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Cardboard
12-14-2015, 01:08 PM
Is it because bass is perceived as "easier"?
Is it because playing bass isn't as flashy? (You don't see bassists generally don't all the hand and body mannerisms of guitarists)
Is it because the bass sound itself generally runs along the ... well ... baseline of a song, while the guitar is more pronounced?

I asked a friend of mine to name five famous bassists and he came up with John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee and Les Claypool. That's it.

Smapti
12-14-2015, 01:11 PM
I asked a friend of mine to name five famous bassists and he came up with John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee and Les Claypool. That's it.

...Jon Entwistle, Lemmy, Roger Waters, Jack Bruce, Bootsy Collins, Willie Dixon, Sting, Noel Redding, Paul McCartney...

drad dog
12-14-2015, 01:12 PM
Is it because bass is perceived as "easier"?
Is it because playing bass isn't as flashy? (You don't see bassists generally don't all the hand and body mannerisms of guitarists)
Is it because the bass sound itself generally runs along the ... well ... baseline of a song, while the guitar is more pronounced?

I asked a friend of mine to name five famous bassists and he came up with John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee and Les Claypool. That's it.

McCartney is chopped liver to this guy?

They say you're not supposed to hear it, you're supposed to feel it. That could be the reason it's not flashy.

WordMan
12-14-2015, 01:24 PM
Is it because bass is perceived as "easier"?
Is it because playing bass isn't as flashy? (You don't see bassists generally don't all the hand and body mannerisms of guitarists)
Is it because the bass sound itself generally runs along the ... well ... baseline of a song, while the guitar is more pronounced?

I asked a friend of mine to name five famous bassists and he came up with John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee and Les Claypool. That's it.

I have to argue that the OP is a flawed premise. It sounds like your friend isn't much of a music person - not trying to slam at all, but come on, if that's all they can come up with...

At its simplest, a bass can be used to hit the simplest notes and connect the drums and the chord instruments. If you want to play the stereotype game, sure, some bassists are thought to be the "introvert standing still" while the peacocks prance. But there are SO MANY exceptions to that that it really doesn't work as a premise...

kenobi 65
12-14-2015, 01:31 PM
I have to argue that the OP is a flawed premise. It sounds like your friend isn't much of a music person - not trying to slam at all, but come on, if that's all they can come up with...

I suspect that's the core of it. If you're a casual fan of rock / pop music, I imagine that you primarily hear the melody in a song -- and the melody in most songs is driven by the vocals, and possibly the guitar or keyboard. It takes being more knowledgeable about music, and instruments, to be able to listen for what's going on in the rhythm section (rhythm guitar as well as bass and drums).

And, in the popular press, as you note, it's the guitarists who usually get the notice.

bordelond
12-14-2015, 01:32 PM
Is it because playing bass isn't as flashy? (You don't see bassists generally don't all the hand and body mannerisms of guitarists)


For rock bands, I'd say this is very generally true. But there are many notable exceptions who play bass with some theatrical flair (e.g. Flea, Gene Simmons).

Labdad
12-14-2015, 09:14 PM
Have your friend listen to some Motown classics, then Google James Jamerson.

Listen to Jefferson Airplane, and Google Jack Casady.

Listen to Cream and Google Jack Bruce.

Game over.

Horatio Hellpop
12-14-2015, 09:27 PM
There's a comic strip that shows a musician, getting approached by the Devil. "Give me your soul, and I'll make you the WORLD'S GREATEST GUITARIST!" Musician replies "You can't have my soul, but what can you give me for $20?" The last panel shows the musician plucking a bass on a street corner and a little sign taped up to a wall reading "World's Greatest Bassist!"

I don't play any instruments and envy bassists, drummers and guitarists alike.

Thudlow Boink
12-14-2015, 09:48 PM
I suspect that's the core of it. If you're a casual fan of rock / pop music, I imagine that you primarily hear the melody in a song -- and the melody in most songs is driven by the vocals, and possibly the guitar or keyboard. It takes being more knowledgeable about music, and instruments, to be able to listen for what's going on in the rhythm section (rhythm guitar as well as bass and drums).

And, in the popular press, as you note, it's the guitarists who usually get the notice.Yeah, bassists are regarded as part of the rhythm section. They get far fewer opportunities than guitarists to play flashy, "hey look at me" solos or even catchy recognizable riffs.

A band's bassist is, for whatever reason, less likely to be a lead singer, songwriter, or founding member than is their guitarist.

And one other thing: those of us who got introduced to music by listening to it on transistor radios or boom boxes or low-fi record players or TV sets may not have been able to hear much of the bass. I seem to recall reading that when the Beatles' catalog was remastered and released on CD it led to new appreciation for McCartney as a bass player. Personally, there are songs and albums that I never really heard the bass parts on until I re-bought them on CD.

Toxylon
12-15-2015, 05:16 AM
It's also hugely dependent on the genre. In progressive rock, bassists like Chris Squire, Ray Shulman and Tony Levin get easily as much credit as the guitarists, while in Jazz and Funk bass is often a lead instrument and the bassist a Flashy Star (e.g. Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins). In all of these styles bass lines are typically inventive and prominent, so there's lots to listen to and admire, simple as that. This is also tied to Thudlow Boink's point about crappy sound systems.


The basic role of a bassist is pretty easy to fill (yet even simple lines need a good sense of time and feel to really flow), but being a noteworthy bassist takes as much and as specific musicality and skill as any other stringed instrument at similar level.

scabpicker
12-15-2015, 07:19 AM
Well, I fear I'll get in another multi-page argument over this, but here goes:

I've played and still play both instruments. Generally, bass is actually easier to play. A lot easier. Guitar has the same problems with timing, etc. that a bass has. But the guitar has chords, and lead parts to worry about.

