Now a bold groove on the other hand, has a much more obvious role in a tune. It’s more akin to the exposed beams of an old colonial house. They also serve to hold up the roof, but they’re obvious as well as ornamental; they’re a major part of the aesthetics.
Bass grooves that blend and bass grooves that are bold both have their proper place in music, and both are equally respected when they’re used appropriately.
- Blending grooves: I use a blending groove when I'm playing a supportive role in a song, when I'm staying out of the way of the vocals or a melody, or even when I'm just not all that familiar with the particular song (or musicians I'm playing with). I typically achieved this by establishing the root note, and playing subsequent "follow up" notes below the root. Of course there is more to it than this, but it's an excellent start.
Listen to the song Soul Man (see video below.) Donald "Duck" Dunn plays a perfectly complex yet unobtrusive groove. It blends so well that it’s kind of difficult to imagine what the song would sound like without it.
- Bold grooves: Now playing a bold groove thrusts you into a leadership position; suddenly I'm leading the song, and the bass part has a much more authoritative and unyielding quality. This means, of course, that I have to be very familiar with the song. There is a lot to establishing a dominant supporting bass line. But a great way to start is to establish the root, and play melodic "follow up" notes above the root, possibly even a full octave higher.
The Beatles’ Come Together (see video below) is a perfect example of a bass line that really sticks out, creating a secondary melody to the song. Albeit perfect, it doesn’t actually blend in at all. While the bass line for Soul Man is difficult to imagine the song without, the bass line to Come Together cannot be separated from the song. It's the hook that holds the entire song together.