Skip to main content

Section 14.7 Distinctive Bass Lines

Sometimes the identity of a song is in its repeated bass line (known as a “riff,” which is a short repeated pattern). Listen to the distinctive bass lines in the following examples.

Figure 14.7.1 Winner, “Little Brown Jug” (1939)
Figure 14.7.2 Lennon–McCartney, “Day Tripper” (1965)
Figure 14.7.3 The Sugarhill Gang, O'Brien, Robinson, Rodgers, Edwards, and Grandmaster Caz, “Rapper's Delight” (1979)
Figure 14.7.4 Deacon, “Another One Bites the Dust” (1980)
Figure 14.7.5 James, “Superfreak” (1981)
Figure 14.7.6 Bowie, “Under Pressure” (1981)
Figure 14.7.7 Kelly, Aitchison, Astasio, Pebworth, Shave, McKenzie, “Fancy” (2014)
Figure 14.7.8 Haggerty, Lewis, Dutton, Nally, Karp, Rawlings, Asplund, Flory–Barnes, Haggerty, “Downtown” (2015)

Subsection 14.7.1 Distinctive Guitar Riffs

You will also find distinctive riffs played by guitar in conjunction with bass, as in the following examples.

Figure 14.7.9 Davies, “You Really Got Me” (1964)
Figure 14.7.10 Page and Plant, “Immigrant Song” (1970)
Figure 14.7.11 Tyler and Perry, “Walk This Way” (1975)
Figure 14.7.12 A. Young, M. Young, and Johnson, “Back in Black” (1980)

This chapter is meant to give you ideas about animating chords and chord progressions with accompanimental textures, including riffs. It is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but rather to encourage you to listen closely to texture and accompaniment.