Food for thought

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by dancehallclasher, Mar 2, 2002.

  1. i was in the car with my dad last night and a song came on the radio with a pretty distinctive bass tone. i said to him "that sounds like it was recorded with a fender precision bass, strung with flatwounds, played with a pick."

    he said "i can't even hear the bass."

    i'm going to try to keep that in mind next time i want to spend a few hundred extra dollars for something that will supposedly improve my tone.
  2. Wild Bill

    Wild Bill

    Dec 30, 2001
    Boston MA
    Well it all depends, is your dad a bass player? If hes not a musician then you cant expect him to pick out the bass that easily or tone for that matter.
  3. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    Being a bass player, you focus on the sound of the bass. Your dad may not hear it consciously, but if it wasn't there he'd likely think something was "wrong" with the song, and he'd be right!
  4. Flash


    Feb 3, 2002
    Salem, Oregon
    I have been a music lover my whole life...I played in my High School band, Trumpet and Baritone, but only recently picked up the bass. When I listen to music I never really picked out one instument unless that one instrument was being featured....until now that every song I hear, I hear the it fretless?...are they using effects?....pick...slapping style, hammer on, 4, 5, 6, 12? does the phrasing change from chorus to bridge to end? I still hear the whole song but I focus on the bass because it is what I want to hear now.

    I love music even more...and respect it even more.
  5. you're all missing my point. no, he's not a bass player, and i'm sure he would notice if the bass wasn't there, but supposed improvements in tone are probably only heard by other bass players, and possibly only by the one that makes these adjustments. i'm just saying that tone is probably not something to get obsessed over.
  6. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I think most non-musicians notice the bass more when they are hearing it live at a concert than on a recording. I guess because they can "feel" it more.
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Very true, DHC. The average music listener cannot tell if you are playing a Rogue or a Sadowsky, and they do not care, either. As long as the bass is there, the music sounds right to them.
  8. One of the things that being a musician (of sorts :rolleyes: ) has helped me do is listen. When a song is playing, I can pick out every part distinctly (doesn't mean I can transcribe it very well :rolleyes: ) and understand what it's doing to help the song. Up until I started getting into King Crimson, I really didn't have this ability; I'd shout along with choruses and play air guitar with the Big Riffs.

    I hate to say it, but whether it stems from inadequate arts education in the schools, cultural factors, or biology, the fact is that the average listener couldn't pick out a damn thing about a song if it didn't jump out and bang them over the head. It just so happens that in pop and rock, the guitar and vocals are usually EQed and mixed to do just that. (Those instances where the bass is clubbing the listener over the head, such as all too many instances of slapping, result in IMO disproportionate amounts of worship being placed upon the guy doing it.)

    The fetishization of The Hook, The Riff, and The Chorus stem directly from this. There's a certain art to crafting a pop/rock song using these, because when one or more is taken to its perverse extreme, one gets either boy band music, hair metal, or nu-metal, none of which are particularly subtle forms (for the most part; there are exceptions to every rule). It's the "lowest common denominator" approach to making music. This is not to say that there isn't well-executed hook/chorus/riff-intensive music out there, obviously, but I grow increasingly disenchanted. It frustrates the hell out of me when I hear someone loudly, obnoxiously singing along with the radio, because so much of the adolescent sentiment I hear in top-40 lyrics only serves to confirm Voltaire's dictum, "Anything too stupid to be spoken is sung."

    Why do so few people like jazz? Because even the most insistent solos or heads don't grab one by the balls and twist. As viscerally powerful as Coltrane's "Resolution" or Ornette's "Lonely Woman" are, they still don't beat one over the head the way a Creed or Limp Bizkit riff might, which leaves no hope for a brilliant rhythm section or a well-arranged horn chart.

    This all reaffirms to me that non-musicians who can appreciate subtler forms of music are a gift to be treasured.
  9. Interesting,DHC...

    As you hinted at,it seems people often don`t notice the bass in any given song(at least consciously).Rather they lump it in as "geetar" or drums.

    Since I started learning to play bass I (as we all do)
    immeadiatly focus on the bass in a song and how it interacts with the other instruments,it`s tone,etc.

