In this lesson we’re going to look at a killer funky bass riff and then break it down to see what it’s made of and how we can apply those building blocks in our own basslines. The main concepts we’ll be covering are chord tones and chromatic approach

Killer Funky Bass Riff 

One of the best ways to learn how to create your own grooves is to dissect other bass lines and find out what is going on. That is why today we are going to learn a new funky groove and pick it apart to give you material to build your own riff with.

Let’s start with the basics… this riff is in the key of C and although it is pretty chromatic, the tonality implies a C dominant 7 chord. Rhythmically it can be quite challenging, but the key is to take each bar individually and work through it slowly.

A Closer Look…

As we just mentioned, the riff implies a C7 chord, but is packed out with chromatic notes. If we look at the notes more closely, we can see which notes are chromatic and which are chord tones. Let’s start by looking at the notes in C7:

C  E  G  Bb
1   3  5   b7

You may notice that our riff contains a major 7th (B), as well as a minor 7th (Bb). As the B is sandwiched between a Bb and a C, we can assume that it is being used for chromatic effect. The Bb sound is more prominent here as it lands on the beat and so is slightly accented.

Now we know which notes are chord tones, we can work which of the others are chromatic. If you go through the riff taking note of the chord tones, you will notice that they are almost always preceded by a chromatic note or two. This happens in bar 1 leading down to the G (5th), from the A (6th), and again from D (2nd) to E (3rd).

As an exercise, try coming up with a riff that just uses the notes of C7. These are your target notes that you can lead into through the use of chromatic tones. Add a few leading notes before chord tones to get a feel for targetting a note.

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