playing with another bassist

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by jambassist, Nov 2, 2004.

  1. jambassist


    Sep 1, 2002
    Easton, PA
    Dear Michael and Steve:

    My friend and I are attempting to put a band together with both of us playing bass. He's going to play conventional bass (EADG) and I'm going to play tenor (ADGC). We jammed a bit yesterday, but ran into a problem: We're both thinking like bass players when it comes to composition. What we need to do is figure out how to "play off" each other and how to add melody to the song. We don't have a guitarist, but we MAY in the future. We think this will be a cool project and we both know this is gonna take time to get right so there's no pressure. Neither of us is sure how to proceed cause neither of us has done this before.

    What suggestions/advice would you guys offer? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
  2. That's cool to hear that you're doing this. I played in a band a while back where I played 6-string bass and we had a fretless tenor bassist also. It worked out really well. He was very lead oriented.

    Over the past year, I have occasionally played with another 7-string bassist who does some crazy lead stuff so that works out too. We're going to get a band going. Two 7-string basses. :D

    - Dave
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I guess the first thing to do is to stop listening to bass player records... Try to extracate yourself from a bass listening frame of mind. It's hard - took me ages to do. One of the easiest ways is to pick up some records with no bass on - solo acoustic guitarists can often offer a lot of cool inspiration for the composing bassist, given the similarities. Check out players like Don Ross, Antonio Forcione, Muriel Anderson, and Pat Metheny's last all-solo CD. I get a lot of inspiration from solo guitarists. Piano players are also cool like that - Keith Jarrett being top of my list there...

    Another tip is to divide up the roles differently and see what helps - one of you could play bass line and chords while the other plays melody, or one of you could try a chord-melody line with the other playing a simpler bass part, or just try writing two bass lines that harmonise and weave in and out of eachother - there's nothing that says music needs to have highs and lows represented all the time. See Mike Watt's duo with Kira - Dos - was a revelation - so much space, largely due to them both playing single line 'bass-ish' parts most of the time rather than dividing up the roles in the way you'd expect. A really interesting and unique sound.

    The guy with the tenor bass could try processing it - delay and reverb would be my first two choices for filling out the sound (I'm amazed at how few solo bassists use reverb - it seems to me to be the first thing that needs adding to the sound of a bass to 'put it in some kind of space', if that makes sense).

    Anyway, keep experimenting, invent rules then break them gratuitously, try everything and its opposite and see what works. You might surprise yourselves by coming up with something new, or by adopting someone else's model to create your own music...


  4. great thread!

    I've done this a bit as well and am in two different bass-heavy bands when time permits. one is a power trio where I take the role of the lead player over a traditional rhythm section (although we all solo pretty extensively) and the other is a bass duet with the one and only Greg Campbell.

    I agree with Steve's advice that you stop thinking like a bassist and start thinking like a musician. we all love the bass -- why else would we belong to TB? -- but if you're one of multiple bassists in a line up, listen to what the other bass or basses are doing and in what rgister they're doing it.

    personally I think this is one of the great applications for ERB. if I'm accompanying another bassist I have all the range below and above to comp and fill up the space without walking on his or her parts!

    another thing to consider is how you're both using space. if your partner is playing busier stuff, you can fall to whole, half, and quarter notes. you can also start to createt drama by leaving space in your lines!

    this is a situation that can be a great challenge! approach it with an open mind and I think you'll be really pleased with what you can come up with.

    does either of you play chords? how about having one of you slap or even just use your palms to create more percussive parts while the other spins lines.

    or you can take Jaco's advice: learn melodies! if one of you chooses to play more "standard" bass parts, the other can start playing melody or lead lines in a higher register.

    finally, one thing that will make all this easier is to ste your individual tones differently. one of you can use a brighter sound while the other has a darker tone. this is one of the reason that my duet with Greg makes us both so happy.

    hope that was some help.

    from the lows,

  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    As an addition, if you want to practice this stuff on your own, a looping device of some kind becomes invaluable here - being able to record one part and hear how what you're playing over the top fits with it helps immensely when getting a handle on the kind of things you want to play.

    Check out the various boxes that are on offer - DL4, RC-20, headrush etc...


  6. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Great advice, folks. I’ve done this kind of work a good bit and while I have to admit it’s a bit odd to stop thinking like a bassist for a while, it’s worth it as it expands your understanding and helps you think more of music, first and foremost.