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Less is More

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by nanook, Oct 18, 2001.


  1. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    I know you slappers and "Lead" bassist are going to hate me for this. I like some slap/pop myself sometimes and the intermingling runs of the bass and lead guitar are really fine but "taste wise", I have my limits.

    Many people have said it and for the most part I agree. When it comes to bass playing, most of the time "less really is more".

    This might mean different things to different people but here is what it means to me.

    1. Over playing (adding lots of extra notes and runs) a tune ruins the entire arrangement. I'm not talking about tasteful improvements, I'm talking about hammering on the song.

    2. I will try to explain this in the simplest terms. Two 1/2 notes do not add up to a whole note. Two 1/8 notes do not add up to a 1/4 note. When you add in unneeded notes you are reducing the actual amount of bass in the song.

    Lets say the line calls for a whole note and you spice it up with two half notes instead. For the amount of time you take to put your finger (or thumb for thumbers) on the string and stretch or strike it and release it so the next note can be heard, no sound is coming from your bass. If you had played the whole note, the entire bar would have been full of bass sound.

    3. Above all else, what it means to me is laying down a tasteful groove that compliments the arrangement as a whole.

    I guess none of this would apply to Metal since I don't understand any of it.
     
  2. Oysterman

    Oysterman

    Mar 30, 2000
    Sweden
    I would say your statement is too general. In my experience/opinion, it all depends on what you want to achieve with your music. K.I.S.S. and M.U.S.I.C. are not always the same thing. ;)
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree - in Jazz for example, the basis of the music is embellishing, coming up with new slants on the same chord sequence - so if Charlie Parker had always applied this rule, we would never have had all the chord substitutions and "out" notes which are what characterise Bebop.

    A lot of people enjoy listening to Jaco's version of Donna Lee, but it wouldn't be the same without all those notes. Weather Report got huge audiences who all came to see Jaco playing those extra notes and never got anything like the same attention before or after - people all over the world were cheering for Jaco and clearly they hadn't come to see him play whole notes through every bar! :rolleyes:

    Virtuosity can add excitement to any performance and if people go along to see this, then why deny them the pleasure?
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Also true... but I don't think that FROSTYBEAR'S point was that virtuosity is bad. It sounded more like he was saying that you have to view a bassline in the context of the ENTIRE musical texture. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Any musical texture has a limited amount of "composite" space available, and this space has to be shared by everybody. In most Western music, there is often one voice at a time which is intended to be at the "forefront" of that texture. Many people take the easy way out and put whatever instrument is supposed to be at the forefront there by simply making it louder.

    But good musicians don't stop there - they make space for the leading part by tailoring what they play so that it will support the "leading" line without getting in the way of it...this is a real art form, and I fear in many ways that it is becoming a lost art form in many circles. To me the point of the original post was simply to point out that making a part more complicated or busier does NOT necessarily make it a better part of the music AS A WHOLE.... I think it is a point well made, and one that bears (no pun intended) repeating more often.
     
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    word.
     
  6. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    Amen!
    (I see Packer beat me to it!).
     
  7. i totally agree with you...to a point.

    that's the best thing to do if you don't know what you are doing.

    Jaco never really laid down a nice "whole note."

    He would alwalys remain an active bass player where he would play 16th notes in a song all the way through, and it made the song sound great!

    All in all, if you know what you are doing, then you can do whatever you want...especially in jazz.
     
  8. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I remember someone here had a sig file with a quote from (michael manring?) somone that said something to the effect of:

    Taste taken to the extreme isn't tasteful anymore.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Especially if you like playing solo, which you'll be doing a lot if you adopt that attitude.
     
  10. that's when musicianship comes in...it is possible to play a fast bass line and still compliment a song.

    it's improvisational music, you can do whatever you want, it's up to you to choose the notes and rhythm.

    maybe Jaco didn't play 16th notes through a "whole" song but he threw a lot in there. 8th and 16th.

    you gotta build up your chops, buddy...then talk trash
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    So, let's see, you admit that your last point (that Jaco would "alwalys remain an active bass player where he would play 16th notes in a song all the way through") was a complete fabrication, but then you accuse me of talking trash when I call you on it?

    Good point. :rolleyes: If you're looking for the trash talker, try your friendly neighborhood mirror, BUDDY.
     
  12. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Where'd NANOOK go? Any responses?
     
  13. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    I would agree with that. It really depends on how musically "in-tune" the musician is really. I have seen some bassist who play lots of note, but they all sound right. On the other hand, I have seen others who just play lots of notes that do NOT fit - they can use the excuse "I hear it in my head so I play it" but they have to hear what they play in the context of the song too. As I grow as a musician, I find that I am playing fewer notes, but with the fewer notes, placing them in the right places, in an order that is "musical" if that makes sense. It's actually hard to put down in words how you play music - it's so instinctive...
     
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    River People?

    ;)
     
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    oooh! and Chromatic Fantasy :p
     
  16. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    Chris-
    Question: At that particular time in music history...I dunno, ya don't think Bird's rhythm section was perceived as "busy"?
    (Compare the Boppers' brand of 'comping' vs. what immediately preceeded them).
     
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Comparatively busy? Sure...but they were also an essential part of the music, the driving force behind the swing. But they were still supporting Bird. That music is still homophonic. If the piano player was playing lines instead of 'comping chords during Bird's solo, that would be another thing, but all of the solos were clearly defined.

    Think about Bill Evans' trio work with Lafaro: Lafaro took up more space than bass players usually did at that time, but he was only able to take it and have the music still work because Evans relinquished a great deal of rhythmic space because of his style of playing. Lafaro simply filled it. If Lafaro were to play like that while playing with Art Tatum, I suspect the word "busy" would have been redefined.

    And there's no rule that states that"laying down a tasteful groove that compliments the arrangement as a whole" has to mean playing half and whole notes...it just means playing with your ears wide open and sharing the space with the other players. With some people, the bass chair ends up with a whole lot of space to play with. With others, not so much....but either way, the only way to really make music is to play with the hand you're given on any particular night.
     
  18. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    I wish I had said this.
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I find it difficult to pin down what the originla post is actually saying - but on first read-through this was exactly what I took it to mean. Which was why I said that I tended to agree more with Oysterman when he said that you couldn't generalise.

    I mentioned Jaco/Parker as an example - which was probably not the best idea but the only one I could think of, at the time. As usual, I agree completely with every word that Ed says. But I also take that to mean that you could play really wild stuff - if that's what everybody else's doing.

    So if you were the bass player in a "Free Jazz" band, then you wouldn't necessarily be just playing supportive lines and would fit in with the "vibe" - which might be - totally manic, playing as many notes as we can with no regard to time or form. Just an example of course - but I thought that more people might know the Jaco example! ;)
     
  20. listen and give the music what it needs
    How best to accomplish this universal axiom?

    From my reading of nanook's post, I didn't see anything that disagreed with that premise. What it said to me is that we should be able to limit rhythmic and harmonic choice if that's what the music needs. And yes, that is a decision that can be made before the first note is played.

    I make all kinds of decisions before the music starts. Much of this is informed by the collective direction of the group. But it is also influenced by what I to listen to and what I practice.

    My ears don't get stopped up by deciding to sit in the pocket and kick out the funk, or lay down a supportive foundation of mostly quarter notes in straight ahead. I don't have to stop listening and think about it. What I hear that the music needs is already influenced by the group's decisions, the style of the piece and the music that's been in my head before.