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Growing into the bass player that you were born to be.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cheesesilk, Aug 27, 2004.

  1. Hi, this is my first post. I used to play the guitar in my old band, but I recently switched to the bass and I can't get enough of it. I've only been playing seriously for about 6 months and I was wondering if more experienced bassists here could shed some light on what I'm going through. I never felt comfortable as a guitarist, but the bass fits like a glove. I long to groove groove groove, but I still find myself slipping into bussier forms of playing at times (no doubt a consequence of my guitar playing). A friend of mine always says that I'm a guitar player on bass, and I hate it, I don't want to sound like a guitarist on bass. Has anyone here gone through something like this? I'm also greatly interested to hear about your own experiences and little realizations regarding the role of the bass and the way to approach it. Any feedback on any of these issues is greatly appreciated!
  2. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Try thinking of bass as a drummer now! Your whole bass playing will take a new twist. You know how to get busy, now it's time to learn how to lay it down and "lock in" with a drummer, that's an art in itself.

    As a bassist you play some of the notes as the guitars but you hit and support a tune with the drums, it's kind of like the link between both instruments. I hope this helps, this is the only thing I could think of to reply to you, it's philisophical but it should be a lot to chew on.
  3. Ahhh! Your reply has already lifted my spirits - viewing 'locking in' as an art in itself seems like an excellent attitude to adopt. I'm actually off to practice now - to study the art of 'the pocket'.
    many thanks
  4. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    It's good that you recognize the "too busy" syndrome early on. I also switched to bass after years on guitar. I thought I was really cool with all of my riffs, arpegios, any other fancy noise I could come up with. What it took for me was to hear a recording of the band one day. I sounded obnoxious to the point of embarassing. I was stomping all over the vocals and all over the other instruments. I thereafter set out on a mission to find the simple groove. I'd heard that sometimes the true art of the groove is knowing when not to play as opposed to trying to fill every beat of every measure with notes. I'm much happier now, as is the band. There is a time and place for soloing, but if you're in the rhythm section, sometimes less is more. Keep practicing and it will come. Just think of yourself as the steady heartbeat of the band instead of the mouth. Leave the loud mouthing to the wanker guitarists like we used to be. :bassist:
  5. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    I totally agree with the "less is more" approach to bass.

    I like to take a very simple bass line and just LOCK in. I'm not in a band at this point so I usually do it with a combination of the record and a drum machine. I play along with the record and then turn it off an replicate it as best I can with just me and the drums. If you can make a machine groove, you understand how time should feel. You KNOW where it's going to be, it's up to you to adjust so the blended sound feels right.

    One of my favorites for doing this is Sade's "Smooth Operator". It's a greasy slick groove from her *awesome* band and it has a bass solo to boot!! :hyper:

    Ok, so I'm not TOTALLY into the less is more...

    Another great song with a pretty groovy line is "Tightrope" by SRV. That one is a blast to play with just a drum machine. Of course a real drummer is better, but I've not had very good luck finding them up until this point. :bawl:

    I view the bass as the glue between the drums and the rest of the band. It's part rhythm, part pitch. I control the harmony, because the bass is so powerful. We're going HERE!! (plays dreaded minor 2nd interval) :eyebrow:

    I view my responsibility as being the best MUSICIAN in the band - i.e. knowing the most about theory, groove, arrangement, being the one who is as cooperative as possible, etc... I'm not always able to accomplish this, but I try and I'm always working to learn more about music.
  6. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH

    I play in a cover band and often work hard to duplicate the recorded parts.

    Some bassists don't like to do this - and even state that it shows a lack of creativity and innovation, but I get a big kick out of trying to figure out what was played in the studio. I think it helps my vocabulary too.

    On some songs, however, I enjoy making up my own lines. In that situation, I do the following:

    I attempt to play in a way that makes the vocalist sound as good as possible.

    When the guitarist plays a lead, I attempt to play in a way that makes him sound as good as possible.

    Usually that means that I keep it pretty simple and seldom draw attention to myself by playing a fast or busy part.

    Singers and guitarists generally like playing with bassists who take this approach.

    Good luck.
  7. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    I am not from the school of less is more. Less is just less if that's your thought on it. I feel you don't need to over power, or over shadow but to tastefully and colorfully blend and enhance within the framework of the tune. Some parts simple is the best approach, some parts a busy basline adds more dynamic. I listen to what the tune is trying to do and try to enhance that the best I can.

    If James Jammerson thought less is more then no one would know who he is, but he stays within the framework of the tune and tastefully enhances it which makes the song better overall in my opinion. No matter how busy his basslines got he still at all times supported the tune, but he was not busy just to be busy and that's the key to playing that way.

    Locking on the drummer, and playing in the pocket is always my starting point. I usually see what I can throw at the tune and then tastefully write from there. At first it's very busy, but once it's chopped and trimmed the parts fit nicely without compromising the tune. But without going for the gusto in practice you won't know what you will get away with or what will fit and still be creative and cool while supporting the tune. Covers I try to hit very close to the original, by doing that I get in the writers head and get a glimpse of how they write and support a song. That's my thoughts on it, I guess it's all a matter of taste and personal preferrance.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Try learning D'Angelo - Untitled (How Does it Feel). This is a very groovy song with a simple, killer bassline played by Pino Palladino. The producer (Raphael Saadiq) is also a phenomenal bassist belonging to the School of K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid!) and it shows in the bass playing. There are a couple busier parts in the song for a nice variety.

