Playing BASS on the bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by NewWaveBasser, Jul 15, 2001.

  1. I've seen this expression, and me... I'm all for it.

    Consider: Peter Hook's bass sounds like a guitar. He's playing guitar on the bass. His bass is really not BASS (low tones) He's good but he strays from the low tones too much for my taste. That's why I thought I couldn't hear him on New Order recordings...the guitar parts were him.

    My love for the bass has to do with those low tones. That's me. I'm not into more than 5 strings...those 8-string necks are way too wide. Plus I like the bass as was designed: four strings. A fifth is OK (it's lower). Sixth...go for it if you wanna but not me.

    Do you play BASS ON THE BASS or do you play GUITAR ON THE BASS????
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I play music on my basses - no matter how many strings are on them (4, 5, 6....whatever)

  3. ...let's assume y'all play music! I sure hope you do!

    Pacman: I was talking about the role of bass on the band ;) Some stay into rhythm, others solo like crazy...

    In your case pacman you play BASS and GUITAR on bass, since you play all kinds.

    Many never go over four. I saw this Mike Watt quote on and he seems to be against 5 plus strings...
  4. agyeman

    agyeman Member

    Mar 6, 2001
    You are limiting your self with this point of view. People approch the electric bass in different ways.

    Peter was a bassist IMO. Listen to Joy Division and New Order albums, and you will hear this. He did like the high tones, but they match the music.

    At least he doesn't play with load of distortion and sound like an electric guitar. That to me is trying to be like a guitarist, even if you are thumbing the E string.
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    My point, NWB, is that I don't play for "the instrument". I play musically, grooves, solos, fills, whatever - I don't let what instrument I'm playing dictate what notes I play.

    I don't play "GUITAR" on bass, I play bass. Sometimes I play solos, sometimes I play simple grooves, but I never play guitar.

    Putting it another way, I see my bass(es) as my voice. Just like a singer, I have something to say. My voice happens to have a deeper range than, say, an alto, but it makes it no less valid. Don't lock yourself into "rules" and "roles".
  6. Pacman, have you ever considered writing a book?

    You always have a good answer to questions like these.

    I'm not poking fun. Seriously, you got some good advice.

    Nate M
  7. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    there is no definitive argument for the statement that "basses shouldn't have more than 4 strings." except for personal taste. the history argument does not stand up to scrutiny, nor does the "that's the way leo fender made it" argument nor the "that was enough for jaco" argument.

    something that the best composers in every style of music from bach onward realized and took advantage of is that the structuring, foundational role in a composition does not have to be performed by an instrument on the bass clef, nor should a traditionally "foundational/rhythmic" instrument such as the bass be always limited to a certain octave and note-per-measure count.

    as for the whole "# of strings" argument, that's ridiculous to even bring to light. >4 string viola de gambas and barytons date back 300 years or more. one of bach's famous 6 cello suites was written for 5 string cello, another was written for one with an instrument extender. franz joseph haydn composed over 100 solo pieces, duets and trios for baryton (6-7 string cello/bass range instrument with anywhere from 9 to 22 resonating/harp strings) that now have to be performed by string quartet because of the limitations of the present-day symphonic instruments. the reason why these instruments are not around anymore is that they are very difficult to make compared to a 4 string double bass, and few luthiers could make them back then, causing their use to diminish.

    i had the great pleasure of seeing our own Rob W playing with the toronto symphony, performing, among other pieces, beethoven's 7th symphony, and everyone in the double bass section but rob had extension systems on their 4 string double basses to drop as low as a low B. he didn't need it - he had a 5 string. :D

    as for playing "bass" on the bass, originally, in popular ensembles in the early part of the century, guitar was purely a rhythm instrument, with few if any solos. so a very good and equally valid argument could be made about playing GUITAR on the guitar, instead of playing SAX or CLARINET on guitar, which were historically the solo instruments in the popular music ensembles before the 50's. what was common does not necessarily need to stay common.

    my personal opinion is that basses should NOT have only 4 strings. leo fender was limited by the technology of the day. besides, he wasn't inventing an instrument for the ages, he was making bass instrument that could be heard in country music ensembles. times change. in modern music, from jazz to pop to metal, if you want to play sessions nowdays and get calls, you better own at least a 5. as for higher strings, rhythically and harmonically, they can still be used to perform the structural role of the bass by comping chords or providing counterpoint to lower octave melodic playing.

    so ultimately, it's a matter of taste, and only of taste.
  8. rob_d


    Jun 14, 2001
    Sometimes this playing bass vs. playing guitar on the bass argument comes down to the players individual sound. Take someone like Geddy Lee. I've always thought he sounded like he was just playing the low strings of a guitar. But it has more to do with the hi-end sound he gets on his set-up and the way he plays with his finger nails. If he played with just finger tips on another bass set up his lines would probably sound more like the traditional bass sound. Someone like James Jamerson played with a heavy bottom and used flatwounds that were very old and dead...hence he got a big booming bass sound. But with his busy playing I bet if he played through Geddy's set up with his fingernails he'd probably sound like a guitar player too. So in sum, I guess alot of it has to do with a players sound and what they play through, how they EQ it and so on more so than what they actually play.
  9. Dave Castelo