Now, there are actually hard bass parts out there, but even when there are, the corresponding guitar part is usually harder to play.

On top of those, it's usually just a different job. When you're playing bass, your part is usually meant to hold the song together while other instruments get to make flourishes, take leads, etc. When no one notices you, things generally went well.

pool
12-15-2015, 07:37 AM
All depends on the genre, I play the bass but I consider myself pretty up there on a technical level, I can do all the slapping, two-hand tapping, double thumb technique, but I also still sit there and play normal walking bass lines. If you listen to Victor Wooten's solo albums and then a lot of the songs from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, he shows off a lot less in the latter (though he does sometimes get flashy there too), because the bass is serving a different role in those groups.

I think its easier to master the basics of the bass than drums or guitar, that's probably true so it has that is prob why they don't get as much credit, but I think bass lines can be as technical or difficult to play as any other instrument. Sometimes when you are sitting there slapping and doing the double thumb, and throwing in some harmonic and little muted notes, it can get technical pretty fast, but the overwhelming majority of bass lines in most music just keeps pretty simples bass lines.

But if you think you can pick up the bass and a week later play Wooten or Les Claypool bass lines, that's not realistic either.

I think also a lot of it is just in a band format, the overall writing format, the guitarist is prob going to write the majority of the songs, and the driving riffs of the song, even if it was really the bass player that wrote it people are just going to assume it was the guitarist anyway. :)

Shakester
12-15-2015, 07:52 AM
I play guitar in one band, and bass in another. I love both, and since I don't have to choose, I won't.

Bass is easier if you're a crap player and just want to be in a band to feed your ego. If you care about music and are a dedicated player, and have some talent, then you can shine at whatever instrument you play. But bass is the default choice of the non-musician who wants to be in a band, so bass gets less respect unless you're an outstanding player.

However, good bass playing is more of a support role than a lead role, and some of us don't care for the "lead bassist" routine. The band I play bass in has an outstandingly good singer and a very talented keyboard player, so I'm happy just to hold things together and add a little groove to the mix. If I wanted to go widdly-woo, I have a band of my own to do that in. I really like doing what I do on bass in that band, and I don't feel like it's any less cool than what I do on guitar in the other band. It's all good. And playing unobtrusively is very much a skill that doesn't get the respect it deserves.

kayaker
12-15-2015, 08:00 AM
Deep in the African jungle, a safari was camped for the night. In the darkness, distant drums began a relentless throbbing that continued until dawn. The safari members were disturbed, but the guide reassured them: "Drums good. When drums stop, very bad." Every night the drumming continued, and every night the guide reiterated, "Drums good. When drums stop, VERY bad." This continues for several days until one morning the drumming suddenly stops and all the natives panic and run screaming. The man asks the guide what's the matter? The guide looking very frightened says: "When drums stop, VERY, VERY bad," he said. "Why is it bad?" asked a member of the safari. "Because when drums stop, bass solo begin!"..

WordMan
12-15-2015, 08:05 AM
I play guitar in one band, and bass in another. I love both, and since I don't have to choose, I won't.

Bass is easier if you're a crap player and just want to be in a band to feed your ego. If you care about music and are a dedicated player, and have some talent, then you can shine at whatever instrument you play. But bass is the default choice of the non-musician who wants to be in a band, so bass gets less respect unless you're an outstanding player.

However, good bass playing is more of a support role than a lead role, and some of us don't care for the "lead bassist" routine. The band I play bass in has an outstandingly good singer and a very talented keyboard player, so I'm happy just to hold things together and add a little groove to the mix. If I wanted to go widdly-woo, I have a band of my own to do that in. I really like doing what I do on bass in that band, and I don't feel like it's any less cool than what I do on guitar in the other band. It's all good. And playing unobtrusively is very much a skill that doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Pretty much sums it up. When I hear Tina Weymouth play her 3-note riff for Talking Heads' cover of Take Me to the River, I always think about how simple it is, but how hard it grooves. I appreciate bassists who focus on that.

silenus
12-15-2015, 08:24 AM
Fewer strings.

WordMan
12-15-2015, 08:35 AM
Fewer strings.

Man, those violinists, cellists, etc. have it so easy!

:dubious:

It is much more about the job a bassist is expected to do. It is one of those activities that is easy to start with but takes a lifetime to master.

BubbaDog
12-15-2015, 09:28 AM
Man, those violinists, cellists, etc. have it so easy!

:dubious:

It is much more about the job a bassist is expected to do. It is one of those activities that is easy to start with but takes a lifetime to master.

Just my opinion but I think that was a whoosh.

I play both Bass and guitar - quite poorly. But I'm in it just for the fun of relaxing. I did notice though that when accompanying others it was a lot easier to "fake it" with a Bass through a song than with either lead or rhythm guitar. Possibly because the bass can be used to carry the fundamental flow; my fat fingers don't have to re-position as fast.

Basically the Bass player is like an offensive linesman in football. He needs to do his job well or everything goes to hell. But him doing his job well lets the running backs and receivers get all the glory.

Blaster Master
12-15-2015, 09:35 AM
Is it because bass is perceived as "easier"?

As others pointed out, I think this is part of it. It has fewer strings, so perhaps some of it is that the guitar has 50% more strings so it must be 50% harder. By that logic, piano must be 14-15x harder than guitar. Also, I've seen 6 and even 7 string basses (and, for that matter, a 9 string guitar). Hell, I've seen plenty of guitarists get 7+ string guitars, tune to drop D (or God forbid something like drop B) and just play the lowest string or two. When they do that, they've basically turned the guitar into a bass.

I think part of this is cultural (to the music we're exposed to) too. After all, rock, metal, etc is "guitar" music, so we just sort of assume that the most talented musicians are the ones that are front and center. It's not unlike sports, like football for instance, where a more casual fan sort of assumes that the skill positions are the most talented players on the team, and sometimes that's true, but plenty of times it's not.

