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Two Bassists in a band--thoughts?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Trancedelicflow, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. Trancedelicflow


    Sep 7, 2019
    Not a common scenario, as we all know. Does anybody have any experience with this situation?

    I mean, in an orchestra there is a whole bass section, multiple basses in the same low end tonal range and the sound is really awesome.

    But they aren't all playing through loud powerful amps, so I'm thinking if there were two bass guitars on a stage both players should turn it down a few notches. More than a few. Some players might be reluctant, but hey, we're all adults, right?

    Also it seems kind of obvious that our hypothetical bass guitar duo shouldn't always play in unison (although that is what orchestra basses do). One guy could be playing the root while the other plays power chords an octave above; they could play harmony bass lines; they could alternate playing fills while the other holds down the root. There are lots of possibilities.

    The band or project wouldn't need a rhythm guitarist (sorry, guitar players) maybe one lead player and keys to round out the ensemble.

    Plus, bass players more than other musicians tend to be multi-instrumentalists, so both musicians wouldn't have to play bg all the time. I for one would like to play organ sometimes just for example.

    So anyway this is something I would really like to try some time. Have any of you done this?
  2. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I was in a band years ago that had two bassists. The idea arose from the audition process. The band was started by the guitarist and the drummer, and one of the bassists they auditioned was super funky, but totally traditionalist: 4-string, flats, foam mute, strictly fingerstyle... you get the idea. The other guy was me, a six-string bassist with a pedalboard, stainless steel roundwounds, and a willingness to do anything to make any kind of sound out of the instrument. I have a feeling what happened was the drummer wanted me, and the guitarist wanted the other guy. In either event, they decided to try a band with both of us. The idea was to have the other guy play "bass bass", and I would play a role more like a guitar or keyboard. As the band evolved, those roles loosened up somewhat.

    We never doubled each other. It seemed like a pointless thing to do. We found that it helped if only one bass was in the low register. The other player could play chords, melodies, textures, whatever. If we were both in the lower register, we would sort of dance around each other, interweaving both instruments into one intricate bass part. Using radically different tones from each other was a big help too. One thing is for sure: it really helped when he and I would meet separately from the rest of the band to work out our parts.

    The interesting thing for me, from a creative standpoint, was this: I know my role in 99% of all musical situations. I play the bass line. But what if somebody's already doing that? What else can a bass guitar do? Thanks to four years in that band, I have a lot of answers to that question.
  3. There was a somewhat successful English band called Ned’s Atomic Dustbin with a two bass lineup. Not my cup of tea, but you might want to check them out to see how they did it.
  4. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Mud, unless the two really play well together.
    Amano likes this.
  5. The first Tortoise album has lots of groovy two bass stuff:

  6. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I haven't been in a band with 2 bassists. I have, however, been in one with 8. It was a one off Christmas show thing at my work - 8 bassists and one drummer. The trick is that the parts you play have to be coordinated - you can't just wing whatever and expect it to work. Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, and Either Steve Bailey or Marcus Miller have done it rather successfully with 3. It's quite doable, you just have to work on parts that separate the instruments spectrally - one high, one low.
  7. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    note how every example still ends up with one playing higher stuff and one playing actual bass

    there should be only one actual bass player in the band
  8. dramatwist


    Sep 27, 2019
    ...never understood more than one drummer... more than one bassist? Now I've got a headache...
    Samatza, Bassdirty and BakedMaple like this.
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    OK i've done the two drummer thing, but even there it's the same principle where you had one guy playing "drums" and the other playing "percussion", sort of a "rhythm/lead" division of labor.

    playing bass with two guys behind you doing that well is an absolute blast! you have to try and sync yourself with the whole thing, like pretend it's one giant 4-armed drummer behind you and groove with it.

    it makes a lot more musical sense than trying to have two bass players
  10. flojob

    flojob Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    These folks always come to mind.
    Thumb n Fingers likes this.
  11. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Tons, and I've also seen a number of pro touring acts do it very effectively. It's the most fun I've ever had in a working band situation, and also probably the least. Maybe even on the same gig...[​IMG]

    Right now it's a reality of my weekly Friday night Americana/Bluegrass jam. When one of us doesn't feel like showing (or can't) no one else suffers. Both of us can and do take a turn on guitar occasionally, or just take a turn on lead vocals.

    The one bedrock truth I've observed is that both players have to be all-in on making it work. Otherwise the fun factor just isn't going to be there, IME.
  12. ThumpsAlot

    ThumpsAlot Cant hold no grove if you aint got no pocket

    Nov 18, 2007
    Lake Worth Florida
    I really enjoy these guys.
    two fingers and Thorny1 like this.
  13. Thorny1


    Jun 16, 2019
    The Melvins did a show like this a time or two. Sounded like total mud to me, but there is definitely a right and a wrong way to approach this. I enjoyed bands like Omnific rather more.
  14. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I have seen it done twice live. SMV and Omnific. The bass players have to be outstanding and able to play with different techniques. The band arrangements have to be open enough to let them do their thing. It won't work well in a "traditional" pop music band. Showcase it, or don't bother.
  15. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    I really like the album they made with Jeff Pinkus and the other guy (sorry, forget his name) on basses.

    what was interesting to me was, for some of the time both bassists played different lines in the usual / low bass register, and it still sounded good (instead of doing the usual high/low split). YMMV of course. and i never saw them live.

    other good bands that used 2 (or more) basses:

    James Brown
    Cop Shoot Cop
    Evil Blizzard (4 basses...)
    Mogwai, on a few songs
    Pale Horse
    Taman Shud

    EDIT forgot Girls vs Boys
  16. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure the reason you have a row of bassists at the back of an orchestra is volume and fullness. One bass isn't going to stand a chance at keeping up with multiple string sections in higher registers. With amps this isn't much of an issue.

    That said, there's a bunch of good advice before my little addition.
  17. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    Definitely check out Dumpstafunk. 2 bassists killin' it. They both have different styles, but mesh beautifully. Awesome band.
    Passinwind likes this.
  18. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    It can be done, but in order to make it worth the extra work, both players (as well as the rest of the band) need both the ability and the willingness to make it worthwhile. Out of all instruments, bass is the last one I'd pick to double.
    Bassdirty and danesdad like this.
  19. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I play in a project that is a combination of two corporate events bands that gig independently. It's a big, expensive band of 18 so, predictably enough, we don't play very often. Two drum kits, two guitars, two basses, keyboards, five horns and five singers - plus sequences. It's a dense mix and my biggest concern is being able to have a clear enough in-ear monitor balance. On the last gig we played I was placed right in front of one of the drummers (who was on a riser) so his kick was muddying up my mix a bit. Other than that I actually quite enjoy the dynamics of playing with the other bassist. Part of the reason I think it works with us is that neither I nor the other bassist is particularly ego-driven. Each of us is happy to step back and let the other one play. A lot of how we share duties is improvised. One of us will play the main line while the other sits out or plays in the higher register. Then we'll signal each other and switch roles. Sometimes one of us will play a line high up like a guitarist would (or double a part higher up) but it's important not to get in the way of the two guitarists (and keyboardist) who are already likely occupying that space to some degree. Ears and common sense...
    knumbskull likes this.
  20. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Add a few of my favorites:

    Miles Davis
    Willie Nelson
    Talking Heads
    Ornette Coleman
    Pharoah Sanders
    Sun Ra
    Vic Wooten Band
    Jack DeJohnette (upright + tuba)
    Gary Burton
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
    knumbskull likes this.

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