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Playing Country bass the "correct" way?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Ljudsystem, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. Ljudsystem


    Oct 4, 2017
    Hi guys

    I play bass in a swedish country band (mostly classic stuff from the 50s, 60s and 70s).

    I've been muting my notes on the snare hit but I saw some video on youtube where several commentators said you don't do that in "real country music". Listening more closely to my favorite artists it seems most bassists let the notes ring.

    Are there any red blooded american country pickers here on the forum that would like to clear this up for me?
  2. 1 5 1 5 5 1 5 1 3 1 3 4 5 2 1 7 1
    bmac314, DeepHz, Iristone and 5 others like this.
  3. JKos


    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    DaDo625, edencab, FugaziBomb and 3 others like this.
  4. It doesn't matter. If it sounds good, it is good. As long as you're alternating/walking with the the chords, it's all country.
  5. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    Red Blooded Texan Country Music Player here....
    I palm mute as needed and use fretting hand muting as needed to match the tightness of the drums, depending on the song, of course. Sometimes I use a pick sometimes I finger pluck, sometimes a thumb pick. Sometimes it's a J and sometimes a P, sometimes a fretless, sometimes an upright. Just depends.
    There's no right or wrong though. Do what sounds best for the music you're playing.
  6. Abington


    Dec 25, 2007
    If you are playing old stuff where your reference recordings feature the upright then I would say that you'll want to use some sort of muting to reduce your sustain. This can be done with left hand muting, right hand muting, palm muting, foam under the bridge. Flatwounds can help get that upright-esque punchy and low-sustain sound.

    Further into the 70s style stuff I'd say it's more up to your preferences. I believe that there was a mixture of flats and rounds.
    RHF, Zbysek, bassfran and 2 others like this.
  7. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    By muting, you mean you play on one, and just before snare hits, you stop that note ringing?
    I am no authority on country, but I do play in a Johnny Cash tribute band, so that counts.
    I almost always mute when doing quarternotes 1-5, and never when doing that eightnotes lead-on (1-5-6-7-). That sounds best to me and folks like it.
    RHF, Zbysek, jdh3000 and 1 other person like this.
  8. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Pdaddy1978, teh-slb, westrock and 2 others like this.
  9. That would be Bass Cliffs forte imo look for gig reports and you'll find him :)
  10. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    And if it sounds bad it is bad.
  11. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    I'm sure this won't help, but it totally depends on the song. Some sound great with a muted note, others sound great letting the note ring more. There is no "one right way" with Country. Hell, some nights I might switch it up on a given song because it strikes me as better that night to do it one way or another. Or I might use both methods in the same song, switching up between choruses and verses.
  12. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    I've been in a similar situation, playing country with a band playlist that starts at Hank Williams and ends, more or less, at Merle Haggard. Here's a thought: The way I learned it was to think not in terms of muting but in terms of placement and duration. Where you play the note--on, in front of, or behind the beat. Gives you a whole new sense of all the potential locations of "one". And then how long to hold it. Those old guys playing double bass had these completely mastered(As an aside, if you think the groove is going off track, shorten that duration and hear everybody tighten up in response. You'll feel good about yourself for the rest of the song.:D)

    Slightly O/T: My biggest challenge playing the old stuff is a lot of those guys didn't really care about regular meter. Nothing like an 11-bar mandolin solo to make you sit up and pay attention.
    RHF, Jazzdogg, redstrand and 9 others like this.
  13. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Some good advice so far. I spent many years in an "old school" country band and it would seem to me that I've tended to shorten the beat-1/beat 3 notes as the tempo has picked up: letting them sing out more in ballad tempo and muting them shorter in up-tempo numbers. All bets are off in New Country stuff, of course, where the bass drum *thud* chews up too much of the scenery.
    Nashrakh, RHF, Zbysek and 3 others like this.
  14. Holdsg

    Holdsg Talkbass > Work Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    play how you feel after drinking 2 shots of Whiskey, you'll be fine.
    Lex P., Tom Baker, Zbysek and 3 others like this.
  15. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    There's Nashville new country, there's Western, there's classic country, etc. What do you play?
    Is it roots country? or is it contemporary adult easy listening or is it pop rock but the singer has a hat? I ask because it helps clarify the nature of the rhythm section.
    AGCurry, CatchaCuda, Zbysek and 2 others like this.
  16. Yup. But, finding out is the fun part.
    aprod likes this.
  17. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    When you hear someone say “real country music,” run away as fast as possible.

    Or bring an actual bull fiddle, if authenticity is the goal.
  18. Gotta get a big hat.
    teh-slb likes this.
  19. TexasThunder


    Mar 4, 2018
    I find that listening to the vocal melody helps me determine what's right in that regard, for any given country song.
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  20. Exactly. I've played in a couple of outfits that most would quickly label "real" country bands, and it was definitely song- or phrase-dependent.
    QweziRider likes this.

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