    It can require a five string, but I just transposed the low C's and D's up an octave -- still sounds good.
  9. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX

    Your points are well taken. In effect that's what I was trying to convey with 'less is more'. Playing for the song would have been a better choice of words to reflect my personal views. I definately like to explore things in practice that I would never do when playing live.

    Also, I'm still working to develop a personal style. One of the pieces of "sandpaper" that I use to shape my playing is that my teacher has always been trying to get me to play less. This is another way of saying that I'm kind of busy, so, by trying to adopt a 'less is more' approach for myself, that means one thing to me and a totally different thing to someone who is not busy by nature.

    I'm in the process of writing some songs with my parnter and we've found (over a number of months) that the best approach for us is to learn to play the song we write and then record it. In that process of playing it over and over, I try different ideas and approaches until I find the line I like. We kind of knudge it into it's final form.

    When playing any song over and over, I find that I make subtle changes to the line over time and 2 years later, it may be totally different that it was in the begining.
  10. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    I'll add only 1 thought to this conversation. Learn to keep context.

    If you're playing pop/rock songs - sure - as a "bassist" filling the traditional "bassist's role" you're going to have to "keep it simple" so the vocals and main melody that everyone wants to sing gets thru loud n clear.

    If you're playing jazz or any other form of highly improvised music - simple and repetetive basslines are a complete bore for the listener and musician alike. The bass has a different context.

    There are a great many contexts for bass now that did not exist when the instrument's "role" was informally formed.

    If you like playing "busy guitar like stuff" on the bass - don't let a bunch of 8th note on the root thumpers tell you to stop - but you do need to find a context where that kind of approach to the bass is not only welcomed - but required. That's key. It may require that you create your OWN context.

    As the saying goes . . . when in Rome - speak like a Roman.

    Just as you wouldn't want to go off on a ripping chromatic lydian dominant run in a straight up pop tune - don't think simple root, 3rd, 5th basslines will cut it in a more musically adventureous context.

    Keep context. Play what you WANT to play. And if it does not fit your context - find a context where it does fit. And if you can't find one - MAKE ONE.

    Oh yeah - smile too!

    But mostly - it's the context thing. :D
  11. Tons of good info here. cheesesilk, in your migration process from guitar to bass, really put some thought into the above posts. It may be difficult to remember all of the specifics, but to sum it up:

    Play to serve the song, play to serve the band.

    Good luck :hyper: .
  12. Furthermore, find a band where EVERYONE plays with this in mind. Listening to each other, and being able to react, is the biggest skill in being in a band.
  13. mattmcnewf


    May 27, 2004
    learn to use fingers pick dosen't count. Althoug every guitar bassist i've every seen uses a pick.
  14. No, use whatever the heck you want to.
  15. Like a deep breath of fresh air, all of these suggestions have been really refreshing and helpful. Last show I took a simple approach and it was well received. CJK84, for the first time throughout the whole show I was thinking 'how can I make the vocals/guitar solo/drums sound as good as possible?"
    it's quite a challenge!
    Jeff schmidt I like your perspective. Now I'm thinking about parts of the tunes where perhaps some bass work would enhance the song, or maybe creating some new parts. I communicated this to the band instead of just trying to craft my playing to a 'set' song structure...I see it's more dynamic than that.
  16. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I think a serious listen to Chris Squire from any Yes album would shoot down this notion right quick. :meh:
  17. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI


    There's no right or wrong here just differnce in how we approach bassline construction. I feel we are both right if that makes sense? There's nothing you or I have both said that would be considered wrong. At least the poster has different perspectives and philosophies to chew on and consider which is a good thing. What works for you and me may be different. But from a learning standpoint if you want to break into jazz, funk, or other genres of music maybe the "less is more" wouldn't be the way to go. I used Jammerson as an example because he was a jazz bass player long before Motown which would have been considered "pop' music to them during those times. He was suck a dynamic player because he went from jazz to pop. It would be like Jaco joining a rock band after he played with Weather Report. I just don't want to put any preconcived notions on anything I am writing or playing that could put limitations on my creativity or my playing. Don't get me wrong 100% of the time my lines are what the song calls for, simple or a few runs here or there we just get to that point a little differently.
  18. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    His name is actually "Jamerson" with 1 "m". :)

    About the simple vs. busy thing....there are no hard-set rules, IMHO. But I think it's safe to say that the guys that have a busier style like Jamerson and Rocco are busy but still HEARING and FEELING every note they're playing and that's why they groove so well. Both of those guys had the luxury of working with the same drummer(s) extensively so they really were able to hook up what they were hearing and make it work. They didn't just get bored and start playing a lot of notes because they felt anxious about not playing enough notes.

    A lot of great advice given so far. Heavy ditto on the listening thing. When you're listening to the others it becomes so much more automatic. Heavy ditto on the listening to the basslines of the greats too. Another thought - sometimes it's the very subtle things that make the bassline happening and keeps it moving. A littlte ghost note here, a rest there, playing one note a little longer or shorter than the other times, etc. I don't think the average listener is consciensiously aware of these types of things but I think those kinds of things help keep bass players' lines interesting.

  19. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI


    Or another thing to pay attention to, the space between the notes! You so right, the things that make so many great bassists good are the little subtle things like that.