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Got any examples of bass playing that gets in the way?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by rabid_granny, Nov 28, 2003.

  1. Been listening to the Standing in the Shadows of Motown tribute CD's regarding James Jamerson. Been reading the sheet music and the mini-analysis of his playing. But in order to understand what they mean when they say he was melodic but never got in the way, it's helpful to examine bad bass playing. So, anyone got examples?

    I'm more interested in poor note selection rather than obnoxious tone or bad technique.
  2. My playing with my funk band. Way, way too busy.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I've heard stuff like this at live gigs many times and have usually walked out!! ;)

    But I can't imagine it making it on to any commercially-available recordings - this is the first thing any record producer would cut out! He or she would probably replace it with programmed synth bass!! :meh:
  4. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    What "getting in the way" usually means, IME, is that the playing is too busy in certain sections, thus putting the spotlight on the bass when it should be elsewhere.

    In terms of poor note choice, the notes on their own may not be bad, per se, but they may create a dissonance when combined with lines played by other band members, that does not suit the mood of the song or the style of music.

    For example, a minor 2nd or a 4th played over a major triad would sound pretty nasty if you pedaled on it rather than using it as a passing tone.

    I can't think of any bass lines that "get in the way" off the top of my head, but I suggest checking out just about any Slayer guitar solo... ;)
  5. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    yeah, i agree with what was written above about the standard Slayer guitar parts. i know there are many bass runs that are too busy, but i can't think of any of the top of my head. if nobody submits any "busy" bass runs, you can look to many, many heavy metal solos as examples of speed over substance. i'm a junior high school teacher, and many of my 8th grade boys have discovered 80s metal. i'm constantly telling them that just because you can play scales ultrafast doesn't mean you should. but then i always say that it's okay that they listen to stuff i don't really care for because a. it's the natural order of things, and b. there's no real harm in listening to it as long as they're not still listening to it when they turn 21.

    don't know if that's helpful, but you've got my silly little opinion now!
    ps. no offense to my metal brothers and sisters over 21.
  6. What do you mean by pedaled? I've never heard that term before. Do you mean arpeggiate?
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Very fine bassist, technically, that he is, I always found earlier Geddy Lee to be WAY too busy for my taste.....but then again, Neal Peart's bass drums often need Ritalin.

    A lot of people I know say the same thing about Buddha Dickens. They say he often thinks he's the whole show. But, as for me, I haven't heard enough of his work to pass judgement.
  8. I'm glad I'm not the only one. The first four or five Rush albums have some severe overplaying on them from Lee and Peart.
  9. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    The band called the Tar Babies have a very busy bass lines... The album called Honey Bubble has some very busy bass that is to busy for me.
  10. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Some of the bass lines on Mother's Milk by RHCP are pretty wankish.. argh, too many notes, all the time!
  11. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I feel that way about Bill Dickens. Seems like it's a few notes to start out and then goes right to the obnoxious machine gun emulation. I know many people love him though.
  12. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    It's probably a common syndrome for people that like me convert from guitar to bass. When I first started playing, I thought every single transition from one root to another required a series of runs, fills, arpeggios, and various other kinds of riffs with any combination thereof. I eventually got to hear a quality recording of the band and realized how overbearing and obnoxious I sounded. It was downright embarassing. I toned it down a lot after than and learned to simply lay the groove down, not try to be the star of every song. Much better.
  13. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I like this Tar Babies album but IIRC the bass player stole a number of slap lines pretty much verbatim from Tony Oppenheim's "Slap It" book--tacky!

    There's a local player afflicted by Jaco-itis who plays so many fast notes that he actually ends up dragging the tempo by trying to cram all those notes into a phrase. Very strange. Sometimes he gets so into what he's playing that he'll start to drool--I'm not kidding.

    Often he makes such a spectacle of himself--making faces, jumping around--that he draws attention away from the rest of the band and the music. He does have some redeeming qualities as a musician but taste is not one of them.
  14. g4string

    g4string Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Melissa, TX
    I am not trying to pick on you LoJoe, but great example of how a bass player can overplay. Go to an open-stage/open-mic nearest you. If there are not any bass players in the house, usually a guitar player will TRY to play the bass. Notice the emphasis on the word try. That is great of example of overplaying. Annoying as all hell too! I am glad you figured it LoJoe. Rock on!
  15. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I meant "pedaled" as in "pedal point", meaning to ride on the one note for a while.

    For instance, if there was a line in C and you only played a steady C throughout, that would be referred to as a pedal point.
  16. One of those last page articles in BP a couple of years ago talked about overplaying on the Elvis song "Suspicious Minds". I hadn't paid much attention to that song at all ever before, but the next time I heard it come on the oldies station I turned it up, and I had to agree.

    There are a whole lotta bass notes happening in that song that could have been left out. The note choices aren't bad, I guess, but there are way too many of them.
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member


    I have been guilty in the past of overplaying on that song in my oldies band.:oops:

    Over the last year or so, I have started to grow up a little bit, and realize that on 50's, 60's and 70's music, there is no need to play 32nd note runs between every line, or to treat each song as if it is a bass showcase.
  18. So my next question would be - when is it appropriate to have a busy bassline? Would the rest of the band have to simplify their parts so the focus can shift to the bassline?

    And would you consider Jamerson's basslines to be too busy? Would they have been too busy if they were bumped up in the mix?
  19. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    Flea's verse lines on 'Subway To Venus' (from 'Mother's Milk') - yuck. Great stand-alone little walking funk thing, but the notes he's using just colide with the horn section in a way that is unmusical and crowds the song terribly. Messy, and cluttered.
  20. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    It depends on the type of busy bassline, IMO. It's obviously quite possible to play something active which at the same time doesn't step on toes, even if it's over, say, a guitar lead or vocal line. You just have to pick your notes and phrasing with care.

    For example, if I'm playing behind a guitar solo, I'm probably going to avoid chord tones and use passing tones a lot if I'm going to move around - exception being if I hear the solo going somewhere that I can follow with the line. Again, it depends on the specifics - sometimes it really pays to keep it simple, and if in ANY doubt, this is what you should do.

    Just because a bassline is busy doesn't necessarily make it the centre of attention - there are lots of songs out there with busy lines that are still in the background. Therefore I'd say no, it isn't necessary for everyone else to simplify their parts.

    As far as when it's appropriate, that's more of a subjective thing - it depends on your style and what you're hearing in your head at the time. Again, if you're in ANY doubt about whether the line will fit, keep it simple.

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