The Role of the Bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Killinkrap, Oct 2, 2016.

  1. Killinkrap


    Oct 2, 2013
    Wausau, WI

    The Role of The Bass
    By: Branden Johns,
    Bassist of Killing Rapunzel

    It all starts with the music. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that a musician is “a person who writes, sings, or plays music”. This is the accepted definition by most of the english-speaking world of what a musician is, and becoming a musician is just as simple as the definition states it to be.

    Because music is an art, one of the first steps is to find a medium in which you feel the most comfortable expressing yourself with. For some this is an instrument. An instrument is a tool that can be used to complete a task, and in this case, that is to play musical tones or notes. When selecting an instrument, you should think of yourself. What kind of person are you? Are you a leader? Are you a follower? What do you want your art to express? All these are things that people will be able to see about you as a result of your music.

    I am an electric bass guitar player in a three-piece hard-rock band. My instrument is an electric bass guitar. I play the bass because I personally relate to what, traditionally, is the role of the bass guitar. The bass guitar is a rhythm instrument, which provides the strong backbone of a song. Without the bass guitar, in my music, the music would feel empty and have a lack of strength. I feel that this best represents my personality because I have always strived to be ready to help my friends and family so I could be there with them when they needed me.

    I have always seen and felt that the bass guitar belongs in the background, in the dark spots of music where no one “looks”. The bass isn’t supposed to be heard, it’s supposed to be felt. One of the bass’ primary jobs is to cover the flow of the song for the lead instruments so they have support when they break from the melody of a song. Because of that, bass tends to be one of the parts of music that no one will notice until it’s gone. And this is where I think that the bass gets its personality. The bass controls one half of the rhythm section of my band, so if I were to, stop playing during any point of a performance, the show would be drastically changed.

    The bass is one of the most powerful and central elements of most modern music. It is not “stupid”, “lame”, “boring”, or “easy”. Without bass, music would not be the same. The bass has just as much power to change music as any other musical instrument. It is just as difficult to play and learn as any other musical instrument. It has its own skill set that puts it in a category all to itself. To be a bass player, you need to understand what exactly your role is. You are the drive of the song. You are the one with the ability to emphasize the power of music. You are the rhythm. Without rhythm the song lack the ability to carry its message, whatever it may be.

    The purpose of this article is to share what I have learned about my instrument and position in music thus far in my career. These are my opinions, and they are to be regarded as such. If you can relate and use my word to your advantage, please do so. Share this knowledge with your friends, family, and other musicians. The second we stop ourselves from learning is the true end of growth, and to be successful we must never stop.

    Written and edited by: Branden Johns

    © Killing Rapunzel 2016​
    tzdroik, MalcolmAmos and zontar like this.
  2. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    Each instrument plays its own part--and they al have importance.

    It does work well when the musicians know & understand their part in the whole.
    And when the other musicians respect that as well.
    Killinkrap likes this.
  3. Hammerfield


    Aug 1, 2016
    Depends on the player or the band leader, Les Claypool doesnt give the same role to the bass like Paul McCartney or Frank Zappa
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  4. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011

    To me the most interesting bass moment is when the melody, the harmony and the bass is melted into one thing. Like 4 parts harmony where the melody, the harmony and the bass is pretty much share by all 4 instruments making each instrument an integral part of the whole.

    When you remove bass from a rock song ... you can recognize it as the chord or the lyric is the thing, the bass is there only to make it fuller.
    Killinkrap likes this.
  5. It depends on the context, there are no rules just some tendancies. For the most part, bassists are expected to outline the chords while being the link between rythm and harmony. Someone said that the drummer is the heartbeat and the bassist is the backbone of a band.
    Killinkrap likes this.
  6. Killinkrap


    Oct 2, 2013
    Wausau, WI
    Like I said in the article, In my own experience I've found my place as a bass player, and that's in the rhythm of the song. I'm not at all saying that the bass isn't allowed to break from that, like claypool or Burton, or countless others... I just wanted to use this as my intro to this forum...thanks a lot to everyone that posted on the thread so far! I hope to become a very active member here and elsewhere
  7. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    Or a guy like Felipe Gomez--he is more like the lead guitar and the guitar player is more like the bass player or the rhythm player.

    But they all know their roles.
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  8. BassChuck

    BassChuck Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I have no problem with the posting by OP, but note that the musical concepts come from a specific style of music. Also worth noting is that the electric bass is a fairly new instrument in the long history of music. There are musical application for it that have not yet been explored.
    Killinkrap likes this.
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