Creating Basslines: Playing in Unison (Explained & Examples)

Creating Basslines: Playing in Unison

One of the reasons I love playing bass is because of how versatile and funky you can get with it. But one misconception that I think people get wrong with bass is that it’s a boring instrument. Playing the root is very important but it does not have to be the only thing you play.

I have been playing for about 15-16 years now and I can tell you it’s NOT boring!

I have a short attention span and get very bored easily so playing a boring instrument would not last long for me.

It’s all about having passion for what you are doing and willing to put the time and practice in to be even better. I will take my experience of learning bass, playing with other musicians, writing my own music, and playing to others music and show you how to create badass bass lines that sound incredible and fun to play!

I was going to have one video and article about this topic but there is so much to talk about that I’m breaking it up and turning it into a series called Creating Basslines!

In this first part of the series, I am going to be discussing how to play in unison.

WHAT IS PLAYING IN UNISON?

Playing in unison means playing essentially the same thing as the lead instrument. 

SHOULD YOU PLAY IN UNISON?

There is some debate however that when bassists do this it takes away from their ‘role’ in the group or that it doesn’t add any value to the music.

In certain regards, if there is not another rhythm guitar (in the cases of bands like Black Sabbath and Rush where there is only one guitarist) then playing in unison is going to be much more prevalent. 

If there are two guitarists then there is no need to always play in unison or at least not as often. Something that you can also do though is if you want to play in unison, play alongside more of what the rhythm guitar is playing and move more to the beat of the drum. 

You can hear this in songs such as, Black Dog by Led Zeppelin, Powerslave by Iron Maiden, Tom Sawyer by Rush, and many others. 

I love to do this if I know it will add another element of depth within what is written. 

There are many other reasons why this can be beneficial to add to music.

LEARNING YOUR FRETBOARD

I am a huge fan of learning your fretboard! Knowing where the notes are and what they sound like will make it easier to play similarly to the lead instrument.

MUSIC THEORY

If you write down the notes that are being played you can learn the key and time signatures, tempos, etc.

I love writing down what notes are being played and what scales they belong to. Sometimes it is easy to identify the scale or it could be the 4th note of a scale that starts off the song and takes a little bit of work to figure out the scale.

Either way learning music theory through writing down notes, chords, note duration, etc. is a great way to learn your bass and play in unison.

BANDS AND SONGS THAT ARE PLAYED IN UNISON*

  • Rush – A lot of songs including Bastille Day, Tom Sawyer, Limelight, YYZ, etc.
  • Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
  • Virtually any Black Sabbath song (with Ozzy in the band mostly) including Iron Man, Paranoid, Sweet Leaf, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Lord of this World, etc.
  • Iron Maiden – Powerslave
  • Mr. Big – Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)
  • Michael Jackson – Beat It
  • Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City

*These songs are not entirely played in unison but rather either most or a part of the songs and bands are.If you want to learn more about music theory you can check out my book, No-Nonsense Guide to Music Theory, Scales and More!, available in paperback and e-book!

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