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Dealing with a bass player who plays like a guitarist

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BeastSternecker, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. BeastSternecker


    Aug 5, 2013
    I play various instruments on my church's music team and I have most recently been playing piano the most. ( not great for me because I know I'm a bassist through and through, but I'll fill any role.)

    Unfortunately, a problem has risen and it needs to be taken care of, but I don't know how to say it.

    The bass player who plays when I play lead keys isn't much of a bass player. He has been playing for some time now, but he doesn't understand the instrument. He is a guitarist at heart. (Not that he actually plays guitar, but he plays like a guitarist.)

    He plays in the upper registers of the bass. And when I say upper registers, I mean he'll play parts of his lines past the twelfth fret on the d and g string. And he isn't using those string for fills. He's actually playing "bass" lines on them.

    Whenever I look back at him and ask him to play lower, he disregards the suggestion. Actually now that I think of it, he plays a five string and I've never seen him use the fifth string and I mean never.

    I've had to start compensating for the lack of bass lines on the piano. I've become the bass.

    The question is, how do I approach the situation with out him getting mad at me? (He is a close friend which makes it hard)
  2. I have a feeling this should be in misc. or band management, not OT. But as an honest suggestion, you should be upfront with him and tell him outright what your concerns are.
  3. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
    I play in a group with a drumset, a synth, about 15 mallet percussion instruments, and some various other percussion instruments (bass drum, gong, cymbals, etc.). During our warm-ups, the guitarist (a really good friend) loves to noodle solos over it, and I often times become a rhythm guitar. I find this role fun, but he always makes fun of me for being "such a guitar player". It gets on my nerves, but its all in good fun. Sometimes we even switch instruments during warmup, just to keep the flavor in the ensemble different. When this happens, he does exactly what you describe, playing bass lines in higher octaves, kinda out of time, and not really paying much attention to the drummer. It got to the point where the instructor literally told us to stop switching, because we were disrupting the ensemble's sonic balance. I agreed, but the guitarist didn't understand. Sometimes its nice to be appreciated as a root-rocker :bassist:
  4. BeastSternecker


    Aug 5, 2013

    First of all, that band sounds awesome! If you have any YouTube clips or something, I'd love to listen!

    I feel like it really messed with the band. The whole group suffers from the timing to the over feel. It feels extremely empty.
  5. BeastSternecker


    Aug 5, 2013
    Sorry about that! I should have put it elsewhere.

    I'll try being honest and see how it goes! He's a bit headstrong sometimes..
  6. +1

    I've been known to play a little too much bass "lead", and rhythm with many 2-note chords back in my band days, but that was in a 3 piece band - not in a church setting.

    Have a nice friendly talk with him, and discuss the role of bass players - or send him here OP. :)
  7. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Since you're playing keys, I have to ask... are you playing the bass part with your left hand? That could be part of the problem if it's happening. I've had to tell pianists: "Play like you're wearing handcuffs."
  8. Ask him to learn the songs note for note like the original recordings.
  9. BeastSternecker


    Aug 5, 2013
    Well originally, I had played normal voicing of chords. The bass playing had been the same ever since. I then moved down after realizing the group had no low end (or finally accepting the bassist wasn't ever going to help). That's when I started playing lower on the left.
  10. BeastSternecker


    Aug 5, 2013
    That's a great idea!! I'll give it a go when we learn out next tune!
  11. I wonder if he refuses to suck up building his left shoulder strength through use.
  12. So im not the only one facing this problem huh with a few differences?

    Get aggressive a bit. It's about time these types of people need to humbling and submit to someone more skilled at the instrument. Goes for all instruments. I don't hate them at all; I hate their attitude and arrogance that is poisonous to a church worship team.

    If they still continued to disregard you, take it up with your worship pastor. They will have more than enough authority to tell the "bassist" what he's doing wrong.

