Is being a good bass player a dying art?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Jarrett, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. Jarrett


    Jan 19, 2004
    Not sure where to put this one, thought I would try here.

    More and more I see bands, local and national that have really so so bass players. Some local are quite bad actually. Pop music all the way from the 60's through the 90's required quite a bit of skill and most local bass players had pretty impressive technique and really solid fundamentals. You could tell they had spent time studying the masters over time.

    Nowadays, I don't see that as much anymore outside of the first call studio guys. Anyone else noticing this? If so, what does this trend mean for the instrument?

    To clarify, my original post meant something like I don't see many bass players around today that could for example *really* pull off Jamerson's bass line to Marvin Gaye's Heard It Through The Grapevine. Just the feel, nuance, pocket, melodic sense that is in a classic line like that. It's not super technically hard, just takes focus, time and practice to own those fundamentals. Those core fundamentals seem to be missing more and more in modern playing. That's what I'm saying.
  2. I assume you are talking about original bands. If so, yes I would agree. I think it carries into other instruments as well though.
  3. i dont know but for me as aspiring professional (dont laugh at me please) this only means less competition. and im not that good either
  4. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    I know what you're saying, and I have two completely different reasons why this may be, as well as a related half reason, but I'm not sure which reason, or all, or none, is correct.

    (1) There has always been a general shortage of talented bassists when compared to the supply of good singers, good guitarists, good drummers (not so much), good keyboardists, etc. It used to be the good bassists quickly worked themselves into the more successful bands with the good singers, good guitarists, etc., leaving the local bands with the less-talented bassists. For any number of reasons, the talented bassists are now not moving upwards into the better bands as surely as before, leaving more talented bassists sprinkled amongst the local bands and more uneven bass talent amongst the more successful bands.

    (2) Since the advent of the affordable synthesizer, there has been less reliance on talented bassists working in conjunction with talented drummers and guitarists to achieve "that sound", the desired nuance, etc. More and more the desired nuance is achieved by synthesizer rather than the collaboration of guitarist, drummer and bassist. Hence, less talented bassists can provide the ol' I-IV-V while the fills and even the underlying groove are being supplied more by the synths.

    (2-1/2) A related theory is that heavy metal power chording supplies much of the low-end punch that was previously supplied by talented bassists.

    Or maybe it's none of these. But yeah, I have noticed it too.
  5. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    What I've noticed on my local originals scene is a lot of overplaying. I'm not talking about creative, interesting bass grooves that might be a bit busy. I'm talking about banal, root-notey, yet functional grooves that are constantly being punctuated by self-serving, groove-killing runs up and down the neck. It's like they've got no sense of the overall pulse of the tune.

    If guys with lesser chops are getting hired more, could it be that their inability to go wheedly-whee every five seconds might be the very thing that makes them desirable?
  6. Freez


    Nov 8, 2008
    At my house it is!!!
  7. father of fires

    father of fires Commercial User

    Nov 29, 2006
    Chief of Medicine at Damnation Audio
    Since humans build a reality based solely on their experiences and prejudices, I would say that you are experiencing a lack of quality bassists in your life.

    Me???…I see them everywhere. I play with and am friends a metric **** ton of fantastic musicians but I tend to gravitate towards people who play the music I like and play it well.
  8. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal

    There are lots of great bassists in my area.
  9. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I had a similar discussion with a fellow bassist. Lots of stuff, especially in R&B and Hip-Hop are produced with a loop, sequence, or some other mechanical method. The issue is that alot of the stuff can be VERY repetitive and simple, and would bore lots of bass players.
  10. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Too many bass players want to be Vic Wooten or Stu Hamm. They want to be out front and play over everything. It's very limited, the amount of players that can sit in the pocket and hold down the bottom end without going off into thousand note world. You see it here on TB in "look at my band" clips constantly. Everyone wants to be a soloist and nobody knows how to be a sideman anymore. It's more poor technique mixed with excessive ego around here. I find it humorous, also part of the reason local music venues have become sparse over the past 20 years, crap musicians can't pull a crowd.
  11. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Now the big thing is to Sit on your Arse and Slap the strings and then video tape it and post it to youtube.
  12. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    What's funny is I actually LOVE playing super-repetitive bass parts. I know I must be in a tiny minority. But I trance right out on it. Most of my bands don't want that type of playing. But I'm possibly joining a reggae band, and some of those bass parts are one-riff wonders. It's a chance to get DEEP inside a groove.
  13. fishtx


