuff will put you in a true ‘bassist mindset’.

As a bassist, a bassist mindset is probably one of the most valuable things to have.

Bass Groove – Be Aware Of The Length Of Your Notes 

Long notes feel like they drag behind

Short notes feel like they push forward

In general, long notes make your groove sound like it’s ‘relaxed’, ‘behind’ or ‘lazy’. By the way – these can all be good things as well as bad things depending on the groove.

On the flip side, short notes make your groove feel ‘exciting’, ‘ahead’, or ‘pushing’. These can also be good things as well as bad things depending on the groove.

Because of these two insights, you need to be aware of 2 other things:

  1. How Long Your Notes Are
  2. Where You’re Sitting In The Groove

It’s easy to play long notes and lay behind in the time. It’s also easy to play really short notes and push forward. That’s what those notes want to do by default.

The real challenge comes when you have to lay behind while playing short notes or push forward playing long notes.

This isn’t just about bass…this is all instruments in all kinds of music!

Bass Groove rush

Are You Rushing?

For example, whenever I teach students of mine about walking basslines – I tell them to make the notes as long as possible.

Most of them start dragging.

The longer they play their notes, the ‘draggier’ it gets – which is the exact opposite of how a walking bassline should feel.

Whenever I’m teaching something like “Another One Bites The Dust” my students almost always rush.

Bass Groove Drag

Or Are You Dragging?

Partly because of the shortness of the notes and partly because of how much space there is between the notes.

Either way, it sounds bad!!! This is stuff we all struggle with as bass players.

The first step in fixing it is always AWARENESS!

How aware are you of the length of your notes?

Have you ever thought about it consciously?

Do you find yourself rushing on songs with lots of short notes?

Or dragging on songs with long notes?

How aware are you of the length of your notes?

Let me know by leaving a comment down below and don’t forget to sign up to the Become A Bassist Newsletter.


Bass Groove

5 Responses to Bass Groove – The Most Overlooked Aspect

  1. Jim Payne June 24, 2014 at 12:53 am #

    I found your site through – I am so new, I don’t even have a bass yet; just studying up on everything I can before I get it. That said, I have begun to listen a lot to the bass lines in familiar standards, and the most important thing I have found in noting player-differences (I, the novice) is the difference they put on the length of played notes. I see myself leaning away from pizz-style, or, more appropriately, leaning into the styles that allow the note to ring. In the videos, I have noticed that many players seem to unnecessarily mute the string they are about to pluck, rather than allowing it to be a fluid plucking-motion. I don’t know, again, I am quite new to this. It would just seem to me that when the note is played, and for how long it rings, is a great deal more important than, oddly enough, the note itself. In my opinion, this is the single most important aspect for any hopeful bass-player to grasp, and your explanation states it well.

  2. Roberta November 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

    I could not find an upright i could afford, so i have bought a Peavey 5 string… ive been practising getting to know my fret board without an amp while saving to buy one….. im commited to this.. Appreciate what you have put out here… just wanted to thank you, Luke.

    • lukemcintosh89 November 25, 2016 at 12:06 am #

      Good to hear Roberta! I’ve actually got some videos coming out soon about learning your fretboard, so keep an eye on your email and you’ll get them. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. I’d be more than happy to help.



  3. Blue Murphy December 5, 2017 at 4:19 am #

    My goodness! This is so important! (Pardon the exclamation points, but it’s so important) I used to consider myself semi-professional and I played Irish, Bluegrass, and gypsy jazz for many years. Those styles have a lot of drive and more rhythmic variety than they are given credit for. I can always tell a bass player not familiar with them by how long they hold the notes. It’s usually too staccato.

    Another related timing issue that contributes greatly to the feel of music is where in the beat the attack is played. There are three different places you can place your beat; on the cutting edge (almost ahead of the beat), solidly in the middle, or almost behind the beat. It may seem too distinct a difference, but listen to music that makes you anxious and want to shuffle your feet, music that is solid, and songs that make you lean back with your hips out. Clap the beat and feel for yourself.

    • lukemcintosh89 December 5, 2017 at 8:25 am #

      You’re absolutely right. Differences in styles aren’t really about notes – every genre uses the same 12. The real difference is exactly what you said: The lengths of the notes and where each note is placed in the bar. Great insight! Thanks for the comment.

Leave a Reply to Jim Payne Click here to cancel reply.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes