Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by nanook, Oct 6, 2000.

  1. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    I feel music in layers laid down by various instruments.

    Layer one is the drums, the white sound, the basis on which the other music is built.

    Layer two is the bass, the surging groove to which all higher layers must attach themselves to become part of the whole.

    The upper layers (guitar, keyboard, horns, etc.) ebb & tide around the bass but always come back to tag up with the bass theme.

    Rarely if ever does a good bassist venture out of his/her layer and even then only to return quickly.

    I could tell you more but you wouldn't understand it.

  2. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...hmmmmm, "OK".
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I don't think this is necessarily true - this description reminds me of a song on Franc o' Shea's album Esprit. Franc is a really good UK Jazz bassist and on the track "Be for Baka" he builds up several layers of bass an percussion which intertwine. Most of the track is overdubbed bass parts including harmonics and percussive elements. The melody eventually surfaces on lead bass and sort of emerges out of the background and surges above all of the rhythmic patterns. It then drops back into the mix and leaves the rhythmic parts to spark off of each other.
  4. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    The words "lead" and "bass" should never be used together. If a band has one of these freaks, they will also need an actual bassist as I described.

    In that context, a bass is not a bass. It is being used for something other than it's intended and traditional role.

    Too many strings, too much showboating and not enough bottom ruins the music.
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
  6. I disagree. You are correct in saying that was the traditional role of the bass. That's changed. Lots of bands nowadays have bass solos scattered about, and have songs where the bass is the primary/co-primary instrument, using guitars for only chorus roles. The bass has expanded it's role drastically.

  7. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    Who lays down the groove while you are playing lead bass?
  8. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    The Banjo player...:)
  9. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.

    I agree with Nanook up to a point. Who does lay down the groove while the bassist is hotdogging? I think the bass should fulfill the traditional bass role whether soloing or just laying down the beat, indicating chord changes and serving as the drummers metronome. A good solo should not only maintain the groove, it should intensify the groove.

  10. MrGump


    Apr 20, 2000
    I agree with the traditionalist view,but only to a point.IMHO,and as mentioned before,a creative Bassist can play little "hooks"and "co-melodys"(for a short time anyway)without hurting the groove.I believe the ease with which an electric bass can be played,and its ability to be heard(since the invention of the amp)makes it function differently than the waay old days.
    Someone also said "the bass is the drummers metronome"IMHO the drummer is MY metronome!And if he needs one,he shouldnt be a drummer.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999 'bout the drummer or percussionist? The guitarist or pianist? Groove IS NOT "bass exclusive", right?
    Just one example-
    Jimmy Haslip of The Yellowjackets will double a melody played by either Robben Ford(guitar) or Bob Mintzer(sax/bass clarinet/EWI); William Kennedy(when he was in the band)was holding the groove...DOWN! If you're talking about missing "bottom", then Russell Ferrante would play "bass" with his LEFT hand on the keyboard(believe it or not, some keyboardists are wicked "bassists").

    For the record, many of you guys know me as one who "doesn't solo". Regardless, there's a whole wide world of music out there...a lot of it may NOT groove in a way that's relatable to you or me.
    ...there, I bit.

    There's some drummers out there who'll tell ya "...YOU are responsible for YOUR OWN time".
  12. my other tapping hand....:D
  13. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    Sounds like the same thing I said just in a different way. Maybe you said it better and I agree 100%.
  14. furtim


    Dec 12, 1999
    Boston, MA, USA
    So you're basically saying that Jaco didn't know what the Hell he was doing? =)

    In my opinion, anyone who categorises instruments into roles is being very narrow-minded and is probably hurting their band more than helping it. Does that mean that we should all start playing 16th-note melodies on bass instead of sticking with the "bass line"? Of course not. The important concept to consider is not that of a "role" but of a "responsibility". Everyone in the group is somewhat responsible for creating the whole piece. You can'yt just play your "layer" and expect it to sound right. Everyone must listen to one another and react to that to make sure that all of the responsibilities are being fulfilled and that the sounds is the one being sought. If the responsibilities are being fulfilled, anything goes. If the bassist can fill his responsibility to the group by playing 16th-note counter melodies, so be it. If he fills it by playing a quarter-note walking line, so be it. It doesn't matter as long as it get done. Now, certain kinds of lines fill the responsibility better for certain styles of music or certain songs, and we as bassists need to be sensitive to that.

    Hmm... that was even more convoluted than the original post. Okay, here's the point: yes, we have a responsibility to fulfill, but compartmentalising the music and saying "This is how you will play, OR ELSE" is an essentially unhealthy experience. Wow, that was a quick summary. =)
  15. Robert B

    Robert B Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Hampton, Va USA
    While Nanook's description may not necessarily (or always) true, I believe in general he is right on the money. I've always found it interesting that bassists who step out of the traditional role are admired by other bassists, but the the bassist who is generally sought out and admired by other musicians (drummers, guitarists, etc.) is the one who fills the role described by Nanook. The Jacos and Wootens of the world are greatly admired by bassists, but are not put on a pedestal to the same degree by other musicians or the general population. Of course, everyone can come up with exceptions to this generalization, but nonetheless, I think your chances of working are much better if you're a player who concentrates on holding down the bottom and the beat.