    My 12 year old daughter told me the other day as we were listening to the radio in the car:"Daddy,thanks to you I always pick out the bass in the songs!I can`t help it!" :)
    Pretty cool,eh? :D My kids don`t really give a rat`s a** about my playing but nice to know they listen to SOME of what the old man says. :p
  10. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    i agree DHC. flats are a joy to play, but i feel that in a band context (both live and in the studio) they are not as good as roundwound. i love their tone but thay seem to suffer the guitar driving sound of these days. i speak of basses with flat played by myself because it seems that other players can cut thru with this strings very well
  11. Dancehall, I know exactly what you mean, but, if you want to buy something that'll improve your tone and YOU can hear it, go ahead and buy it. After all, do poets stop writing poetry because SOME people don't understand it? Why do some of us have a half dozen basses or more? Do we really play them all?

    I think part of what makes any of us a musician, is that WE can hear the difference.

    So now the question could be, "When a band is hired to play a dance, is the band ultimately playing for those who pay them, or for themselves?" ;)

    I hear ya though.

    Mike J.
  12. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I've given up asking people how the bass sounds, because they always say 'Great' whether I think it sounds good or flat out sucks! Other musicians do notice. My trumpet playing brother is used to playing in a big band and can distinguish all the parts in his 19 piece ensemble... Most of the wives have trouble with anything other than the vocals...

    Even the guitar players in my current band can surprise me with a lack of 'tone knowledge'... To them, a good bass tone is one that cuts through the mix while not overshadowing their six-string prowess :rolleyes:... Both have stated that my little Fender Musicmaster, with it's nasally, midrange grunt, is my best sounding bass!!! Now, I really dig this little axe, but best sounding??? Better than my P or my Jack?? C'mon guys! Just wait until my Kawai comes, with it's 'vintage' tone!! Then you'll hear some bass as it's meant to be heard!!!**


    **This is actually a joke... See this thread
  13. old_skool


    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    People who know anything about music will hear the bass and its tone. Whether it only be good or bad, theyll notice. Many of my friends didnt really pay attention to bass, that is before they met me. They now come up to me and say "Aww man, have you heard the bass line to this song?" Again, anyone that knows anything about music would notice that something is missing if there were no bass.
  14. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I don't know that this is a bass-specific problem. Most people may be able to hear and pick out a guitar part but chances are that they have no idea what guitar or amp or effect was used. Non-musicians don't care about the specifics of tone etc. because they aren't conscious of them with any instrument. Many non-musicians can't hear the bass simply because they don't know what to listen for, it's like Hammond organs which are in the background of a ton of songs but most people aren't conscious of them either.

    As to how one justifies new tone-improving toys, I figure a lot of that stuff can inspire me to play better if I use it right. NB: I am not saying $$$ gear makes me better, just that it can INSPIRE me to try new things, play with tones and then see where that will take me...
  15. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars


    Burn him at the stake!!!!!


    Honestly, I think that while the "average listener" will not consciously hear the nuances, they do recognize them, even if they can't describe and quantify them. However you're right, over obsessing on tone is probably a waste of effort. Get a good tone and move on.
  16. old_skool


    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    Thats not fun though!
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
  18. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I totally agree that most of us don't need to be so obsessed with tone. Most listeners...even some fellow musicians... don't notice the subtle nuances that we spend hundreds or thousands on.

    That said, I willingly spend the money anyway because *I* notice the subtleties. I could probably get by just fine with a MIM P-bass but a nicer looking/sounding/playing bass inspires me.

    Oh: I must add that I am often amused at how even the most gearheaded guitarists don't understand bass GAS. I brought my newly acquired MTD 535 to a jam session last weekend. I tried to explain about the desirability of a wenge neck and the guitarists looked at me with blank stares. They were also unimpressed by the burl myrtle top. A guitarist with a flame-top PRS magnanimously conceded that "I guess those imperfections (referring to the black spots) are kinda cool".
  19. EString


    Nov 20, 2000
    Los Altos, CA
    To 95% of people, all that matters is the song.