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Thoughts on the bass "over-player"

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by QORC, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I had an idea for a thread here this weekend after watching a local band doing the usual range of covers.

    are you the

    1. Bassist that generally sticks very closely to the original records?
    2. Bassist that adds in constant flourishes in every turnaround - stuff not on the recordings after seemingly every 8 measures in a standard song, wildly going up and down the fret board as if you were playing a sort of lead guitar?
    3. Bassist who stays down in the mix, and keeps it simple and in the pocket, no matter what the bassist on the original is doing? Eg, I can dumb-down a song, and by keeping my tone heavy on the bottom-end, "nobody will know the difference."
    4. Bassist some combination of the above, depending on the song and/or band circumstance?

    Why did I post this? I got a inquiry off FB from a local band who was seeking to replace their bassist and told me they were looking for someone who doesn't "overplay the songs". Who "leaves spaces" during transitions.

    And then I go see this guy in this band - very super-talented, but literally adding stuff all over the place not in the song. Seemingly every turn-around and transition he was adding stuff -- fancy picking. Slapping. going way way down the fret board to play super high note transitions.

    So thoughts on this? I have to say - while he was impressive and talented, after a while I found it hard to listen to. Annoying. Like the guy was just showing off instead of hanging back, and as the one band said, "leaves spaces in the songs." is it a frustrated guitarist doing that? Someone who is simply bored with the songs and can't help himself? Wants to make sure everyone knows he's playing? Or or or?

    as one article said, "WHY THE BAND IS FRUSTRATED WITH YOU
    The main reason everyone else in the band gets frustrated with you is simple: you’re too busy trying to come up with more interesting things to play and are losing sight of what it means to be a bass player. Anything too fancy that you play will distract from your primary job. Guitar is cool, isn’t it? They get to play fancy fast stuff and they get all the attention. The keyboard player has all sorts of crazy sounds, and nothing is quite as cool as the drums. Each instrument plays a specific role in the band, including you. Your job is to be the bridge between the drums and everyone else in the band. Drums are, by their nature, rhythmic. They don’t provide much in the harmonic department. (Drummers, I know, I know, you guys tune your drums. You know what I mean though.) Everyone else’s duties in the band are primarily harmonic. Sure, there are rhythms that they play, but nothing as rhythmic as drums. Your job is to be the bridge between these two, the glue that holds them together. By locking in with the drummer, you are providing some harmonic structure to the rhythms he’s laying down. This unifies the whole band and makes it sound like you’re actually playing together. Once you embrace your role as the glue, the bridge between the two halves of the band, you’ll find yourself thinking differently, playing differently, and the whole band sounding tighter."

    Eg, bassist, restrain thyself.

    Doug Pinnick from King’s X sees it this way: “If the bass player can’t find the groove, it’s because he’s thinking ‘guitar.’ Guitarist-bass players tend to overplay and have no concept of the true reason we play bass. The bass dictates the groove and the feel.” Phil Chen, bassist for Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and countless others says, “Bass is a foundation instrument, like the foundation of a house.” Chen advises players to “replicate the low frequency of the bass drum.” Ellefson sums it up this way, “It’s called a bass, not a treble, so please play it like one.”

    as for me? I think I'm more #1, and occasionally, just occasionally, I add in some transition that I may have found on some live version. but I rarely make stuff up and add in my own transition bits. I'm more the pocket guy who tries to stick as close the original (or live) recording of the well known song. Not saying one is better than the other - some bands want the super-fancy bassist, throwing in little runs all over the place, to fill in the gaps. Some bands want you to LEAVE the gaps and stick to the original.

    One man's "over-player" is another man's "talented, beautifully melodic and creative bass player who is adding significantly to the dynamics, melody and complexity of the tune."

    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  2. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Nothing wrong with adding some flourishes, but the more often you do it, the less effective they become. The song is King. Jameson played some lovely, intricate bass lines. He also played Papa Was a Rolling Stone - one three-note phrase repeated for the entire 12:02 song.

    I try to limit my extraneous playing.
  3. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather Supporting Member

    Interesting. There's a local band, that I sub for every now and then (it's been a while though), that has a bass player who is extremely busy. He's a really good bass player but I'm literally worn out after listening to this guy go at it every single song! At one point they were looking to replace him (for lots of reasons). I was receptive at one point but decided that the band wasn't for me (for lots of reasons).
  4. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    that's interesting. When I've had bands contact me to join them or try-out, I try and see if I can quietly go see them (or at least see videos of them) to find out what sort of bassist they have. And a couple of them, I've asked straight up, "are you looking for someone who plays like (your current bassist)? because that's not me. I'm (this)."
    John6 and alanolynn like this.
  5. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Your post makes a few assumptions.
    1. That the flourishes weren't there in the first place or that the piece wasn't chosen because it was a little "extra."
    2. That your reader only plays covers. Since half of us don't, that's an odd one to make. That also includes that a bass player can't "overplay" an original song.
    3. That "overplaying" is an absolute. It is really a matter of personal taste and is hard to judge.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  6. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    no, not at all. I am talking about a covers players mostly because I know the songs well. these are flourishes that 90% of the time are not in the song. Originals? Well it's original music. Although a "too-busy" bassist, like the previous replier said, can at times be "exhausting" to listen to.

