I Know I’m Annoying The Bass Player

Grandy

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I'm not making excuses for someone I don't know but...

I think bass parts are harder to practice on your own. It's hard to hear the tune in your head, if you know what I mean. Guitar parts usually make sense but bass can sound meaningless without the right context.

On the other hand I've been to plenty of gigs where it's impossible to hear the bass notes. Everything in the room is resonating and it's the same BOOM BOOM no matter what the bass player is playing.
 

24 track

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So many responses. Wow. Apparently many have had similar experiences of some sort.

I’ll try respond to a few.

Other members hear the sour notes too. We glance at each other when we hear it. They remain quiet too. I guess so not pick on someone. Other members are polite gentlemen. Wouldn’t say nothing. All good guys for sure. Yet if nobody says anything nothing gets corrected.

Its a hobby band. We’re not “making it” ever. No plans to. Just trying to have fun and gig 10 times a year. "Keep the friendship" is the right answer here. I have to just grin and bare it or stuff will get ugly. I can tell if I push too hard to get better it will go sideways.
I’d like the band to be the best we can be. I realize I can’t make someone else want that too at the same level of expectations that I have.

It’s not a train wreck. Its not all the time. Its not every song. But it grates on my ears when it’s repetitive and a player can’t hear it. There is practice going on at home. Indeed, it is quite likely that sour notes are being practiced at home. Reinforcing the mistakes.

We're guy friends trying to have fun. Its best I just shut up and let it go.
Kieth, do the video thing , and at rehearsal one night play it back , you can do it under the pretext curiousity of "what do we look like on stage" if he makes the same mistakes you will here them plain and clear , he will hear them plain and clear , it may help him to get the message , so if he is hitting sour notes or his timming is off it will stand out
 

KeithDavies 100

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Kieth, do the video thing , and at rehearsal one night play it back , you can do it under the pretext curiousity of "what do we look like on stage" if he makes the same mistakes you will here them plain and clear , he will hear them plain and clear , it may help him to get the message , so if he is hitting sour notes or his timming is off it will stand out
Useful even if you all play well. We video'd a couple of songs of my last band at a gig and when we watched it back we were stunned by how incredibly static we were - there was just no movement at all, compared to when you watch "pros" do it! Useful lesson. We all made a deliberate effort to move more after that!
 

TheFuzzDog

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7 years or so playing with the bass player. He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend.

Like anyone, when we practice at home we get better. When we gather for rehearsal I can only take so many sour bass notes. I try to be positive, encouraging him to fix his errors. I say “I hear something is off. Let’s work it out.” We do. He often gets grumpy, but we fix them. Next practice same wrong notes. Stop again. Work them out again.

Sometimes he aggressively says “Ya, ya. I got it. Let’s move on”. If I don’t say anything, more often than not he doesn’t hear the sour notes. He does not realize he’s one fret out. Or sharp or flat. His ear is not very developed. I let this go for a long time. Then I’m thinking to myself “this is wrong we need to fix this. He does not know he’s playing sour notes”.

When he does get annoyed at my neutral comments to address the mistakes, I smile and say, “I’m not trying to pick on you. We just need to fix this”. Other times I start to say something and then stop myself. So as not to get him on the defense.

One time just the two of us were practicing together. We rarely ever do this, just the two of us. Maybe once a year. I said let’s work out things. Make sure we are playing the right notes together. We did well. I said “This is good. We are getting better. I’m sorry if you feel like I am picking on you at band rehearsal. I’m not. I just want to fix things.” He said “this is the time and the place to do it. Not at rehearsal”. I was stumped. If I can’t say it at rehearsal how are we going to fix things? Foolish pride I guess.

He accepted my one-on-one coaching well and we fixed errors….Until next practise. Tonight at rehearsal I’m watching the fingers, seeing and hearing the same sour notes.

I guess I am not asking for advise. I’m just venting. I know what probably should be said if we are to fix things and keep them fixed. I’m not interested in a hen fight over grown adults practising at home. I’ll cut him some slack. It’s summer. Lots going on in his personal life. Less time to practice at home maybe.

