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Guitar players as bass players......

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by LAPetrarca, Nov 3, 2008.

  1. In our band, we've got 3 guitar players and a keyboard player. The keyboard is also a SMOKIN' guitar player but, most of his work is on keyboards.

    Of the six guys in the band, 3 of us play multiple instruments. One of the other guitar players also plays mandolin, and there's the keyboard player mentioned above. I play bass, guitar and mandolin.

    We try to showcase some of our versatility by having the three multi-instument players switch off instruments for different songs. When I switch off to mando or guitar, one of the other guitar players plays bass.

    Here's my question.......

    Seems like no matter which guitar player picks up the bass, they always seem to approach bass playing with the same approach as playing guitar.....no "rhythm" so to speak and it's difficult to dial in a groove with the drummer so, except for the drums, there's not really a steady, driving bottom to keep things moving along.........is this normal for guitar players? Anybody else experienced this?

    When I do play guitar, it's strictly as a rhythm player and I find myself trying to compensate for the lack of a solid groove with my guitar playing to keep things on track.

    Just a casual observation but, it seems to me that bass players assimilate themselves to playing guitar better than guitar players assimilate to playing bass.

    Am I dreaming this up in my head or has anybody else noticed or had any experience with this situation?
  2. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    There must be millions of guitarists who think they can play the bass. After all, the fretboard is the same, only an octave lower, right.:p
    organworthyplayer337 likes this.
  3. madbassplaya


    Dec 28, 2007
    I see your point.

    Recently I have started playing bass for my church's worship service. The reason they asked me to play is because the guy who was playing bass was a lead guitar player and played the bass that way too. There was never a groove and he always overplayed. There is a lot going on on stage 1 piano, 2 keyboards, 2 electric guitars, 1 acoustic, 1 drumset, 1 congo drumset, and a wind section, so now that i play i just lay the foundation for all that by grooving with the drummer.

    the music director is loving it too!
  4. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Well, they're usually crappy guitar players too........

    The guitarist in one of my bands in Austin also played bass and he was fantastic, better than me at the time by a long shot.

    he played bass in his mom's CandW band and also played bass for Ian Moore for a brief period of time. He also happened to be an excellent guitar player as well......

    Personally, I think if you suck, you just suck, regardless of instrument. If you're good, you're good.

    I'm a counter-example tho. when I pick up a guitar i mostly just make a lot of foul noises, but on the bass the noises are, well, less foul. So I stick with the bass.....

  5. Yup, pretty much sums it up. Play root 8ths (not even with solid rhythm) or follow the guitar riff.
  6. Heh...reminds me of a situation I was involved in last week.

    A close friend (former bandmate from long ago) had a band that split up very recently and began a merge with another band...he called me to ask if I may be interested in coming aboard because their current bassist might move on to concentrate on other projects...which he did.

    So with three guitarists in the mix and no bassist, one of the guitarists decided he was going to try to pick up the bass. I was actually taking to him on Friday and he said "it's just bass, no doubt I can do it!". I kinda got a kick outta that and just kinda grinned.

    I'm not thinking that he won't be able to do it, but I think the transition is going to be a bit tougher than he thinks. :smug:
  7. I said this in another thread . . . I played gtr for over 20 years and out of necessity I picked up bass thinking I'd have no problem . . . well my left hand technique was solid. but that was IT! It's a whole other ball game. (one that I'm pleasantly finding is really cool!!) if anything I find it a disadvantage - kinda like learning bad habits first cuz I was too stubborn to admit defeat.
  8. Rob Martinez

    Rob Martinez

    Sep 14, 2005
    I learned guitar first then bass. No matter. Anyone playing bass in a band situation needs to learn what the role of bass in a band is and respect that.

    McCartney learned guitar first, but really nailed the role of bass early on (listen to I SAW HER STANDING THERE, LONG TALL SALLY, etc.). Later, when he was innovating bass playing around SGT. PEPPER'S, he played in a higher register, playing up around the 12th fret, and was brilliant. But that was in the context of the Beatles at that point in their musical development. Again, it was appropriate.

    I have been playing music for thirty years, but when my band plays BLUE SUEDE SHOES, I play the correct bassline and don't try and play "guitar" like lines to prove something.

    It's a matter of mastering the root and fifth notes in union with the kick drum, then learning to play walking basslines, in other words, learn the fundamentals, THEN apply cool guitar like embellishments. But bass is not guitar, and if it played exactly the same way, why have bass?
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  9. LAP- Most guitar players can play the bass pretty well....for about 30 seconds. Then they start playing guitar on the bass. I guess that's the primary difference between playing bass guitar and playing the electric bass.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  10. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Guitar and bass are different instruments. The only reason they look approximately the same today is because of a few instrument designers around the middle of the last century, most notably Leo Fender. Guitars developed from the lute/mandolin/Spanish instrument tradition; basses came from the Italian classical violin family. Double-basses used in popular music filled a completely different musical role than that of guitars back when the transition from double-basses to electric basses started taking place in the '50s. It's really just coincidence that the electric bass took on a guitar shape and is played similar to a guitar nowadays; the electric-upright bass could have just as easily taken the place of the electric bass guitar had certain enabling technologies been around. Back then, they actually referred to it as the "Fender bass," as opposed to a double-bass, and considered it an entirely different instrument (in liner notes of old records, you often see, "John Smith: vocals; Jerry Smith: guitar; Joe Smith: Fender bass," kinda the way you see Hammond organ... it's not just a brand of organ; it's a different instrument).

