I Don't Listen To A Band For The Bass Player

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by HamOnTheCob, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. Does anyone else ever grow weary of people saying, "You play bass - you must love [insert bass player or band with well-known bass player here]!" It happens with everyone whether they're musicians or not, but it seems to be the most common with fellow bass players! I usually have to awkwardly dance around it so as to avoid possibly offending them. As awful as I'm sure it makes me sound, the fact is, I usually couldn't care less who they're mentioning.

    I've been playing bass 20 years this month, and although I was heavy into checking out what other bass players were doing for the first couple years, it didn't take long before my interest (primarily in solo bass) diminished quite a bit.

    A lot of people seem to assume I listen to a lot of the bands I listen to because of their outstanding bass players, and while I wouldn't say it doesn't matter at all, I would say it only barely matters most of the time. I absolutely love listening to a good drummer. A great drummer with a mediocre bass player can still make a band sound great, but in my opinion even the best bass player can't overcome a mediocre drummer.

    Do any of you ladies and gentlemen catch yourself listening primarily to something other than bass in a band or in a song, and not being into a band solely because of a great bass player? It's not that I don't enjoy a good bassist, it's just not everything to me like it is to some people. Just trying to make sure I'm not insane.

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  2. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
  3. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    There are exceptions but I generally listen to bands for the overall sound, not because of a specific musician.
  4. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    I listen across the board, but yes, I am mentally dissecting the bass line, and if it is any good, I will be stealing it.

    As I have gotten older , the last thing I want to hear is a bass player solo album. Victor Wooten, for example. Monster player and a hell of a nice guy, but bass out front is not reality. I was all ears for his work with Bela Fleck in a group context - great bass lines.
    Mvilmany, saabfender, Engle and 8 others like this.
  5. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Depends on what I listen to at the moment. When I drop the needle on some Wayne Shorter or Dexter Gordon, I do so primarily because of the soloists. Weather Report, not so much.
    saabfender, Engle and HamOnTheCob like this.
  6. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    I listen to the composition primarily. I'm interested in songwriting and bass is just one part of it.
    GregC, ScottTunes, 10cc and 5 others like this.
  7. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    Agree. Example for me, love the Grateful Dead. Not a fan of Phil's playing. I get why it fits that band, but not into it.
    macmanlou, HamOnTheCob and LowNloud1 like this.
  8. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    You're probably not insane. I mean you may be, but not because of this.:D
    Whatever way it is my ears work, I've always noticed the bass in a song and do tend to listen most closely to that.
    But that's certainly not all I'd listen to...vocal stylings play a huge part in how much I enjoy a song, and the overall groove between bass, drums, keys, horns, etc.
    (In fact, thinking about it, the one element I usually pay very little attention to is the guitar...unless I'm learning the song for a band and need to listen to it so I can tell my guitarist he's doing it wrong!)

    Listening to a band just because their bassist is supposedly awesome? Very rarely. I don't like Rush, for example, or most jazz-fusion.
    That said, I have been listening to Snarky Puppy a fair bit...Michael League is pretty good at what he does.:)
  9. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I auditioned for a band that covered a bunch of the Dead's material and a lot of songs covered by them. When the topic came up I told them that I'm not a fan of Phil Lesh's playing and since he plays his way I'll play my way. I guess it went ok since got the gig and played with them for over a decade. I soon figured out that nobody else in the band knew what Phil was playing anyway.
  10. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    No matter what song I listen to, I’m always focused on the bass and drums; guitar comes next if it’s a great riff. I hear the singing last...to me it’s the least important part of the song, comparatively.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I kinda agree. I listen from the bottom-up...that said, a great vocal or vocal harmony never fails to give me chills.
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  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Lesh, from my limited listening of Dead albums, was all over the place. Good luck to anyone trying to cover his playing. Now, copping his thing would probably work.
    Sounds like you nailed it.
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  13. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I like good, well-crafted, songs. Not only do I not care about the bass player or bass line, but I don't care about the band/genre.

