Do we Bass Players have it too easy?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Blackbird, Sep 15, 2001.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    When I look at music scores and charts for other instruments, like violin, trumpet or piano, it occurs to me that the people who learn those instruments have to practice and play lines that on average are more challenging than the average bassline in terms of range and rhythm.

    In your opinion, how important is it to have musicianship equal to the people who play instruments similar to the ones I mentioned, how many of you put in the effort to be equal to the others and how do you do it?
  2. BASSdaddy16

    BASSdaddy16 Guest

    Jun 28, 2001
    mianus, alaska
    i see what you mean i've noticed that and what i do to make the bass equal or stand out(i guess you could say) in the mix is add techniques such as slapping poppin and triplets etc. whatever i can do. another thing i do to get better is just think of the hardest things and challenge myself to get better. if this doesnt make sense sorry it's kinda hard to explain.
  3. Herm

    Herm Guest

    In my opinion, you can get by playing bass quite well without the musicianship needed to master those other instruments you mentioned.

    However, to be a truly great bass player, having that level of musicianship is truly instrumental. (pun intended). - And that requires a lot of work and discipline.
  4. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Portland, OR
    Short answer, yes

    long answer, no
  5. melvin

    melvin Guest

    Apr 28, 2001
    I agree with you Big Wheel. Everytime I get to play bass in band the bass music is a lot less challenging than that of my trumpet or trombone music. That really bugs me.

    But on the other hand you hear that bass players need to know the most theory so they can thicken up the rythem section, so in that case it sorta cancels out the simplicity of the bass line, by letting the bassist improvise more.
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000

    But then, aren't you using technique to "compensate" for something you perceive is missing? Also, how does the "play the hardset thing I can" mentality help? isn't this and "making the bass stand out" (when your prime concern is making the group sound good) contrary to good musicianship?

    Not trying to criticize, your playing I just think these are valid questions.

    It's the difference between playing bass and playing music.
  7. To easy hmm... We write most of the songs, we're the back bone of the band, we suffer more then any other musician, we get very little credit, we often know whats going on with the band, and so on... I at least don't have it easy.
  8. MJB

    MJB Guest

    Mar 17, 2000
    I'm very impressed with anyone who sight reads for piano. Simultaneous Bass and Treble Clef staffs, I don't think I could do it.
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Hmmm, I dunno.
    I always thought the horn players(trumpets, sax, trombones)had it "easier" than bassists. You know, they'll play the head(sometimes together)& then they'll stand there holdin' their ax, awaiting their turn, while the other guy solos. ;)
    Meanwhile, the bassist & drummer are goin' non-stop. I mean, even a basic, simple figure like "All Blues", PC played that for what, 10-11 minutes?! Ouch.

    Seriously, I do recall a time when the electric bass player was 'usually' the lamest one in the band. Been there, done that.
    FME, horn players usually have extraordinary ears(too, too often us bassists/guitarist types rely on our eyes...), piano players usually have decent reading skills + BIG ears(though I abhor the ones that insist on pounding out the ROOT with their left hand), drummers are usually rhythm gurus.
    Now, IMO, us bassists have gotta be able to fit in with the aforementioned players, right?
    Therefore, we should always be re-inventing ourselves & have OPEN ears & listen. Granted, we may only have to play a rudimentary Root-5 part ad's HOW you play those notes(long/short tones, ahead/on/behind the beat, using dynamics, etc).
    Listening to Dave Holland 5-tet(check out Prime Directive) & Jaco...these are the sorta players that transcend their chosen instruments. Yeah, they're bassists to the nth power, they're also musicains FIRST. That's what I'm tryin' to attain(I guess) a "musician" & maybe the rest will follow.

    One good thing I've noticed about bassists-
    A lot seem quite able to play in a variety of genres(Rock-Funk-Blues-Jazz-Soul-Reggae-Afro Cuban, etc) & that's a good thing.
  10. amebassplaya

    amebassplaya Guest

    Aug 24, 2000
    Maryland, USA
    I play both, Violin and bass guitar. (Both made of wood with strings on 'em).

    In thinking about this issue, yes, sometimes violin parts can be 'busy', not challenging, just busy. Lots of notes played all over the fret board, but usually there are so many other violinist playing that flubbing a note here or here doesn't really hurt (It gets drowned out by whatever is going on).

