WHEN To Play Bass Fills (3 Places That Will ALWAYS Work)

WHEN To Play Bass Fills (3 Places That Will ALWAYS Work)

You don’t want to be Rambo – you know – a
guy with a machine gun [noises] just firing away. Instead you want to be a sniper. Hi
I’m Luke from Become A Bassist and in this bass lesson, you’re going to learn 3 of
the best places you to place your fills as a bass player. [Video Intro] Welcome to Become A Bassist where it’s all
about no B.S. bass lessons to help you play better bass, have tons of fun and become the
best bassist that you can be. Today it’s all about fills! Not necessarily what to play
when you’re playing fills – that’s what people usually talk about when they talk about
fills, but they rarely talk about WHERE to put your fills, and that’s probably just
as important as making sure you’re playing the ‘right’ things. If you play the correct
notes but put them in the wrong place, you’re going to have a bad time. One trap that a lot of people fall into – and
I definitely know I fell into this trap when I was younger was to play fills everywhere.
Just about every four bars regardless of what was going on in the music, and it’s understandable
– you learn some cool new stuff and you want to play it, so you end up putting fills absolutely
everywhere – left, right and center. However, you don’t want to be Rambo – you know – a
guy with a machine gun [noises] just firing away. Instead, with your fills, you want to
be a sniper. You want to strategically pick the places where you’re going to fill and
then execute. So let’s talk about some of the best places to actually do this. First place that’s really obvious to play
a fill is when there is a gap specifically for the bass to play a fill. If you think
about songs like the Beatles I Want You, there’s this big build up section on an E chord, and
then throughout the section, there’s these breaks where it’s nothing but space for
the bass. And Paul McCartney plays something like this [plays] in the breaks. This is perfect
because the song was written with these breaks in mind, right? The same thing happens at
the end of the first chorus of Easy by the Commodores. We’re getting to the end of the chorus [sings] There’s space
there. [plays fill] I don’t know if that space was deliberately left for the bass,
but the bass is what ended up filling that space, and it works great! Any time there’s
space for a fill, it’s possible to throw one in, but sometimes space without a fill
is what’s needed for the song. Remember, you’re not Rambo – you’re a sniper. You
want to place your fills strategically and hopefully make the song better instead of
making it worse. Let’s give this a try. I’ve got a little
drum track here with a little space at the end of every phrase that we can put a fill.
The track by itself sounds like this [plays track] So let’s try it out. [plays] Let’s
pretend we have a chord progression that goes G, F, Eb and we have a break there to put
our fill. [plays fills] Oh – some Paul McCartney in there. I’m sure you get the picture of
how this works. The real trick is in making sure that nobody else plays there if there’s
a space specifically for the bass to put a fill. You don’t want greedy guitarists or
overzealous drummers to come in and step all over your toes. Alright – place #2 to put fills is as a way
of increasing intensity and tension in a song. One of my favorite fills of all time comes
from December ‘63 and that fill does exactly this. It raises the intensity – it’s at
the end of a section of a song, there’s other stuff going on – the drums are filling
at the same time, the vocals are still singing, but man, it’s so cool. [sings and plays]
I can’t sing and play that at the same time – no way! But it does the job of making things
busier, creating tension, then when we go back to the verse [plays] that tension is
released and everything feels good. Usually these kinds of fills happen at the
end of sections – for example at the end of a verse, then going into the chorus or a chorus
going into a verse. Basically anytime there’s a big shift in section. The really tricky
part about doing these kinds of fills is that other people will likely feel the urge to
fill there as well. It can work if multiple people play a fill at the same time, but more
often than not, it’ll end up being a bit of a trainwreck. Make sure that if you do
this kind of fill that you’re ending on beat one of the next section and being super
strong about it. If you look back at the Oh What A Night example, it does exactly this.
[plays] Lands hard on that Db at the start of the next section – perfect! The third really prime spot for bass fills
specifically is in ‘unexpected’ places. Typically drummers will fill into new sections
and mark new sections with big fills and like I said, that can be a trainwreck if you’re
playing a fill at the same time. The solution? Fill in between these big markers. For example,
if the song you’re playing has a 4 bar phrase as the verse, try putting a fill in the middle
of the phrase rather than at the end to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. So if we had something like this that the
drummer was playing. [plays track] 1-2-3-4 and a fill every 4 bars. What we can do is
fill in the middle of that phrase. [plays example] And there’s the big drum fill – and
we’re out of the way of it. Here’s our chance. [plays] You see how this works – you’re
staying out of the drummer’s way, but still having the chance to fill. I’m being more
of a Rambo right now rather than a sniper, but that’s just to you know – show you these
examples. On a real gig, I wouldn’t fill nearly this much. One guy that I have enormous respect for his
playing is Nate Mendel – the bass player for the Foo Fighters. He gets a fair bit of hate
in bass playing circles online because people feel like his playing is too simple or they
have this mindset of ‘I could have done that’, but what I love about Nate Mendel’s
playing is how strategically he fills. Rarely will he play more than a couple of fills per
song, but the fills he does play are just incredible. They’re perfectly placed, they’re
the right vibe – everything about them is amazing. Now whether that’s Nate himself
making those decisions or someone else in the band, or a producer, it’s just about
perfect for the song every time. A great example is the song Best Of You. At
the end of the song there’s this massive section that’s the kind of the emotional
peak. And to add to the whole kind of epic feel of the song, he adds these fills. The
‘regular’ bass line is just 8th notes on the roots of the chords. [plays] But in
this section he adds this [plays] and this [plays] It’s a subtle thing that you may
not even notice the first listen, but it’s exactly the right idea when it comes to playing
fills. Like I said before, one of my favorite fills
of all time is from December ‘63. We didn’t really have time to go over it in detail in
this video, but I’d love to show you how to play it in this video right here. I go
through exactly how to play it note by note, but I also show you how you can adapt and
use the fill for so much more than just that one song. So if you’re ready to learn what
I think is the best bass fill of all time, I’ll see you in that video.

11 thoughts on “WHEN To Play Bass Fills (3 Places That Will ALWAYS Work)

  • January 17, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Hey from Dublin. Another super awesome video. Thanks so much for sharing 🎸

  • January 17, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Fantastic video Luke. Was just thinking about this today as I was listening to "I Alone" by Live. Even though there is so much space during the verse, just a few fills add a lot of interest.

  • January 17, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Have you ever listened to Colin Edwin, most notably from Porcupine Tree? I'm very curious to know your thoughts on his style and decision making.

  • January 17, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks Luke…I'm just getting started on the bass…love your lessons..

  • January 17, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Ha, is that your dog at 6:37?

  • January 18, 2020 at 12:33 am

    The only problem is when you play with most amateur dad-bands the rhythm guitarist will leave no space for your fills. NONE. IN fact they will sometimes double the bass fills when you do cover songs.

  • January 18, 2020 at 12:35 am

    Thanks Luke. Solid information as usual. Another fill technique I sometimes use, usually when there is not a full drum kit being used, is to play a fill with the percussionist hitting some, most, or all, of the accent beats. Michael

  • January 18, 2020 at 3:37 am

    You are a great teacher, you give a person something to think about

  • January 18, 2020 at 4:22 am

    Thanks Maestro Luke.

  • January 18, 2020 at 4:39 am

    6:36 Unexpected Dog Fill

  • January 18, 2020 at 6:28 am

    Your advice is as gold as your bass very wise player I look up to your experience.


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