Is there an official musical term for attacking a single note in one or more bars? This is for bass guitar but there might be a more general term used when playing this style with other instruments.

Tab would look something like: EEEEEEEE | EEEEEEEE | FFFFFFFF | GGGGGGGG

EDIT: So to provide some background, I'm learning to play bass and trying to communicate more with the drummer (he has a wider musical vocabulary) and, in order to do that, I want us to use standard musical terminology as I believe that to be good practice. For example, he'll play 8 hi-hats in a bar and I'll play 8 notes rapidly in sync with those hats. I've noticed there are quite a few songs where the bassist attacks a single note for a while, e.g. The Strokes - Reptilia. As this is a common pattern, I was hoping there's a commonly used term I can use to communicate this pattern with the rest of the band. Instead of saying "I'm going to do this..." and then demonstrating attacking the note, I just want to use a word. I could say "I'm going to 'attack' note A" but I don't know if that's a commonly used term.

  • maybe I've misunderstood your question (s. my answer). Could you ask more precisely, please? Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 8:04
  • @AlbrechtHügli I've updated my question. I hope that helps. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 9:07
  • @b3ko "straight eighths". That's exactly the term I was looking for. Thanks! Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 13:27
  • I have changed my comment to an answer. Rock on!
    – b3ko
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 14:22

6 Answers 6


You could just say I’m going to play straight eighths. Most likely the drummer doesn’t care what note it is. Or you could say something like “I’m going to pedal on [note] with eighth notes.”

  • 1
    Most drummers would understand 'straight eights' or 'swung eights'. They're simple terms which do the job well. Often when sitting in, I'll say 'straight eights' to the drummer, and it's unequivocal.+1.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 16:55
  • Other similar rhythm section jargon for this purpose is "riding" the note, or "playing time." Both imply simple non-syncopated rhythms without leaving any spaces.
    – user63785
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:00

You can define this bass pattern by the time signature 8/8 and ostinato

Ostinato, (Italian: “obstinate”, )plural Ostinatos, or Ostinati, in music, short melodic phrase repeated throughout a composition, sometimes slightly varied or transposed to a different pitch. A rhythmic ostinato is a short, constantly repeated rhythmic pattern.

To make clear to your band members you can define your patterns by telling where the accents have to be:

1234 on beat

1+2+3+4+ (+= off-beat)


numbering the 8th notes e.g. 1,4,7 or dividing the 8th groups 3-3-2)

of course you can look up a list of rhythm patterns for drummers referring to typical patterns of dances.

So you could just say: mambo, cha-cha-cha, tango

or you write a list of patterns in your band room numbering by A,B,C or pattern 1,2,3. So you will have your own secret language):

Another solution would be naming by style of famos songs like Band in a Box is doing:



Marcato probably? Works as note accent


See that up arrow? That's the accented note. So just use that on the notes you need and then insert a repeat to organize the score more economically.

IDK what's your song structure or time signature, but based on your "tab" it might look like this (thanks to AlbrechtHügli for mentioning): enter image description here

It's not really necessary to use musical terms when you can just say:

  1. I'll just be following your kick/hat pattern.
  2. I'm going to play accents for every first note in the bar.
  3. I'm going to play accents for every quarter note in the bar.
  4. I'm going to play accents on off-beat.
  5. I'm going to play stabs with the band (stab is when everyone punches the same line/note, commonly used in metal), for example (however it's also a breakdown lol):
  6. I'm going to follow the guitar riff.
  7. I'm going to play own part (in this case you have to check how it sounds with other members).
  • Good answer, if the question is meant this way! This would look e.g. like this : ÊEEÊEEÊE Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 8:06

I agree with @b3ko. "Straight eighths" or "steady eighths" seems to be the common lingo. Otherwise I don't think there is a specific term for what you described.

I think it's worthwhile to mention from an orchestrating or arranging perspective you are doubling parts. The bass is doubling the hi-hat rhythm. This might be a useful term when work on other things with the drummer. For example you could say something like double the rhythm of the kick bass while playing roots and fifths.

A few related terms that I think are not appropriate:

Pedal. Holding a tone - usually in the bass - while the harmony moves through various chords dissonant to the pedal. If the harmony works like that, you could describe the bass as a pedal in a meaningful way. If that isn't happening, don't call it a pedal.

Ostinato is when a bass is repeat throughout a work. Usually the ostinato bass implies a clear harmonic progression. A common examples is the Folia pattern.

Notice that pedal and ostinato involve important harmonic meanings.

Homorhythm and isorhythm are two rhythmic terms that mean sameness of rhythm. Homorhtyhm is when all the parts move with the same rhythm. Hymns are often sung with a homorhtyhmic texture where soprano, alto, tenor, and bass all sing different melodies pitch-wise, but the rhythm is the same for all the parts. Isorhythm repeats a rhythmic pattern linearly permuted throughout multiple voices and is associated with Renaissance polyphony. Notice that both of these terms deal with rhythmic sameness and its handling in the whole ensemble.

You can see there is some overlap with these terms and your situation, but when looking at the detailed meanings they aren't really appropriate to use.


When describing the texture of that rhythm in the bass, a descriptor I hear a lot (especially for bass guitar) is "chugging" (imagine a locomotive train).

As an example, a bassist might say to a drummer, "oh, my part is just chugging on the low E while you play the hi-hats". It's not super-specific as to what exact rhythm is being played, but it does a great job describing the texture and musical effect of the sound.


Drummer here, and in my experience the most common rhythm section jargon for this would be "riding" on the note or "playing time."

"Playing time" entails simply playing on the non-syncopated beats, which in most jazz bass contexts would be walking a note on each quarter note, but sometimes faster like the "straight eighths" that you wrote out in non-swung settings.

"Riding" the note can imply more subdividing into eighths or sixteenths than "playing time" would.

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