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How Bass Players Can Lock in with Their Drummers

Musicians and music fans know that drummers act as the “engine” of the band, providing the “pulse” for the music. Often overlooked, however, is the all-important job of bass players – being able to lock in with the rhythm section in order to set the tone of a song or whole performance.

Whether you are a string bass player or play its electric counterpart, you and the drummer will set the pace and flavor of the harmonies and rhythm, which means you need to be able to feel one another in the music and learn how to groove together.

Let us count the ways. One, Two, Three, Four!

man playing a double bass

The more effort you put into connecting with your drummer, the better you and your band will sound. You’ll discover your own unique sound and style, making playing and performing even more enjoyable. If you’re new to connecting with a drummer, there are a number of techniques you can try that may help you learn this valuable and enjoyable skill:

  1. Practice scales with groove
  2. Play some swing
  3. Switch up the intervals
  4. Experiment with rhythm

When practicing, focus on something other than the obvious beat to create a unique feel to your music. Start accenting the 2nd and 4th beats in the measure to change the sound and feel of your scales. Even scales become more interesting when they have a groove!

Once you’re comfortable playing the scales “straight,” try altering the rhythm. For instance, you can make the rhythm “swing” by playing eighth notes in a triplet feel. The first note of the beat lasts for the value of two eighth note triplets, while the second note of the beat lasts for one eighth note triplet. Think of eighth note triplets as being equally spaced groups of three notes: “one-and-uh, two-and-uh, three-and-uh, etc.” (three equal parts per beat). The first note happens on the “one,” “two,” three,” etc., and the second note falls on the “uh.”

Next, get creative with your rhythms. Don’t just play the notes all as quarter or eighth notes – change it up. See how interesting you can make a standard scale or pattern sound. Comping existing bass parts? Change tempo or change the sound instead of playing them straight as usual. You’ll be able to stay within the bounds of the piece while adding a new pulse to it, making it more interesting for you and the audience.

Next, you can use your metronome or another music accessory (like a recording of a drum pattern) to mimic the bass drum. Or even better, do it with a live drummer! This will help you practice locking in with your drummer’s kick drum foot – guaranteeing an incredibly tight feel with the two of you together.


The final way to lock in and partner with your drummer is for the two of you to experiment with changing up the rhythm, or time signature. Combine all the other elements and switch the musical intervals or runs into odd time signatures like 5/4 or 6/8.

Ready to get started? First, you’ll want to make sure that your instrument is in top shape. Whether you need new bass strings, a better metronome, or advice from professionals, you’ll find it at Johnson String Instrument.

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