Creating bass licks is one of the highlights of playing bass guitar. Not only can you let your imagination guide you, but for the most part, you can follow all of your own rules.
Writing licks is like having children and each and every one deserves the same amount of tender love and care. Learning to nurture your licks is the primary component to create great licks. If you can’t spend the time to listen and work with a lick, why should anyone else take the time to listen to it, either?
They shouldn’t, and they won’t.
Writing blues licks is all about putting your heart into your fingers. If you aren’t ready to do that, or if you tend to run past your time signature, the best thing you can do is practice you foundational skills. Use a metronome to build up your timing, and practice your vibrato on the bass guitar.
You want your bends to wail not whine. If you can’t yank a good bend, you can’t play the blues. Wiggling a string is absurd, and if you want to do it, join a metal core band. That way you don’t have to worry about putting yourself into your music; you can just chase what is popular at the moment.
If you are dedicated to learning the blues and you are willing to put in the time, you already have a head start.
Writing a lick takes a lot of practice. The best way to develop great writing abilities is to practice. Try using some basic bass scales to write some licks. When you are satisfied with your lick, record it and listen to it. You would be surprised how much different your playing will sound once recorded. Many players think they sound ten times as good as they do.
Don’t let yourself fall into that trap; give yourself an honest review by recording your playing and listening to it. Do it with open ears and reserve your judgment for when it is over. Don’t only pick out the good or bad; pick out both.
What worked? Why did it work? What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work?
These are questions you will need to ask yourself in order to give your licks a fair and thorough evaluation. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but don’t allow your lick to get away with murder. If there is a blatant note that doesn’t fit, either change it or get rid of it.
Just like any other art style, whether it be writing or drawing, revision is key. You need to view your work with complete honesty. Don’t overlook unfit notes just because you don’t want to take the time to fix them. Likewise, don’t think that your lick is finished; keep the doors open. In the future you may write another similar lick that builds off of the same lick you wrote today.
Put in your time. Set aside an hour or more each day to play. Allow yourself to go over your licks, tinker with them, and change their form. If you like the changes, keep them. If you don’t, revert to the original. Have fun with your playing, and good luck.
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