Is it because playing bass isn't as flashy? (You don't see bassists generally don't all the hand and body mannerisms of guitarists)

It certainly gets top billing in many rock bands. I also think that, again, the culture plays a part in that, that people who are the types who are interested in being flashy and getting attention are more likely to play guitar or be primary vocalists, again, not unlike how positions like wide receiver tend to self-select for a certain personality type. And those who are less interested in that may be more interested in another instrument.

Speaking for myself as a musician, despite that the guitar just doesn't speak to me the way piano does, I do love the sound and greatly appreciate guitarists, but certainly the idea of at some point playing in a band, being the front man is a turn off.

Is it because the bass sound itself generally runs along the ... well ... baseline of a song, while the guitar is more pronounced?

It seems to me that there's sort of two theories about how bass works. Either it's more or less part of the rhythm section, that it's intended to give more gravitas to the beats or depth to the overall sound, but they're not really instruments for carrying the primary melody or for a solo or what-have-you. Then there's the other mentality that they're just as much an instrument and integral to the sound as the guitar, vocals, keyboards, or whatever other instruments they're playing with. Unfortunately, that latter mentality seems uncommon in unless the band happens to have a killer bassist (not unlike bands that only have prominent drums if they have a killer drummer), but I've heard and seen perform plenty of bands that have pretty solid talent through all the members, and they'll make a point of writing so that all the members of the band get a chance to shine.

In my view, it really should be about what fits the music that is being written and the talent of those involved. I can really dig on some really awesome bass grooves as parts of songs, but I wouldn't want to be in a band that focuses only on that sound.

TriPolar
12-15-2015, 09:41 AM
Lead guitars get the spotlight. After that drummers, bassists, triangleists, tambourinists, and the guys that clack sticks together all get short shrift. You can use the same jokes for all of them:

How do you get a drummer/bassist/roadie/band manager to stand up?

You say "Will the defendant please rise".

Mixolydian
12-15-2015, 09:52 AM
Was beaten to the punch by both kayaker and silenus, so...

A boy came home from his first bass lesson. His dad asked him how it went. "Today we learned the E string."

The boy came home from his second lesson and dad asked him how it went. "Today we learned the A string."

The boy came home from his third lesson. Dad asked, "So did you learn the D string today?"

"Nope. Today I had a gig."

------
Bass players get a bad rap, but even the most casual listener knows instantly that something's seriously wrong with the sound if the bass drops out.

Gary T
12-15-2015, 09:55 AM
In much (nearly all?) of the music most of us hear, the melody is considered the essence of a piece, and it's almost always higher pitched than the accompanying tones. A choir singing four-part harmony sounds much richer than the sopranos singing alone, but the song is recognized by the melody the sopranos sing. Altos, tenors, and basses certainly add something but it doesn't stand out in most folks' perception like the melody does. It seems to be the way we're accustomed to make music and to hear music.

cjepson
12-15-2015, 10:44 AM
A band's bassist is, for whatever reason, less likely to be a lead singer, songwriter, or founding member than is their guitarist.

True, although there have been some pretty notable exceptions regarding lead vocals (e.g., the Beatles, Cream, and the 1969-1975 King Crimson), and songwriting (the Beatles and Cream again, plus Pink Floyd).

I think the essential answer to the OP is: The same reason rhythm guitarists don't get as much credit as lead guitarists.

Thudlow Boink
12-15-2015, 10:58 AM
True, although there have been some pretty notable exceptions regarding lead vocals (e.g., the Beatles, Cream, and the 1969-1975 King Crimson), and songwriting (the Beatles and Cream again, plus Pink Floyd).As you say, there are notable exceptions. But I wonder if it's significant that McCartney started out as a guitarist and only switched to bass when Stu Sutcliffe left the band.

Is there a significant difference between those who played bass because it was their chosen instrument vs. those who played it because somebody had to fulfill that role?

Channing Idaho Banks
12-15-2015, 11:07 AM
Can someone please tell Charlie Hunter to please hire a bass player?

drad dog
12-15-2015, 11:38 AM
Pretty much sums it up. When I hear Tina Weymouth play her 3-note riff for Talking Heads' cover of Take Me to the River, I always think about how simple it is, but how hard it grooves. I appreciate bassists who focus on that.

Tina Weymouth IMO is the most under appreciated bass player.

Her stuff makes the first two TH LPs happen. It just goes by unconsciously, 30 years later i realize "Hey..." I don't even care for the funk stuff, and I prefer Al Greens TMTTR

scabpicker
12-15-2015, 12:10 PM
Just my opinion but I think that was a whoosh.

I play both Bass and guitar - quite poorly. But I'm in it just for the fun of relaxing. I did notice though that when accompanying others it was a lot easier to "fake it" with a Bass through a song than with either lead or rhythm guitar. Possibly because the bass can be used to carry the fundamental flow; my fat fingers don't have to re-position as fast.


Yep, bass is much easier to fake a song at. Especially if the bass part isn't expected to do any intros or fills. If you already know the key, and can hear where the song's going: just playing the root along with the kick drum if often completely acceptable.

With my current rock band, sometimes I'm grinning too much the first time we play a song that I find far too easy to play, and I get asked: "What, is the song stupid or something?". I usually reply with something like: "Nah, nothing wrong with it at all. It just demands that I play a completely standard bass part."

And there's nothing wrong with that, really. It's part of the job. If we didn't do songs that screamed for a completely standard bass part*, we'd pass up some good songs. Plus, even if you phone it in and are sloppy on one of them, it's not gonna work as well. It still demands some attention and skill.



Basically the Bass player is like an offensive linesman in football. He needs to do his job well or everything goes to hell. But him doing his job well lets the running backs and receivers get all the glory.


