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Playing the Line As Written (poll)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by eJake, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. I'm not a robot, but yeah for the most part

  2. I like to mess around with it

  3. I do as I please

  4. I will carrot all over that, rabbits love me!

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I was walking down the strip of clubs that I play often when I passed a group doing I'll Take You There by the Staple Singers. I adore that tune, mostly because the bass line is so good. Anyway, the bass man was slapping all over it. Now hear me when I say that this is not a slap bash thread so please do not turn it into one. There was no aspect of the original bass line left other than I to IV.

    Now I am all about adding yourself to a bass line but I think sometimes folks get way too extra. Thus far in life I have not heard a good reason to stray really far from recognizable recorded bass lines. Ill Take You There is an example of one of those songs that if you only heard the bass line, you would still instantly know the song. The band/players that wrote and recorded the material must have done something right because their song became well known. Who am I (the lowly working musician entertaining a crowd with their material) to alter the bass line to the point of it no longer being recognizable?

    So lets use this forum for what its best at.... post your opinion of altering a famous bass line beyond the point of recognition!
    Glenn Mac, KQBASS, R&B and 7 others like this.
  2. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Unless you are in a tribute band, interpret the song as you like.
    theduke1, Seanto, Jhengsman and 29 others like this.
  3. It's a personal preference thing and has a lot to do with the tolerances of your band mates and audiences.

    Personally, I try never to futz with a well-crafted line, especially one that is easily identifiable or a linchpin for the song. Indeed, playing a lot of these pop bass lines note-for-note (to the extent possible) is a real learning opportunity that I still enjoy after 40+ years of playing covers. Many times, restraint and consistency are what made the line good and helped sell millions of recordings. I like practicing restraint and that approach has served me (and the bands I've played in) very well.

    Also, when I nail a bass line from a pop hit as-recorded, no one can accuse me of the things in the OP. I won't be getting stink eye from band mates or audience members or risk muddling things up with my "creativity."

    There are exceptions, and I sometimes do a little additive or subtractive editing depending on the song and tolerances, but "I'll Take You There" is such a beautifully composed line and so central to the strength of the tune, I'd probably learn it as-recorded and take very few, if any, liberties.

    Even though I'm a proficient slapper, I tend not to slap songs that weren't recorded that way, and when I hear a bass player do that it almost always wrinkles my nose. It usually seems more an indulgence than an improvement.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  4. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Nice point!
    lfmn16, hieronymous and jamro217 like this.
  5. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Would you play the line on that tune or just jam the 1 to 4?
    Bassbeater likes this.
  6. I'll typically cover a line as it was recorded but also with whatever variations are needed to fit the arrangement the band is using. My role is typically dependent on what others are doing as well and it's seldom a note for note cover.
    TrevorR, Socobass, djaxup and 3 others like this.
  7. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I typically play around the changes, incorporating elements of the original but also changing my lines and improvising fills (I am not playing in tribute bands). I'll play like this UNLESS the song has specific, memorable parts and suffers greatly without them. One band I play in does 1980s hits. I play the written parts for songs like Rio by Duran Duran, and in the air tonight by Phil Collins because those parts MAKE those songs. One of my pet peeves is when I see a band play a well known Pink Floyd tune and the guitarist doesn't play the lead from the album. Some songs NEED those parts, others leave room to stretch out and add flavor.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
    Kokoman, Glenn Mac, TomB and 17 others like this.
  8. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Thanks for asking, I wasn't really happy with my answer after posting...
    I guess it depends what the rest of the band was doing. That song has a great original bass line, it would be great to play exactly as the original. However, if I was subbing with DEVO(I wish!), the original wouldn't work with the music. Imagine how a band like DEVO covered "Satisfaction".
    It's a weird question for me to answer. I don't play in cover bands so it doesn't really come up. When I play in someone else's originals band, I'm really just covering unknown tunes. Unless I have credits and percentages in the originals band I just play it as it was written by whomever "owned" the band's material.
    When I play my own material with others, I generally play to their tastes and try to give the song the best vibe with what we have. In that situation the other players are really playing covers of my songs, and I want to take the pressure off unless there are very tight arrangements for the song. If they play it exactly as I wrote it, great. If not, I roll with the punches.
    Glenn Mac, retslock, Jim622 and 2 others like this.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    The answer varies with context. If the everyone in the band is playing exactly like the recording and the bass player is going nuts then the bass player is off the reservation. Likewise, if the bass players is playing exactly like the recording, but the rest of the band is obviously improvising or playing an arrangement...the bass player is off the reservation.

    Listen and adapt. There is a right time to play an exact transcription and a wrong time.

    When I want to hear the original, I listen to a recording and not a live band. Often I enjoy a live band's interpretation more than the original...but not all interpretations are better.

    Sometimes it takes a good cover band to show me a song is awesome. Janet Jackson's Black Cat come to mind. I heard an incredible cover of Black Cat a long time ago, and occasionally listen to Janet's version in memory of that occasion. I think the biggest difference was the cover band added a Hammond B3 patch.

