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The 'role' of a bassist???

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by form52, Apr 29, 2005.

  1. form52


    Mar 17, 2005
    Ok.. so last night we were auditioning another vocalist, he sounded great, we were really getting a good vibe from him and everthing seemed to be going pretty well.
    After we finished up the conversation eventually came to this vocalist saying

    Vocalist: "Ya, I dig it for the most part."
    drummer: "well if you decide to join this project, what is that you 'don't' like, or would change?"
    Vocalist: "Well... I don't think the bass should be flashy or have any 'up-front' lines, and I don't dig that one song at all just because you have an 8 measure bass solo."

    and looking at me:
    "Dude, if you want to be a guitar player, be a guitar player, learn your real role as a bass player. The bass lines need to be felt, not really seen, ya know?"



    uhmmmm yaaaa..
    At that point I was pretty much done with him.
    I was really p***ed off at that point, told him pretty quickly after that last comment "Well.. don't lose sleep waiting for our call" and walked away.

    Today, being a lot calmer, I started thinking about it some.
    I do Kinda see a point in there somewhere.
    This project is a progressive rock/metal kinda thing and while you go back to great bands like Rush, Yes, Deep Purple, and so on.. true the bass lines were amazing, but they were still tasteful BASS lines.
    Somewhere over the last couple of years I started progressing and changing how I play to more of a 'bass as a semi-lead instrument' style.
    and thinking back, I used to hold on firmly to the idea of 'less is more' and 'a good bassist isn't measured by how much he can play, but how much he doesn't play it'.
    So have I gone too far, am I in the wrong with looking at bass playing in this way?
    I've been playing now for over 16 years (i'm 28 now) and to ME this just seemed and felt like a natural progression.
    Many instruments started out as much less than they are now.
    When first introduced, the guitar was a finger style, acompanyment instrument. Until Glenn Miller many people didn't even know of the existance of the Clarinet or Oboe!
    So ... given the relatively short existance of the bass 'guitar', is it to be expected that the instrument and it's role in music is going to change and evolve with more people starting to think of it like I do now? Or am I a freak who should have his hands cut off for bastardising the art of bass?

    What's Your opinion on what a bassist should/shouldn't be?

    eh.. maybe I just needed to vent on how much that tool p***ed me off last night.
  2. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I think it all boils down to two things: (a) Are you serving the song and (b) Are you "over playing"?

    The first question is pretty obvious - Doing a slap solo in a Johnny Cash tune probaly isn't the best idea, while on the other hand, a Flecktones song may call for some double-thumping.

    The second question has to do more with the "sonic space" that you and the other musicians are occupying. The more guys you put in an ensemble, the less space you have to work with. That's not to say you can't play complex parts, but you better have your knowledge of counterpoint and harmony down, not to mention, be able to listen to the music and know when someone's stepping on someone else's toes. I've seen bands that had amazing musicians, but they just couldn't work together.

    Also, another interesting thing is to know how to build into complex bass parts during a performance. Most songs don't start off full-bore. They eventually work up to a climax (unless your listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra, which in that case, the music has crazy intensity from the first note). Listen to the vocal line of a song; chances are that it doesn't start off with a lot of flashy fallsetto or vocal runs. Those usually come in after a few verses and towards the end. I find that bass parts (or any other part) works the same way. If I'm walking a blues line, I try to listen to when the best time to throw variation in (i.e. playing descending lines, throwing in octaves or 13ths, passing tones, ect.). Sometimes simplifying the line works best in order to highlight a guitar part, or to do something rythmically interesting, like play behind the beat. Knowing when to do that kind of stuff really isn't something you can learn; you have to be able to "feel" it.

    BTW: I followed a kind of opposite path than you did. When I first started playing I treated every song as a peg to play as many things as possible. After a while, I learned that a lot of what I was throwing in really didn't fit. Currently, my main concern isn't with chops, but rather just locking in with a drummer and being tight. Whenever I listen to a bassplayer for the first time, the first thing I listen to before I even pay attention to his or her technique or chops is timing. If a bassist doens't have timing, then he or she has nothing.
  3. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    the role of the bassist is defined by the bassist, end of story. Of course, how you define your role may influence what gigs become available to you, etc. To say there can only be one type of bassist is silly. Was Chuck Shuldiner the same type of singer as Elvis? Is Ynygwie "the Fury" :D Malmsteen the same type of guitarist as The Edge?
  4. bass_drum


    Feb 13, 2005
    Who says bass cant be a lead instrument?

