How to Play a Reggae Bassline?

Everybody loves reggae. From Bob Marley to Morgan Heritage, reggae leaves people bobbing their heads with groovy basslines. Yes, in the genre of Reggae bass has a very prominent role.Reggae has a very rich history back in the 1960’s following Ska and Rocksteady. It has a slower tempo; characterized by a rhythmic beat of the guitar known as skank. The one-drop drum is also a reggae signature.

To get the reggae bass sound you wanted, you need to learn and remember a few things. First, your hands will be fairly active but needs to get loose. Although most reggae chords are around the major and minor areas, the way they are chromatically played needs a lot of practice. With reggae, it’s not about the notes but the way you play them. Next, try to play using a palm mute technique. You also may want to consider replacing your round wounds with flat ones. The reason being, you wanted to get that authentic “fat” sound that upright bass guitars produce-just back in the day. Not only that you wanted to emulate the sound but have a smoother feel; perfect for sliding. Another thing to consider is where to place your hands. Plucking the notes near the bridge will produce a clear sound which you do not want. Instead, place your plucking hand near the bridge; where you will make a dark reggae bass you wanted.

When choosing your guitar, look for those who have a pick near the bridge. It will further amplify the sound coming from that area. The Fender Jazz bass is an ideal instrument.

Restrain yourself from playing too many notes. Common reggae grooves have simple majors and minors within them-it is that simple. It is important to stay within the pattern of the beat-dropping the first note or not.

Drum and bass are more prominent to reggae than guitar. Guitars mostly provide the rhythmic off-beat patterns, tailing the drum beat along the song. If you notice in reggae songs, every instrument plays different roles compared from the standard set-up. The guitar provides the beat; the drum holds all together and the bass creates the melody.

Last but not the least, you need to relax. Reggae may have walking basslines and all but the important thing to remember is to allow yourself to follow the rest of the instruments while doing your pattern. It is easy to do this since the rest of the instruments are already providing the rhythm for you.

Visit our site for more beginner bass guitar lessons and basic bass chords.

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Photo by Danielle Scott

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