    and if you read my whole post, I think I conclude that very thing. That it's a matter of opinion. of taste. Some bands want it, some don't. Not a judgment at all, although I do agree that sometimes converted guitarist-bassists often, to me, feel like they're going so far overboard that it detracts and distracts. there is a fine line, to me. but that's why I started the thread. to hear opinions.

    but yes, I'm talking about covers. believe me, the guy I saw last weekend? He was playing very well known songs. His "flourishes" were all over the place and almost none were part of the originals. he was VERY VERY busy. This in contrast to the band that contacted that specifically stated they didn't want a bassist to "overplay" and to leave spaces in the songs.
  7. I'm definitely a #1,recently played in several tribute bands,I tri ed to learn most parts note for note. I've done a stevie wonder tribut,areatha franklin,Tejano superstar selena and r and b singer jill scott. None of those shows were easy, I think it takes more effort to stick with the original lines rather then improvise your own.
    I agree listing to a overly busy bass player tires my ears and takes away from the song.
  8. I'm 3 with a touch of 1. I try to capture the essence of the song, but I dont know if I play any of my covers 100% as recorded. I do focus on groove, simplicity, and avoiding mistakes. I like songs where the bass plays counterpoint to the guitar, like a walking blues line. I try to reserve my flourishes for gaps in the song where vocals or guitars are not actively playing a melody or riff, and easy does it.
    Dgl44, aborgman, Novarocker and 2 others like this.
  9. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    While im not a "shut up and color" or just "root/V" kind of a player.....I do try and have a song/grove first approach. There are times when i catch myself doing a bit too much, and I pull it back and adjust accordingly. Id say Im a #4, there is a time and a place for everything, knowing when and what's appropriate for the gig and the group is the key.
  10. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic designer: Yorkville Sound
    My capabilities limit me to focus what I'm good at, laying down the foundation with a bit of ad lib thrown in to keep it interesting.

    A friend of a friend is one of those busy as a bumblebee bass players always overplaying and even throwing in chords all over the place. He mostly plays jams and plays at least 3 times a week. He's a great guy, friendly, social and fairly humble but when he plays it gets a bit much.

    I'm in the camp of 'serve the song, serve the band.'
  11. TheDirtyLowDown


    Mar 8, 2014
    That's it. If the song or moment you're in requires a bit of flash, do it.
    If not, don't. Having the discernment to know the difference is a sign of
    maturity. I often hear folks that seem to be saying "look, I practiced this
    for hours and hours so I'm going to fit it in," which does no service to either
    the song or the band.
  12. dr doofie

    dr doofie

    Jul 6, 2017
    Yes I have a thought. That was so perfectly stated an argument that I wish we could be in a band....
    Of course two bass players would muddy it up but oh well...:)
  13. dr doofie

    dr doofie

    Jul 6, 2017
    I do killer pick slides when it serves the song
    And sweeping and tapping
    I just need a tremolo. ..
  14. Siggy

    Siggy Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    I try to be the bassist that you don't know I'm there until I stop playing.
  15. bearhart74

    bearhart74 Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2009
  16. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    and the days go by, let the water hold me down...
  17. bass40hz

    bass40hz Cigar smoker, scotch drinker, American Patriot Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Sussex County, NJ
    no endorsements yet...Are you listening Spector, DR, GK, Line6?
    I am a #4. I write my own stuff so depending on what the the songs needs are, how I hear it in my head, is what I do with the bottom. When playing covers, if the bass is busy enough to keep me from falling asleep I will usually leave it alone, but if its a sleeping pill I tend to pepper in some spice ;-)
    Rock on.
  18. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Cover player here. I try to play as close to the original as practical but I'm not obsessive about it. The only time I'd add more than the original would be if I'm in a one guitar band and want to compenste for missing second guitar or keys parts.
    Wisebass, 999Brent, smogg and 7 others like this.
  19. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I'll stop overplaying if the frontman starts schlepping gear along with the rest of us grunts.

    So, never.

    When playing covers, I'll stick to playing what's on the record. Unless I think I've come up with a line I like better. Which only happens once in a blue moon if the bass line is excessively basic, like roots and fifths only in a walking bass line. Might want to add some thirds or chromaticism in there.
    teh-slb, br1qbat and mikewalker like this.
  20. oldrocker


    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Interesting topic.

    I've found that most over-players / embellishers only have a couple of different go to moves that tends to get repeated over different songs. To me this gets tedious listening to the typical 2 or 3 set cover band show.

    On the other had some original bass parts are mixed so low as to be virtually undistinguishable to the casual lightener so these same lines when played at band volume can be mistaken for overplaying.

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