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only one bass player

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by RichardW, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. RichardW


    Feb 25, 2016
    near Philly
    The death of Butch Trucks, RIP, prompts this thought: many, if not most, bands will have two or more guitar players. Many bands will have occasionally have two keyboard players. And, rarely, a band will have two drummers (like the Allman Bros or the Grateful Dead).

    But I have never seen or heard of a band with two bass players.

  2. JJR58

    JJR58 Dirty Bird Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY.
    Not sure if it was '78 or '79, but Frank Zappa had Arthur Barrow and Patrick O'hearn on tour with him.

    This was at The Palldium in NYC.

    Great show, and Frank knew what he was doing in having the both of them up there.
  3. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    It seems to me that with drummers the notes are more impact than sustain, so there is more temporal white space. It is possible to have two drummers playing complementary grooves that work well together. With bass, unless staccato or slapped, the notes don't leave a lot of temporal white space. That coupled with the relatively narrow range that most bass lines occupy makes it more difficult to execute complementary lines that don't muddy each other. Or perhaps most BLs think that one bassist is more than enough to put up with;)

    Saddened by the death of Butch. May he RIP.
    AlexanderB likes this.
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    As a sound guy too, I can tell you it's a simple matter of physics. Mid frequency and high frequency tones "blend" better. Chords in sub frequencies (with rare exception) sound horrible.

    So, if you had two bass players, they would have to occupy two different sonic footprints. Either...

    One would have to play low bass and one higher (which really negates the need for that higher instrument being a bass).

    Or one could play sustained notes while the other does plickity plackity stuff...which can usually be handled by a drummer/percussionist.

    If you'll notice, the same has happened throughout history of music. Babershop quartets don't have two bass singers, while all of them have a couple or three guys in the middle/high range. Symphonies usually have a slue of mid/high instruments with maybe a couple tubas or double basses. Those bass tones simply clash when layered in most cases. (There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare.)

    Short version: They couldn't realistically occupy the same space like keys or guitars can. If they have to occupy two different sonic spaces, why have them both be basses when so many other instruments do the mid/high things so much better than basses do?
  5. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
  6. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
  7. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    I saw James Brown twice in his later years and he employed two bass players on stage at the same time. Couldn't quite tell if they were playing unison lines or counter to each other (I was far away from the stage). The sound was always amazing for a JB show.

    But yeah, in general, we mortals usually have only one bass player. @two fingers summed it up pretty well.
    aesopslyre and dinoadventures like this.
  8. Josh Kneisel

    Josh Kneisel

    Jun 17, 2016
    Bass frequencies tend to fight each other so you would need one playing in a different register or it would be mush.
    Blueinred and Miker27607 like this.
  9. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    There are a couple of threads about this topic already here on Talk Bass, if you do a search.

    I used to play in one of those bands, Menfolk.

    Where I was assigned with a brighter tone, sometimes doubling the guitar, sometimes the more traditional bass and sometimes playing lead, melody or making noise.

    Here's one of the tracks I recorded with them (and wrote the main riff for by the way):

    There are numerous of other examples of bands or songs who make/made use of two bass players.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2017
    ScarfFace, HolmeBass and Bassist4Eris like this.
  10. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Andy Pratt - Avenging Annie
    Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side
  11. PaulReside


    Mar 14, 2016
    Scottsdale Az
    Ned's Atomic Dustbin.
  12. rocu


    Jan 28, 2015
    Missoula, MT
    IMHO there is a magic number of basses to be played together in a band at any one time and that number is one.
    IMHO that is the same number for guitars. Sometimes two guitars can work but they need to have clear roles.

    Lot's of people with more talent than I may have a different magic number but, IMHO, they are wrong.
    Dark Red Moon, obimark and Oddly like this.
  13. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    In that video where Robert Downey Jr. sings Driven to Tears, Sting is playing bass guitar and there's a gentleman playing upright as well. don't know if one of them was just for show tho.
  14. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    Klondike, jj4001, HolmeBass and 2 others like this.
  15. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I've seen a few. Dumpstafunk comes to mind, and at least at one point Andrew W.K.'s band was doing it. Also there's an infinite number of one-off tracks and YouTube videos of two or more bassists making tunes.

    Certainly I think that in general there is likely to be more overlap between two "traditional" bassists than is the case with things like guitars and keyboards, so this type of thing is more likely to be effective in bands that are doing things a bit differently (and, by very nature, there are fewer of these than more normal types of bands).
  16. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    SMV- Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten. 3 for the price of 1 there.

    btmpancake, HolmeBass, Helix and 5 others like this.
  17. stigbeve


    Sep 24, 2014
    I don't believe there are 2 basses on the album version but I always liked this performance
    maxschrek, RichardW, ERicks and 2 others like this.
  18. gttim


    Dec 12, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    The Dirtbombs used to have two bass players and two drummers- one guitarist and singer. Ko Melina replaced the second bass player at one point, and then changed to baritone guitar. I think the second bass, and they list the baritone guitar, as buzz/fuzz.
  19. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Duke Ellington had two bassists once in a while.


    Willie Nelson used two bassists for a while, Bee Spears and Chris Ethridge.

    I was in a one-off project called the Earthmovers with three bass guitars and a drummer.

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