The Relationship Between Bass and Drums

Musicians always talk about how the bass and kick drum should lock-in, but what does that really mean? 

Think of it as utilizing the strengths of each to complement one another. The kick adds punch and accent to the bass note, and the bass adds melody to the beat. When the bass and kick drum are grooving together they truly enhance one another.

Let’s start with a simple 4/4 drum beat. The kick drum hits on the 1 and the 3. I’m going to play a simple bass line that only plays notes on those beats. In the most basic form, it sounds like this:

You’ll notice I kept the notes really short and punchy in that example. This is great for a more upbeat or choppy feel, but I could have played the same notes and let them sustain through the rests. It would have still been locked in with the kick, but the feel would have been totally different.

Locking in with the kick doesn’t always mean only playing on those beats. You can add dynamic to more intricate bass lines by emphasizing the notes that match the kick. In this next example, I play a driving 8th note line that emphasizes where I would expect the kick to be. See if you can catch where that is:

ONE and two AND three and FOUR and

Even more important than emphasizing the kick drum is to stay in time with what the drummer is doing. In this next example, I use the full kit to stay in time but when the snare and hat drop out the bass and kick fall slightly out, you can feel it immediately–this is a huge no-no.

If you want to communicate musically with your drummer, you’ve got to communicate verbally as well. Talk beforehand and plan what the kick and bass will do in each song section. The more in-sync you are, the better and more confident the band and singers will feel.

Daniel Ornellas, worship leader in the band "The Worship Republic" is originally from South Africa. He moved to the US with his band Tree 63 and has toured and recorded with numerous worship artists. He produces records and lives in Nashville with his wife Samantha and their two kids and is the bass instructor for Worship Artistry.

The Relationship Between Bass and Drums

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