Is Less More

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by stefeb, Jul 18, 2002.

  1. stefeb


    Jun 9, 2002
    Bethlehem, PA
    Brief background:

    Been taking bass lessons for about a month. Still am taking jazz guitar lessons (been doing that for 1 1/2 years).

    Last night, I got to sit in on my church's band practice. I brought my bass and played along, unplugged, with the band. All good musicians, keyboard, bass, guitar, drums.

    My guitar lessons have helped a great deal in reading, and knowing where the notes are on the neck of the bass. So, if I look at a chord chart, I can play the root, and occasional fifth, etc. Certainly I have a long way to go, but I wanted to get the feel of what it's like to play with other musicians.
    Now to the point -

    The bass player in the band is very good. Fast, reads well, etc. But, he seemed to be all over the neck in almost every song. He was doing a lot of neat stuff, but it was almost too much.

    I always thought the bass was there to add the groove to a tune. You know, the thing that gets your head nodding, etc. There were a few times that he played very solid patterns, that got the whole band engaged, but most of the time it was like he was soloing, lots of fills, slaps, pops, etc.

    Am I wrong in my thinking?
  2. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    No, your thinking is absolutely right. To play advanced stuff is one thing, but getting it to fit into the song is another. There are numerous players with a big toolbox of fills, licks and tricks who can make a circus show out of playing the easiest line, but VERY FEW of those can do it and at the same time still "play for the song". Having a lot of stunts going on can be very impressive and decorate the song nicely, if done right. If done wrong, they're just annoying, and in those cases less would be more.

    Less is only more if more is too much. This is IMO the case with all instruments, not only bass.
  3. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    The trick is to come up with what is suitable within the given frame work.

    The bass will take a more prominent part in a piano bass drums trio than a two guitar 'rock' lineup or say a Latin type scenario with a brass section and everyone and his dog on percussion.

    If I can give you some individual advice; I would record some of your jazz guitar, comping some standards or some simpler worship songs, and play along. Work out some really over the top basslines then back off. Try this-verse 1 root, verse 2 root fifth or walking and verse 3 go nuts.
  4. SCH


    May 3, 2002
    San Antonio, Texas
    I'm of the opinion that the song is king. In my band I want to be a servant of the song we're playing. When you learn some "licks and tricks" it can be mighty tempting to trot them out at every opportunity, but is it appropriate within the song the band is playing?

    I've only been playing bass a couple of years, but I'm beginning to see that the notes I don't play are just as important as the ones I do. Space has it's place. Some songs lend themselves quite well to flashy fills and runs, but many others work better if I lay back and let the tune breath a bit more.
  5. stefeb


    Jun 9, 2002
    Bethlehem, PA
    Great advice, thanks.

    I've just completed Mel Bay's Second Bass book, and have played the changes on my guitar, added a drum machine, then play my bass lessons. It makes practice a whole lot more enjoyable. Now, I'm going to do as you suggest.

    Last night was really the first time I tried to play anything other than my lessons, so I really need to start playing along with the music I want to be playing.

    Thanks again.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    "If Less Is More, just think how much more More will be"-
    Frasier Crane
  7. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    It's much more with a compressor

  8. Oh how true that is! I once read that Chinese Taoists when shown a picture of a tree will tell you that where the tree is not, is just as important as where the tree is. The same applies in music, I believe.

    Mike J.
  9. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I see your point! Riffs are a very tricky thing. IMO, any halfway decent 3rd year player can show off a few neat tricks. But, unless there's true discipline in their learning, their riffs rarely amount to supporting the groove.

    In fact, after 19 years of playing, I'm still trying to better my riffs, so they sound like they belong. It's an art.:D
  10. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    I'm with you there. My problem is that now that I have a better understanding of what to play, I'm not as adept as I used to be in actually playing it! :rolleyes:
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    "...he's bebopping & tap dancing all over me. And I gonna lose it"!
    George from Seinfeld

    Anyone remember the thread when someone attempted to explain why "Less is more"?
    ...was it nanook?
    Anyway, something about a whole note actually "filling more space" than sixteen 1/16th notes, yaddayadda.

    My suggestions for "less is more".
    Practice whatever you're doing in halftime-
    1/8th notes become 1/4 notes
    1/16th notes become 1/8th notes
    A 1-bar phrase becomes a 2-bar phrase can do this with yer drum machine. ;)

    I mentioned this elsewhere-
    One time, I recorded a line for couple of local songwriters(New Country Pop)...IMO, I delivered the goods & gave 'em both what they asked for.
    Nope..."too busy".
    Finally, one of them, after studying my plucking hand for x minutes, sez "I got it"!
    He asked me to only use ONE(1) finger for plucking.

  12. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Next time we're in Philly, I'm buying you a beer. You've got some great stories. :D
  13. In my opinion, less sometimes is more. Fills are important in bridges and parts where the guitar drops out, intros and outros. But space also has it's place. Really it varies from song to song and depends on what you're doing. It's complex. I could probably do a better job of explaining if I knew what type of songs your church played. If you know "Lord, I Lift Your Name On High" there's a really cool alternate bass part that sounds like Steve Miller Band's "The Joker". It sounds cool, it grooves, and it's just eneough to make people think you're good but not showy.

  14. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Bethlehem huh? I've got lot's of family there. I'm originally from Youngstown, OH myself.

    Anyway, what do YOU hear? Sting vs. Pattitucci. They both play for the song, and they both have two very different styles. Play what you hear, and know that you have every option at your disposal. Bass is not supposed to be this or that. It is what you want it to be.
  15. Next time you guys are in Mass. give me a call, I'll let you sleep in my back yard.

    I think less is more most of the time. Some songs need more activity but more times than most I see bass players playing more than they need to.
    I.e. I saw a Gospel band a couple of weeks back, they were great but I would have been more into it if the bassist wasn't constantly ripping up the fret board. My other favorite is the player that can only slap. I remember seeing this classic rock band once and the guy slapped every thing. No finger No pick.

    Sorry but "I'm Eighteen" or "Sunshine of your love" just don't do it for me slapped all the way through.
    Little thing called dynamics seems to help a lot of songs.
  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Recently I replaced the bassist in this cover band. (He lived too far away to regularly make shows/rehearsals). Anyhoo, they gave me 3 CDs from a live performance, and said, "The last player was so great, he'd been playing for 30 years. Don't try and be him. Be yourself!"

    I pop the CD in, EVERYTHING was slap/pop. "Hotel California", "Give Me One Reason," all slapped!
  17. supergreg


    Jan 20, 2002

    Thats the craziest thing I have ever heard. Hotel California slapped! I cant even imagine how that would sound.
  18. Funny, Hotel Calif. was one of the songs this band did also. A freind of mine was the guitar player in the band. He left after 4 months, he couldn't take it either. I said "Wow you were listening to the bass player?" He said he notices them more when they are real bad.
  19. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I did that at a church gig once.... It was funny to see all the people who recognized what I was doing start smiling. :):cool:
  20. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    :) Ive done that as well

    I can't remember the song but theres one that my drummers old church sing and it's very Country and Western. I slip in "Gimme Some Loving" and look to see who has watched the Blues Brothers.