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Can a Bassist be a Troubadour?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by DBMcCully, Nov 13, 2019.

  1. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    IMO: Yes!

    I know I’m not even close to the only one whose thought about this, but I couldn’t find much in my own search so if there’s a pre-existing thread, I apologize. I’d just like to share my thoughts on it.

    People who play guitar, piano, or uke get all the glory; always busting their ability to sing and play out as party tricks and solo performances. Bassists, conversely, are often left out since 99% of the time we’re just the accompaniment. Even Sir Paul and Sting still have full bands backing them. I don’t think the bass gets enough recognition as a troubadour’s potential main instrument (especially since it’s 1,000x more interesting and a lot less cliche).

    So, I’ve started working on a way to compete with my chord-strumming friends around the campfire. The key, I’ve found, is to acquire a foot tambourine that I keep in my acoustic bass case. It helps “fill the air” where the percussive higher frequencies are missing. And this is my 12-Song set list that I plan to practice regularly so that I’m ready when the moment strikes:

    (Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay
    Ain’t No Sunshine
    Walk On The Wild Side (Edited )
    All I Wanna Do
    Blister In The Sun
    Road Trippin’
    (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66
    Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
    Smooth Operator

    Are there any other great songs for this purpose? Does anybody else do this, or have any advice?

    Happy singing and playing!
  2. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Come Together
    Seven Nation Army
    dirtychinchilla and dramatwist like this.
  3. I used to take my u-bass to the park on sunny days & TBH I sold it mainly because I could barely hear myself even over the tiny stream there or if people passed by who were talking.
    Bass is tough to do acoustically well, because the notes aren't perceived as loudly as guitar notes.
    Granted, the folks in FRONT of the instrument would be able to hear it better than the player can hear it, but I'm not sure if it makes that large of a difference.
  4. So nobody notices you when you play the bass, but your tambourine solos elevate you to trubadour status? Awesome! Lol.
  5. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    lolololol yes.

    Really though — strumming is a percussive action, and the piano is a percussion instrument entirely. If you aren’t a slap-player (which I’m not) you need a substitute for that element. The tambourine elevates the performance a bit.
    Fretless55 likes this.
  6. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    This is very true. I imagine a U-Bass would be near useless for this purpose, since it would be drowned out by your own voice even. It would certainly help to have a good size acoustic bass that projects well. I’ve found it works well for entertaining a small gathering (living room, porch, fire pit, etc.). That said, if you wanted to, you could use your electric and a microphone for larger, or more-formal settings.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  7. I tried larger ones with the same results. I was complaining about the u-bass' low volume at the Kala dealer & he pointed me to Ibanez's Parlor bass, which is a fair bit bigger:


    I sat there playing it for a bit & then a customer walked in & started asking questions, couldn't hear a thing from the instrument, so I put it back & haven't looked at acoustics since.
  8. I Saw Her Standing There, if you want to sing it solo.
    Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf version) by the Pixies
    Bad Bad Leroy Brown
    Ain't Got You (Jimmy Reed version, probably most accessible)
  9. The loudest ABG I ever played was a Tacoma Thunderchief, BTW. There are probably cheaper alternatives, though.
    REV and juancaminos like this.
  10. Wanker_Joe


    Sep 26, 2017
    Excellent! I do this all the time myself, but typically play songs where the bass is really front and center (i.e.: I do a lot of Primus covers). It works pretty damn well. Some good ones that always go over well for me (and sound great on my ABG around the campfire or at parties): Southbound Pachyderm, The Air Is Getting Slippery, Fisticuffs and American Life.
    HolmeBass and Engle like this.
  11. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    Yea. A lot of acoustic basses receive the same criticism. For full disclosure, I have a second-hand Emerald Balor acoustic bass. IMO, it projects well enough for this purpose. I’ve also been comfortable with it accompanying an acoustic guitar or two. I’ve also read good things about the Tacoma Thunderchief, and Warwick Alien. Though, there are a lot of differing opinions on this.
    Nev375 likes this.
  12. burgerdj


    Dec 4, 2006
    I saw Jeremy Toback (Brad) play solo strum bass and sing on the second stage of Lollapalooza back in the early 90s. It was mesmerizing. It was the first time I had heard “The Word Behind Words” and it’s still one of my favorites.
  13. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    Can a Bassist be a Troubadour?

    Sure. Just learn to play guitar, and you're all set.
    Atshen, flyingfinbar, Stumbo and 10 others like this.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Sure, adding a tambourine elevates your act a bit, but back when I was young, they knew one additional thing:

    Having a young attractive girl play the tambourine was even more effective in drawing a crowd to listen to the act. Of course, with here there, the bass player got ignored, but the act got more attention.
  15. aekisz


    Jul 4, 2006
    I've been writing songs for ABG with this in mind. Simple chords and double stops high up the neck mixed with more traditional bass lines. I also use a lot of open string drones to fill things in. What really helps is a vocal melody that contrasts and/or harmonizes with what the bass is playing.
    Bassaga and DBMcCully like this.
  16. higain617


    Sep 12, 2013
    Consider throwing a few kazoo leads in there.
    whero, zubrycky and DBMcCully like this.
  17. DBMcCully


    Mar 26, 2019
    Yes! I’ve been looking into rigging a Kazoo neck harness. It’s the next step for me. “Lady Madonna” would be dope with bass and kazoo.
    OtherLisa likes this.
  18. 210superair


    Sep 10, 2019
    I do a pretty mean Stand by Me on UB... But yeah guitar, piano, and uke are definitely easier to play a bunch of songs on.
  19. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Yes! I too can be annoying and beg for money.

    Truthfully, I used to run an upright/kazoo rig that got a lot of attention. Some of it positive. Sadly, the upright is now with someone who uses it a LOT more.
    Rabidhamster likes this.
  20. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    Any jazz standard with a walking bass line sounds great with just bass and vocals.
    mambo4, Fretless55, J_Bass and 3 others like this.

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