And that's probably the best analogy I can think of. I played offensive tackle. It's a hard job, but you just have to master a few basic principles of physics, be able to mentally take the idea that this guy is going to get a running start at you, and be tenacious enough to stay on someone to be an effective one. You don't really have to be a large person to play bass or offensive line (I'm a small guy), but it does help.

And it's rare that you'll be anyone's hero unless you're exceptional at it. You might run a tackle eligible every once in a while. But if you can't hack it, they'll start looking for someone else to hoe your row, no matter how thankless it is. :)







*Completely standard bass part in my world: Root, with leading notes into the next root, a root-fifth country-style part, or a walking part with no oddball chords. Even then, they can be challenging. One of the songs my band plays is fast, and requires me to make a 10 fret jump in the span of an eighth note. Landing that one is a lot of fun, even if it is root-lead note-root the rest of the way.

aceplace57
12-15-2015, 03:09 PM
"Minding the Store" is what I've heard bass players call it.

this one paragraph from a book sums it up.
https://books.google.com/books?id=U0-7CgAAQBAJ&pg=PA170&lpg=PA170&dq=bass+Minding+the+Store&source=bl&ots=Z-4CgIeo2L&sig=94YBNjZoo4O6gMI6G7ToiXrfMZA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi23aSM1t7JAhVB7yYKHZPWCNUQ6AEIJjAC#v=onepage&q=bass%20Minding%20the%20Store&f=false

playing the root and fifth can get mind numbing. thump, thump, rest, thump, thump, rest thump thump rest

but the rhythm they establish is vital to the entire band's performance.

aceplace57
12-15-2015, 03:29 PM
Heres an example. I hired a transcription service to create a lead sheet for Sweet Dream Woman, a Waylon Jennings hit. I also asked for the bass guitar part. I plan to play all parts and record on my multi track recorder.

bass starts with a three step walk up. then plays root/5th (D and A notes in the D chord) with a rest in between. chord changes to A and the bass plays A, E root/fifth. slight rhythm change in the next measure. thats pretty much the bass part. I've listened to Waylon's cut and thats whats there.

http://www.imagebam.com/image/9b3b15452784570

buddha_david
12-15-2015, 03:35 PM
Lead guitars get the spotlight.
Reminds me of an anecdote from the DVD commentary on Dream Theater's Five Years in a Livetime concert video: While editing footage for the song "Metropolis", the band discovered that no footage had been shot of John Myung's bass solo. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErTTQ2tw_Ng) They had to locate footage from a completely different concert and patch it in, which you can see @1:27-1:32 in the linked video.

aceplace57
12-15-2015, 03:46 PM
Anyway, my hats off to the guys that can play bass night after night. Its a thankless job.

I can get through a bass part to record a track for a cover song. But I wouldn't want to play the bass part night after night in a band. My mind starts to wander and I lose the count or where I'm at in the song.

Ambivalid
12-15-2015, 07:40 PM
Is there a reason you have air quotes around guitarist but not bassist?

Thudlow Boink
12-15-2015, 07:58 PM
Is there a reason you have air quotes around guitarist but not bassist?Good question, but, "air quotes"? Speaking of which, does this thread explain why you see way more people playing air guitar than air bass?

Ludovic
12-15-2015, 08:24 PM
Is there a reason you have air quotes around guitarist but not bassist?I assume it's because the bass is also a guitar.

Ambivalid
12-15-2015, 08:29 PM
I assume it's because the bass is also a guitar.

Mmkay.

Laggard
12-16-2015, 02:37 AM
I play basic punk rock guitar but would like to take up the bass as it seems like the bass offers the chance to be really really creative without the wankiness too often associated with lead guitar. That and it's my opinion that bass and drums are the two most important instruments in most bands.

kayaker
12-16-2015, 07:39 AM
Speaking of which, does this thread explain why you see way more people playing air guitar than air bass?

Air guitars are more readily available. (https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/7a/db/d1/7adbd11d601546d18b5015680a235aae.jpg&imgrefurl=https://www.pinterest.com/pin/303781937335274152/&h=247&w=236&tbnid=sXbAtDece9Q8iM:&docid=ZrmbYzzcaGuobM&hl=en-us&ei=wlpxVv3gCcKTmQHt9b-YBQ&tbm=isch&client=safari&ved=0ahUKEwj9yfS4suDJAhXCSSYKHe36D1MQMwgcKAAwAA)

Dinsdale
12-16-2015, 08:28 AM
When I wanted to join a band in college, I chose the bass, simply because there were too many guys who had been strumming guitars since they were little kids, and wanting to be in bands. I'd never get good enough to compete with them. Get a bass and an amp, have a decent sense of rhythm, and show up reasonably on time, and you'll be welcome in any number of rock bands. :cool: (Of course, being more than an adequate bassist takes far more.)

Now if you want to get credit as a bassist, turn in your slab for a doghouse and play some bluegrass. Man, it is almost embarrassing how much the amazing pickers appreciate me. No drums, so I AM the rhythm session. Can't tell you how many times, after I missed a weekly jam, the next week the other guys told me how much it sucked without me. I've heard them say they had to stop songs multiple times, because no one could agree on a tempo.

I readily admit that the toughest part of playing upright is hauling the damn thing around. But one thing is, the bass HAS to be there EVERY beat. For most other instruments, the guitar can simply drop out for a few measures or a chorus, and figure the banjo/mando/fiddle will carry it. But have the bass drop out, and things can go to hell pretty quickly. And the other instruments can play all around the beat, putting it down to creative license. But the bass has to figure out how to hold it together when the mando is rushing her break, and the guitar is dragging...

But yeah, what everyone else said above. Role players, etc.

