Having the instrument dictate what you play

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Aaron Saunders, Sep 4, 2004.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Have you ever noticed any instance of your choice of instrument in a particular situation making you play something completely different than what you'd play with something else?

    For instance, I came to band practice yesterday with my fretless, because it's my main bass now -- I barely even thought about bringing my fretted, especially now that I've coaxed a good slap sound out of the fretless. When I pulled it out, one of the two guitarists said "Why'd you bring your fretless?" with a weird tone in his voice -- I ignored (he'd never actually heard me play it before last night). We started bouncing ideas and jamming and stuff, and the other guitarist kicked off this really mellow funk riff. He went through it a few times and the other guitarist joined in, and I found myself doing these really relaxed, legato slides around the chord tones that fit the music perfectly -- something that not only I very much wouldn't normally do on my fretted had it been there, but something I COULDN'T do on my fretted.

    I find that I also seem to play with less attention to technique (both left and right hand) with fretted when I'm playing fingerstyle and slap, and I tap/use chords a lot more on it. It seems on fretless, I'm much more aware of my playing overall -- I have to be, to intonate correctly -- and I find myself playing smoother, less chops heavy lines.

    Also, did anyone read interview with McCartney where he said that his more melodic playing resulted from playing the Hofner, because it was so small and light, that he felt more free on it? He also said that when he played a Fender, because it was so heavy and big, he played "just bass." I'm not sure which magazine it was in, either UK BG or BP.

    Any of you experience similar things? I'm especially curious about those who play both ERB's (6+) and 5/4's, and people who play EUB/URB.
  2. Aaron J

    Aaron J

    Jul 16, 2003
    Cincinnati, OH
    I agree with you that the instrument can inspire what we play, but I think that it can be both a bad and a good thing. I do what you did quite often, I'll grab a new instrument (fretless, upright, fretted) and a lot of times it inspires me to hear and hence try something new; all of my basses have very different sonic qualities. I think this is great, because when I will transplant that idea back on the other instrument, it tends to open even more doors.
    The problem arrises when the instrument is dictating what you play due to technique, or lack thereof. I experienced this myself in highschool when I was studying classical bass with a member of the Cincinnati Symphony. I was playing a solo piece and it just was not happening. It was quite difficult and was up high in the key of B (or something like that). He stopped me and told me to play it in C. After taking a second to think out the line in the new key, I played it and all of my problems were solved. I was just much more comfortable playing in that key on that part of the upright bass. His point was about practicing things that you are not great at instead of sitting down and twiddling my fingers over things that I am comfortable with (which I am still guilty of a lot of times) I am sure that is true on any instrument, where the nature of the instruments tend to dictate what you play. On electric bass or guitar, it is easy to just think in patterns. I have a great piano playing friend who writes a lot of funk charts, and when he writes out a bassline, it is usually something that does not lay well on the bass at all, is something I would never think of, and is really cool. Whoa, I am rambling now....
  3. mattmcnewf


    May 27, 2004
    Yeah i have a small ibanez headless and MIM fender JAzz. It caused a bit of problems when i started bring my little headless instead of my jazz to my bands jams. I started not liking basslines i played on my jazz, and started writing different basslines on the headless. THen i dedcided to start using my jazz again and the new lines i wrote didn't sound write