    Whether the guitarist does a solo or the bassist does a solo, (aslong as its adding to the song and not being over played, as mentioned before) it should really matter. I say, if you wanna get down and do a blues solo all the power to you! and hey, if you wanna go get some distortion, slide across the stage a few times, kick some tables down and show the guitarist how its done :D , go for it man! Rock out!]
  5. SlavaF


    Jul 31, 2002
    Edmonton AB
    IMO in a prog rock/metal band, you're allowed to play crazier bass lines than in, say, a country band right? That's what Rush and Yes were all about... :D
  6. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I'd say the bass is more subtle, but well, if it sounds good, then do it...i guess.
  7. Dirty Dave

    Dirty Dave Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2004
    Boston, MA
    To be honest, I think the vocalist has a valid point. Also, the fact that he could actually count eight measures makes me think it might be worth keeping him around. :D

    However, if the band is progressive and your playing feels natural to you, then it sounds like you need to have a talk with your band about the direction the music has been heading in to make sure you are all on the same page. I myself am not a flashy bass player at all, but I think I would feel trapped if I were not allowed to naturally express myself due to certain limitations or constraints required by the music.
  8. battousai


    Sep 3, 2004
    Nashville, TN
    If what you are playing grooves and is musical, don't worry about it! Obviously the vocalist isn't familiar with progressive rock and your band would be better off with someone else.
  9. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Whether this guy has a valid point or not really depends on what your songs sound like. I wouldn't hire him though, because he sounds like a jerk. Like he comes in as the new guy and tears a strip off of you for your playing in front of your bandmates. So by all means, consider your playing style and whether it is too busy. But whether this guy had a valid point or not doesn't negate the fact that he seems arrogant.
  10. daofktr

    daofktr irritating, yet surly

    Feb 15, 2005
    aurora, IN
    here's what works for me:
    1) have a midlife crisis and buy a 7 string :p
    2) have almost everyone talk smack about it :eyebrow:
    3) remind them, with yer playing, that it's still a bass :bassist:
    4) hear the wankers shrivel up and blow away...:D

    like most everyone has said, if the music is served by what you do, and if yer band likes what you do, than don' let no steenkin' seenger tell you what to do...especially if they are auditioning for your band!!!
    HOWEVER...if, after talking to bandmates, let's say...after a week, they tell you the bugger had a valid point, then consider what they say, but i still maintain that it's the song that dictates what you play.
  11. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Uhm, here's the deal, regardless of your thoughts. If singer guy is "changing things" before he even gets in the band, you don't want him. In regards to bassing... when the guitar started out it was just to be a rhythm instrument, a guitar solo wasn't going to happen. If this guy isn't open to new concepts, forget about him.
  12. I agree. Its always good to get criticism (constructive when possible) but I can't imagine the guy thought it would help him get the gig. Especially if your bandmates are cool with your stuff.
  13. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Anyone who manages to p**s you off at an audition is going to drive you nuts down the road. It sounds as if this would be a constant conflict with him. If he doesn't share your vision of what the band should sound like, I'd make sure he didn't join the band. If your bandmates think your playing is good, don't let some outsider make you second-guess your style. Trust yourself to know if you're overdoing it.
  14. xshawnxearthx


    Aug 23, 2004
    new jersey
    i was always told that the jobs of a bass player are this

    1.) supply the low end
    2.) lock in with the drummer.
    3.) dont speak
    4.) dont take away the "flahs of the other players"

    offcourse, iw as told this by a drummer and a guitar player.

    me, im their to fill things out, add a bit of flavor every now and then, and to load the trailer.
  15. KeithPas

    KeithPas Supporting Member

    May 16, 2000
    I think that it was pretty ballsy of this vocalist to critize your playing at HIS audition. I would'nt even consider playing with him regardless of whether he was right or wrong. One thing that I make clear to singers when they audition for projects is that they will not be calling the shots and that the rest of the band are not his or her backing band.
    I think everyone is in agreement that bass lines should serve the songs they are in. Overplaying is unmusical and gets old really quick. I am tired of the idea that the bass has to fit a very narrowly defined role.
  16. xshawnxearthx


    Aug 23, 2004
    new jersey
    oh, another roles of mine is.

    to intimidate promoters who dont come forth with the money, or promoters who like to give us the shaft at the last minute by saying we are playing last because someone in the local band has to leave early. which usually means that if we are unknown in that area, most kids willjust leave because they are close minded.
  17. FenderHotRod


    Sep 1, 2004
    umm...Billy Sheehan anybody.
    If it's a Prog/metal band It's great do your thing. My problem is I just don't like vocalist, unless they are playing an instrument.

    What is the guys song writing abilities like? If he's a singer and can't write a good song then he's just a wast of space. Unless he's a good looking guy. If he's good looking then he can attract the women. :) Good looking Front man=women fans =more guy fans=more beer sales=Happy owners= more gigs. :bag:


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    I agree with the above posters. One of the reasons I never really like having a lead singer is that more often than not, they are prima donnas and think that their in strument is more important than ours, and then treat the rest of the group as his/her backup.

    Our lead guitarist and keyboardist do most of the lead singing for that very reason.

    It takes big ones to come in begging for a job with your band, and then trying to change the sound...eventually, he'll try to change the chemistry, too.

    I'd ask the rest of the band if I was overplaying and "thanks but no thanks" would be my reply to that clown.

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