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The chops myth.

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Tupac, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    All the time on this forum I hear the same thing. "He's got chops, but can he groove?" "Who needs chops, just groove" "Chops don't get you gigs", ect. What is it that makes "groove" and chops exclusive? Groove, I interpret to mean things such as:

    -good timing
    -clean articulation
    -clean muting

    So, who do you think is more likely to be able to do these things: A guy who pushes himself to practice 30 minutes a day for an 80s pop cover band, or a dedicated person who woodsheds Racer X for hours? All "groove" to me seems like is an excuse to not put the time and effort into gaining skills. If you play enough, chops WILL come to you, as your body naturally weans into the path of least resistance, the most efficient technique. And even if you don't like that music, the worst thing that can happen is that you develop a more economic technique, and learn to play slower better.

    Of course, holding yourself back and not going balls to the walls is an issue. But of all the chops crazy players on all instruments I've known, they can still understand English enough to comprehend the phrase "No fills". In fact, if you look at the players getting the big buck gigs with major artists, they're all extremely good, yet they're paid thousands to plug root notes. Truth be told, I've never met the mythical guy who has to over embellish simple songs.
  2. LikeRaphael

    LikeRaphael Banned

    Dec 18, 2012
    Everybody has to groove. And yes, some guys with amazing chops aren't the best groovers -- many of whom are worshipped on these boards.

    Beyond that, I'd rather be a guy who has chops and can use them when he needs them than someone who can't.

    But even the term "chops" is subjective. Chops are more than speed. Some guys are very fast, but I wouldn't say they had great chops. (Think Manowar).
  3. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I agree, overplaying in the wrong spot IS terrible. I just have yet to see someone do that. And by the way, name a worshipped player you described, I'll see if I can find a video of him grooving.
  4. paganjack


    Dec 25, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Those "all chops no groove" statements are either
    a: made by really insecure players.
    b: made about people playing really fast and sloppy.
    c: honest criticism because a bajillion notes a second isn't interesting when there is no contrast in the music.

    Honestly, playing fast is really fun but I don't really care to listen to other people do it. I even get bored when I do it! I would rather listen to someone with something interesting to say on their instrument. That doesn't mean it can't be fast, but hearing nothing but blazing fast notes for like 10 minutes straight is super uninteresting.
  5. Not yet

    Not yet

    Mar 26, 2012
    Zactly.... Maybe it's an age thing. When young was all chops and no groove... Now the opposite..... Course more people noticed me in the old days than today, could care less though being much happier w my playing
  6. IronLung1986


    May 19, 2010
    Exeter, NH
    People who lack the skill to play flashy quick-finger type stuff will often dismiss it as "chops" even in situations where that style of playing fits the music. They do this to make themselves feel better. Often they will say things like "I never got paid to play anything like that", which is usually unsurprising given their unrefined abilities. It's the working class hero mentality of bass players, where technical ambition equates to immaturity and self-indulgence.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm no Billy Sheehan (couldn't even come close if I tried). I love playing simple, groovy stuff. But I like to throw cool little licks into my parts here and there and I've heard the "chops" spiel before. It's usually from some dude in his fifties who's not that good and also wants to talk about gear for a half hour.
  7. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I have no idea, man. If you're good, you're good.
  8. Swipter


    Sep 7, 2009
    From what I hear, Ironlung1986 has chops...
  9. LikeRaphael

    LikeRaphael Banned

    Dec 18, 2012
    HAHA, that's a sure fire way to get hate hurled one's way. And of course, it's subjective, isn't it?

    Okay, I'll bite. Two guys.

    I'd give anything to have John Patatucci's technique, he just doesn't move me -- emotionally or physically. (Now see...I'll get 500 examples how how great he is and I ain't gonna argue every one of them).

    Another is Myung from Dream Theater -- he can play a lot of notes real fast, but there's no interesting phrasing, no melodicism and no groove.
    Sorry to all who are fans. It's all Tupacs fault.

    Having said that, I agree that the "no chops' argument is often made by those who don't have them and try to justify it.
  10. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Do you play out much? What's your experience with live bands? Honestly, I've lost count of the number of players I've encountered that take every opportunity they can find to noodle is places where it just doesn't fit. I've also met dozens of player that can play crazy riffs and solos, yet lack the skills to play a groove.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.

    I agree.
  12. adambomb


    Nov 4, 2011
    Birmingham, AL
    When I play somewhere and there is a chance for a guy to come up and talk about playing bass with me after the gig.......it never fails that they want to show off and show me how good they are at slapping and popping......being that I don't slap and pop I have nothing to come back with to show them how good I am and they look really good......until a jam session breaks out or someone start playing a cover song and I can play along and come up with a nice bass line to go with what the other guys in the band are doing and the show off can't figure out what to do and just plays the same ole slap and pop that doesn't fit with anything. And tries to take over the tune....most people that have been playing for a while can pick up if you're good or a show off I think that's the difference.......are you good or trying to look good.
  13. Here are my two cents:

    Not every player needs chops. I mean really, you just don't need a vast amount of skill to play some styles of music.

