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is simple always best?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Blunk, Apr 26, 2003.

  1. Blunk


    Aug 14, 2002

    I've often read articles with rock stars - guitarists and bass players - who say "I've toned down my playing style, i just play what the song needs and don't try and over play at all", usually coupled with some sort of "my music has matured" statement.

    I'm wondering is, does anyone agree that simple songs are usually better than flashy songs? I'm kinda sitting on the fence with this one, but i don't agree with playing stuff for the sake of it, or making a song flashy/fancy to show off - a la a certain guitarist in my band (but hey that's what guitarist do!).

    If you look at, say the Beatles, their songs certainly weren't complicated, but they are all brilliant songs.

    Then i've heard bass players being rubbished because they play simple bass lines, they work prefectly for the songs but people don't seem happy with that at all.

    anyone any thoughts on this? Or am i just a rambling, ranting lunatic?? (no need to answer that!) :)
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    I try to play what the song calls for.
    9 times out of 10 a very basic line will be what works the best.

    Now, basic doesn't always mean simple.
    I usually start with very busy lines and as long as the song matures, I clean it to the point where only the necessary accents remain.

    The whole trick is to be original and distinctive with as less notes as possible.
  3. Blunk


    Aug 14, 2002
    That's a very good point and i can see what you mean, i think i might be confusing basic and simple in what i said.

    When i'm trying to come up with a bassline for any of our songs, i always try to play up to the song, but stay basic...i like to be tight with the drummer, alot of people have said it makes us sound a million times better.

    When i first started playing i wanted to show everyone that, you know, i can play this instrument and i'd get frustrated with simple lines because i felt i couldn't show off my talents...just kind of "I belong" kind of attitude i guess.

    Thankfully i got out of it, and i'm actually enjoying playing bass even more now than i did before! :)
  4. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Being rubbished by *who*, though?
  5. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Do a search for Cliff Williams, Adam Clayton or Mark Hoppus in the Bassist forum and you'll get the idea.
  6. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Exactly.Who "rubbishes" bass players...other bass players.I've said it before the only people impressed by double thumbing and slap/tap etc. are other bass players.
    The technique HAS to serve the music.
  7. I think as bass players we should take a look at pieces of music written by some of the great composers of history like Beethoven, Brahms, Shostakovich, etc. Look how they wrote for bass. I think the important point is that these composers didn't care if every instrument in the orchestra was continually playing extra complex, flashy parts. They wrote what they felt was required in order to make the overall composition its best. Sometimes there are some very difficult Beethoven bass parts, but there are also a lot of whole notes and rests.

    Composers like that have no personal stake in how 'fancy' the bass part is, because they aren't just writing for bass. I think bass players (and other musicians) who write their own parts often think they have to constantly "prove" themselves or show off how clever they are since their main contribution is the composing and playing of just their own bass part. Someone writing the entire piece (especially for a very large group) will probably just write more minimalistically for the bass on the whole in order to support the other parts.

    I've also seen that in rock situations too. In groups where the bass player is a major composer, or is someone who wears a lot of hats (producer, other instruments, etc.), their bass parts often become less complex. Mike Rutherford from Genesis is a good example.

    So when you hear bass parts from people that are writing for more than just the bass, I genearlly feel like they write more basic parts, even if they are the bass player. If your only (or main) contribution is writing bass parts, you are likely to maybe "try" a little harder than maybe you need to and often busier parts emerge in your effort to "earn your keep". I don't feel that's the best way IMO.
  8. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    What an excellent post:) That unique technique guy should read it.
  9. I think there has to be a balance somewhere. As our own Mike Manring said, "If you take taste too far, it's not tasteful anymore." Different musical moods call for different levels of playing.

    I think Mike Watt is a perfect example of this: listen to the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime, which encompasses a huge range of styles and moods, and you'll hear him adjust his playing according to the needs of the song. (I think that may well be the greatest rock bass album ever.)
  10. My philosophy on this subject is not to think about it. I just play stuff and try to make it sound good and try to make everyone else sound good. I have found that I dont generally play that many notes per bar but that I use a lot of syncapation and such. Yet at the same time playing fast fills, if done with phrasing and rythm not just 16th note runs, can be very good. I believe that people should never limit themselves to one style. Sometimes you should play whole notes, and sometimes you should play syncopated lines along with the snare drum rolls.
  11. BassAche


    May 1, 2003
    In my opinion, being flashy and showing off is simply another way a song can be interesting. Though I'm sure it will hit another musician alot harder than one who isn't aware of the discipline becoming proficient takes.

