Do you mess with the bass line?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by abarson, May 16, 2021.

  1. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    I'm not entirely sure where this goes, so Misc it is.
    Recently during band practice, we started playing a classic rock song that I have grown to despise. Maybe it was immature or passive-aggressive, but midway I got sick of it and threw a reggae bass line under it. The rest of the band raised their heads in almost whack-a-mole unison and furtively looked at each other to figure out what was happening. I was actually hoping they'd catch my drift but after a few go-rounds, I resorted back to the expected bass line. Afterward, the drummer came up to me and said "What was that? What happened to the song?" I could only laugh.

    Does anyone else mess with the norms like this?
  2. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Yep. I have done that.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  3. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Yep. If the bassist doesn't mess with the bass line, who will?
  4. alack


    Nov 20, 2000
    Yes and no! There’s never any passive aggressive revolt during a song I don’t enjoy playing. But over the years I’ve come to recognize I approach playing classic rock, soul, country, R&B etc. in much the same way I would a jazz standard in the Real Book. If the song has a signature bass line (examples: the intros to “My Girl” or “Dock of the Bay”) I’ll play them. But after that I’m playing over the chord changes. Note selection and rhythm are largely informed by what everyone else in the band is doing.
  5. dangevans


    Mar 26, 2014
    I will if I can, for fun, as long as it doesn't derail the tune or detract from a well-known prominent bass line. I tend to get really busy on Margaritaville... Some band members liked it, some didn't, so I made it super simple. Then they wanted it the other way again- less boring! :)
    mikewalker and zie like this.
  6. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Depends on the song. Some stuff you can mess with, on others the gas line IS the song.
  7. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Do I mess with the bass line? Yes (unless it's iconic and pivotal to the song as mentioned above). Do I mess with the bass line to passive aggressively show the band I don't like it? No.

    If the tune really bugs you, talk to the band about fooling with it and adding something different to make it more interesting. Also keep in mind the context. If you're in a cover band and the song fits either the band or the crowds you play to, then just play it, that context is not about personal taste. I play a ton of things I don't like (I die a little inside every time the BL starts Talk Dirty to Me :smug:) cause they're crowd favorites. I smile and play them while people dance and have fun... then I get handed money and go home :D
    ZedLepp, bassbooty, dougjwray and 4 others like this.
  8. bass12

    bass12 Blistering barnacles! Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    It depends entirely on the song and the context. With pop/rock/r&b, etc. the bass line is typically constructed in a very specific way as part of an arrangement. If only the bass player makes changes to the agreed upon arrangement then the song can easily take a turn for the worse. If everyone else in the band is listening and can flow with the changes made by one player then good things can happen.
    Jon McBass and zie like this.
  9. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    Best I've ever pulled off... We were a country band full of rock musicians. Played the gig I dreaded... a wedding.

    Half the crowd wanted us to play quieter so they could talk... the rest wanted to party. After playing everything from Friends in low places to the Tennessee waltz, the wedding party came up and asked us to play some rock.

    We all smiled and figured since the Bride and groom were paying the bills we decided to play Zeps rock and roll... we started with the drum solo and then he did a hard ritard and we commenced to doing Rock and Roll with hard core southern drawls at about 1/3 temp and three part harmony.... they flipped out and were throwing out yeehaws, and filling the dance floor....

    We ended out shifting gears mid song going back to the start and playing it legit.... to this day it was one of my favorite songs I'd ever done.
  10. chazolson

    chazolson Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2013
    Reston, VA
    Honestly, don't you at least sometimes think, "the bassline the bass player on the recording is playing is boring" and change it up somehow? I mean, I don't deviate far from Chuck Rainey or Pino, but ...
    dBChad, retslock, Engle and 2 others like this.
  11. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Yes. I don’t mean sabotage, I mean steer it in a different direction. I am guessing the issue here is the others didn’t expect it. I’d probably say I want to modify it a little and see if it get buy-in. I do it with lyrics if the gig turns into a party. Like singing the words for “Light my Fire” while playing Jimi’s “Fire”. But they know it’s coming.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  12. You know what they say, if it ain't broke - break it.
    L Anthony, dBChad, tgriley62 and 5 others like this.
  13. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Just to be clear, I never would have done this live. I’ve no interest in embarrassing public derails, no matter my dislike of the song.
    But practice...? Hey!
    lbbc likes this.
  14. BassFishingInAmerica


    Jul 24, 2014
    Just change it to something similar that you would rather be playing.
    I slowed down the bass line to 25 or 6 to 4.
    Now we’re playing Brain Stew.
    Plectrum72 likes this.
  15. Dincrest

    Dincrest Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Like others...

    Do I mess with bass lines? All the flippin' time. It's boring to always color inside the lines. However, I will say that "for the next go-around, I'm going to try such-and-such and see what happens" during rehearsal.

    Do I mess with bass lines passive-aggressively? Nope. If I intentionally muss with a bassline out of pettiness or spite, I do so blatantly.
    BLDavis likes this.
  16. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I've never played a bassline as recorded. I figure they did it their way I can do it my way. Each time is a bit different. I may copy signature parts but never the whole line. Never had a complaint about it but that may indicate only that people don't listen to bass very closely.

    Once I had to punch in a clam the engineer caught during a recording session but it was a beaut and easily caught. Had a good laugh about that one.
    Steadfast, Bass Man Dan and blue4 like this.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Respect your band mates and the music. If you don't want to play the song, man up and tell them you don't play it. You're right about one thing - it is immature.
    dougjwray likes this.
  18. bobba66


    May 18, 2006
    Arlington, Texas
    The bass line messes with me.:woot:
    Reedt2000 and Bassaga like this.
  19. Rip Van Dan

    Rip Van Dan DNA Endorsing Artist Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Duvall, WA
    Not like that no....although I absolutely will embellish lines.
    Blueinred likes this.
  20. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    What I often find enlightening is finding live versions. Playing Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" as recorded is about as boring as it gets, but live, McVie gets his jollies on in the closing section of the tune. So now I do, too.:D
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