Tonight he got pretty defensive about a song. I stopped and said we need to fix this. Wrong notes. He got pretty defensive claiming “I’ve always played it this way. Maybe you need to put your capo on for this song”. Nope I said. “We’ve played like this at least 20-30 times. You are out and very flat”. Bass player came back with more defence and push back. I’m like “Man, I don’t know what to say. It’s wrong. Your notes are wrong “. He eventually came around and agreed, he was mistaken.

I’m not perfect either. I too make errors. Yet I hear my errors immediately and strive to improve. I point out my own errors and say “I screwed that up. Can we go again from 4 bars before the bridge”. Or whatever.

I am struggling a bit with someone who does not hear their errors and is resistant to coaching to fix them. Band drama. That’s my rant. Good night. I’m over it. I’ll try hard to keep my mouth shut or this band will come apart.
Do you guys record your practices? I used to play with a bass player who had similar issues. When he started listening to our practice recordings he could hear the issues and fix them.
 

24 track

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Useful even if you all play well. We video'd a couple of songs of my last band at a gig and when we watched it back we were stunned by how incredibly static we were - there was just no movement at all, compared to when you watch "pros" do it! Useful lesson. We all made a deliberate effort to move more after that!
it showed us sooo much about our stage presence we had one member who could not hold his own, and got lost after the first note. for starters then we could hear the mistakes
 

FaithNicole

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it showed us sooo much about our stage presence we had one member who could not hold his own, and got lost after the first note. for starters then we could hear the mistakes
ugh, that just reminded me of our last show. Not by recording though. We were playing Devil With A Blue Dress On and I got off time. I knew it, fought it, couldn't seem to get it under control. Yep, drummer and I exchanged some glances on that one. Not one of my finer moments. 😞
 

TokyoPortrait

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Hi.

Not much to add. I think the recording / videoing idea is good.

..band environment, at close quarters, the bass can be strangely difficult to hear.

Yes, as others mentioned, this could be a contributing factor too. It is strange, but it happens. You can just disappear in to some kind of generic thud, either just to yourself, or as far as everyone is concerned - before I quite my last band, I found this happening at one point & realised no one noticed I was totally off for a few bars (the sudden sheer panicky embarrassment of realisation followed by a mental ‘huh?!?!’).

Also, how’s his timing? I wonder if he’s concentrating so hard on that and staying in rhythm, he’s unable to also monitor what he’s playing note-wise?

Pax/
Dean
 

Cpb2020

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I'm not making excuses for someone I don't know but...

I think bass parts are harder to practice on your own. It's hard to hear the tune in your head, if you know what I mean. Guitar parts usually make sense but bass can sound meaningless without the right context.

On the other hand I've been to plenty of gigs where it's impossible to hear the bass notes. Everything in the room is resonating and it's the same BOOM BOOM no matter what the bass player is playing.

My 12 year old bassist would disagree, but only with the notion that one hears the same boom boom no matter what he’s playing.

His view is that one string in a guitar chord (when not soloing) could be off but no one notices, whereas when he frets a note wrong it is standing out there on its own, in all its horrible glory. But, he plays in a 3 piece band, so there’s less hiding in the mix.

When he plays a wrong note in a practice session, if sticks with him for hours.
 

srblue5

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7 years or so playing with the bass player. He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend.

Like anyone, when we practice at home we get better. When we gather for rehearsal I can only take so many sour bass notes. I try to be positive, encouraging him to fix his errors. I say “I hear something is off. Let’s work it out.” We do. He often gets grumpy, but we fix them. Next practice same wrong notes. Stop again. Work them out again.

Sometimes he aggressively says “Ya, ya. I got it. Let’s move on”. If I don’t say anything, more often than not he doesn’t hear the sour notes. He does not realize he’s one fret out. Or sharp or flat. His ear is not very developed. I let this go for a long time. Then I’m thinking to myself “this is wrong we need to fix this. He does not know he’s playing sour notes”.

When he does get annoyed at my neutral comments to address the mistakes, I smile and say, “I’m not trying to pick on you. We just need to fix this”. Other times I start to say something and then stop myself. So as not to get him on the defense.

