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Do you think bassists should have basic piano skills?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by dhadleyray, Jul 30, 2005.

  1. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    I think that it's important to "see" the harmony as well as hear it. I would be appreciative if the TB'ers that play Double bass or Electric bass would give their input.
    I've noticed from my own experiences, that now, when I'm playing jazz especially, I'm more cognizant of the chords. It seems to speed up the learning process. I'm aware that Jaco played piano, and I've seen Gerald Veasley in the studio with me lay down a guide piano track. I'm aware that Jack Dejohnette is a killer pianist.

    C'mon guys help me flesh this out... I'm also curious. Is it really possible to write songs that are "harmonically challenging" by just playing root movement or chords on bass?

    Songs make money, being a "bass hero" is somewhat antiquated, don't you think? Does the old adage that "knowledge is power" relate to being more than a bassist, to being...., more like a musician? (examples:McCartney, Sting, Jack Bruce)

    Thanks for all input.. and please, dig in with thoughtful commentary. ;) :rolleyes:
  2. T-Funk


    Jul 2, 2005
    In my opinion, being able to play either the piano and/or guitar is beneficial for bassists whom wish to write and produce music.

    I studied classical piano for 8 years, and took guitar lessons for 3 years. It has definately made me a better overall musician.

    For bassists, I tend to lean towards the guitar instead of the piano as the chordal instrument of choice, due to the similarities between the two instruments. Nevertheless, it also depends on the music a person wishes to write and produce.
  3. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    I have had 11 years of classical piano, and it's helped me out big time. I think all bassists should accumulate some of that knowledge.
  4. When you say that it is important to see the harmony as well as hear it, I kind of disagree. Not with seeing the harmony, but with piano having that sight advantage over bass. You can also see harmony on a fretboard, you just have to train your eyes.

    Absolutely though, you should have some basic skills at piano.
  5. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    The good/bad thing about stringed instruments, is that you can play a note in several different places on the neck. On the piano, you can only find middle c in one place. I am also sure that bassists/guitarists have a tendency to play 'shapes and patterns' more than the piano. It's obvious, that's why we have so many musically "illiterate" players on the scene. Most of us are naturally lazy. Although, God knows that I see a lot of one handed pianists. I view them as being "half" a piano owner.
  6. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    Oh, may I also add, that try "seeing" the harmony on a Double bass. Maybe it's possible, but I find you either know what you're doing or not. Seeing harmony on the doghouse is difficult. Maybe I'm thinking about fretted instrument making things easier. After all, that's why the fender bass was invented, to make things easier. I'm not knocking anything, but I do believe that to be true.... :D
  7. I feel all musicians could benefit from some piano training- the more, the better. I had a few weeks of lessons when I was 7 or so(I'm 41). I know where 'middle C' is, & that's about it. I am considering lessons, though, if I can find the time.
  8. groove100


    Jan 22, 2005
    To be a better Bassist ---- YES!!!
  9. I agree with you there, and I think its because you can learn a stringed instrument without having to see harmony as you have to on a piano. A string player can choose to see the harmony if it interests the player, but many choose not to.
  10. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Absolutely it's a great advantage.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    I once read some interview eith pianist Billy Childs...he was asked "Of the musicians he has played with, who had the best knowledge of harmony"? Childs answered "Buster Williams & Tony Dumas".
    Both are bassists. Both, TMK, have never played a bass with more than 4 strings.
    They hadda get 'it' somewhere...my best guess is the keyboard.

    I usually bring that story up when the couple here at TB say-
    "You have to play a bass with 6 strings in order to develope a sense of harmony, blah".

  12. MODNY

    MODNY Guest

    Nov 9, 2004
    yes of course

    piano aids in teaching/composition etc

    alas, i am still very **** at piano.. i can make chords and thats about it..

    these fingers were made for the bass, not for the keys
  13. I think being schooled in piano definately helps with dexterity, but it's not necessary. I took 3 years of piano lessons but that was years before I ever picked up a bass, I don't think it had any affect on how I played.
  14. Time Divider

    Time Divider Guest

    Apr 7, 2005
    Piano = YES. To which I would add theory lessons every week. Every musician could benefit from studying the keyboard, including a few keyboard players I know. :p
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    EVERY instrumentalist should at least be able to play "arranger's" piano. Dizzy Gillespie always said that the piano was the "mother" to all the other intsruments and to understanding harmony...
  16. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    Hmmm... Mingus is known more for his compositions than for being a bassist. Also, I'll invite commentary, one of my favorite bassists is Prince. Who is a mean pianist. ;) Didn't Dizzy tell Miles he had to play piano to see "the entire spectrum?"
  17. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    For me, it's not so much seeing harmony, but seeing how harmony and melody are related.

    Guitar (and of course bass) are often limited by its physical outlay. There are certain chord voicings that can't physically be done, unless of course, you use an altered tuning. With a piano, one can pretty play any chord inversion he or she wishes throughout the whole instrument.
  18. kragen


    Jul 4, 2005
    wow - just reading this almost through fluke, I would never have thought playing piano would have such a big impact on bass playing, could someone explain more clearly why this is?

    My sister plays piano, I might have to get her to teach me a little :)
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Bassists are used to viewing harmony as a single note experience and from the bottom up, playing piano you can actually SEE how chords with tensions are polytonal, you can break up chords to see how open the voices get and still retain the chord quality, how close you can get to the root of the chord with other scale, chord tones or tensions. You can see how inversions of chords can imply two different functions.

    Piano is a great ear training tool. Using it to sing intervals, chords, chords with tensions etc. Using it to comp through a tune that you are learning while singing improvised melodies over what you are playing is great.

  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    Bass is essentially a monophonic instrument. You can do limited chording but in general it's one note at a time. Piano lets you play chords and the BIG ones like a 13th chord that has 7 notes in it. It also lets you hear melodies played against the chords.

    You don't need to be able to whip out the Moonlight Sonata or some Jerry Lee Lewis on demand, you just need to know how to peck out melodies and chords. That's what was referred to above as "arranger's piano". And you don't even need a piano, a cheap portable keyboard from WalMart will do the job.

    I still can't really play piano but I used to take organ lessons when I was a kid and have had some type of keyboard around the house as long as I've been playing bass.