    It's kind of like a language. Not everyone speaks virtuoso, but plenty of people can relate to a beautiful simple song.
  12. MatW


    May 10, 2000
    UK, Swindon
    I think it depends on the context of the music you're playing. I suffered from a terrible urge to overplay when I was younger. When I listen back to old tapes I shudder.

    2 handed tapping in "Light My Fire" anyone? Urrgh.

    These days I really appreciate laying back, thinking about the song as a whole, backing singing and so on.

    However, there's a lot of music, modern jazz for example, where a solid understanding of music is needed to get the best from it. i.e, Music for musicians. I always liked 'Take 5' because it's written in 5/4, my Dad likes it because he just digs the sax line, but he has no concept of odd time signatures.

    Anyway, in a 'music for musicians' setting, why not be flashy. For your average punter this kind of thing is going to go straight over their heads. I think everyone can appreciate a good solid groove though.
  13. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings

    I think it depends on the type of song and how you define "flashy" playing. If it's playing just for the purpose of saying "hey, look at me", then it's clearly not as musically mature as something which stays within the context of the song . This doesn't mean that technically difficult music isn't as mature, so long as it stays in context.

    On the other hand, "flashy" playing may go hand in hand with a great stage show. This, however, is entertainment, not music - almost in the same way that WWE wrestling is a sport, although that isn't a perfect analogy.

    The reason why fellows like Hoppus & co. get bashed so much is probably because they are likely unable to do anything that isn't "simple". Which doesn't make it wrong to play simple, just frustrating to those with ten times the technique and one-thousandth the paycheque.
  14. Well also in many ways it also depends on the style of music... A slow song does'nt need quick complex bass it just needs the undertone to have more feeling where as speed metal... is well.. self explanitory... Anyways it also depends on if the bass player is a singer.. and if they can play complex bass while singing ..
  15. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    Since we are bassists, I think we all know our role within the band. We are sidemen by definition and our 'soloing' may be part of the show, but certainly not the main event. Major chops is a big positive when/if they are needed, but as one of the band who is supporting the soloist the main goal is to provide a solid foundation. It doesn't mean you can't add nice fills and other stuff to enhance things as long as you don't take away from whats happening out front. Lots of guys muddy it up overplaying or not grooving and that makes the band sound less than the sum of the parts. Its important to play with/for the the other musicians, I mean the effect you're looking for is what it all sounds like together. Its not about you, its about the band. Munji says it all in his sig, 'if it ain't tight, it ain't right!':bassist:
  16. Sten


    Nov 18, 2001
    Your own singature is worth quoting too, I'll remember that :)
  17. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    As one of my fellow musicians once said to me: Simple does not mean easy.
  18. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    slam said...

    You said a mouthful!!:D

    Playing a solid shuffle line looks easy and the best players make it sound easy, but doing it right and in the pocket takes discipline and concentration. One of the best is Dusty Hill. No bulls***, straight ahead, solid as a rock, perfect for what they do!:cool: :bassist:
  19. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    [3 octaves higher than you read this]I want your Kiss[/3 octaves higher than you read this]

    I personally think that simple is great, whenever I play backround music at parties or events, you gotta tone down, no flashy stuff, nice and basic. 1-5-1-1-5-5-1-5-1-1-5-5

    A lot of times simple is just fine. the bigggest reason, I think, is because if you are in a band with 4 other people, if everyone is busting a nut with their playing, it will be cluttered.

    on the flip side, I think really complicated stuff sounds great, if it is well coordinated and executed WITH your band.

    check out Lord Only's versatile residue, that's very complicated stuff, what the whole band is doing, and it all fits together fine. But also check out stuff like Slipknot or whatever, they just hit too many notes, and it sounds like mush.
  20. The wanker who came up with the phrase "Less is mroe" should been...I don't know, something terrible should happen to him/her:D, because less is not more, more is more.
    But more doesn't have to mean beatiful.

    Ofcourse, just playing the roots can be enough for certain songs, some other songs need more fiddeling or whatever etc.
    What the bassline is you are going to play, it has to fit the music.

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