    Not every player needs groove. I've yet to hear anything groovy come out of AC/DC. Doesn't mean I don't like the band though.

    It depends on the context. Some bands like Mr. Big do well with Billy Sheehan's chops. Other bands need pure groove, and that's okay too. And there are still other bands like the Flecktones that get a healthy balance of both from the bass. It all depends on the context. Mr. Big with Wooten would sound just as bad as the Flecktones with Sheehan.
  14. fjadams

    fjadams Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2011
    Danbury, CT
    As Emperor Joseph II said, "there are just too many notes".
  15. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Well, this is going to seem cocky but here goes. I can do both.

    I can tappity slap for days. I can play some Stu and Vic. I have even made up my own arrangements of songs that I play by myself tapping out melody and chords at the same time.

    And I can groove. My favorite stuff to play is old soul music. And I don't mess around a bunch when I play that stuff. Just get into my warm cozy pocket and stay there.

    But here's the point of the quotes in your first line. NONE of the fancy stuff EVER got me a gig. I used to lead with that stuff at auditions. I figured (like you) that if I can do the splappity tappity stuff and "blow them away" then I would be a shoe in. Nope. Every time I did that stuff, they kind of looked at me with a "whatever" and said "OK thanks for that. Now let's go down the set list and see how you play."

    Here's another thing to think about. Audiences get BORED with bass wankery QUICKLY. I have been to Vic shows. Almost everyone there is a musician. And the ones who aren't came WITH a musician. But the average listener doesn't know and doesn't CARE if you can slappity tap. You can get away with it for a few seconds, but after that you better give them something to dance to. Even Vic is a prime example of that. He plays IN A BAND. And they do GOOD MUSIC. He doesn't slapptiy tap all night. They rock out and funk out all night with the occasional bass wankery for good measure. He brings a hot band and hot singers with him. I once saw Stu at a G3 show. He went into his usual bass solo thing for a few minutes. About a minute in, he had to yell at the crowd for not cheering him on. Even at a guitar wankery show, nobody cared that he can do the Charlie Brown theme on bass. (I can too, and trust me, nobody cares.)

    If you think I'm closed minded and full of crap, please try it sometime. I have. I played a full bass arrangement of "Yesterday" once. I thought it was beautiful. The audience went to the bathroom and the bar. I have also done other (more "fun" kinds of songs). I have even done ones where I sang along with my slappity tap. And afterwards, the other musicians in the crowd would come up and tell me how impressed they were. But nobody else cared. So, go ahead. Spend hours and hours perfecting your own slappity tap. See how far it gets you.

    These days, most of the musicians I know aren't even aware that I can do the slappity tap stuff. And you know what? They wouldn't care if they did know. It's just not that entertaining unless you make a show of it (like a Vic or Stu).

    Want to make a living playing bass in a town like New York or Nashville? Don't show up with a 17 string Roscoe and slappity taps "chops". Show up with a P bass and some groove and a professional attitude. You don't have to take my word for it (and probably won't). Just ask the young guys working downtown Nashville. They can ALL get off on a bass like nobody's business. They have "chops" for days. But they show up with a P bass, good gear, a good ear, songs learned, the ability to read charts, and no slappity tappity.

    If everybody liked to hear that stuff, there would be 400 Victors touring the country right now.

    This may have come across as a rant. It's not. I actually agree with you about learning as many kinds of techniques as possible on your instrument. Just don;t expect to take the world by storm with your new found "chops". They don't care as long as you can hold a groove.
  16. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Awesome post. Sounds like you've been around the block quite a ways. But do you see what I mean about those Nashville bassists? They do their job so well because, perhaps like you it seems, they were driven to get those chops, and in the end, it made them versatile bassists. They didn't come out of the gate thinking, "If I'm going to go pro, I better start learning how to plug root notes at 90 BPM!" You're probably right, you never will use those skills, but there's no harm in overachieving.
  17. adambomb


    Nov 4, 2011
    Birmingham, AL
    ACDC does groove they groove in ACDC's way. groove, to me groove doesn't mean a particular kind of music it means can you...... "play music"
  18. JCooper

    JCooper ...meep.

    Oct 21, 2009
    two fingers....nice. Well said.
  19. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Again, I do agree with you. Not learning as many skills as possible can be a cop out (especially if you are a pro). If you are a garage player, or in a hobby band (and there's nothing wrong with that either), then perhaps you can stick to thudding away on 1/8th notes. I once read an interview with Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith bassist). He said that he gets new instructional videos all the time. Even after all this time of playing around the world, he still loves to learn. And if it's going to be your profession, you should keep learning too. Like you I have also heard myths. My favorite is something like "If you learn all that stuff it will ruin your groove". I even had a guy tell me once (LOUDLY) that I would be stupid for learning guitar because it would ruin my bass playing.

    Short version (I tend to be long winded) is do your own thing. If you want to learn a new skill, then by all means DO. But there's no harm in being a pocket groover either, especially if you are a weekend warrior or a hobbyist.
  20. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    When in Rome...