    Dave Castelo

    Apr 19, 2000
    i find myself playing lots of harmony when i´m not playing with my band.... also experiment with lots of effects just like guitar... i´m not a frustrated guitar player... i just sometimes like to be the guitar player i never were :)

    really, i never studied guitar... maybe i´m frustrated after all :D

    ok ok... but still i think bass is the greatest thing ever and i thank god is not overrated like guitar... makes it even sweeter...
  10. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    If a bass is whats being played, then your playing a bass. Whether you like it or not is another story. I've never seem such strange attempts/need to DEFINE things before. :rolleyes:
  11. Usually I play bass parts, especially now since I got a new 5 string and I'm still enjoying the novelty of going lower. But sometimes I like to play my fretless unplugged and just solo though some scales, it's fun. But music is music, and a bass is a musical instrument. The range doesn't matter.
  12. I go down all the way :)
    the deeper a bass sounds, the better for me :)

    although last few weeks i'm starting to like the high-note strings a lot too... yeah babey yeah, groovey !!! :D
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree and John and Jon have come up with some very good posts on this.

    My view is why limit yourself - as long as you're playing for the music, the song etc. then who cares what your "role" is. I think Peter Hook is a good example of where the bass player actually defines and writes the songs - in some songs, his bass line is the one thing that defines the sound of the song and he was much imitated for this.

    Why should guitarists always have the limelight - where is the rule that bass players must be supportive only - rules are there to be broken and the best music often does this.

    People who didn't know much about music didn't appreciate Peter Hooks' contribution at the time, but I can asure you that all of us who were playing bass at the release of Joy Division's albums/singles were rushing around trying to get the same tone and work out what he was playing - this was one of the biggest topics in music mags etc. And every New Wave band you saw in the UK had their Peter Hooks licks a few months later!!
  14. I've been reading "How the Fender Bass Changed the World" by Jim Roberts, and in that book, he quotes Anthony Jackson as saying the bass guitar should have had 6 strings from the beginning, being that it's merely the lowest-pitched member of the guitar family. Makes sense to me.
    That said, I like 4! ;)
  15. purple_haze


    Jun 29, 2001
    London Town
    I think I get what you mean, and I for one do "play guitar" on bass. I like to play in high registers that overlap with the lower registers on a guitar, and play solos on a bass in the way guiarists play solos. I know people always say "bassists are frustrated guitarists", but in my case, it's kinda true. (less so given I actually play guitar too)

    And Cliff Burton did that a lot too. "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is an excellent example.

    As for strings, I only use 4. I cann't see myself in a situation where I would ever require 5 extra low notes or 5 extra high notes. Multi-strigs aren't really for me and the extra neck width is something I'm really not fond of. (but with regards to Anthony Jackson's comment, I wonder if this wouldn't apply if the bass had had 4 strings from the beginning. Perhaps the same neck width as the guitar!?)

    plus, i've yet to hear anyone or any recording where the usage of a few extra notes was such so as to convince me that my 4-string is redundant. (I suppose that maybe wanders into "jaco needed 4 strings" territory)
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I havn't before, but if I do, you'll get the first copy :) thanks for the kind words, I appreciate them.
  17. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I agree with everything that my fellow ABPN'ers (JT and Pacman) have said here. However, as I've found for myself, that certain players are evidently just destined to be "meat-n-taters" bass players. I worked for years on soloing, chordal techniques, tapping, etc. and got fairly proficient at it...but for some reason, I could never retain a long-term interest in it. It took a while, but I finally realized that I just plain enjoy propelling a band from the low end.

    It's a strange feeling when you realize that you aren't going to be the next Vic Wooten :D
    I'm shooting for George Porter, Jr and Roy Huskey, Jr. now....

    Takes all kinds!
  18. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    When I want to play guitar I just plug in my Telecaster. :D

    I just recently got my first 5 string. I'm seriously considering restringing it to high C as I think it will suit the music I play better than having the low B. Either way, anything that can be played on a 4 can be played on the 5, and of course you have the advantage of not always needing to make a position shift on the 5 when you would have to on the 4.

    Jack Bruce said that he thought the bass should be played more like a guitar, because the guitar player can't always be playing the chords. This is probably why early on he played a Fender VI, though he's playing Warwick these days.

    That being said, I still love my 4 stringers, for now anyway.
  19. I wonder limits really reduce artistic capability?? Personally if I set the limits and not others then it's just my personal choice.

    No doubt Hook redifened bass playing. That's OK if he goes for that.

    But on the string front...I think you can already do wonders with just five strings... and play solos. Doesn´t Hook play solos on 4-strings anyway?

    Oh, well, nevermind...let's all just plug and play that sucker!!!
  20. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Good question, and I'll go you one further. I wonder if sometimes limits can enhance creativity.

    As I told someone recently 'If you have fewer choices, they can be easier to make'. But, what you do with those choics is up to you, not anyone else. Not me, not MTV, not Bass Player magazine. Not even your bandmates, really. Just realize that they have choices, too. Like whether to hire you (play with you) or not.

    Good point, though, and if you set your own limits, you're living your life. And I dig that. :cool: