Restraint (lack thereof, too much, etc.)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Planet Boulder, May 4, 2002.

  1. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Has anyone ever had this happen?

    You jam with someone (or with a band), maybe once, maybe several times, and find out later that you weren't really what they were looking for because they were looking for someone who plays more "simple" lines? In other words, maybe you played too much for their tastes?

    Most of my experience in recent years has been with jam-oriented bands, whether it be Dead covers, funkified jams, jazz-oriented, etc., and as such, I've had license to inject some pretty free form lines into the music (without going overboard - there is a fine line between just enough and too much), often even allowing me to take some solos.

    About a year ago, I jammed with a drummer and guitar player who were looking for a bassist (I guess they had gone through several) to play some originals with them. We jammed about 3 times and it sounded pretty good on the whole, but I came to find out that the guitar player said that he was looking for someone whose lines were more simple (and mine were relatively so for this setting - they seemed to fit this guy's music pretty nicely).

    A couple of months ago, I was talking to a guy whose band was looking for a bassist and he told me straight up that he was looking for someone to just basically sit in the background and supply a basic groove without doing much. This turned me off immediately and I told him no thanks.

    Okay, after all of this blathering, I guess my point is this: Do you guys find that a lot of guitarists, keyboard players, etc., who write their own stuff, basically want the bass to be a sort of "background groove"? I mean, I know that restraint and tasteful lines can mean everything and I am a firm believer in playing lines that fit the music, but I also believe that a bassist can often do more to shape a song than simply sit in the back and play mild but strict lines in order to provide a bottom end when the music calls for it.

    What I try to do before jamming with anyone is ask them what they look for in a bassist - do they like someone who simply follows the guitar lines or do they like someone who might improvise a good bit in order to add another dimension (I don't put it that way - that's simply my bass bias coming out)? This usually allows me to adjust my mindset to fit not only the music, but the desires and philosophies of the musicians with whom I'm going to jam.
  2. Intrepid


    Oct 15, 2001
    Most guitarist want it all about themselves, so when the bass player actually starts kicking it out, they get all pissed off cuz you are stealing their spotlight...
  3. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I suggest that you record some of these 'jams' and listen to them as a listener not a bassist. This will either make you simplify your playing or confirm that you are doing the right thing. Personally there's nothing wrong with 'grooving' unless its playing root notes very low in the mix.

    I have recently undergone a simplification process. I recently had a lesson with TB's Steve Lawson and asked him criticise my playing, boy did he fulfil his part of the bargain. Having been taken apart and rebuilt in a 2-hour session, I have worked hard on what I play and what I don’t play. Importantly, people have noticed. You might consider a similar course of action.

    With my singer/songwriter/guitarist hat on I run a band I formed and picked a mate to be my bassist. He stands on the very fine line that is too little/too much(from my perspective). He has never gone in for the slap and tickle multiple sliding chords with harmonics thing. He tends to provide a lot of movement in the lower registers that fits the song/instrumental without distracting it. His parts are complementary to mine and the other guitarist (who also plays bass and Steve was his teacher first) fits in on top.

    The musicians you find may feel that you don’t fit. If you analyse your playing and feel that you will carry on as you are, then maybe you need to find non conventional players. I have an effects pedal that dictates playing style, shredders have tried to play with it and give up when it wont conform to their technique. Guitarists can be funny this way. Look at the guitarist in Primus, not exactly conventional and the reason is obvious. Another one is John Fruscante (sp) who spent time and effort working around Flea.

    Hope this helps, if not ignore me.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Keep in mind that when coming into a situation the person deciding whether you come on board or not makes the call, not you!

    I've been in bands as a sideman where I was told stuff like "no fills" or "just play the root" or "only quarter notes", etc. Since that was what was specified, then that's what I would play.

    There is no right or wrong here, just a question of whether everyone is on the same page.

    I'll be honest with you, I've heard some guys at jams playing stuff that was 100% inappropriate but THEY thought it was just perfect. In other words, they really couldn't hear that their part was offbase.

    The suggestion to record the jam and listen back critically is a good one.
  5. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    GREAT replies, guys - just what I was looking for.

    CS - your points about the guitarists for Primus and RHCP are spot on, without a doubt. In fact, you could almost argue that the reason that there was *reported* tension between Dave Navarro and the rest of the guys in RHCP was due to the fact that the styles conflicted greatly during the time he was a member.

    Also, I definitely agree with the advice regarding recording oneself's performance with a band. I've done so and I've used it to try and determine what sounds good and what doesn't.

    Many thanks, folks!
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I see what you're sayin', but-
    If it's a 'true' jam environment, anything goes.
    IMO, this is the time to experiment & "let it all hang out".
    Now, if it's the sorta 'jam' that is nothing more than playing a stock Blues & some covers...?

    Too, I like it when guys play what THEY hear & feel. In other words, I like it when players take chances & stretch. Miles used to tell some of his 'less-experienced' sidemen to "play what you know PLUS play what you don't know".
    Granted, it may not always work but, what the Hell, it's a 'jam'. ;)

    About 'serving the song"-
    Jamerson 'served the song'...right or wrong?
    Some may argue that JJ overplayed.
    Fact is, a less adventurous player wouldn't have thought of &/or enjoyed the 'freedom' presented by those Motown tunes.
    What I'm saying is this-
    The song can be "served" in a number of ways.

    And one anecdote of mine-
    I'm 'hired' to write/lay down a bass part for a couple of local New Counrty wannbe-songwriters.
    My instructions from them: The tune is supposed to be "Beatles-esque".
    So, during the verses, I play an 1/8th noted walking line(I'm thinking "Lady Madonna")...over the chorus, I play a Latin-ish McCartney figure(I'm drawing a blank on the specific Beatles' tune, ya gotta trust me on this one!). ;)
    Anyway, they're not real make a long story short-
    One of 'em is studying my right hand's plucking technique...finally, EUREKA! he's got it. He told me to play with only ONE finger.
    And so they ended up with a stock bass part!

    "If 'less is more', just think how much more 'more' will be"-
    Frasier Crane

  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...and one more thing! ;)

    Something to try if you're feeling you're too busy(& something I'm always working on)-

    Say you have a bass figure like this(1-bar in 1/16th note notation)-


    "Stretch" that out to a 2-bar figure via HALF TIME(the 1/16ths become 1/8ths)-

    Bear in mind that the drummer "doesn't have to" change his part... ;)
  8. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    This happened to me quite recently, I grew up listening and playing mostly jazz, funk or soul, I never really got into the rock thing at all (I enjoyed the music it just didnt do anything for me bass wise) anyway, a few weeks ago I was asked to play a 'showcase' gig for an up and coming singer songwriter, now I loved his tunes they were melodic and catchy however they were all written in a kind of 'rock' style (think Thin Lizzy for the fast ones and a kind of Reo speedwagon/toto vibe for the mid tempo ones), so, I arrived at the first rehersal and did my usual funky groovy thing (and no I dont mean slap) didnt work:eek:

    I learnt a valuable lesson that day, you have to play within the parametres of the specific style your performing in this case less really was more, finger funk 'lead' bass was just way too busy (of course I thought it was cool until I heard the playback:oops: ).