    I would say that your guitarist who thinks he can play two instruments can really only play one instrument, if he's not able to correctly distinguish between the roles of the two voices in the overall context of music. It's no different than a MIDI programmer saying he can play piano just because the keyboard layout looks the same. They are different instruments.

    To answer your question, yes, it is normal for guitars players, upon picking up a bass, to think of it as a lower-pitched guitar. The guitar is a melody instrument; the bass is a rhythm one. It's actually closer to playing drums than guitar, IMO/IME.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  11. 3toes


    Aug 30, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    Infusing some melody into a bass line can often produce some awesome results. However, if it's done at the sacrifice of rhythm... it can be an utter catastrophe.

    The best bass players (in my opinion) are the ones who know when, and are able, to infuse some melodic playing into a rhythmic bass line.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  12. Kemet09


    Oct 29, 2004
    Endorsements: Sire Basses
    To my experience most guitarist suck really bad on Bass!!!! As mentioned before they think they can play the same thing on it as a guitar.... Doesn't work the majority of the time however. Has also been my experience that their sense of rhtym suck even worse!!! Most of them seem to be influeenced by 'lead guitarist' as opposed to someone with very solid rhtym, like a Nile Rodgers.

    Did an open mic a few years ago. These young cats got on stage to play & something just seemed off for their 1st 2 songs...:eyebrow: Then the last song the singer got on Bass & the Bass guy got on guitar. All of a sudden they clicked! Talking to them afterwards I found out the singer was actually the bass player! It all made sense! :hyper:

    Man, Gospel Bass player wack off enuff as it is without throwing a lead guitarist into the mix!!! That must have been HELL!!!! :rollno: :help: :rollno:

    If a cat doesnt know & respect an instument, chances are they are not gonna play it well... Similar, but usually no AS extreme is a Bass guitarist who tries to play Upright thinking he can just do the 'same' thing he does on BG.... They soon find out "it aint neccessarily so" {Gershwinn pun intended}...
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  13. Skarekrough


    Aug 7, 2006
    I've spent a long while bouncing between both guitar and bass.

    Inherently I have come to the conclusion that I am unable to play both at the same time....bass requires a certain mindset as well as physical demands that I only get near to after a solid month of not touching the other. I need to spend time to think bass before it starts to come together and click for me.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  14. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    Just as they sound like guitarists playing bass, we sound like bassists playing guitar, but we won't notice it... They will...
  15. Kemet09


    Oct 29, 2004
    Endorsements: Sire Basses
    Hey, vibing off what Dave M said, & coming dangerously close to highjacking this thread, what do y'all think of what Anthony Jackson says about BG... That it is more akin to Classical guitar than it is to Upright Bass?

    Whilst I luvs AJ to death.... I cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around this concept.....
  16. :scowl:
  17. Cinimod

    Cinimod Guest

    Dec 30, 2007
    There is this guy i know who used to play guitar but was frustrated with the bass players he used to work with as they were useless so decided to take up bass full time. I saw him play a few months back and my jaw was on the floor! Couldn't believe how amazing he was.
  18. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    I have posted my experiences along this line before but it's probably worth repeating. I began playing drums in bands in the early sixties. I played drums part time and for a living for twenty years. During this time in my geographical area there was a real scarcity of dedicated bass players. In every band the primary bass player was the third worse guitar player and none of them thought rhythm section. I felt like I was on an island by myself. During this time I also picked up the banjo and played Scruggs style, three finger rolls. Carpel tunnel, a desire to down size my equipment, easy banjo right and left hand transition and the thought that I am going to make some drummer really happy led me to pick up the bass. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  19. ysand


    Mar 26, 2005
    A gui**** definately can't play the bass.
    A guitarist can get smth good out of it though.
  20. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    Aug 8, 2002
    North of GTA, ON, Canada
    Long&McQuade Employee
    So much of bass playing is off the beat (locking with the kick), I think that's why guitar players have a hard time with it.

    You can always tell though, when a guitarist is playing bass. A couple of years ago I was in one of the local shops trying out a few basses and this 16 yr old was wanking away on the B-string of some Ibanez with a pick going up and down the B-string and then every once in a while throwing in a flurry of notes that sounded like a mechanic working on a Chevy.

    I really had to restrain myself from ripping the thing out of his hands and telling him: "That's NOT how you play the bass!"

    I think it's simple. Bass players have to listen more than some other instrumentalists. That's not to say that guitarists are wrapped up in their own little world. :rolleyes: The bass player is the lynchpin between the rhythm section and the melody & harmony instruments. When you're in the middle, you're always listening to where notes fit, durations, dynamics, groove, the "feel" of the song, what the vocalists are singing and playing off of them. Playing bass has made me a much better listener than I ever was when I was a drummer. I think I serve the song a lot better now that I did before.
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