How To Create Bass Fills (Step-By-Step Method For Beginner)

January 6, 2024
Bass fills for Beginners - Image of cement hands by Romina BM

If you want to learn how to create and play great bass fills, like the pros, keep reading.

In this lesson, I’ll show you an easy step-by-step method for creating amazing bass fills on the bass guitar. If you’re a beginner, this is your entry-point for playing minor pentatonic and major pentatonic bass fills that sound like Justin Raines and Sharay Reed!

You’ll learn just how to use scales, intervals, arpeggios, hammer-ons, slides, and rhythm to run melodic lines along your entire fretboard with ease.

Let’s dive in.

TL;DR

If you’re short on time, watch my video below. In the video, I play an awesome sounding bass fill that uses the minor pentatonic scale and I share my process for creating it.

A good bass fill:

  • helps to connect and transition to a new section of a song
  • won’t disrupt the groove
  • energizes and creates anticipation
  • and can make a beginner sound great

Sometimes it’s easier to understand an approach by seeing it in action. So, if you’re a beginner bass player or looking to level up your fills, hit the play button.

YouTube video
Learn an awesome bass fill

In the bass lesson video above, you’ll notice that I often use slides and hammer-on techniques to articulate my phrase. These techniques help make each note smoothly flow into the next and are what make a subtle difference, from novice to pro, in your phrasing.

In this bass lesson video, I’m using a Major scale. I like the Major scale because the notes 4 and 7 have built-in tension that wants to resolve. I also like the Major scale, because the notes of the Major scale also sound great over the natural minor chord (vi chord).

Pro Tip: Melodic tension is what gives the bass fill its energy. Instead of thinking of the notes 4 and 7 as avoid notes, embrace the tension and use that to your advantage to add melodic direction to your fills.

4 Steps for creating jaw-dropping fills on the bass guitar

Follow these simple steps to create great sounding bass guitar fills on the fly. This approach will work for almost any style of music that you’re playing (rock, latin, funk, gospel, and even jazz).

Step #1: Learn the form of the song

Spend time learning the form of a song. Know how many sections a song has. And, feel the number of measures and beats for each section. Internalize the form.

Bass fills are highly effective for transitioning into a new section. Your bass playing will sound more confident when you know the form. Take a look at the example below.

Common example where to play a bass fill in a song form
Common example where to play a bass fill in a song form

The form of a song is the ultimate guide to playing tasteful bass fills. It’s common to play a fill in the ending measure(s) of a section. Typically, you would play a bass fill on the last measure of section, in order to lead into the next section. Playing fills is all about connecting one section of the song form to another.

Step #2: Figure out the chords

It’s essential to figure out the chord progression of the song.

Knowing the chords tells you what scales, arpeggios, triads, and notes you can play.

Playing chord tones on the strong beats will make your line sound awesome.

If you want your line to sound melodic, focus on the chord tones or triads.

When you’ve internalized the chords, you can play your fills wherever and and whenever and still make it sound good.

Step #3: Create a line

Using arpeggios and simple scales, like a pentatonic scale or major scale, connect the chord tones to make a line.

You don’t need to know a lot of jazz theory. You can go very far knowing a few simple scales, even a blues scale can work.

Utilize the entire range of your entire fretboard. Target the chord tones and play notes from simple scales to connect the “dots” (chord tones).

Chord tones are often used as guide tones. They help shape the line by giving it structure and direction.

Step #4: Always resolve your line

Awesome bass fills always resolve.

It’ll take some practice to learn how to feel the number of beats you have and timing the resolution.

Most of the time, the resolution will be on beat one. But, sometimes, the resolution is later in the measure.

Practice resolving your phrase on different beats of the measure.

If you’re just getting started, stick with 8th notes or 16th notes, before playing phrases that are rhythmic. That way you’ll learn to feel the space you have before your resolution.

10 Pro Tips and Best Practices for Bass Fills

If you want your fills to sound awesome, check out these crucial tips:

Tip #1: Stay out of the way. The groove is your main priority.

Bass fills sound best when the melody is not busy. Remember your main priority is the groove. So, use fills with discretion.

No one is going to be asking for more bass fills. So, if it can wait… wait. You really don’t need to play a fill every four bars.

Tip #2: Let the music guide you. It doesn’t always have to be “funky.”

The music dictates the technique that you’ll use to articulate your bass fill. Just because you can slap it to make it funky, doesn’t mean you should. The tone and sound of the fill should match the vibe of the song and your bass part.

Tip #3: A simple pentatonic scale goes a long way. A minor pentatonic scale works just fine.

Pentatonic scales provide great note choices whether your bass playing is beginner, intermediate, or advanced level.

Tip #4: Always resolve your phrase. Know where you are in the chord progression.

Always resolve your bass fill to the target chord and rhythm of the groove.

Tip #5: 8th-notes and 16th-notes work. Simple rhythms aren’t only for beginners.

Use simple rhythms. In general, you can go far with simple bass playing.

Tip #6: What works for Major will also work for Natural Minor.

If a bass fill sounds good in a major key, it will often sound good in the natural minor key.

Tip #7: Keep it flowing. People want to hear and feel you come back to your bass line.

The feeling of the bass groove must continue during and after your bass fill. So make sure to time the endings of your phrases to smoothly line up with the groove. The groove will feel disrupted if you’re not hearing it while your playing your line.

Tip #8: Arpeggios always sound good. Bass players can play them too.

Arpeggios are highly effective in creating excitement and sound very melodic.

Tip #9: Know the form and chords. It’ll help you keep your gig.

Know where you are in the chord progression. That way when you end your fill you won’t sound lost.

Tip #10: If it sounds good, it’ll work in any octave.

If something sounds good in a lower octave, it’ll usually sound good in a higher octave. This is a super-easy way to break things up and keep your fills sounding fresh.

Now It’s Your Turn

In this tutorial, I went over how to create bass fills.

Now, it’s time for you to put this into practice. Use a metronome or backing track as much as possible, so that you can feel the distance before you need to resolve your phrase.

Practice slowly, even if you’re not a beginner.

Learn one bass fill really well and then learn to play it in different contexts. That’s the secret to doubling your vocabulary in a short period of time.

You got this.

Click here for more bass lessons like this.

PosidoVega

Hi! I’m Posido Vega, a multi-passionate creative. I’m an artist, bass player, jazz theory enthusiast, children’s book author and illustrator, and SEO 😅.

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