BASS: 7 Types of Bass Lines

Jonathan Feist (for ThoughtCo) writes:

There are a number of different types of bass parts, but the primary role of the bass in a rhythm section is the same: defining the harmonic structure by emphasizing the chord roots, generally on the first beat of the measure. Beyond that, the different types of bass line help define the music’s style and sense of forward momentum.

When crafting any bass part, it is useful to think of target notes and approach notes.

 A target note is one that the bass is really most responsible for playing. It’s the most important part of the job. Again, the chord root on beat 1 is a common target. When planning the line, a bass player begins by considering which notes are obligatory targets. Then, the next consideration is how those targets will be approached, often by non-chord tones so as to create a sense of forward momentum, and tension and release, though sometimes repeated as a pedal to reinforce the harmony.

In addition to targets and approaches, the bass can play percussive “skips” by strumming a muted string to get a percussive articulation sound, just to add life to the line, immediately preceding a target note usually by a third of a beat.

Here are the most common types of bass lines, or approaches to creating bass parts:

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