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better bass player vs. better overall musician???

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by georgestrings, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Let me give you a little background:

    I was a guitarist in bands for better than 15 years before I started playing bass... I mainly switched over because a good friend was a much better guitarist than I was, and I wanted to raise the caliber of band I was playing in - so, I started playing bass... I found that although I was only an average guitarist, I quickly became one of the better bassists in my area - so I got offers to play in some of the better bands in the area... OK, fast forward:

    Now, I've got better than 15 years experience as a bassist, but have continued to play guitar "on the side", and have improved my vocal capabilities, as well... I've also improved on my song writing abilities, but those seem to thrive the most when I'm getting atleast equal time with the guitar as well as bass... In my current band, I've obtained a very comfortable skill level with my bass, which has allowed me the time to play more guitar, and write more... In this same band, my guitarist is a very skilled player, but song writing isn't his strong point - sure, he can write some smokin' leads, and sometimes writes some riffs that either fit into one of my songs, or give me a basis to write something off of... I seem to have a better grasp of song structure, so I end up writing the majority of our melodies - and our singer comes up with the words...

    Which brings things to the point I'm currently at:

    I *could* concentrate mostly on my bass playing, and no doubt become a more skilled bassist - OR, I could maintain a certain level of proficiency with the bass, and split time between that - and playing guitar, writing songs our band will find sucess with, and last but not least, improve my vocal abilities... I'm leaning towards taking vocal lessons for the 1st time, actually... I'm thinking that I *might* become more sucessful as a musician by taking this 2nd approach - although if the dynamics of my current band change, that could change everything... Also, the singer and I do a little vocal/acoustic guitar thing sometimes(which I can also do a decent job of by myself on alot of stuff) - and that could also lead to something... I'm leaning pretty heavily in favor of the "overall musician thing" - and can probably be a better asset to my current band by going this way...

    Anyone else in(or have been in) a similar situation???

    - georgestrings
  2. As a former sales man I learned that people buy differences rather than similarities . It other words; there are loads of average bass and guitar players to choose from but few really good ones. Loads of avaerage gigs too.
    If you want the best gigs, be the best player.
  3. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I spend almost as much time playing guitar and keyboards as playing bass. Though I still consider myself first and foremost a bassist (and I still consider myself more skilled as a bassist than anything else), playing other instruments is essential to me; not only from a musical expression POV, but because it's just fun! It's also necessary, as I'm doing a solo project that is literally solo: I'm playing all the instruments with complete control over everything.

    And I have to admit that bassists like Geddy Lee, Sting, and John Paul Jones were an inspiration to me (musicians known for their bass playing, but are actually accomplished multi-instrumentalists.)

    I have found playing other instruments has helped me tremendously with my bass playing.
  4. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005

    Maybe I didn't express the main thrust of my post all that clearly - I didn't mean to infer that I was going to let my bass playing slip any - only that I am seriously considering maintaining the current level, and using any "leftover" energy towards becoming a more rounded musician... I don't mean this to sound like a brag, but even splitting time between bass playing, guitar, vocals, and writing, I'm still often told I'm one of the best bass players in my area - and I have the technical skills to play whatever I set my mind to playing... I'm thinking that I have the opportunity to be somewhat more valuable to my band than "just" being a bass player - and I don't mean that to sound like I'm downplaying the role of a bass player in a band setting in ANY way(my apologies if I'm coming across that way)... I find that as long as I play my bass several times a week, then play guitar and write the rest of the available time, that I don't seem to lose anything in my bass playing... My current band is pretty solid - and shows real potential of maybe making a mark - we haven't yet built enough of our own stuff to let it stand on it's own, but we're not compromising quality for the sake of playing all originals, either... Our covers are Sabbath, Metallica, Godsmack, Helmet, Tool, Pantera, etc - so none of the bass lines are "gimmes" - and I'm able to play all that stuff, no prob - and our originals show the influences of our cover list, without any blatant ripoffs... Another thing we've done is to take a few classic rock(and older) songs, and heavy them up a bit - yet, we can still soften them back up a bit, depending upon the venue... Sorry for rambling a bit - but I only recently starting thinking this way about my musical direction, and it's still weighing heavily on my mind.... I was just wondering if anyone else here is, or has been in a similar situation - and how it worked out????

    - georgestrings
  5. I would go with learning more instruments. Not just from saying it will help your band, but will help YOU alot more too. Learning how to play another instrument will help you learn your bass better. Certain fine motor skills may help you with your technique. And knowing how another instrument works and such will help you better understand how to play along with another person.

    Ive been learnin how to play acoustic guitar for a few months now and my bass playing has improved alot. It has helped me to play with other guitarists, helped me learn better where the notes on a fretboard are, and my songwriting abilities.

