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Do bassists make the best sound engineers?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by twinjet, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. Agree

    26 vote(s)
  2. Disagree

    5 vote(s)
  1. twinjet

    twinjet Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Our role is to make everyone sound great. Naturally, this means we could wear the sound guy hat with ease.

    What do you think?
    Mertle72 likes this.
  2. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I think bass players who think are good candidates for sound engineers or stage managers. I know a couple or great players who don’t have the temperament... a good Sound guy has big (HUGE) ears and is quick to react to what they are hearing. Many bass players, particularly side men do as well. We are also used to listening intently to the low end. Meshing with kick and snare... my own style is getting that right in the PA and layering everything else on top most of the time.

    Those experiences give a subset of bass players a leg up for sure but... there is sooo much more to it. One of the best engineers I know is not a musician. He still has huge ears and has studied musical styles as a life long thing. He is a huge fan of music. He also brings in engineers to mix styles of music he isn’t a fan of... Sound world needs more guys like him...
    s0c9 likes this.
  3. Wissen


    Nov 11, 2007
    Central PA
    I have contemplated an answer to this very question that involved a recognition of the inherent qualities possessed by each subset of musicians:

    Every singer I've ever met who is worth his salt is also a me-first, arrogant b*stard. People become frontmen (and women) do so for the attention. They never know what the rest of the band is doing. Ergo, they would make terrible sound engineers.

    Guitarists also want the glory. They picked up the guitar because Clapton (or Mayer - face it, we're all getting old) is God, and they want to get chicks, too. They also generally don't care about what the rest of the band is doing, so terrible sound engineers.

    Drummers bang on things because they are loud, obnoxious people who like to make noise. Noisy people don't listen well. Terrible sound engineer.

    Keyboardists have spent years perfecting their craft, because playing the piano well is a tremendously difficult and time-consuming feat. As a result, they are either high maintenance or so hyper-focused that they don't hear the whole band. Not a good sound engineer.

    Horn players follow instructions, no matter how good or bad those instructions are. Such is the curse of learning music by reading it. Incapable of thinking on their feet - they even need detailed charts to map out their "improv" solos, which are never truly improvised. Lack of quick thinking and problem solving is not a good look for a sound engineer.

    Bassists, on the other hand, must sit in the mix and fit with every other member of the band. Our whole job is to listen and hear what's going on, and be in tune with the music at all times. Hence, great sound engineers.

    However, I never carried this line of thought to any sort of useful conclusion, because stereotypes do more harm than good.
    bassomane, grouse789, J_Bass and 6 others like this.
  4. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    Interesting observations, none-the-less...
  5. Wissen


    Nov 11, 2007
    Central PA
    And totally (mostly) tongue-in-cheek, which is why I felt safe posting this on TB rather than Reddit.
    JRA and twinjet like this.
  6. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    Makes sense to me. I thought that was likely the case...
  7. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i agree with Wissen , but am sad to learn that his comments were meant as tongue-in-cheek. so please read this post as being in agreement with his post, but seriously, not light-heartedly, in fact: militantly!


    actually: i've met and worked with studio and FOH cats who come from all backgrounds. good ones are experienced and probably a little older, i.e., not their first rodeo. bad ones...well, they're just bad.
    Wissen likes this.
  8. JPaulGeddy


    Sep 19, 2007
    South Carolina
    Definitely. I mean, it's not like we actually *do* anything, so we have nothing but time on stage to think about the sound. :D

    But seriously, yes, I do think there are some inherent advantages with a bass-playing background. Goes to record producers as well.
  9. JPaulGeddy


    Sep 19, 2007
    South Carolina
    If nothing else, who else comes anywhere *near* a bass player when thinking about compressors?
  10. Everyone's a good sound person, just ask any of 'em, so why not a bass player?
    Other than that, I don't think there is nessesarilly any correlation to be found between the two.

    Most of the sound people I've known have been almost as needy for attention as the ass-hats they mix for.
    But I've also known some quality, down to earth ones as well.

    I'd rather deal with someone who has gained some legitimate celebrity, because you can usually guess how it's going to go. I've known some sound guys who will go all Prina Donna on you whrn you least expect it.

    Let's just say that bass players and sound people are no more, or less, inclined to act any different than anyone else.
  11. I get the sense that many bassists are also the sound engineers for their bands, for whatever reason. I am also, for 3 simple reasons:
    We can't afford to hire one.
    There's no volunteers available.
    Apparently I'm the only one willing to do it.
    twinjet likes this.
  12. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I agree. Although there is often some basis in truth to generalizations, stereotypes tend to be damaging when we blindly use them for prejudgment, in part, because there are always exceptional people who do not match the archetype of our beliefs. For example, I have known bass players who were narcissistic wads and vocalists who would be perceived by most as "the salt of the earth."

    On average, I believe bassists are highly likely to serve as audio techs, and also highly likely to posses the necessary attributes needed for success in the role. But there are always exceptions who do not fit the archetype, so it could be a big mistake to blindly assume a bass player is a better audio tech than a vocalist. Far better to get to know the individuals and learn a bit about their experience, qualifications, priorities, and approach before making a decision.
  13. Speaking as a bass player and former professional AE, the answer is yes.
    Johnny Crab likes this.
  14. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Speaking as a bass player and former professional AE, I’m not going anywhere near this...:D
    Old Garage-Bander likes this.
  15. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I think of it the same way baseball catcher's are the most likely players to become manager. They face everyone, and their job is to control the game. The same way, a bassist is the glue between rhythm and melody, and they support all the musicians.
    Geri O likes this.
  16. I started as a guitar player, then went to recording engineer school which led me into starting my own (second job) small sound company. Then I started playing bass more than guitar, which I still do today. So I guess there is some corelation between playing bass and running sound.

    Thump on,

  17. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Playing bass and having mixing knowledge and chops are two Completely Different skill sets.

    To equate one with the other is a mistake.
  18. jshinal


    May 28, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    I like to play bass, I like to mix. I hate doing both at the same time.
    G Aichele likes this.
  19. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I didn't read through the thread, but yes. Just yes.

    Of the 10 best local sound guys in my area that I trust, 8 of them either are or were bass players. In fact a buddy and I were having this conversation the other day. I was trying to help him find a fill in bass player. We kept naming people and one of us would say "Nah, he's got a sound gig that weekend."
  20. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Can't really generalize that much ... but ... the bass player is usually THE guy in the band who is tuned in to what everyone else is doing. He's locked in with the drummer, compliments the rhythm guitar, gives the singer and lead guitar room and a solid foundation, all while doing his thing. Maybe some bass players just hear the mix better because they LISTEN.
    Geri O and G Aichele like this.

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