Tom Tildrum
12-16-2015, 10:32 AM
In much (nearly all?) of the music most of us hear, the melody is considered the essence of a piece, and it's almost always higher pitched than the accompanying tones. A choir singing four-part harmony sounds much richer than the sopranos singing alone, but the song is recognized by the melody the sopranos sing. Altos, tenors, and basses certainly add something but it doesn't stand out in most folks' perception like the melody does. It seems to be the way we're accustomed to make music and to hear music.

A friend of mine was the third guy in a barbershop quartet back in school, and one of the gag skits they sometime ran during their show was a commercial for my friend's solo album of greatest hits: "bum bum bum"... long pause ... "bum bum bum" ... long pause ... "oh, Oh, OHHHHHH" ... long pause ... "AHH ahhhhhhh."

Dinsdale
12-16-2015, 11:18 AM
I forget where it was, but recently I read something purporting that the bass was what really got people into a song. I'll see if I can dig it up. You see someone tapping their feet, nodding their head, it is usually along with the bass/rhythm, rather than the melody.

I'm not sure if it was always the case, but for me, the bass is essentially what I hear when I hear a song. It makes up the structure of the song, establishing the rhythm, and signaling the chord changes. The rest is mere embellishment! ;)

WordMan
12-16-2015, 11:33 AM
I forget where it was, but recently I read something purporting that the bass was what really got people into a song. I'll see if I can dig it up. You see someone tapping their feet, nodding their head, it is usually along with the bass/rhythm, rather than the melody.

I'm not sure if it was always the case, but for me, the bass is essentially what I hear when I hear a song. It makes up the structure of the song, establishing the rhythm, and signaling the chord changes. The rest is mere embellishment! ;)

Victor Wooten wrote a book about engaging and learning music called The Music Lesson. His first message - one I very strongly agree with - is that The Groove Comes First. More than scales, chords, and other technique or theory. It is the access point to the music.

The bass is typically the melodic instrument whose job is to establish and hold the groove. A good bass player understands that is Job 1.

scabpicker
12-16-2015, 11:51 AM
I forget where it was, but recently I read something purporting that the bass was what really got people into a song. I'll see if I can dig it up. You see someone tapping their feet, nodding their head, it is usually along with the bass/rhythm, rather than the melody.


Is Little Green Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kipjrg5O0A4) the quote you were looking to dig up? :)

aceplace57
12-16-2015, 11:58 AM
I'm trying to remember what does the bassist lock into with the drummer? Is it the kick drum beat? High hat? I've never really understood what the various parts of the drum set are for.


Anyway, when the bass and drummer are in the groove magic happens. Fights can break out when the bassist and drummer aren't on the same page. ;)

scabpicker
12-16-2015, 12:05 PM
Usually the drummer is carrying the beat on one or two drums, and doing accents/fills with the rest of the kit. You try to lock with those. But what drum they're carrying the beat with changes depending on the song/style. Usually it's the snare, the high hat, ride or the bass drum, but if you're doing say, a Bo Diddley beat, it's probably going to be on the floor toms.


Even though I've never felt any compelling reason to try to lock with say...the wind chimes, there's probably an appropriate song out there for doing that.

WordMan
12-16-2015, 12:30 PM
I'm trying to remember what does the bassist lock into with the drummer? Is it the kick drum beat? High hat? I've never really understood what the various parts of the drum set are for.


Anyway, when the bass and drummer are in the groove magic happens. Fights can break out when the bassist and drummer aren't on the same page. ;)

At the risk of sounding lecture-y, per my post above, the best answer is really "the groove established by/with the drummer."

In jazz, it is often the high hat. With rock, it is usually kick and snare on a backbeat groove. With disco it was four-on-the-floor kick. Whatever establishes the groove.

Dinsdale
12-16-2015, 01:29 PM
In jazz, it is often the high hat. With rock, it is usually kick and snare on a backbeat groove. With disco it was four-on-the-floor kick. Whatever establishes the groove.

Oh good gawd - you dredged up distant memories of trying to play rock with a jazz drummer, imploring him to get off that damned high hat! ;) Thank heavens for bluegrass, where all I have to do is intimidate the occasional mando picker! :cool:

Not to turn this into a bluegrass discussion, but in BG bass is really boiled down to it's basics. The main thing is to drive the beat, and remain SOLID. As a low-talent roleplayer - I LOVE it! Sure you can add in runs, and some slapping, but if you just focus on playing every note as solid as possible, you will never lack for gigs.

Now rockabilly is an entirely different beast. Sure, the quitarists still get the glory, but whatever their pyrotechnics, they are NOTHING compared to an accomplished slapper!

aceplace57
12-16-2015, 04:17 PM
At the risk of sounding lecture-y, per my post above, the best answer is really "the groove established by/with the drummer."

In jazz, it is often the high hat. With rock, it is usually kick and snare on a backbeat groove. With disco it was four-on-the-floor kick. Whatever establishes the groove.

I need to start listening closer to the drummer and listen for the count. Usually I listen for the bass. Bass always signals chord changes and sets the beat.

foolsguinea
12-17-2015, 01:17 AM
Bass and percussion are often expected to serve as rhythm section, while the vocals and guitar do more complex stuff. Many bands have a singer who also plays bass, because bass riffs aren't important nor complex enough to focus more attention on.

If you're not giving the bassist cool stuff to do, he doesn't get to look cool.

That said, cool bassists exist. Jaco Pastorius was all right. Even Sting wrote some good bass lines.

scabpicker
12-17-2015, 01:19 AM
Jaco Pastorius was all right.

Quite the understatement, there. :)

astorian
12-17-2015, 08:20 AM
A historical tidbit to illustrate a point: the Beatles kept the hopeless Stu Sutcliffe on bass for a long time. Why? Because SOMEBODY had to play it, and nobody else wanted to. EVERYBODY wanted to play guitar, Paul most definitely included.