    I also agree that some things are iconic and should be, for the most part, left alone. Generally I don't feel that bass parts have to be note for note perfect since bass lines are so repetitive, but capturing the feel and shape of the original is often important.

  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    all good responses to the OP.

    it's a loaded/biased question! define "famous bass line" or define "beyond the point of recognition." pretty subjective stuff.

    i agree that some lines qualify as "iconic" and that those lines can certainly 'sell the tune' to audiences/listeners. but even then: it's absolutely OK to play with them (alter/stretch/improvise/yada yada) per the player/moment/context/yada yada.

    if you can't pull it off = it's a fail...and you're a doofus!
    if you can pull it off = it's a win...and you're a player!
    and of course: the great in-between.

    we all want to be players and win, win, win. :D we all have failed and have been the doofus. :laugh: but in general: take some risks --- go for those 3-point shots. at the end of the tune, or the night, you'll know the score...and if you don't = you may be a doofus! :)
  11. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    If it's a signature bass line, I try to play the original line. Maybe toward the end of the song open a little. But in that song, the bass is the song.
    Evert, Glenn Mac, R&B and 12 others like this.
  12. StereoPlayer


    Aug 29, 2010
    I had a band member that insisted on playing it like the recording.

    I say....the recording is a captured one of version of it.
    I play very much like the recording, but embellish it from time to time.
    Glenn Mac, R&B, retslock and 7 others like this.
  13. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Thanks for all the input. Good stuff!!

    I'd like to follow up and say that the band was killin it and the crowd was all smiles and dancing. At no point did I feel like they were trashing the tune. I think that this particular line has always been dear to me and is prolly why I reacted this way.
    Glenn Mac, Reedt2000 and Bassbeater like this.
  14. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    If I can remember the written line... ;)

    I play in a jazz band that uses written charts, and it's always a dilemma. There's often not a single "official" recording of a tune, and you know that the bassists in those bands historically improvised almost everything. On the other hand, I tend to "play the ink" in certain specific cases:

    1. Some of the early riff-based swing was extremely simplistic, and simply loses its identity altogether if you try to modernize it.

    2. Some of the arrangers definitely intended specific bass lines. When someone took the time to think about exactly where the bass falls into the overall harmony, I respect that.

    3. Sometimes the written line is just plain interesting, or of historical significance. I love Jimmy Blanton's lines.

    4. Playing someone else's line adds to my repertoire of ideas.

    On the other hand, some charts are written with just the changes, or the bass line has been simplified for school band. Then I feel like I have more creative license.
    Glenn Mac, R&B, Jeff Elkins and 3 others like this.
  15. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Well said. I usually incorporate all or most of the recorded line unless the song itself is a "jam" style.

    No need to nail the bass line on an Allman Brothers song. I saw them a dozen times with three bass players. They never played anything exactly the same way twice. So why should I?

    But most songs I pretty much nail the recorded line with maybe a riff here and there different.
  16. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    do whatcha like. nothing is holy or taboo.
    TinIndian, lfmn16 and Bassbeater like this.
  17. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002

    Overall I am really not a note for note player, my brain just really doesn't function that way and I dont think I could remember a lot of the more complicated bass lines note for note.

    That said, personally for me it really depends on the song. Some songs/bands you have to play the original line as written such as Rush and other prog rock bands because thats what people expect.

    I dont play that stuff though for that reason.

    Everything else? I try to stick as close to the original as possible mainly because anything the original bassist did is going to be a heck of a lot cooler than anything I could come up with. What usually happens though is I play a half hearted attempt at the original because no one else has bothered to learn the intricacies of their part of a tune..Sometimes that really irritates me also...A few months back we were playing some motown tune that had a very simple, yet cool short bass solo in it. I forget the name unfortunately, but the band just skipped right over that part like it wasn't important, but to me it was the best part of the song.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
    Glenn Mac, HolmeBass and Bassbeater like this.
  18. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    I said “carrots” only because there wasn't a choice that fit what I do - and what a lot of of people already said. When there’s a signature baseline, I try to play it as exactly as I can. Even if I can’t play it exactly as recorded, I’ll get as close as I can and, as I play it more and practice it more, I try to get closer and closer until it’s as close as I’ll get with my abilities.

    When the bass line isn’t a signature part, then I’ll take some liberties. Maybe more if we turn it into a jam session or if it’s a song that even the original band never plays the same way.
    Gilmourisgod, Bassbeater and rufus.K like this.
  19. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Can you imagine being the bass player who recorded some iconic line, hearing that band and thinking "what the shag is he doing to my part?".
    MrLenny1, smogg, Bassbeater and 3 others like this.
  20. Pocket4

    Pocket4 Supporting Member

    Dec 9, 2013
    New Hampshire
    I think it's important and gratifying to try to cop the really pivotal bass grooves like the Staples Singers tune originating this thread. In all cases, I try to serve the song i also like to think i have command of all interpretation and freedom to throw it in. So kind of a balance that has to depend on taste and the bonds with the other players.
    interp and eJake like this.

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