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two major epiphanies I have had in twenty two years of playing bass

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Mantis Tobaggan, Jan 18, 2017.


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  1. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    Some of these may not seem so major to you or perhaps you figured them out well before me. I have played as a hobbyist for 22 years, various bands, all rock based. At times I was much more active than at other times, so keep that in mind as well.

    1. Sometimes less is more.

    For about 15 years, I was trying to cram as many notes as I could into my bass parts. I actually thought it made me look bad to play the same note twice. I walked all over the place whenever I could. I look back on some of my bass parts and shudder. Finally, I got to a point where I felt like I wasn't as good as I should be and not getting better and backing off is what allowed me to break through and continue to progress as a musician. I started playing much simpler parts, occasionally showing some chops, but for the most part, serving the song instead of trying to prove what a great bass player I was.

    2. It is okay to be the felt and not heard.

    This is a very recent epiphany that I had. Ever notice how the older pros sometimes say "you will notice when I stop playing"? I always hated when I would go into the studio and hear the track and not be able to pick out my notes or my part. I always wanted it at the forefront or at least sitting with the rest of the band. Sometimes, this is easy to do with certain music styles but sometimes, especially with heavy guitar and drums, it is okay if you are the foundation. You are still there. You are making the rest of the band sound 100 times better even if the average listener cannot pick out your part. It is okay. I actually take a strange pride in knowing that my isolated bass part sounds amazing, even if it is kind of "buried" in the mix. It is there and it is okay. Have fun playing your bass and being on stage. Don't worry about impressing everyone with your awesome bass part, it is there.

    Overall, these are lessons that helped me better serve the song. I also think, the more one can set aside their desire to stand out, the better bass player they will be overall. I look at some of the best bass players and I believe many of them learned these lessons much earlier than I did. Some of you reading this may have learned these things much earlier than I did. I was always trying to show how good I was on bass and I now realize how much more important it is to serve the song. Let me know what you guys think TB, I always love reading your opinions.
     
    mech, murphy, MonetBass and 59 others like this.
  2. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    You preach, brother, and I'll turn the pages. I agree totally...
     
    Farseer and Mantis Tobaggan like this.
  3. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Play what is needed for the song. Jamerson (yeah, I know, but I love Motown) played the parts for My Girl (simple, repetitive), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (three repeated notes with LOTS of space), and Ain't No Mountain High Enough (and other complex parts).
     
  4. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    Definitely Jamerson knew when to get busy and when to back off. Being able to play those busy parts takes a lot of practice but knowing when to back off is where being a good musician comes into play. :thumbsup:
     
  5. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Ain't no mountain high enough complexe ???
     
  6. So. Much. This.

    It can sometimes irritate me when my friend who also plays bass says something like "Why didn't you throw in some tasty licks?" Mostly because what I'm playing fits the song?
     
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  7. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I agree totally. On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of Tim Bogert's work, and he overplays the heck out of everything! (Fits in what he does, though, imho.)
     
  8. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Certainly more complex than the others, especially at the end. I could pick plenty of his songs (or other Motown). I think you get my point. It can't get much simpler (or have a better groove) than Papa.
     
    bholder likes this.
  9. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Was Jamerson on the original "You Keep Me Hanging On" by any chance? One case where I like Bogert's Vannila Fudge version better. Subtle as a sledgehammer upside the head, that version is. :roflmao:
     
    kwdhsk, Not yet and gjohnson441496 like this.
  10. That's what I always liked about Sir Paul's bass tracks.

    Nothing overly flashy----but so subtle and effective.

    There are two kinds of bass player in this world (three if you count Metal):- team players and show-off wankers.

    Macca IMO is the perfect bass "team player". Everything he does makes the song sound good without being a showoff.
     
  11. Well got to agree with you, I was writing my own stuff early on and coming from a hard rock, metal background felt my bass parts need to be as good as what Geezer Bulter and Steve Harris were throwing down. I demanded a lot from myself. It wasn't till I started taking private lesson did I learn the loudest note you could ever play is no note at all. I at that point I learn how to let the song breath and feel the song and create melodic bass lines that became subtle hints in the mix that would drive the flow of the song I was writing. this was definitely a turning point for me
     
  12. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I had a related epiphany several years ago in my other job as an audio engineer: Figuring out how to mix bass tracks so that they supported the tune in the same way that they do in killer mixes by the greats (e.g., Bob Clearmountain, Hugh Padgham, Bruce Swedien, George Massenberg, etc.) eluded me for many years, in part because, as a bass player myself, I wanted to hear what the bass was doing!

    What finally caused the lightbulb to go off (on?) was the realization that the place a bass track needs to sit is defined more in your musculoskeletal system than in your ears. A bass line needs to feel like it's this substantial foundation capable of supporting (literally, physically supporting) everything else that's going on. It needs to grab your spine even if it doesn't tingle your eardrums. It's less crucial that you can hear intervallic motion or even harmonic function than that you be able to perceive "there is solid bedrock underneath"

    It completely changed the way I mix bass parts in pop/rock songs...and, by extension, changed the way I eq my bass' stage sound when playing in pop/rock acts.
     
  13. Lesson 1 <-- so much this. I am playing with a blues outfit these days. We went to Chicago two years ago and had a chance to record with a couple of local gents. The number one thing I took away was when the harp player asked: "Can you do that, but simpler". I did and lo and behold, the track sounded better. I've not forgotten that. Much like Dr. Mantis Tobaggan, it is helping me improve my playing all around.
     
    vishalicious and Mantis Tobaggan like this.
  14. Love your phrase "...to serve the song".
     
    Mantis Tobaggan and physics like this.
  15. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Appleton
    The baseline is the bun around the sandwich. It holds it all together.
     
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  16. inanimate_carb

    inanimate_carb

    Aug 11, 2016
    Both observations are spot on. Patiently waiting for the "screw that, I play what I want, when I want" post....:D
     
    SLO Surfer and Mantis Tobaggan like this.
  17. swafran

    swafran

    Nov 6, 2008
    Paris, France
    It's "be not felt and the herd" not "be the felt and not heard".
     
    jjmuckluckjr likes this.
  18. woodyng2

    woodyng2 Supporting Member

    Oct 4, 2015
    Oregon Coast
    Absolutely Rule #1 informs my approach to whatever i'm playing.
    As for rule 2, I'ma wanna be heard....so whatever i'm playing,it's gonna cut through.
    (Even with my flatwound-strung P and J basses.)
     
    jjmuckluckjr likes this.
  19. pedroims

    pedroims

    Dec 19, 2007
    Michigan
    They are comming, before midnight we will have few pages of replies like that.

    In my opinion, it is not the number of notes that you play but the authority with you play the notes. I don't have any problem playing root whole notes for 5 minutes, if that is what the song calls then it is my reaponsability to deliver with authority and not feeling ashamed for doing it.
     
  20. jjmuckluckjr

    jjmuckluckjr

    Mar 24, 2015
    Mantis Tobbagan has become my new hero. We're bass players, we're supposed to connect the singer/guitar to the percussion of the drummer. From us bass players, ultimately, less playing (for 90% of music today) works out great for the band we're in. I was taught; keep time, hold down the rhythm and keep the band playing as a unit. There are usually more than enough egos to go around. Take pride in your gig. And be the best musician there.
     

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