When Paul reluctantly agreed to play bass, he bought a Hofer from a pawn shop, mainly because it was cheap, and his frugal Dad had always told Paul not to go into debt (by contrast, John and George had bought expensive guitars on credit).

The Other Waldo Pepper
12-17-2015, 09:15 AM
Bass players get a bad rap, but even the most casual listener knows instantly that something's seriously wrong with the sound if the bass drops out.

It's all about that bass, is what you're saying.

Ají de Gallina
12-19-2015, 11:11 AM
Nothing like Queen's John Deacon to show how the bass player can be great and still be, for the casual observer/listener, outshone.
Lead Vocals and Piano: Freddie motherfuckin' Mercury. Already your chances of showing off are down by 90%.
Guitar and Vocals: Brian May. Simply, a guitar god with an instantly-recognizable sound.
Drums and vocal: Roger Taylor. Superb drummer and harmony vocals into the stratosphere.

Then there's
Bass and ocasional live vocals: John Deacon
The other three guys have all the flair, show and everything. But still, Deacon's basslines did more than hold things together, they were interwoven with the songs in a way that no quarter-eighth-eighth bass player can.

Also, lower frequencies don't sound that well on lower-quality equipment.
As many said, it IS easier to play.
I love the "offensive lineman" comparison. Few kids grow up wanting to be an Right Guard and they are not that well known, but when you know your American/Candian football, you know how important they are if it is not a "skill position".

Ají de Gallina, laying tight basslines at children's Mass for 7 years.

velomont
12-19-2015, 02:40 PM
If you want to play the stereotype game, sure, some bassists are thought to be the "introvert standing still" while the peacocks prance. But there are SO MANY exceptions to that that it really doesn't work as a premise...

Before they got to their current ages, Geezer Butler was a good example, whereas the most Tony Iommi would do (in terms of stage presence) is stroll around while blasting out his riffs.

Mike Inez is another good example btw.

Toxylon
12-19-2015, 05:55 PM
Nothing like Queen's John Deacon to show how the bass player can be great and still be, for the casual observer/listener, outshone.

...But still, Deacon's basslines did more than hold things together, they were interwoven with the songs in a way that no quarter-eighth-eighth bass player can.

...As many said, it IS easier to play...you know how important they are if it is not a "skill position".

Composing, and to a lesser extent performing bass lines at the level of John Deacon takes tremendous talent and skill, and is in no way "easier" than creating and performing the guitar or drum parts.

Ají de Gallina
12-19-2015, 05:59 PM
Composing, and to a lesser extent performing bass lines at the level of John Deacon takes tremendous talent and skill, and is in no way "easier" than creating and performing the guitar or drum parts.

I was refering to bass (in general) being easier than guitar or keyboards.
Deacon's line are not easy at all

Dinsdale
12-19-2015, 10:02 PM
I had a kinda difficult jam session today. Yesterday I spent over an hour just working the metronome. Man, I was solid. Then this morning, it was all out the window. The mandos and fiddles especially kept rushing things. Sure, they were playing a lot more notes, but none of them had to be as concerned as me about keeping everyone together.

Playing the notes is easy. Playing each note perfectly, less so. Driving a solid beat while various showboats speed up and slow down - not easy at all. Fortunately, most of the show boats appreciate what the bass brings.

AppallingGael
12-19-2015, 10:48 PM
I'm not any sort of musician, and would not have attempted to answer the main question, but compared to the OP's friend, I was able to name quite a few famous bassists by process of elimination.

scabpicker
12-20-2015, 12:55 AM
I had a kinda difficult jam session today. Yesterday I spent over an hour just working the metronome. Man, I was solid. Then this morning, it was all out the window. The mandos and fiddles especially kept rushing things. Sure, they were playing a lot more notes, but none of them had to be as concerned as me about keeping everyone together.


Well, that is your value! Everyone else is playing the embellishments to the song, you're holding the song down. You've got to communicate to them (yes, while pretty much playing the roots), that they're rushing. Though, I think working to a metronome is almost counterproductive. It's more about the feel that erupts from the whole than working to a particular BPM.


Playing the notes is easy. Playing each note perfectly, less so. Driving a solid beat while various showboats speed up and slow down - not easy at all. Fortunately, most of the show boats appreciate what the bass brings.

Yep, that's the only glory of the job. When the drummer (ok, not in your case) and everybody else is rushing, you've got to drag the beat enough to slow them down. Sometimes they listen, sometimes everyone else in the band thinks you are wrong. So it goes.

WordMan
12-20-2015, 07:17 AM
I had a kinda difficult jam session today. Yesterday I spent over an hour just working the metronome. Man, I was solid. Then this morning, it was all out the window. The mandos and fiddles especially kept rushing things. Sure, they were playing a lot more notes, but none of them had to be as concerned as me about keeping everyone together.

Playing the notes is easy. Playing each note perfectly, less so. Driving a solid beat while various showboats speed up and slow down - not easy at all. Fortunately, most of the show boats appreciate what the bass brings.

When I started playing rhythm guitar, I was like superRhythm Guy! Why do one strum when a dozen flourishes will do!

As I realized how important it was to stay coordinated with a group, I simpled down beyond belief. Strum Strum Strum Strum - big, obvious beats, with minimal stuff between them. Also, started making eye contact with each person - if we didn't have our hands full making music, I would be looking for them to swipe the side of their nose ;) "are we good?/are you in on this groove we are making?"

My bass player is the first guy I make eye contact with. I am looking for his beat, not expecting him to hit mine. He signs off on my groove, then I go hound everyone else and make sure we are ready for changes. The bass player is staying locked in with the drummer and selling his backing vocals. Meat and potatoes gig work - the groove comes first!