    Hope this helps

    Peace :bassist:
  6. I kind of had this conversation yesterday with my "son." He asked 'what makes a good bass player?' The best I could come up with was coming up with a part that defines the song, that may or may not be the focal point of the song, but the song would be lost without.

    I've played bass for around 25 years and guitar for around 20 years- I'm a hack at both- but in the bands I play with, I think I understand what role I'm fulfilling. I'm not trying to blind anyone with my amazing technical proficiency- I want to make a great song better.
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I don't know why it has to be an "either or" proposition. Why can't you write songs, learn a couple other instruments, AND work on your bass skills? I know there's only so many hours in the day, but if you want it bad enough, you'll find the time.
  8. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I'm with Jimmy on this one because that's the boat I'm in right now.

    I picked up the bass because I wanted to become a better drummer. The plan was to play for a bit and then put it down once I "got" what I was looking for. But I quickly fell in love with it and it's turned out that now I do both. I can't imagine not being a drummer or not being a bassist at this point. I'm just a musician. What I do on one instrument gives a great alternate viewpoint toward what is possible (and not recommended) on the other that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise, and keeping that balance between the two instruments helps me understand songcraft a whole lot more easily.

    In my next life I'm totally going flute/harmonica though. The "one man moving company" bit got old about ten years ago.
  9. I vote voice lessons and writing. I play bass, guitar, dobro and steel guitar. I think the bass has contributed most to knowing what is going on with a piece of music. While I'm not fond of many "spotlight seeking" vocalists, a good well-trained vocalist is a dream to work with and worth the spotlight that the lesser qualified ones seek. It sounds like your technique is pretty good at present and I would choose to round out your skill and understanding of the whole package.

    Next time around I'm choosing to play fiddle like Vassar Clements and sing like Lady Day.
  10. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    "Bragging around about technical skills is for those who can't write songs."

    Go with the overall thing. Seems to me you already are a decent player on both fields, why not take your musicianship one step further?
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Go for being the better musician. I find that all of my musical non-bass exploits (vocals class, guitar practice) has helped not only my overall musicianship, but in many ways, has had a direct positive influence on my bass playing.

    A few examples -- walking over changes gets a lot more fun and interesting sounding if you know creative guitar voicings for the chords. Also, alternative voicings also help finding different ways to walk between chords, thus leaving my lines more fresh :).

    Vocals class has improved my ear incredibly, so not only am I completely comfortable tuning without a tuner now (I used to be completely anal about using an electronic tuner at all times) but I've also started to transcribe bits of solos and my intonation has come miles both on DB and fretless, which is most easily seen in my bowing and TP soloing on DB and my right-hand tapping on fretless BG.

    General musicianship improvements over the last while due to multi-instrumentalism and taking vocals classes:
    1. Phrasing! This is a big one.
    2. Sense of pitch.
    3. Learning the lyrics (singing them) and playing the chords allows me to memorize tunes much faster than before.
    4. Sense of dynamics.

    Go for it!
  12. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Thanks for the input, everyone - it made me feel like I'm making the right decision by going with the "overall musician" thing... One thing I didn't want to do, is make it sound like I'm slighting the bass' role in a band setting - I think that:

    "a part that defines the song, that may or may not be the focal point of the song, but the song would be lost without."

    ...defines my viewpoint pretty well, also... I'm pretty sure that the main reason why I made a smooth transition from guitarist to bassist is that I always tried to play the bass the way the song needed it - and understood the bass' role in the scheme of things... This understanding has helped me quite a bit in learning key elements of song structure - and my experience with playing both instuments in working bands has helped my knowledge of what works - and doesn't - in a band context... I've also had the opportunity to run sound here and there, and am no stranger to the workings of a PA, and how to make it work for different sized(and shaped) venues... Don't get me wrong - I really enjoy playing bass - and recognize it's importance in ANY band... I also like that playing bass has allowed me the chance to play with a higher caliber of musician than I usually did as a guitarist - it's opened a few doors for me... I DO notice that I get "rusty" quicker on the guitar than I do the bass, if I don't spend time with it - and keep busy by playing classical, 6 string and 12 string, as well as electric guitar - and *could* see myself possibly playing guitar and doing alot of vocals in a 2 guitar band one day - if a good opportunity arose... I'm definetly taking a hard look at vocal lessons - my intonation could stand a bit of improvement...

    Thanks again for the input, everyone - and I hope I didn't come across as bragging, or being too self-centered - as that certainly wasn't my intention...

    - georgestrings

    PS - I got my 1st AEB last night, which led to an amazing acoustic jam with my singer, and guitarist - this is gonna get interesting....