    As the bass player, however, I'm all alone. Holding down the chord structure of a song, responsible for knowing it even if everyone else is lost. That's nerve racking !!!

    Six in one half, half dozen in the other for me. I can play lines on the violin very fast, but it is a smaller instrument, shorter intervals, etc. The bass has more forcefullness, and I feel more control of the song.

  11. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    The bass is as challenging as you want it to be. Some bass players are happy to be where they are - some want to excel in their choice of instrument. It's similar with drummers - they get a bad rep because some people think it's easy - but it's as easy as you want to make it.
  12. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I think it all depends on the style of music being played and as to how easy bass players may have it. If your playing 80's rock stuff, the bass lines were predominatly ride the root thru the entire song. thus the bassist has it easy, if its a jazz genre your playing, the bass lines are more complex. thus the bassist has it a bit harder. (these are just a couple of examples as we all know there are many different styles of music, but i think you can see the point im trying to make)

    if your in an original band/project, then its as hard or easy of a job, as you want the particular song line to be.
  13. To be a bassplayer in a successful rock band, you need the look, the luck, and the ability to play 1/8th notes on the root in time. To be a respected bassist in the world of jazz, you need to be as competent as any other musician. You need to know the same theory, the same harmonies and have a similar ability to sight-read. Is this as hard and as long as learning to play the saxophone? Undoubtedly.
  14. People always say bass is an easy instrument to play.. once they've tried it, they change their oppinion.

    bassline is NOT easier than lead.. a bassplayer has to have the ability to blend in perfectly with the guitar AND the drums. that is not an easy task.

    ok.. everybody can do " dum dum dum dum " on a bass.. but to do it in perfect equilibrium with the drummer, is not easy, specially if the rythm has multiple speeds. and that goes double if the bassist is slapping.

    A decent slap requires quite some skills !
  15. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    i found bass easier than guitar and piano easier than bass. i used to play trumpet nad i thought that it was quite easy too. same thing for percussions such as congas. for me violin, cello and bowed instruments are really hard to play. i think that drums are hard to play too.
  16. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    I think that all instruments are fundementally the same. It's not what notes you play, it's how you play the notes. In the end the thing that matters is what you put into it. Only that determines the difficulty of your scores.

    So bass players as a whole don't. Just people that put it into cruise control and don't try to excel.
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Did someone post somewhere that bassplaying is the only musical instrument that involves both sides of the brain, besides singing?

    To be a guy who holds a bass and pumps out 8th notes, that is not hard at all.

    To be a compentent bass player, with a good feel for harmony and melody, and a good ear to keep up with unknown changes, takes a great deal of talent and skill.

    To be a great musician who transcends bass, such as Jaco or Mingus(or debatably MM) requires as much facility and talent as any other instrument, IMHO.
  18. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Agreed. When you said debatably MM, you must mean Michael Manring? or Marcus Miller? (I'm sure it's not Mickey Mouse). ;)
  19. No, no, no, no !!
    you got it all wrong !

    MM is Mr. Methane ( ), the man who farts more often than breathes. :)
  20. I play bass, flute, acoustic guitar and piano, and all represent different challenges.

    I think the piano is hardest to play well. It takes more concentration to read music as you have two clefs to contend with and your hands can be working quite independently. It takes more time to become competent as a pianist.

    With the bass guitar, you could perform when you are only able to play a few root notes, whereas with most instruments you’d need to be more competent

    The bass is often considered easy as it only has 4 strings and usually you only play one at a time. Because these are thick, heavy strings, when people try it, it often comes as something of a surprise. The challenge is keeping the rhythm, locking in with the drummer and supporting the rest of the band. Also, not overplaying. Too many notes and you can lose the feel of the song. (Well of course this also depends on the type of music you’re playing)

    The flute is probably easiest of the instruments I play, again it’s one note at a time, - but still you have to play regularly to maintain a good muscle in your lip for good tone, and keep your fingers nimble.

    I tend to play the bass by ear and use sheet music for the flute and piano. I find it easiest to learn pieces for the bass.

    In truth I think bass players can get away with not knowing a lot about music, but have to be able to ‘feel’ and play the right rhythm.

    P.S I still feel I do not know a lot about music!