Bass Fill Basics
You can insert fills wherever you like in a tune but they’re more common as a transition from one section to another. So that could be something dramatic like a verse into a chorus or just to signal the end of a four bar chord sequence.
We’re going to look at a simple four bar chord progression in the key of D Major. We’ll take a progression that outlines the key very well and that gives us a predictable journey back into the tonic chord.
Here we have a I-vi-ii-V progression of Dmaj7 – Bm7 – Em7 – A7:
First we need a bass line…
In terms of the general bass line, I’m playing a simple comp pattern on the root notes around the 5th to 7th fret area:
Learn Those Chord Tones!
We’re going to play a bass fill over the A7 chord. That’s going to lead us back into Tonic Chord (Dmaj7) giving us a fill at the end of a predictable four bar sequence.
In this lesson we’re just going to start really simple by using the basic chord tones for our fills. Our fill is over the A7 chord so we’re going to use the notes of the A7 chord: A C# E G
We can play them here within one octave:
We can play those notes anywhere on the fingerboard. For this lesson we’ll just venture out a few notes, both above and below, to give us a little more real estate to play with:
If you need any help understanding chord tones or how they relate to the bass fingerboard, be sure to check out the Chord Tone Essentials course. You’ll learn the construction of EVERY chord you’ll ever encounter, how to view them over the entire neck of the bass and how to apply them in your basslines, fills and solos. Click Here For More Information!
Bass Fill #1
This first bass fill simply works up and down the A7 arpeggio from our low A at the 5th fret of the E string. This is a very simple way of applying the chord tones in a bass fill:
Bass Fill #2
When improvising a bass line through a chord progression, it’s unlikely you’ll always be using the same notes on the same frets. This fill starts on the high A at the 7th fret of the D string which expands our vocabulary a little. It’s always useful to practice working in different areas of the instrument:
Bass Fill #3
Let’s try something with a little more rhythmic interest. This fill covers a wider range and brings a 16th note triplet into play.
Bass Fill #4
The final bass fill, like our previous example, uses a little more rhythmic interest and a broader range. We also get to use a bass chord by sliding into the major 3rd and minor 7th of the chord. This is a VERY common way of applying chords to basslines and fills over a dominant 7 chord.
Ramp Up That Tension!
As an extra tip, try to focus on using syncopated rhythms, like offbeat 8th and 16th notes, to generate tension from a rhythmic perspective. Tension is an important element in creating fills of any kind because tension is always looking to resolve. Resolution is created in these examples by landing on beat 1 of the bar on the tonic chord.