    Mar 30, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Genzler Amplification/Spector Basses/Mojo Hand FX
    It's the "me, me, me" generation...They all just want to "slap" and play "lead bass" now, and don't understand what playing in the pocket is really all about.
  14. NWB


    Apr 30, 2008
    Kirkland, WA
    So true.

    There is so much music that is so simplistic that it would bore a bass player to tears and is much better suited to the automatic sequencer.

    Plus, sequencers don't fart so much!
  15. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    Yeah I can see what you're talking about.

    I wonder how much of this has to do with the "Guitar Hero" mentality of easy, short attention span, "join the dark side" players. Today more and more "music" is derived from a computer and inserting a loop or "back in the day" sample. Even your basic keyboard music at least requires some ability.

    Also, at least within the last century, musicianship has been under appreciated. Think about bands like Rush, Dream Theater, Opeth, or Nightwish. These bands have some amazing players, and some equally amazing compositions, yet outside of Rush you will never hear them on the radio. Well maybe at midnight on Sunday during some metal show or something, but never during the normal schedule. It's not wanted.

    Some of this is OUR own fault as too many current players dismiss those that push themselves past the basics with comments like "keep it simple", "less is more", "theres no money past the 5th fret", etc etc.... How many bar bands try to push themselves past the classic bar band covers set list? Very few, because the audience doesn't really want to hear it. If I hear "Brown Eyed Girl" one more time I'm gonna shoot somebody. If I have to play it, it would be the band leader.

    The unfortunate truth of it is that only musicians listen to the music, while the average listener only pays attention to the vocals and the "beat", with the instrumentation being merely an after thought outside of the songs signature hook.
  16. Gearhead17

    Gearhead17 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2006
    Mount Prospect, IL
    I have to agree with this one.
  17. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Part of the problem as well is that so many musicians are one genre players these days as well. And there are so many genres (and sub genres) that fewer players are spread among many more genres. Want proof? Take a look at CL ads these days. You'll see quotes like this.......

    "I only play doom/sludge/blood core. Don't even ask me to try any of that stupid death/scream/angry core junk."

    Forgive me. I'm not up on all my "cores". But the point is that many players only play the kinds of songs that fit into their tiny little concept of what music is. When you spread a few bass players locally among 15 genres, with a dozen sub genres each, it gets pretty thin pretty quick.

    So, the most talented players may be sitting in their bedrooms making the kinds of Youtube videos mentioned earlier, just waiting for the perfect southern Arkansas mud/math/evil core band to form. Until that fateful day, they will bury themselves in misery and post threads here such as "Where did all the good gigs go and junk?"
  18. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I don't think we can blame them for that. Lyrics they can understand, because they use the same language to speak every day. And the "beat", which is another way of saying "pulse", or "groove" is universal, and it's also something we bass players are (or should be) reponsible for.

    What are non-musicians supposed to appreciate about the music? The interesting sycopation? The hip, sophisticated chord progression? The way you cleverly slipped into the melodic minor scale? So what? Do you marvel at film techniques when you go to the movies, or do you get lost in the story? Heck, if the filmmakers are any good, it's definitely the latter.

    One major problem with a lot of originals bands is they want to put all that STUFF in, which is fine, but they don't do it with a musical end in mind, they just do it to impress people, and then they don't understand why only musicians are impressed.
  19. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Check out some good Blue Grass shows if you want to see some really great Musicians.
  20. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    That last point, for me, is key. The way I see it, bass used to appeal to the kinds of folks who were happy being sidemen. I'd say the majority of people taking up bass these days, however, have something very different in mind where the role of the instrument is concerned. They want the spotlight and they want to wow their peers with chops instead of musicality. Having said that, I know a bunch of fantastic bassists. :)

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