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Bass Roles and Approaches

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by TwentyHz, Dec 24, 2012.

  1. Seems that many threads include commentary on what might be called 'Bass Roles and Approaches'. I think I've seen it happen under Technique, Artists, Effects, Band Management, Humor / Gig Tales, General Instruction, and elsewhere.

    So, maybe it deserves its own thread.

    Without a specific question in mind, I can kick it off by saying that sometimes I feel like I'm trying to ride the drummer's groove like a bull while trying to refer to my guitarist's phrasing and scales without imitating them. Sometimes it feels like a process of stitching their stuff together.
  2. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    I've always tried to approach my bass playing as the bridge between the rhythm section (ie: drums, percussion, etc.) and the melodies (ie: vocals, guitars, keys, etc.) On those rare occasions where I'm actually doing it right, I feel like I'm creating melodic voice to the rhythm line and rhythmic voice to the melody line. But those are pretty rare occasions so usually I just lock down the grove and watch the hot chicks shake it for me. :D
  3. tmdazed


    Sep 29, 2012
    i kinda hybrid in my style, we played as a trio for quite a while , i got used to picking up a second guitar part , now we have three guitar players , some songs i will hit a pocket with the drummer , other songs i will play lead bass , kinda cool sounding really and the gui****s dont say anything about it , seems to be a crowd pleaser as well
  4. rapidfirerob

    rapidfirerob Fusion rules!

    I'm in the busy bassist category, which is why I play, in part, in an Allman Bros. tribute band. I try to push the band as much as possible, that includes everyone in the band. That's what Berry did. Sometimes we have two drummers which is like playing with a freight train. I like to play lots of fills, obviously. I can play simple bass lines when the song calls for it. I had a fusion band for awhile too.
  5. Slade N

    Slade N sunn #91 AZ Bands #?

    May 28, 2005
    portland, or
    i think/feel the approach should fit the band/music/genre/style/mood/song ...ive played mostly in trios and had to cover more ground/play busier ...all except one..they wanted simple so simple it was. im in variety band now, currently 4 piece but has been/might be a 5 piece at times so it depends on the song ....some i play REALLY simple others Im busy.

    and still im always reaching for the right balance of pushing the envelope and pulling it back cause in the end the right extra something can make it extra right on, too much spoils it...some days i do better than others

    the one thing ive noticed across many bands and many players including myself is that those who put the energy into it...the song...made it come alive more than any part, fill or tone ever did
  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    You put it perfectly for me already. I do a lot of fill-in gigs these days. So my approach is three pronged.

    1. Get through the song. I probably got the set list 48 hours ago and never met the band until four hours ago. So I won't know every song note for note.

    2. Lock in with the drummer. Sometimes its easier than others.

    3. Tie the drummer to the guitar player (whether he likes it or not). Sometimes guitar players and drummers think they have nothing in common. So I have to bridge the gap between them. It's a fun challenge to me. If I can get a drummer to say "Man, you locked in good" and a guitar player to say "Man, it's nice to play with a bass player who understands guitar" in the same night, my work is done.
  7. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    Growing up in the classical idiom, it was pretty cut and dry in terms of your role as a bassist. When I got to jazz, that really opened up more. My teacher instilled the role as the "harmonic and rhythmic liaison" between the rhythm section and the horn players. Depending on the gig, that role can be simple or extremely hard.
  8. My approach is a bit different. I see a band as a sandwich. Bass & drums are the bread. Good bread = a good base, but on it's own, pretty bland. The vocals are the filling, rhythm guitar is the butter/spread and lead guitar is salt & pepper, unless it's an instrumental, in which case, the lead is the filling. Everything else is spices. :D
  9. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    The rhythm section is the single most important part of any band IMO.

    If the singer forgets a lyric, or if the guitar hits a sour note, people are like "Ha Ha! The guitar player just messed up!"

    If the drummer drops the beat, or the bass plays a big fat clam it's more like "I feel a great disturbance in the force......."
  10. belzebass


    Feb 21, 2012
    For me it's like a sandwich, too:

    Drums are the bread: whatever the sadwich its always there, and pretty much the same in all sandwiches
    Vocals are the meat: That's the main thing in sandwich, it determines if it chiken or ham bumblebee sadwich
    Guitar is the sauce: It gives good taste, it gives the spice, just don't make it spill all over, eas to do too much

    Bass is like salad: No taste or almost, few people like it, but somehow it's always put in, mostly for the sake of tradition, I guess.

  11. Alexander

    Alexander Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I don't have flashy chops, that's for sure - to me, foundational or supportive are the descriptors I go for. I try to get huge tone, good timing\feel and play whatever the tune requires. Most often, that is REALLY simple - root-5, walking basslines, steady 8th notes, occasional doubling of a guitar riff, adding some color through walk-ups and passing tones. Occasionally, a song requires a real jam on the bass and I try to hold it all together while letting it rip - but I have a long way to go on that.

    Simple and foundational is the way for me - let the vocals tell their story and let the guitars do the flashy stuff...
  12. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    Glue ,,,,, just melodic glue :bassist:
  13. My favorite style is the Chris Squire role; delivering very melodic lines, often either in counterpoint with the keys/guitar or making a different line of his own, accommodating the harmony and rhythm. His style is much like Bach's left hand. The best example of this is 'South Side of the Sky' or 'Yours is no Disgrace'
  14. I play in a pop-rock trio (think John Mayer / Dave Matthews), and I guess my main goal in that band is to make the music "bump." Our singer/guitarist writes excellent songs, and harmonically, his guitar parts are very rich and full, and the songs would sound great with just his acoustic. So I feel like when we add drums to the mix, my bass is mainly there to hold the drums and the guitar together like a tight rubber band.

    Occasionally I'll play a counter-melody line, and our band is such that I sometimes have the freedom to drop out of a song entirely. But mostly I try to play bouncy basslines that help our audience *feel* the song.

    The first time I checked out Talkbass, I read a comment from someone that said "People always pay attention to the singer and the guitarist, but they have no idea it was the bassist that got their butts shaking on the dance floor." It's goofy, but there's a lot of truth there, and I try to remember that at every show: my job is to shake butts.