    Consider musicians you may have played with who refused to fill their traditional roles in a band. Have you ever played with a keyboard player who insisted on continually playing bass riffs with his left hand? Or how about a guitarist who always sets the tone on his guitar with earth-shaking lows? What was your reaction as a bassist? I can tell you my reaction from experience, "If you want to play bass, you don't need me!" Or as someone else described, how about a drummer who expects you to keep the beat so he can hot-dog around on the drums? That kind of departure from the traditional role may work in small doses in very specific circumstances, but beyond that creates disharmony, chaos and resentment in a band and is the antithesis of the teamwork needed to operate as a single unit. Again, I am speaking in general. Everyone can find isolated examples that are exceptions to the rule -- that doesn't mean that Nanook's description of traditional roles isn't generally valid.

    As to the comment that Jaco didn't know what he was doing, did you read the same post from Nanook as I? I don't remember seeing that. Are you putting words in his mouth? ;)

    Also, I don't see any difference between the role and the responsibility of the players -- aren't these just two different ways to describe the same thing?
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Robert B-
    What's happenin'?
    ...just wanted to say that(IMO)Jaco was/is admired by many MUSICIANS. Even the Jazz purist recognized that this skinny cat had something to say on his "gadget bass".
    Too, most of his tunes are not in the bass "gymnastics" vibe. Recall the threads at this site from those who didn't hear what all the fuss was about in regards to Jaco. Look at the company & kinda players that kept company with ran the gamut from Jazz to R&B to Funk to Rock to Latin/World to Avant Gard/Free.

    I'm still confused over this "traditional role" of the electric bass. This instrument's history is very short...are we supposed to be mere timekeepers that define the harmony? That works great in a Pop environment.
    Joe Osborn is a great bassist that fits into that role; what about Jamerson? Same sorta Pop environment, very different approach & interpretation. Which one is the "tradionalist"?

    When it's required, I'll play what's "traditional"(I get treated very well to play 2-beat Root/5 in a New Country band). I listened to enough bassists when I began playing to understand what to play. Lately, I'm checking out the whole picture...I really listen to percussion/drums for rhythmic figures & horn lines for melodic ideas.
    For "my" own enjoyment, I'm into playing with interactive musicians...guys who wanna challenge what's perceived to be "traditional". Yeah, that's one reason why I'm not gigging like I used to...I'm just over the same ol' backbeat BS played the same way over & over & over.

    ...sorry for the semi-rant(I'm a little irked 'cause the Redskins are busy kicking my Eagles' butts).
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think this has got way off what I thought was the original topic - layering sounds in music. But anyway - what about solo bassists ? I mean we have had three of them as forum leaders on this site - Michael Manring, Steve Lawson and Mike Dimin. And I know others do this as well - GMStudio, for example. They play all the parts including lead and on occasions will "layer" parts, by using overdubs or live with things like JamMan or the Boomerang phrase sampler. So they shouldn't be doing what they're doing? They should be sticking to laying down a groove in a band - they're somehow "wrong" I don't think so! :rolleyes: Michael Manring is very successful for a start.

    The album I mentioned by Franc O' Shea has a few bass-only tracks and was very successful in the UK. It got a lot of exposure on JazzFM radio here and he plays to large Jazz audiences, while at the same time only playing the music he wants to. This is my definition of success. I have no ambition to play to huge audiences in stadiums, especially if it meant playing music that I hated and was boring.
    I would much rather be appreciated by a few intelligent musicians, than hordes of people I have nothing in common with, who don't really understand music and who will move their allegiance to the next "big thing" in a few months anwyay. And I would far rather listen to music that challenges my ideas and pre-conceptions, than music that tries to stick to a pre-set "forumula" or idea of what it "should" be.
  18. Robert B

    Robert B Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Hampton, Va USA
  19. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Iowa's ANOTHER subject on TalkBass...where people feel that they have to choose sides. One of the main reasons for which I have always loved that it is such a great form of personal expression. Does it matter if sometimes I hold down the groove, or at other times(depending on the musical style)...
    I am the lead instrument? It is the MUSIC which matters! If people REALLY had a love of music...they would realize that...and quit all this senseless bickering about what bass to play...and how to play it.
    Quit worrying what other bassplayers are doing. And be happy with YOURSELF.
  20. Robert B

    Robert B Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Hampton, Va USA
    Hey JimK -- Good to hear from you, buddy. I agree with your comments on Jaco. I probably shouldn't have even mentioned his name -- whether he was in the back holding the groove or playing out front he did it all great. And yes, he does have a high level of respect among musicians in general, but not, I think, the extreme awe with which we bassists tend to view him.

    And your comment on traditional bass has me thinking as well. I guess if we asked 100 different bassists what the traditional role of bass players is, we'd probably get 100 different answers. I guess what I consider the traditional role is to fashion lines and rhythms that complement the music as a whole, rather than showcasing the chops of the player. Music first, ego second.

    Hey Deynn -- If it was my remarks that gave you that unhappy blue face, I apologize. I just thought Nanook's remarks were insightful and right on the money. I understood immediately what he was saying, and I guess for some unexplainable reason felt the need to "rally 'round" when folks started nit-picking at it. (Probably just cranky because tomorrow's my 49th birthday...gettin' old, man!)

    I don't know why it is that we spend so much time discussing points on which we disagree, when there is probably so much more that we do agree on. Than again, maybe it's just a bit more interesting this way... ;) Or maybe that's just human. Or maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and go back to lurking... :)

    [Edited by Robert B on 10-08-2000 at 05:05 PM]