What I Learnt in 2021 About… (bass - the playing of)

mexicanyella

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true in my experience

southerners have a saying: "if mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy"

same goes for bass: "if the bass is wrong, ain't NOTHING right"

the "less is more" applies to when the bass player physically lifts the note off the fretboard

the on/off of the note is utterly crucial to swing, funk, rock, and everything else

sweat the timing of the "off" and you can for example "isolate the snare," make it pop, and make everybody heppy

Troot! Well said. Having control of a note duration with impact at the beginning and end is a huge thing. In addition to isolating the snare—which I’d never thought of in those terms but it’s absolutely right—you can also lend a lot of heft to kick drum hits, make them last with some sustain instead of just be a beater slap...or isolate them for dynamics and a different kind of impact. The feeling of when you start to get a handle on controlling those note durations and making them work for you...it’s incredible when you get it right and feel what a visceral impact a well-played seemingly simple part can have.

I opened my big mouth and said I had a Bass at home when bringing a back guitar I'd modded for a friend to his band practice..

sounded good, guys played well.. I asked where the bass player was, they rolled their eyes and said he'd left the band recently and that their keyboard player is going off to join a touring pro band...( I think he was playing bass as well)

Oh, I've got a bass at home, but never play it.... Well go and get it, you're in the band...

Ooopps..... so, I did... got the bass, plugged into the PA and stood there with guitar and drums and fudged bass off the guitarists song/chord book and watching his hands for 3 hours....

then you realise.. hey! I know how the bass line goes in this cover song, heard it hundreds of times...just didn't know the notes/chords..

Originals, I asked how the previous guy made it feel... they said, make up new ones that work.. which I did over time..
that was the best part, making up my own bass lines that had the lads smiling and building off.... and finding out my timing was like clockwork....they commented on that too... every session I got good comments/feedback..

I felt more useful in a band with Bass, than I ever felt on guitar.... :)

Man, that is me, right down to the ground. I used to play guitar in a band where my job was to add some texture and interest to an acoustic guy’s strummed barre chord stuff, and having all that freedom to try stuff was fun. But later on when I started playing bass with some guys, having the freedom to be rhythmic and simple, syncopated or straight, or melodic, or all of the above, that was pretty great.

Also it’s fun to be able to vibrate stuff off your guitarist’s basement shelves when you want to:

“Yeah, I think I’ll pull out the port plugs tonight...it’s time that vase got acquainted with the floor.”
 

trev333

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One song we did that did had me coming in on a big D note on the one....

one day the drummer told me that every time we did song , the note would do something to his snare and his kit... it must have been tuned to D ?....

so I worked it out with him to give him that space and I'd just slide in late or miss a beat....

the next time we did it... it worked great and he shot me a big grin....:D

I used to be a side drummer as a kid, marching in parades.... playing bass was like coming home, I can keep a steady beat for miles....;)
 

bumnote

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Sometimes I love playing bass and learning to play it not like a guitar player...
Sometimes I hate playing bass because when you're not playing it like a guitar player it's #*[email protected]% hard.
I got on a Beatles kick like a lot of people in November...pulled out the bass and was having a fun time with "While My Guitar..." , "Oh Darling", "Lucy..", "Come Together".
Then I went to tackle "Something"....humbling to say the least.
 

Coffeemutt

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It has such power, both physically and psychologically. It’s like a magic wand - ‘Move your hips, I command thee…’*

I saw The Cinematics (a Scottish band, opening for The Bravery) at The Exit/Inn in Nashville back in 2008(?). The bass player was really grooving on his P-Bass all night, swaying his hips and looking to be having a great time.

I ran into him the bathroom after the set, where I remarked "That was a great set! It looked like you were making sweet love to that Fender." His reply, with a broad smile: "Well, that's the idea, innit?"

He wasn't wrong...
 

mexicanyella

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It sounds pretty mundane but when I started jamming with some guys on bass, I got pretty excited when I felt my endurance and accuracy getting better at hammering out steady fingerstyle eighth notes at fast tempos. Pretty tame bassline material from some perspectives but when you can do it comfortably enough to push a little bit and drop the notes in consistently relative to the drums and the song’s pulse, you really feel yourself adding energy to the feel, or in some cases establishing the whole feel.
 

mexicanyella

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Also, it seems like since I’ve been playing bass I get more interesting remarks relating to what I’m doing than I ever did in my guitar years.

Examples: when I first got my current bass cab, which is a tight little unit and above my pay grade, I took it to practice and we didn’t even make it though the first song before the drummer yelled out: “Man, that little thing’s got some ass on it!”

Some time later, when I started using a cleaner preamp tone and a 750-watt power amp instead of the 210-watt one I’d been using, after a practice one night the guitarist’s wife yelled down the stairs: “I don’t know what Ben’s doing different, but keep it up! Now I can feel the bass, and hear the guitar!”
 

NTC

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Q: What's the difference between playing the guitar and playing the bass in a band?

A: When playing the bass you can't make any mistakes.

Hmm. I always like being the bass player because most of my mistakes are not audible to the average person (most people).

I have never played guitar in a band, just bass.
 

elihu

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Hmm. I always like being the bass player because most of my mistakes are not audible to the average person (most people).

I have never played guitar in a band, just bass.

Just my experience but when I play a wrong note on the bass it destroys the groove. When I play a wrong note on the guitar it’s jazz.
 

TokyoPortrait

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Hi.

When playing the bass you can't make any mistakes.

I always like being the bass player because most of my mistakes are not audible to the average person (most people).

Just my experience but when I play a wrong note on the bass it destroys the groove. When I play a wrong note on the guitar it’s jazz.

Interesting. I was thinking about this after the fist two responses above by @elihu and @NTC and I think it depends. On the song and on the person.

Re the song; some songs / compositions / arrangements really need the bass to be exact. I'm sure we can all think of examples where the bass line is integral to the song. Mess that up and it would be a train wreck. But for the majority, I don't think this is so much the case. As long as you are keeping time / the rhythm / the groove, I don't think anyone notices unless they are real clangers.

This led me to wonder, maybe the chances of hitting a bum note are relatively slim? There are plenty of chords that look like, I dunno, C11 or GMaj7 (or even GMaj9(add6), Dm7(9,11), etc). And, there are only 12 notes. So, maybe, statistically you are more likely to imply an embellishment, extension, altered chord, etc. than a clanger when you miss? As long as you haven't broken the groove, probably no one would notice (which relates to the second @elihu quote above).

On the other hand, mechanically/ physically, I would guess you are more likely to hit a note next door, and that seldom helps.

At our last practice, in one song, I temporarily just got my position wrong, but I was keeping the groove and no one noticed at all, other than me. And in another song we are learning, I had miss-figured one descending chord bit where I just hit the roots (I kept descending though), but what I played worked anyway (sonically - it did fit the song's feeling better when I went back and just pounded out the roots).

In none of these cases was I thrown, groove wise, so it was all good. And that I guess, is where it comes down to the person. I'm not saying I'm all that good mind, these are very simple songs and for others I might well crumble. In fact, when I do, I stop and pass it of as 'laying out...' :rolleyes:

Pax/
Dean
 
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