Category Archives: Bass

Survival Of The Lowest: Now What

Today we’ll talk about the song I just posted on my music blog. Driven by 8-string guitars and littered with time changes, it’s about as close to standard Ed fare as one can get. But at any rate, let’s dig into the bass parts.

First, HERE is a link to listen to the song.

Let’s start with the main riff, which first appears at the very beginning. As is my usual approach, I stayed in the guitar’s range when I had to and dropped down to the normal bass range when I could. It doesn’t make for a particularly sexy bass line, but it works well.

Main Riff

Main Riff

In the verses, I just sucked it up and stayed in the guitar’s range. I could have made the alterations, but things just made more sense this way.



Since the guitars move off of the 8th string for the bridge, I could happily stay in the normal bass range here. To make the section a little more interesting, I threw in the main passing tone between the two chords (D5 and F#5, for the record) halfway through…

Now What 3

…and arpeggiated a D5 chord at the end.

Now What 4

Hope this all makes sense. As always, if you have questions, ask away. Thanks for reading and until next time, keep playing and You Shall Be Heard.


Survival Of The Lowest: Gristle McThornbody

Today, we start our Survival Of The Lowest series with a look at one of the first tunes I ever wrote on my 8-string guitar – “Gristle McThornbody”. I’ll talk about this song again later this week for a different reason (hint: scales), but let’s have a listen now:

I’ll put words to this song someday, I swear.

So let’s talk about the bass line. I can either de-tune my bass to keep that octave relationship (and risk playing what would feel like rubber bands on an instrument that would be impossible to keep in tune) or just double the riffs in the guitar’s own octave (and really have to stretch since that low F-sharp is at Fret 2 on the bass’ E string). Since neither of those seemed appealing, I went with Option Three: doubling the guitar’s octave when I had to (i.e.: almost every part where the guitar was below fret 5 on string 8) and dropping down to my own territory when I could.

Here’s the main riff. Guitar is on the top, bass is on the bottom. Riff is in 6/4 time:


As you can see, the first five notes of the riff can be played in that normal octave relationship – the first note is C, which, when played down the octave, is the lowest fretted note on a 5-string bass in standard tuning. Those last four notes – all F-sharp – force the bass up to the same octave as the guitar…

And here is the verse riff – also the only part of the song in 4/4:


Guitarists, here’s a good riff to work on if you feel like you’re not using your fourth finger enough on the fretboard. We all have a choice to make on this one – either change position or use finger four. For me, that choice has changed – I switched positions on the recording but use finger four when I play it now.

The advantages of adapting like this are twofold. For one, it gives the bass player some space, which can be an issue in metal. The other big advantage is movement – you can play both of these riffs on bass while barely changing positions. When you play finger style with no extra effects like I do, these – especially the former – make a ton of difference.

If you have any questions, fire away in the comments. Otherwise, thank you for reading and until next time: keep playing and You Shall Be Heard.

INTRODUCING: Survival Of The Lowest

Hello friends. Today, we begin the first of a series for metal bass players. This series won’t be talking about playing with a pick vs. fingerstyle – that’s a whole different beast there. Instead, I’d like to talk about a certain scenario that is more common than it used to be – Low tuning and extended range guitars.

If you have listened to my music┬árecently, you may know that I have picked up an 8-string guitar within the last year or two. As it is, this brings up one problem – the pitch of that low open string is found on fret two on the bass’ E string. So what do you do? Well, you could tune down to compensate and keep that “octave apart” relationship, but there’s a problem or two there. For one thing, your new low F-sharp is not only lower than any note on a piano, but you’re also near the very bottom of an average human’s hearing frequency range. And that’s not even talking about your strings feeling like rubber bands unless you set your bass up right and/or use a bass with a longer-than-normal neck. Well, crap. Now what?!

In my listening, I found three possible solutions. Meshuggah’s bass player actually tunes up so he’s playing in the same positions – his playing style and either amp or effect settings cement his place in the mix. The bassist from Ever Forthright plays a 6-string tuned down a fourth, giving him that octave relationship while still having a good range for the band’s many clean sections. Finally, the excellent bass player from Intronaut works around the super-low tuning (F# F# B E G# C#) by simply using a fretless 5-string bass in standard tuning. All of these work fine, but I have my own solution.

So how do I deal with my 8-string riffs when I’m playing bass? Well, it’s a fairly simple process. I alter them to fit my instrument, playing down the octave when I can and playing in the same octave whenever the 8th string gets involved. In the coming weeks, I’ll provide plenty of examples, complete with tabs and maybe even some video. I’ll see you next week with the first example, from my tune “Gristle McThornbody”. Until then: keep playing and You Shall Be Heard.