One time just the two of us were practicing together. We rarely ever do this, just the two of us. Maybe once a year. I said let’s work out things. Make sure we are playing the right notes together. We did well. I said “This is good. We are getting better. I’m sorry if you feel like I am picking on you at band rehearsal. I’m not. I just want to fix things.” He said “this is the time and the place to do it. Not at rehearsal”. I was stumped. If I can’t say it at rehearsal how are we going to fix things? Foolish pride I guess.

He accepted my one-on-one coaching well and we fixed errors….Until next practise. Tonight at rehearsal I’m watching the fingers, seeing and hearing the same sour notes.

I guess I am not asking for advise. I’m just venting. I know what probably should be said if we are to fix things and keep them fixed. I’m not interested in a hen fight over grown adults practising at home. I’ll cut him some slack. It’s summer. Lots going on in his personal life. Less time to practice at home maybe.

Tonight he got pretty defensive about a song. I stopped and said we need to fix this. Wrong notes. He got pretty defensive claiming “I’ve always played it this way. Maybe you need to put your capo on for this song”. Nope I said. “We’ve played like this at least 20-30 times. You are out and very flat”. Bass player came back with more defence and push back. I’m like “Man, I don’t know what to say. It’s wrong. Your notes are wrong “. He eventually came around and agreed, he was mistaken.

I’m not perfect either. I too make errors. Yet I hear my errors immediately and strive to improve. I point out my own errors and say “I screwed that up. Can we go again from 4 bars before the bridge”. Or whatever.

I am struggling a bit with someone who does not hear their errors and is resistant to coaching to fix them. Band drama. That’s my rant. Good night. I’m over it. I’ll try hard to keep my mouth shut or this band will come apart.
Man, I feel your pain.

In a similar way, my band had (or possibly still has -- he seems to keep worming his way back in despite my dislike of him) a drummer who frequently makes mistakes and/or plays the wrong thing for the songs (e.g. swinging when it should be straight eights, inserting Neil Peart/Stewart Copeland-like fills all over a country-rock ballad, speeding up all the time, etc.) yet ignores it or gets defensive any time constructive feedback is given to him. At a practice before the last gig we did with him, I gently pointed out that the way he kept swinging on songs with straight eighths (I don't know theory very well but think the drum pattern on "I Can't Get No Satisfaction") was making it hard for us to lock in with each other rhythmically, and he responded by mocking me and making fart noises.

He's the bandleader's bff, which has made it hard to definitively address these issues. Every time I've brought it up with him, I get a response like, "You have to understand, he's under a lot of stress at work" or "There's been a recent death in his family" or "But he's gifted, though, we aren't". Different excuses over 1.5 years.

Don't get me started on his non-musical faux pas, including making thinly veiled racial slurs towards me and then blaming it on the booze or his stress. But I digress...

I don't have any advice other than to say I sympathize with your situation. I'd suggest you cut the guy loose and try to make it as business-like as possible -- "Sorry, but it's really not coming together or working out for all of us" (I'm sure you can think of something more diplomatic to say than I) -- and hope that the friendship is strong enough to withstand a creative/artistic difference. Not always easy to do, since business, art, and friendship seem to become easily intertwined, sometimes more than we expect or hope to.
 

KeithDavies 100

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Man, I feel your pain.

In a similar way, my band had (or possibly still has -- he seems to keep worming his way back in despite my dislike of him) a drummer who frequently makes mistakes and/or plays the wrong thing for the songs (e.g. swinging when it should be straight eights, inserting Neil Peart/Stewart Copeland-like fills all over a country-rock ballad, speeding up all the time, etc.) yet ignores it or gets defensive any time constructive feedback is given to him. At a practice before the last gig we did with him, I gently pointed out that the way he kept swinging on songs with straight eighths (I don't know theory very well but think the drum pattern on "I Can't Get No Satisfaction") was making it hard for us to lock in with each other rhythmically, and he responded by mocking me and making fart noises.

He's the bandleader's bff, which has made it hard to definitively address these issues. Every time I've brought it up with him, I get a response like, "You have to understand, he's under a lot of stress at work" or "There's been a recent death in his family" or "But he's gifted, though, we aren't". Different excuses over 1.5 years.

