I think a lot of the bass parts written for studio bassist are uninspired

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, Dec 5, 2001.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Am I out of line for saying this? It is just my opinon though.

    Most times, I find that parts written for studio bass players are boring and uninspired. I've found some interesting lines in some music. (Seals second album comes to mind, and of course, a lot of the Motown recordings) For the most part, it seems like the person writing the music to record doesn't give much thought to the bass. I think when they are writing the bass part, they just happen to look over at the guitar chart and say "Hmm, he's playing a Cmin7, then a Bb, then a Cmin again". Then he scibbles down C, Bb, and C again, just to be played as root notes. Granted, there is a such thing as over playing a bass part, and putting to much in. But I know when I hear a lot of these songs, there could be a lot better bass parts going on, then there is. Still, I'm unaware on how many studio basses read actual standard notation, and how many read charts, Nashville Number, ect. What are your opinions. Agreements, disagreements.
  2. I agree.. but whatever the person thinks is good is good.. unless you don't want $$.. hehe

    you could suggest a bit more and see if they like it or not. :)
  3. You're not "out of line" at all. (Hell, isn't that a large percentage of Talkbass for some of us???)

    I find what you are saying both true and untrue for the "not giving much thought to the bass" aspect.


    - If your music involves high volume, you can go nuts in the studio as compared to onstage, because playing all over creation, live, has a greater
    likelihood to come out like slop, despite how good your compressor is. Nor, do complex basslines come out well on the typical consumer's car/home stereo. So, what I'm saying is that the studio can offer the opportunity to embellish basslines. Otherwise......

    - Yes, some charts are deadly boring. They weren't written by a bassist or a person who "hears" the bass possibilities in their head, (e.g., Broadway show tunes).

    - The studio intimidates the living snot out of some bassists. Every attack variation that results in an uneven bass level is picked up in the studio where your technique is naked to the world. A great live player can sound awful in their first studio experience. So, they may tend to lay off too much.

    - Unless the job requires strict adherence to the charts, they are like cooking recipes to me - "here's the ingredients; now, add whichever quantities you think work best and don't be afraid to add something different."
  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I only partially agree. I believe that an alternative to your viewpoint is that often times when a bassist is hired out (read: studio musicians), the idea is getting a good tone and getting something basic down that won't be perceived as interfering with anything else.

    Often times, that may be translated by the listener as having an over-simplified piece, but that may be exactly what the writer, arranger, or producer have in mind. That's why some bassists are hired, believe it or not;)
  5. Bryan_G


    Apr 28, 2000
    Austin, Texas
    I agree for the most part. If a part is written for a studio bassest. It would seem likely the that writter is not familiar enough with the instrament to play it himself, therefor he would not likely write a "inspired" bassline. However there are some awsome musicians out there that can't play bass and can write a more than inspired bassline for a studio bassest. I just wish they would let me play some of those noninspired basslines :)
  6. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Thanks for all the great responses. I've always thought that maybe sometimes the reasons they are pretty simlified, is because, usually in a pop music situation, the actual instrumentation takes a back seat to the lyrics and the song itself. Again, thanks for all the input.
  7. IMO the "hired gun" is playing the parts as written by the composer. He is getting paid to play what is asked of him and then they get out of there. Unless the player carries a proven track record and has a great reputation, the producer/arranger/composer will ask them to read the charts and not improvise. A Will Lee or a Lee Sklar for example might have some leverage on a session but "Joe the Bass player" probably will not.
  8. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Keep in mind that most of the time, the person arranging the music is not a bassist. Most arrangers play piano. They have to think of a lot of things besides the bass line, therefore, it stands to reason their basslines would not be exactly great. Not only that, but sometimes, what is a functional bass line on a piano is extremely hard to execute on bass. I'm thinking intervals over an octave, etc.

    A lot of times, bass musicians are hired to "take a sad song and make it better", meaning they'll take those remedial lines and rework them into a credible bass line. James Jamerson was an example of that.
  9. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    "I'd go in the studio and look at the bass charts. Then I'd look at the guy and say, 'You want me to play this?!', and of course he'd say, "Oh no no, this was just an idea. Please, play what you think would fit better." - James Jamerson;)
  10. pmkelly


    Nov 28, 2000
    Kansas City, MO
    No offense, but James Jamerson could get away with that... what about the rest of us slobs?:p

    [email protected]
  11. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Believe it or not, a lot of studio gigs I get, the producer tells me, "Do that Woodchuck thing you do. Hell, you know what a bassline should sound like, otherwise, what the hell am I paying for?" Other times, I get told what to play, but to give it my feel.
  12. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    Certainly there are lots of examples of this, but there are also bassists who don't write flashy or inspired parts. We don't really know which is which. Not to mention the fact that bands like Be-Bop Deluxe and earlier Jethro Tull had all of their parts written for them by Bill Nelson and Ian Andersen, respectively. If I remember correctly, Bill Nelson didn't even allow creative input with Be-Bop Deluxe - they were hired to play what he wrote.
  13. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Kinda like Metallica used to be!:p
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Sometimes a bass player/producer writes the parts.
    Two examples-
    1)Walter Becker of Steely Dan wrote the sketches for a lotta those Dan tunes...Rainey then did his thing & embellished them(thank God).

    2)Sting wrote most(if not all)of the basslines for the Dream Of The Blue Turtles album. I seem to recall an interview where Sting told Daryll Jones to 'fix them' "because you're 1000 times better than me on bass". Jones declined sayin'(something to the effect), "...the lines are cool & don't need fixing".

    FME, I have never had a written-out part given to me(except those plays in college)...sometimes, I wished there had been a chart.
    You know those times when a songwriter or producer-type is being totally abstract or vague?
    Sometimes, you give 'em exactly what they asked for & still get the cabash.
    ...one time, a New Country songwriter-type in this area said he wanted a Beatles' type bass part goin' down on his song.
    No problema...for the verse, I give him a McCartney 'tuba' line(like the verse on "Lady Madonna"), for the chorus, I give him a Latin-ized Paul thingee("Ask Me Why").
    So he sez...I dunno; try something else, etc.
    Finally, he sez, "Now I see the problem. Would you mind playing with only ONE finger...I think your two fingers get a little hyperactive".

    To make a short story even longer...the part ended up being totally STOCK! Dolt! ;)

    Oh, yeah, if a bassist is given a part to read...it's the bassist's job to make the part breathe & make it happen!