How to Write a Bass Line like Red Hot Chili Peppers "Tippa My Tongue"
In the new Red Hot Chili Peppers single “Tippa My Tongue”, there’s a ridiculously funky variation of the blues scale, which we’re calling the RHCP scale. And that’s what you’re about to learn, as well as how to write a bass line or guitar riff using it. But first... Tea!
Hello revolutionary music makers, we are Kate and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory, the fast, easy and fun way to make music. If you’re new to theory, or if you just want a refresher, then read our free book "12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords". It’ll give you a super solid music theory foundation in just 30 minutes. The free download is below. Enjoy!
Okay so first things first, what’s the blues scale? Well, the blues scale is actually a variation of the minor pentatonic scale. Okay, so what’s the minor pentatonic scale? Well, it’s the natural minor scale without its 2nd and 6th notes. So from the root of C, the minor pentatonic scale is: C, E♭, F, G, B♭. And its spelling is: 1, ♭3, 4, 5, ♭7. Now, to turn the minor pentatonic scale into the blues scale, all you have to do is add the ♭5, which in this example is G♭.
Alright, this is where it gets juicy! So the Chili Peppers use the blues scale in the chorus of this song, but to make it extra funky, they add two non-diatonic notes (i.e. notes that are not in the scale). The two extra notes they play are the major 3rd and the major 7th. And to be clear, they’re using these notes to spice up the blues scale, they’re not technically part of the scale. But, when you do make them part of it, you end up with a super funky 8-note scale, so why not add them in?!
So from the root of C, our RHCP scale is: C, E♭, E, F, G♭, G, B♭, B
And the spelling of the RHCP scale is: 1, ♭3, 3, 4, ♭5, 5, ♭7, 7
And just a quick FYI for the more advanced producers. As you know, theoretically a scale can’t have both the minor 3rd and major 3rd, so we have to spell the 3 (E) with its enharmonic equivalent, which is the ♭4 (F♭). Same note, different name. By the way, if that was confusing, then read our free book, as it’s all explained in there!
Okay, now that we’ve got the scale down, let’s use it to write a bass line! So, set your tempo to 88 BPM, then create two bars of 4|4. The first thing you need to do is play the root note (C) on beat 1 in both bars. This was James Brown’s funk rule. His band could do whatever they wanted for the rest of the bar, but they all had to lock in by playing beat 1 together. And the most solid note to play on beat 1 is obviously the root, so that’s your starting point.
What you do for the rest of the bass line is up to you, but here’s a few guidelines. Be sure to use all 8 notes of the scale in your bass line, otherwise you won’t get the full flavour. Also, use lots of rests. Funky music actually has a lot of space in it.
And related to that, you definitely wanna use a lot of syncopation, which is when you accent an off-beat. It ain’t funky without syncopation, so go crazy with that, as the root note on beat 1 in every bar will lock it all together. Lastly, use a variety of different note values, like 1/16 notes, 1/8 notes, and dotted 1/8 notes.
So to conclude, what we’re calling the RHCP scale is simply the blues scale plus the major 3rd and the major 7th.
If there’s a song that you want us to hack in a future lesson, drop us a comment on our YouTube channel. Also, if you wanna learn our essential hacks for making great melodies, chord progressions, bass lines, drum beats (and more), then watch the 12 step-by-step videos in our Songwriting & Producing course. If you’re feeling frustrated because your music isn’t as good as you want it to be, then this is for you!
Wooohooo!!! You’re a mere 30 minutes away from being even smarter than you already are. Just head on over to your inbox now for your free download.
Listen below, or on any podcast app.