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Playing a "lead bass style" if you will.....

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by stingray2112, May 27, 2008.

  1. I've been playing bass for alittle while now and I've always heard the term lead bass style, but when I ask what that means noone knows the answer. I did some research and I know that John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Cliff Burton and Lynyrd Skynyrd's bass player are known as lead style bass players. I want to be able to play "lead bass" but I'm trying to figure out how to do it. I would consider myself(although nowhere at his level) more of a Ron Blair type bass player(Tom Petty's bassist) I play the roots alot and try to play in the pocket alot. I move up the fretboard but try to hold down the bottom end at the same time, staying out of everyone's way and not trying to take away from the music. So I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with playing the way I do now, but I'm trying to play a different style. So can anyone give me tips on how to play more of a "lead bass" style?
  2. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    The key is not to abandon your "in the pocket" nature, because that's the key to being a good sounding lead bassist. The bassists you've listed do play lead bass, but it's by no means a bass solo encompassing the entire song.

    It's a matter of knowing your scales and modes and finding little melodic licks and incorporating them into a groove. It's all about adding to the song, not overpowering it... unless of course the band calls for over the top bassifying... which can work (see: The Real Me by The Who).

    Get at least a base level understanding of modal theory and just experiment from there, learn from your influences, but don't be afraid to be original.
  3. Shroom


    Dec 12, 2006
    I'm no expert, but I would call Flea a "lead bassist" because without him, RHCP really wouldn't have any sound at all.. at least on their middle and more recent stuff.
  4. I would not call any of the players that you mentioned 'lead-style' bass players. They are just players that play melodically.

    Joe 'Foley' McCreary who played with Miles is what I would call a lead bass player.

    If you want to learn how to play more melodically, then listen for those ideas. Transcribe bass lines in this style and look at how they did it.
  5. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA

    I'm curious, what's the difference?
  6. I guess another question that I can ask is how can I play more melodically?
  7. amandolin


    Mar 16, 2008
    Lancaster, PA
    Simon Gallup of The Cure does a lot of "lead bass" playing. "Secrets," "Cold" and "Plainsong" are good examples of the bass playing high on the neck, letting synths handle the low end.

    But then, I don't know if you're into post-punk...
  8. GianGian


    May 16, 2008
    I think that lead bass is like leaving the bottom end empty, and playing melodicaly is going a bit on both ways, provising the bottom end, but with more melody and a bit less rhythm, maybe more to the middle of the neck.
  9. Woogles


    Apr 17, 2008
    To hell with bottom end.
    Playing higher up the fretboard can shake the house just as much :p
  10. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Comes to mind that they play licks synchronized with the guitar, thus leaving the guitarist to do other things (and in recording to add counterpoint, etc.).

    Seems like there are quite a few current bands/bassist who play in this 'do what the guitar player' is doing style. You're asking for tips to play like that?
  11. I would define lead bass playing ala Foley style as playing like a lead guitaist. I.e. focusing on playing a riff or hook not so much focusing on outlining the harmony.

    Melodic bass players are still outlining the harmony, but doing so in a melodic fashion.
  12. GianGian


    May 16, 2008
    Geddy Lee plays quite free from the guitar most of the time, Cliff BUrton always had a few shine spots of his own, I agree abou John Paul Jones, pretty much Jimmy Page one octave lower, although he had his moments too.
  13. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    Whether you it's "lead bass" or "melodic bass," what it comes down to in my mind is playing bass and fulfilling the bass function while also serving a melodic function within the music.

    Seen in that context, the best example I have of lead bass for Stingray89 is the same musical moment that made me a bass player.

    Buy and listen to Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live. You will discover a lot about how melodic (and melodically leading) a bass line can be and still serve as a real bass. Most of those songs are carried melodically by the bass as much as the vocals. Tony Levin is truly amazing.

    The rendition of Steam on that album made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and I became a bass player that day. (in spirit, even if the actuality of it took a few months)
  14. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Listen to Jack Bruce with Cream live...I'm So Glad off Goodbye Cream would be a good example. He showed you can go out there and totally hold it down at the same time if you do it right.

    Entwistle on Live At Leeds and Quadrophenia would probably qualify too.

    To me, it's "lead bass" if what is being played is interesting enough stand on its own, define the tune and be adventurous at the same time.
  15. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Excellent point about the band holding the groove together to let the bass player out.

    Also so many references to Jack Bruce. Disraeli Gears broke my sophmore year in college and by the time I was a senior he was playing with McLaughlin. Still I never appreciated him, then or now. Must take a listen.:meh:
  16. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008

    Play all of the right notes, like you would as a "non-lead bass player" but just play more of them. Fill in a lot more space in the sound.
  17. MONOWAR 's Joey DeMaio!!! Sting of the bumbble bee is one the best bass solos ever, even better than Korsakov's. also Billy Sheehan, he's a true (Lead Bassist).
  18. ac1710


    May 12, 2008
    Ramble on is a great example of lead bass. JPJ plays a high melodic line around 2 chords in teh verse. Perfick!
  19. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    +1 Ramble On. JPJ also wrote the Black Dog riff and was really instrumental in shaping a lot of zep tunes. Check out the JPJ album with Diamanda Galas & his solo albums. Not a guitar chord in site and he manages to fill the space.

    I hear Joey DeMaio sucked live.
  20. GianGian


    May 16, 2008
    Are you sure it's just live?:p