It must be very different for a nonplayer to not have this perspective. The bass is in the center of the conversation and a lead player is on the fringe, benefitting if the center holds. The question is how hard the core parts of the band are trying to listen to each other.

Dinsdale
12-21-2015, 01:34 PM
Trying to anchor jams can be pretty challenging. I feel that if I'm going to maintain that I am holding THE beat, I need to be sure of myself that I AM as solid as I think. So - yeah - I practice A LOT with a metronome. Ususally more slow than fast, just trying to make each note as solid as possible. Playing ahead/behind, or right on it. Of course, I realize that playing live is different, but if I don't know where the beat is, then I don't have a good idea of how I'm deviating from it and why.

Generally I'll lock in with a mando. But just about 100% of the time, they'll ramp it way up when they take a break. Fiddles too. And you generally don't want to just keep ramping it up and up every break. And since my MAIN role is keeping things steady, I always tend to take it personally when things go south.

The WORST are those people who simply have NO sense of timing. The speed up, slow down, add and drop beats indiscriminately. You really wonder how someone can be as oblivious as that. :rolleyes:

WordMan
12-21-2015, 02:13 PM
Trying to anchor jams can be pretty challenging. I feel that if I'm going to maintain that I am holding THE beat, I need to be sure of myself that I AM as solid as I think. So - yeah - I practice A LOT with a metronome. Ususally more slow than fast, just trying to make each note as solid as possible. Playing ahead/behind, or right on it. Of course, I realize that playing live is different, but if I don't know where the beat is, then I don't have a good idea of how I'm deviating from it and why.

Generally I'll lock in with a mando. But just about 100% of the time, they'll ramp it way up when they take a break. Fiddles too. And you generally don't want to just keep ramping it up and up every break. And since my MAIN role is keeping things steady, I always tend to take it personally when things go south.

The WORST are those people who simply have NO sense of timing. The speed up, slow down, add and drop beats indiscriminately. You really wonder how someone can be as oblivious as that. :rolleyes:

Dinsdale - you're the bassist; you play bluegrass. I am a meat-and-potatoes guitarist with rock bands in my story. i.e., I am just thinking out loud here and please stick with what you know works for you.

1) Metronome - key. Keeps you honest, especially if you tend to gallop, and you piss off your lead players ;)

2) You lock on a Mando. Is that your best option? I don't speak Bluegrass, but I can see where the "Mandolin Chop" is a pure rhythm move, but when they switch to lead, they step into a completely different headspace.

3) Instead, can you find a pure rhythm player who is reasonably loud, like a rhythm guitarist or a strummy banjo player?

4) Better yet - both! Do you talk with any mates prior to playing to work things out? If you, a guitarist and a banjo player agree to triangulate, and then when you start a song, you check in with each other like I describe above, that could work, yes? And if you triangulate, then if one drops out to play lead, you can make eye contact with the other person and ensure you can carry it without the lead player for now.

???

Dinsdale
12-21-2015, 03:04 PM
Please forgive this extended hijack.

I meant to respond to your comment about keeping it simple. Many times I'll make an effort to see how FEW notes I can play. Generally, things sound the better for it. ;)

A big part of my difficulty is that most of my playing is in unstructured jam sessions. You take turns around the circle for who calls the next song, and there's never any guarantee which instruments will show up.

In a lot of BG/folk/old-time jams, the problem is you just get a bunch of guitarists strumming along snoozily. We don't have that problem. Last Sat I think there were 5 fiddles at one time, and at no time did guitars outnumber banjos or mandos. Which is cool.

I got really lucky falling in with these guys. Many of them are REALLY good. Plenty of folk to fill space and show off. What they REALLY want is someone to keep a solid beat. Which is what I bring. And believe me, most of these guys are really appreciative of what I bring. It is really weird, I'm just thumping along on the I-V, while these guys are doing things I can't even imagine, and afterwards they'll tell me how I kicked ass. Or if I miss a session, they'll tell me how much they missed me. THEY really know how much more they need a bass than another hotshot.

Mandos can generally be depended on the most solidly to chop - and some chop better than others. Some fiddles chop really well, but ususally not for prolonged periods. I've got a couple of rhythm guitarists who "boom-chuck" solid as a rock - but IMO solid rhythm guitarists are rarer than strong leads.

It is always weird to me when a guy who chops rock solid takes off at rocket speed on his lead. So then - if I have my head in the game - I switch over to lock in with someone else. It is usually not a problem if the lead goes on his own, and everyone else stays with me. But often one or 2 folk will speed up with the lead, and it feels like the group will split. So I have to decide whether I go along with them, or whether I try to slow things down. So if I slow things down myself, there can be three tempos going...

WordMan
12-21-2015, 03:18 PM
Hmm. Have you explicitly asked them if they notice that the groove wavers when lead players change? Can you get one or two players that the others see as leaders to agree to key back in on you and confirm the groove after every lead change? A quick bit of eye contact and an extra-forceful strum or two where you lean in, get everyone's attention and re-set the groove could work...

???

scabpicker
12-21-2015, 03:39 PM
Well, it's a jam. I'm not sure how much constructive criticism can be handed out at one of those without driving people off. When you're in a band, you can just straight up complain during practice. If you have a point, you probably won't get kicked out.

I didn't think of Dinsdale's special position when I blabbed about it seeming strange to practice with a metronome. Usually, a bass player has a drummer to contend with. How fast you go is a matter of negotiating. Unless Dinsdale has a personality disorder that I'm unaware of, he's got no one to negotiate with. Rock solid, and all alone? I'm surprised you don't provide yourself with a click track. :) (yes, yes, in the end that's even more complexity)

But when there's a drummer around (ok, all the time), I see myself as a diplomat between the guitars and the drums. Not only do lead instruments have a tendency to rush in most situations, but the drummer gets physically beaten (I don't even know if I'm punning there) by his instrument more than most of us. Rushing 1 or 2 songs has a much greater toll on him than the rest of us, so I have to trust him. He knows the next song on the set list, and whether he has to preserve his stamina. Between a good drummer being a good conductor, and me leading into chords at the right time, we can usually control a set of guitarists pretty well. Unless he or I is the idiot that's rushing and one of us can't slow without breaking the beat.