  13. Maybe his action is way high, making fretting regular notes a whole lot of work.
  14. foundation


    Jul 24, 2010
    Perhaps he is playing a 35"+ scale bass and doesn't have the ability to stretch his hand to play the notes further down the neck. That makes it much easier to play in the upper register. And unless he has a nice quality bass the low B could have nasty intonation or tone problems up there. Perhaps he is using thick gauge steel strings and doesn't have the callouses or conditioning to play the thicker strings? Why not just ask him in an open way. If he doesn't feel criticized, he may not get defensive. Good luck
  15. rust_preacher


    Dec 17, 2009
    Maybe his amplification is lacking and he can't hear himself if he plays lower?
  16. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    Tell him very simply that you need him to approach his parts more like a bass player would. Period.
  17. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    I don't understand 'church music team' culture at all as church music is far more traditional over here. However, does the church not aim to fulfill a duty of pastoral care to all the congregation? If so, it isn't about the best musicians as much as those that are rewarded the most from the experience spiritually, to know they are playing a valued part in church life and strengthening their faith. If OP is filling in the bass on keys, and the 'gui**** bassist' is enjoying the experience of playing with other musicians, surely this is a better attitude to adopt than simply throwing the Big Book Of Duck Dunn Basslines at them and expecting them to stay below the 12th fret. Peter Hook, Chris Squire and Lemmy all have fairly unconventional technique and played in bands that worked around this. Just a thought.
  18. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    There's a point in this, but at the same time, playing on a worship team means setting the tone for the congregation to worship, not getting your personal mojo on. Which can boil down to asking, as with any style of music, is what he's doing serving the song? If it is, leave him be; if it's not, the music leader (not clear to me if the OP has this role or not) needs to address it.

    I recently started playing on my church worship team. For a lot of the contemporary music, I don't get a recording or sheet music to learn an "original" bass line from, I get a lyric sheet and chord progression, usually just a few days before Sunday, and it's up to me to make up my own thing. It's really tempting, under those circumstances, to either just sit on roots and contribute nothing to the song the pianist couldn't do, or to stretch out and go nuts and make myself a distraction to the congregation. It's been a good exercise in training my sense of musicality.
  19. 5stringthumpin

    5stringthumpin Supporting Member

    Aug 4, 2009
    Lacey, NJ
    I understand your pain man, I'm dealing with it in a different way...

    I'm in a cover band in Jersey and my lead guitarist is a lead guitarist...and THEN some. although he claims to be trained in multiple styles requiring restraint and use of space, his style on stage is anything but. He solos wildly, even on songs that don't require it. Alot of times I ask him to please solo note for note depending on what we're covering and instead he plays out of control, playing every note he can as fast as he can because he thinks it's impressive. He even has a few guitars where the fretboards light up, center of attention stuff...he convinced me to buy a beautiful Warwick wth a light up neck, and I just wound up selling it here, whole light up thing just isn't me. 2 problems...one, drunk bar patrons eat that hair metal crap up, so he has no reason to change. Two, outside of his musicianship, he really is a hell of a guy with a huge heart.

    So what to do? His playing is a problem, but I don't want to offend him. Here's the thing. Pals are pals that's for sure. But one of my favorite sayings is, it's called the music BUSINESS, not music FRIENDS. I love the guy but recently have stopped pulling punches and telling him like it is. So far he's taking it ok. Bands are great ways to spend time with friends no matter what the venue, but a band is a situation where everyone has a specific job to complete. If they're not holding up they're end of the bargain, the whole thing falls apart.

    All of that being said, sorry if I offend anyone here, but a bass player that doesn't know his job is USELESS. It's fun to be Victor Wooten or Marcus Miller or Jaco who whomever once in a while, but unless your band calls for it, your job as a bass player is to hold down the bottom end, no matter what you think or what instrument you came from. You want to slip a lick in once in a while, no problem. But when you stop doing your job, you kill the vibe of the entire group.
  20. BeastSternecker


    Aug 5, 2013
    That's the main problem. He lacks musicality, but thinks he has it mastered in regards to his years playing. It's nothing about the amp or rig. I've had to play his bass at services and it plays very nice. (We also use the same amp)

    I think having him learn his part to the song might be the golden ticket.