    Some of my favorite songs are by bands/artists I don't really like on the whole. It's all about the totality of that one song. Nothing else matters to me.
  14. Tons of great responses, and I'm glad to see it isn't just me who isn't laser focused on bass players and such. Thanks everyone for taking time to reply!

    League is fantastic! I actually found my way to that band when I was talking to a friend about keys and he turned me on to Cory Henry, which of course led to Snarky Puppy. The whole group is killer though!
    yodedude2 and Oddly like this.
  15. Let's face it. Nobody listens to a band for the bass.

    Growing up, listening to what is now referred to as "Classic Rock", it was all about the guitar. And I listened to it ad nauseum. To the point that I quit listening to it because I was so burned out on it.

    A few years ago I started playing bass. And re-discovered classic rock, listening for the basslines this time around. I had picked up a fair number of them by osmosis, while listening to the guitars. Some of them are obscured by the drums and difficult to isolate (thank god for YouTube). As one who sings while playing, I'm often amazed by how well the bass line frames the vocals and how given enough practice, one can sing and play bass (although it is exponentially easier to sing and play rhythm guitar).

    I think as bass players we realize how the much bass complements the overall composition of the song, Take away the bass and the overall sound is somehow incomplete. A well-crafted bassline is seamless in that just belongs.

    But nobody listens to a band for the bass.
    SpyderX and HamOnTheCob like this.
  16. InhumanResource

    InhumanResource Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2012
    Bucks County, PA
    Yep. I don't particularly get excited by bass players anymore. I like listening to good guitarists, but for the past few years the overall sound of a recording gets me going as well as the style or texture of the entire piece.

    I don't even get excited over playing tunes with busy basslines, I get excited if it's a fun song and makes people dance and have a good time. It could be a one note tune for all I care.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
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  17. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Hahaha, I think this is the case with most bass lines. As long as you find the pocket and the right roots, no one actually cares.
    10cc, Herrick, SpyderX and 1 other person like this.
  18. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Back when music was pressed in vinyl or on magnetic tape, i went to live shows to watch the bass players hands. Live music in small venues where i could get a really good look at what was going on was the goal so i saw all kinds of bands and picked up all kinds of good stuff.
    As for listening, my initial impression is of the song, not the individual bits that make it up. If it grabs me i put it in rotation and if it lives long enough there i will begin to pick out the bass parts, but i mostly listen for enjoyment of the music.
    The exception is if i’m learning new stuff. I pick it apart from the beginning and get my part down before i ever really scan for vocal or other instrument cues that might help me navigate should it wind up not being played exactly as recorded.
    Bunk McNulty and HamOnTheCob like this.
  19. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    I am a lot like this. It's sad to admit, but I stopped following bands in the 80's because it seemed there was just so much dreck coming out. Here and there, a gem, but on the whole it didn't excite me. Plus, I was playing out a lot then and the last thing I wanted to do when I was off was hear music, which is kind of weird, I know.

    Then a few different sounds came out in the 90's and, predictably, all that became over-produced and over-marketed and lost its edge, because music always starts as art and eventually becomes a product.

    The number of bass players I can cite by name who came along after the 70's is probably a one-handed count. I love good music, well done, and if you dig you can find it, but it takes a lot to get me excited about a particular band.
    Whil57, Fender_Bender and HamOnTheCob like this.
  20. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    I feel the same way more or less. A great bass line is one possible thing I might like about a song, but there are others, and I don't think there are any bands I like just because they have a good bassist. Much more important is good song writing that draws you in and makes you feel something. Jazz fusion has been picked on a little bit, but one could say the same thing about a lot of metal, or many other genres; they often feature a lot of dazzlingly skilled whiz-bang playing, but in songs that leave me saying, "So what?" And, of course, the converse is that in many genres (including fusion or metal) there is the occasional song that just grabs you and kicks you in the gut.
    HamOnTheCob, JRA and two fingers like this.

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