Building Funky and Melodic Bass Lines

Here are a few bass-line concepts that can be used to expand your funky and melodic vocabulary, when you are improvising/composing your own bass grooves. We can sometimes as bass players get stuck in your “old ways” of playing – especially when we feel limited by changes – so a few new ideas will never hurt.

Remember to improvise with the material – and come up with your own stuff.

Bass line idea 1

A very cool trick in order to be funky and melodic at the same time is to incorporate the 16th note off-beat.

In the example above the bass line is started by an octave movement and then a 16th note off-beat pattern utilizing the third, 9th, fifth, seven/sixth and the second. It sounds like this:

You can use this as concept for building your own lines on other chord-progressions by “diatonically transposing” the lines onto other chords. Here is an example on a few minor chords:

Exercises in minor

Minor Bass Line 01
  1. Play “Minor Bass Line 01” in Am, Abm and Bbm
  2. Practice the bass line in 60 bpm, 90 bpm and 120 bpm.
  3. Improvise with the concept and have fun! 🙂

Question: How would you approach this bass line – when you have to play on a MinorMajor7 chord or the III-degree with a flat 9?

Exercises in major:

Major Bass Line 01
  1. Play “Major Bass Line 01” in A, Ab and Bb
  2. Practice the bass line in 60 bpm, 90 bpm and 120 bpm.
  3. Improvise with the concept and have fun! 🙂

This bassline work well on the I- and IV-chord. However the major7 interval sounds very dissonant on the V-chord. Try replacing the 7th with a 6th – it gives a smoother and less dissonant sound.

Dominant7 bass line

Bass Line Idea 2:

Another way to make funky and melodic bass lines are to a “longer downbeat”. An example could be the following:

This pattern consist of a minor and major pattern. Practice each pattern in different keys.


Transpose and practice the pattern above in Am, Bbm and Abm


Transpose and practice the pattern in A, Bb and Ab.

All the bass grooves above leaves space on beat 3 and 4. Try to come up with fills and variations that utilize the space. Here is an example – which makes for a very busy bass groove.

Bass Line Idea 3:

Another idea is to use a pedal note – this gives kind of a disco-variation effect. You can try to play the notes both legato and stacato.

This bassg-roove is pretty stale rhythmically, so i encourage you to leave out some notes or syncopate some of them. An example would be to syncopate the 4th beat – here is an example.


Practice the following line in Am, Bbm and Abm.


Practice the following line in A, Bb and Ab.

Combining the ideas

Try to combine the different bass grooves – here is two of my examples.

I hope this helps motivate and incorporate some new ideas into your playing. Try to think about the following when you improvise on the concepts:

How can differentiate the rhythms? How does it sound not to start on the downbeat? How can i change the notes and keep the rhythm?

All the best!

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