Plus, bass players in rock bands always seem to be standing stage left, off of the ride cymbal of right-handed drummers. If sticks are gonna sail, intentional or not, it's gonna be at us. Gotta be diplomatic with that guy.

Dinsdale
12-21-2015, 03:53 PM
Well, it's a jam.

Yeah, basically that. It is supposed to be fun and casual. I sure don't want to come off as the critical jerk. Another problem is that in an acoustic jam it can be hard for everyone to hear everyone else.

But when I identify such a ridiculously circumscribed role, I take it more to heart than I ought when things aren't rock-solid beginning to end. And I'm probably hypercritical about it too. Guarantee the audience doesn't hear it.

I've been playing regularly with a mando/banjo player. In the new year we might try to pick up a fiddle and a guitar, and see how tight we can play. But everyone is so busy...

Believe me - I have no problem getting peoples' attention. When we are all acoustic, NO ONE can project like the bass. And if they STILL won't listen, I can always start slapping! :eek:

WordMan
12-21-2015, 04:20 PM
i have to ask: since it's Bluegrass, is everything played in G?

scabpicker
12-21-2015, 04:40 PM
But when I identify such a ridiculously circumscribed role, I take it more to heart than I ought when things aren't rock-solid beginning to end. And I'm probably hypercritical about it too. Guarantee the audience doesn't hear it.


Isn't that almost the worst part, and the saving grace to playing live? If it's not recorded, and if everyone hit the changes right, as long as the beat wasn't broken, everything else seems forgiven.

In my case, my new band played its first show last weekend. I know that the singer played the wrong intro to song #4 on the set list, and we all flubbed the breakdown on song #6. Even though my own wife wouldn't have noticed the mistakes in the show: you feel all nervous and shaky while setting up, and playing the set goes by like a lightning bolt. When you're done, you're picking apart the show, wondering what vacations might be noticed, while folks you don't know are coming by and complimenting you on the show. It's all kind of surreal.

Dinsdale
12-21-2015, 05:36 PM
i have to ask: since it's Bluegrass, is everything played in G?

Not quite. :D

Yeah, a lot of tunes are in G, but probably no more than 1/3 of them. Fiddles tend to like playing in A and D. They generally hate C, but a lot of folk like to sing in C. Friggin guitarists just capo to wherever they want. And the damned banjo is out of tune no matter what key you are trying to play in! I'd probably say 2/5 G, and 1/5 each D, A, C.

Basically, we play in whatever key the person calling the tune wants to sing it or play it in. If you are playing a fiddle tune, you want it to be in a key the fiddle wants to play it in. There are a relatively few in E, even fewer in B flat. Not too many in F. One mando worked out the uptempo Ricky Skaggs intro to Walls of Time in B, so that's where we play it. I think that's the only one we do in B.

Me, I've got a vocal range of about 1/2 an octave. So when I call a song I want to sing, I call whatever key will be least likely to make peoples' ears bleed.

You talk about the beat not being broken scabpicker - I've often heard it said in BG bass that WHAT you play is WAY less important that WHEN you play it...

nearwildheaven
12-21-2015, 05:55 PM
A band's bassist is, for whatever reason, less likely to be a lead singer, songwriter, or founding member than is their guitarist.

The bassist also seems to be much more likely to be female, if it's a band with a single woman in it. Anyone have any insight as to why this is so?

:confused:

Greekfreak
12-26-2015, 10:57 AM
Depends on the genre, but generally it's because it's simply less flashy.

In rock, guys like Felix Pappalardi from Mountain and Paul McCartney often played countermelodies, making their playing stand out a bit more.

Loved Felix's bass tone. Just an incredible sound.

jerry'smissingfinger
12-26-2015, 05:41 PM
Have your friend listen to some Motown classics, then Google James Jamerson.

Listen to Jefferson Airplane, and Google Jack Casady.

Listen to Cream and Google Jack Bruce.

Game over.

This

I would like to throw Dave Schools from Widespread Panic in the mix, the man drops bombs like nobody's bidness!

minor7flat5
12-26-2015, 07:02 PM
Nothing to add at all that others haven't said...

But I got an acoustic bass (one of these (http://www.fender.com/acoustics/dreadnought/cb-100ce-bass/0961560021.html)) as an early Christmas present, and in these few weeks it has brought me great joy.

My wife is a skilled pianist and has always provided the music for the church services, but I have never been able to accompany her, as the combination of guitar + piano is not as easy to execute without stepping on each other.

Now, for the first time in 25 years, my wife and I can play together for the entire service. I had several people approach me after the service each week and tell me how happy they were to see us playing together. :cool:

Superdude
12-27-2015, 07:54 AM
Did I miss someone mentioning Cliff Burton?

Mister Rik
12-28-2015, 04:27 PM
And playing unobtrusively is very much a skill that doesn't get the respect it deserves.
Yup. I've been playing bass for 30 years, and as I've gotten more experienced over the years, my playing has gotten much simpler.

Fewer strings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Imd57EkYY

I forget where it was, but recently I read something purporting that the bass was what really got people into a song. I'll see if I can dig it up. You see someone tapping their feet, nodding their head, it is usually along with the bass/rhythm, rather than the melody.
Was it this?

http://mic.com/articles/120137/science-suggests-bassists-are-far-more-important-than-most-people-realize#.tigXctPt7