Don't get me started on his non-musical faux pas, including making thinly veiled racial slurs towards me and then blaming it on the booze or his stress. But I digress...

I don't have any advice other than to say I sympathize with your situation. I'd suggest you cut the guy loose and try to make it as business-like as possible -- "Sorry, but it's really not coming together or working out for all of us" (I'm sure you can think of something more diplomatic to say than I) -- and hope that the friendship is strong enough to withstand a creative/artistic difference. Not always easy to do, since business, art, and friendship seem to become easily intertwined, sometimes more than we expect or hope to.
The racial slurs would take it across the line for me, even if he was great. Time to go.
 

Grandy

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My 12 year old bassist would disagree, but only with the notion that one hears the same boom boom no matter what he’s playing.

His view is that one string in a guitar chord (when not soloing) could be off but no one notices, whereas when he frets a note wrong it is standing out there on its own, in all its horrible glory. But, he plays in a 3 piece band, so there’s less hiding in the mix.

When he plays a wrong note in a practice session, if sticks with him for hours.
I agree with your kid, been there done that. Cannot fool around when playing bass. You get caught. With guitar it's easier to get away with c**p. Just saying, at a gig the audience may not hear it because of the terrible acoustics of the place.
 

Cpb2020

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I agree with your kid, been there done that. Cannot fool around when playing bass. You get caught. With guitar it's easier to get away with c**p. Just saying, at a gig the audience may not hear it because of the terrible acoustics of the place.
That’s true. Especially if the bassist isn’t going through a PA.
 

Harley Wycliff

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I’ve seen too many bands stall out and eventually die because an incompetent member is somehow still hanging onto his spot. One D-level player in a band makes that band a D-level band; the saying that a band is only as good as its worst player (or singer) really is true. Keith’s D-level bass player is probably a great guy and all that, but it sounds to me like he’s simply not a musician. He has neither the ears nor the capacity for self-assessment required to merit that title.

I’ve seen lots of bum “musicians” work the PR angle to such an extent that they’ll bond with everyone in the band and do everything they can to keep those bonds good and strong. I’ve seen some do it intentionally (and transparently-so), while others seem to have an instinct for it, like there’s some self-preservation gene they carry. In either case, that glues them into place long-term because no one wants to hurt the feelings of “such a nice man” or “such a nice woman” by firing the person. Well, that’s called emotional manipulation, where the person leverages (abuses, rather) the other band members’ false notions of fair play to keep his position.
 

keithb7

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Lots to agree with there @Harley Wycliff. A good band is firing on all cylinders. Members engaged with the audience. Listening to each other. Feeding off each other. Striving to be better. Practicing at home alone often. Not just at band rehearsal. Rehearsal is not the time to learning your parts.

My bass player did send me an apology last night. After checking his notes at home, he was assured he played the song incorrectly at our recent rehearsal. As mentioned, a decent person. A friend. The tough part is, his ear could not tell him every note he played was out 1 fret. This very example is what’s bothering me.

I have decided to use this recent example to try and talk to him privately. To ask him how would he prefer we address this. We can’t go out and play like this live. I will ask him if he agrees that his ear is not so good. Does he agree we should not be playing live like this. Would he rather I remain silent and let us play out like this? Or would he rather I point out that things aren’t right and we need to correct them? Would he rather I do that after rehearsal when the other band mates are gone?

If I was walking around in public with a piece of toilet paper hanging out of the waist of the a s s of my pants, I hope that a friend would tell me. To me, it’s the same thing. If you are happily gigging somewhat oblivious to sour notes, would you want someone to tell you?
 

ndcaster

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I have a friend who insists she's tone-deaf. She's not shy about admitting it and doesn't regret it, but I'm stubborn and have an irrational need to believe that everyone can love music. She says she's "amusical," and it doesn't bother her, and her own young son is kind of a savant when it comes to playing piano.

I've never tested her, but tone-deafness is testable, right?

You can play a note for your friend and ask him to match it. He may not be able to, and unlike my friend, is embarrassed about it.
 

Killing Floor

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Bass or other. What happens when you work to improve and someone else stays the same. Play with people at or near same level. And same level of commitment.
 




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