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Playing with two bassists

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by Grimaldi, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. Grimaldi


    Jan 30, 2017
    I'm a young and inexperienced player for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but as I said in a previous thread, I am looking to start a band. As it turns out the solid majority of people I know who play any instruments at all play bass, oddly enough. I was wondering about jamming and or gigging with multiple bassists and if anyone has any positive (or negative) tales to tell about experimenting with this. I know this isn't the sub for this type of advice, but I'd also appreciate advice on any effects or techniques that could help to differentiate two bassists while playing (I use a jazz bass, but most people I know play p bass, which definitely changes things a bit to start)
    Michael Schreiber likes this.
  2. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    One of y'all should take up the gee-tar. Whoever does, will get all the chicks.
  3. LT131


    Jan 25, 2015
    Deep South
    Not true! There was this one chick, at band camp........
  4. twinjet

    twinjet What does God need with a starship?

    Sep 23, 2008
    It can certainly be done.

    RBJ11, mech, Helix and 3 others like this.
  5. JGbassman

    JGbassman Supporting Member

    May 31, 2011
    Cedar Rapids Iowa
    Bands are regulated to only being able to have one bassist on stage at a time.

    Otherwise, there would be too much talent on stage at once.
  6. flojob

    flojob Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    Dumpstaphunk does it
  7. Betrayer_Bass

    Betrayer_Bass Profanity Fish.

    Sep 24, 2011
    Oslo, Norway
    Endorsing: Spector basses, Winspear Picks, Spector Formula 603 strings
    These guys seemed to make it work too:
    HolmeBass and BassWaffle like this.
  8. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I was in a band that did this. It's helpful if you have radically different tones (i.e. one guy clean, the other with fuzz) and/or stay out of each other's registers (i.e. one guy goes low while the other goes high). I also used a six-string bass, allowing me a little room both above and below the other guy's range. With a pair of 4-strings, you might consider tuning one bass BEAD (down a fourth) and the other ADGC (up a fourth), or some similar configuration that makes it easier for you to occupy different registers. You could even string one bass with piccolo strings and tune it up one octave, like a four-string guitar. Miles Davis had a regular bassist and a piccolo bassist in his final touring band.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    It CAN work. I've done a jam with more than one bassist a couple of times, and like @Bassist4Eris said, you have to figure out how to stay out of each others' way. Generally, one of you stay below the 5th fret and the other play "lead bass" above it. But to keep that interesting for a full show, in front of an audience, requires pretty high skill levels. To really make a band work at more basic levels, probably one of you should bite the bullet and get one of those little things with the skinny strings. Maybe both of you, and then you can switch off from bass to guitar on different songs.
  10. Mixed low freq sounds horrible.
    Bad idea
    onosson, Ekulati, Felken and 4 others like this.
  11. +1 on the Dumpstaphunk reference above. Nick Daniels and Tony Hall are crazy good together, and they are very skilled at working with each other instead of against each other. A little clip they did for Mesa that's accompanied by a drum track, sort of raw and cool to listen to:

    MESA® Subway® D-800™ and Ultra-Lite 1x12 & 1x15 – Dumpstaphunk - YouTube

    ...but it definitely takes some musical sensitivity and experience for two bass players to dance like that. I've gotten on stage with other bass players a few times, and when it's a situation where there's mutual listening and adaptation, it can actually be a lot of fun. But I've also tried it with guys who don't listen, and automatically react with their playing as if they're going into battle. It's only happened to me at open jams (never on actual shows), and I just wind up floating harmonies in an upper register. And leaving the stage whenever I can do it discreetly...

    Nothing is impossible, though. You could probably have a lot of fun experimenting with another bass player - possibly even more than one - by messing with some of the ideas outlined above. Piccolo tuning, layering registers, or wherever else your creativity may lead you. Never say never.
    Michael Schreiber likes this.
  12. get a bass vi and go get some "the cure" records.
    Jonithen likes this.
  13. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    The only real way to have two bassists is if one of them dies. Or if you're a member of Ned's Atomic Distbin.
    Cameron smock likes this.
  14. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    CAN it be done? Yes. But if your goal is to get paid gigs, it is not practical:

    1. The more members on stage, the less each makes,
    2. Keys or a second guitar will provide a lot more.
    3. If you do it, one player will not be playing "bass" lines.

    Better to get a guitar. Each bassist takes turns switching off to guitar (or keys).
    12BitSlab and hrodbert696 like this.
  15. dbase

    dbase Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2008
    South Jersey, USA..
    When one bass player comes in contact with another bass player on stage together.
  16. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    @Grimaldi , don't let conventions stop you from trying it out and seeing if you can make it work. You'll have to be creative in how you approach it; I don't think bass echophraxia will be all that fulfilling.

    As mentioned above, finding gigs or gaining a following might be tough. It's up to what you're looking to make happen here. But nothing ever results from not trying. I did an ensemble for a couple years of just bass and two drum sets (one acoustic, one electric). We did some cool things, but there wasn't much of (any) an audience for it. But we had fun working on it and actually was quite rewarding in the sense that we learned how to make an unusual set up function musically. I learned more about how to really dial in my playing with drummer(s) from that experience than in the 30 previous years of playing and gigging.

    If I were to try to tackle this concept, I'd look to have each bass definitely play in different registers. Essentially a melody part and a bass counterpart. Work the tones so that they also aren't competing for attention at the same level. Man, this idea is really going to be about experimentation and adapting to what you learn as you go.

    Good luck and hope you gain some real positive experiences from it.
    REV, BrewsterRooster and Bassist4Eris like this.
  17. morgan138


    Dec 10, 2007
    What kind of music are you talking about here? Unless you're into fairly weird and/or chaotic music (or want to get into it :cool:), this is probably going to be a lot more hassle than its worth. You'll have to spend a lot of time and effort working out stuff that's very specific to a two-bass lineup and won't be real useful playing in a more normal band, at least not at a beginner level.

    On the other hand, it could be an awesome and really creative experience! I guess my two quick questions would be:

    1. Do you already know and like the people you'd be playing with?
    2. Do any of you listen to music with non-standard instrument lineups?
    If you aren't answering "yes" to at least one, skip it.
  18. morgan138


    Dec 10, 2007
    As a few people have mentioned, you're going to have to make MUCH more drastic changes than this! I see alternate tunings and/or odd playing+songwriting and/or weirdo amps in your future.

    (saying this as someone who has played guitar and baritone in several bass-less bands)
  19. lostreality


    Sep 2, 2016
    I second this. I like to put down a groove with a sharp, twangy pick sound and have another bassist play a melody with a smoother, deeper tone. You could even have one guy slapping out a drumline, one guy playing a bassline with a P or J style tone, and a third guy playing melody with a more aggressive MM or Ric tone
  20. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I write enough melody parts on bass that I've kicked around the idea of having a band with two bassists, in which I would often play the main melody/rhythm and the other bassist would play a more traditional bass part. There would be plenty of room to swap roles, trying some unison or harmonized "bass lines" here and there, and so forth.

    Considering how common it is these days in for guitarists to tune low, bassists to add both lower and higher strings, and other such modifications -- particularly in rock/metal genres -- it wouldn't be all that unorthodox.