[Only a bass player] "That's not a Job at all!"

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Flacco, Feb 18, 2019.

  1. Flacco

    Flacco Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2017
    Jacksonville, FL
    *CAUTION - Rant ahead*

    So, I went through a roller coaster of emotions after listening to this line delivered by a snot-nosed, musically privileged (due to his parents involvement), little a-hole speaking about an instrument and role I had to teach to myself with zero guidance when this kid was basically force fed the musical background I had craved only after learning much later was the foundation of everything I loved. I cursed his name, his band and his stupid face!

    ...Then I realized, the little punk was right...and I was just jealous.

    The subject line is delivered just before the 17 minute mark in this video:

    It took me a little while to realize the bassists that made me want to play bass (Jaco, JPJ, James Jamerson, Ty Zamora) weren't just bassists. They were multi-instrumentalists who had a broad knowledge of composition and theory before picking up the bass. At least for me, Bassists weren't only bassists...that wasn't their only job.


    Next, I realized that recently I have been the most fulfilled while exploring other instruments, learning more theory, and taking a bigger role in the composition of my band's songs which circled back and informed my basslines to be way better than when I focused on just the drums. I reluctantly submitted, I didn't want to be "just a bass player" anymore. The moniker I had worked on for almost two decades, wearing the title as an often misunderstood badge of honor, only really respected by other musicians or people who knew music, had lost its appeal. I felt like I betrayed the younger version of myself who said, "screw those dime-a-dozen guitarists who care more for the attention than the music. I'm THE bass player, I live for the groove and to serve the song primarily. I don't need to know more than that".

    So I find myself understanding what this guy meant a little better. But I'm conflicted. What do you think?

    1. Are there really only bass players out there?
    2. Is the bass as complex as guitar in music composition?
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I don't know about the others, but Jaco was not a "multi-instrumentalist who had a broad knowledge of composition and theory before picking up the bass." He had played drums. He learned theory and composition as a working bass player (and it's laughable to think that this kid could have done the "job" Jaco did). When he learned composition, he privately used piano as a tool toward that end, but he channeled his music primarily through the electric bass.
    Flacco likes this.
  3. I was a drummer playing gigs for 15 years before I ever started bass.

    As a key member of the "groove" of the music, I think this was the most important lesson I had learning to be a bass player in a group. If you can be on tempo and stay in time with the simplest of bass lines I think it'll still sound better than a thousand random notes based on an imaginary tempo in your head that the rest of the band doesn't hear.
    Flacco likes this.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Every musician in any ensemble has an equal opportunity to make an equal contribution. I don't worry about whether my lines are "complex". Imagine Papa Was a Rolling Stone" without the bass line - three notes. Far less complex than a bassist in a metal band doubling a verse of 64th notes runs.
    Flacco and LBS-bass like this.
  5. When I watched Greta Van Fleet on the TV recently, I thought it was cool that the bassist jumped onto keys.
    I wish I was better at other instruments, but I don’t feel ashamed in any way. Bass is the instrument I have the best voice on, so it’s where I concentrate my efforts.
    wesonbass, cableguy and Flacco like this.
  6. Flacco

    Flacco Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2017
    Jacksonville, FL
    ^^Thats a good point. I was thinking more of his knowledge after the fact. But it does make me feel better knowing any instrument is an avenue to broader musical knowledge and that your instrument is just your choice of expression. I'm back to not liking this kid :bored:

    Ha! There's another thread right now about being "ashamed" of our roles that probably tipped me over the edge after thinking about this video. But I agree and I'm glad you made that point. It's not something to be ashamed of if its your "only" instrument. I definitely felt "bass-shamed" when he said that, like, I'm sorry I don't have the luxury of TWO expensive instrument hobbies....little turd.

    Like I just said, I'm back to not liking him for that comment.
    Lee Moses likes this.
  7. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Yah, but can he mow a lawn ? Pay rent ? lol
  8. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    First of all, a point I often repeat on TB: what's complex or simple is not the instrument, but the music you play on it. Take a piece like Pachelbel's Canon; a lot of middling pianists can play it. Now think of playing it - the whole thing - on solo bass. It would be a tremendous challenge and the bassist who did a compelling arrangement of it would be considered a virtuoso. Now take a simple bit of music, like the bass part - just the bass - of U2's With or Without You. Very simple to play on bass, how about on piano? Also super simple. You could do it with one finger.

    So which instrument is more complex and challenging - bass or piano? To judge by those examples, it's actually the bass that is harder - tougher pieces are easier to play on piano and easy parts are even easier. What's actually going on is that BECAUSE piano is simpler, we EXPECT MORE of pianists and give them tougher parts to play. But that's a matter of convention, not necessity.

    So no one should think they're superior or inferior on the basis of the instrument they play: the only real question is the music. Meanwhile, when it comes to music, sometimes the simple is more powerful and more compelling than the complex. Sometimes the challenge is not playing complex chords or lots of rapidfire notes, but capturing the needed expression. With or Without You's bass line is an idiot-simple series of notes to play - just pumping eighth-note roots across four chords over and over again - but can you sustain that series of notes, steadily, through four straight minutes, with no dragging or rushing but keeping a relentless, urgent, dynamic pulse underlying the rest of the song?

    Having said all that, sure - there's a difference between excusing oneself from musical excellence by saying you're "just a bass player," vs. saying you are a musician and bass happens to be your preferred musical voice. You may or may not branch out and play other instruments as well. But Jamerson or Mingus weren't letting anyone think they were lower-grade musicians just because their instrument was bass.
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