1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

What makes a good bassist?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Felix Riley, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. Felix Riley

    Felix Riley

    Aug 2, 2013
    Now, I have been playing bass for two years, and one question has always bugged me: how do I know if I'm any good? What is your criterion of a good bass player? I'd really be interested in hearing the different opinions.
  2. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    Does your playing cooperate with and help raise the level of the music your making with other people?

    If you're a solo artist, do people like listening to you play?

    For either, does your playing satisfy your own musical needs when listening to your own playing?
  3. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    In my book, modesty has always been a pretty good barometer. But I can’t discount the feeling of gratitude I get whenever I receive a compliment from a drummer.
  4. remainthesame


    Sep 24, 2008
    You don't want to know that you're good because then you will stop trying to get better. You should always be your own worst critic.
  5. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    Great timing, playing what's right for the song, not over playing, great tone, always being prepared.
  6. Guitalia


    Jun 7, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
    All the replies so far have been thought-provoking, e.g., garp's post #3, invoking "modesty." That's exactly right. This thread might end up as a sticky. Sub'ed.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    When people that you want to play with want to play with you.

    As far as skill level goes, though... no matter what level of technique you've achieved, there's always more to learn and explore, and the chance to learn from others. Listen to Michael Manring on the subject. Model of humility in a musician.
  8. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    Watch the people around you. When they can't stop nodding their heads, tapping their feet, dancing, etc., then you know you are doing your job.
  9. Mennolineum


    Nov 12, 2013
    One thing I was and still am aiming for is to be able to get what i think directly out of my bass.. thinking the music and then play or simultaniously:) i am guessing when you 100% mastered this you can Let your mind go and Let your bass and your 'soul' (lacking a better word in my vocabulary) speak as one..

    Modesty and kindness are a big Ones aswell, Next to a bassist you're also a bandmember;)
  10. lars69p


    Dec 7, 2013
    Good info, great question😎
  11. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    You know you're good when drummers tell you they love to play with you.
  12. BAce


    Jul 31, 2012
    You're a good bassist when other musicians want to play with you, when you see the people on the dance floor rockin' out, when those that aren't dancing tap their feet and applaud at the end of a song, when you are the one that saves the band's bacon cuz you're the one with spare GUITAR strings, drumsticks, tools and gaff tape, when you help with the load-in, setup, teardown and load-out and a lot of that PA and lighting gear is your own property, when you treat club owners, patrons and bandmates with respect and dignity.
    Oh, one more thing, you should be able to play a little too, but the other things are more noticed, trust me.
  13. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    When the band sounds better with you on bass than some other guy.
  14. I was just asking myself this th other day. I started as an older player and my goals were modest: have some fun and don't suck. But, what is next?
  15. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I don't know that there's any single criterion or set of criteria that I would use to assess whether a bassist is a good/great bassist. A bassist has to find music he meshes with and contibutes to--Tina Weymouth and the Talking Heads = very good bassist; Jaco Pastorius with Weather Report or Joni Mitchell = the greatest bassist ever (IMHO), but switch the gigs around, and you probably have two mediocre bassists. Some bassists (e.g., Will Lee) are ridiculously versatile, and there's obviously something to be said for that. But again, I would say that any bassist who meshes with and contributes to the music he is playing is a good bassist.
  16. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    To me, the qualities that make a good bassist are the same attributes that make a good musician, or a good writer, or a good short-order cook:

    1. They know when to follow rules;
    2. They know when to break rules;
    3. They don't care about attributes that make them seem great or terrible. They play what's in their inner being and don't make excuses.

    See, the point is, there are plenty of "great" musicians that I don't care for. What I'm looking for is honesty and the ability to interpret the situation in the context of producing something original that speaks to me.
  17. BtHoMaSw


    Sep 9, 2013
    The expensiveness of their gear... :p
  18. Same thing that makes you "good" at anything.

    Could you be replaced and at what cost? If the answers are "yes" and "easily" then...

    That doesn't mean you have to be the most skilled or the most likeable or have the best tone or be great on stage or learn quickly or whatever... It has everything to do with your current situation. Make yourself somewhat indispensable in your current situation and you'll be "good".
  19. frisbieinstein


    Dec 29, 2007
    Have more fun.

    Try to suck less. (The director said this to Matt Damon during the shooting of Saving Private Ryan.)
  20. THIS is the answer you seek! When you reach that magical moment when the riffs in your head can be INSTANTLY transferred to your bass, you have reached the pinnacle.

    After almost 35 years of playing technical metal (thrash then prog. tech. death metal...and a little jazz fusion) I'm ALMOST there...lol

    I can picture a riff in my head, and within a few minutes, have it down. Which, imho, makes me a damn good bass player.

    That being said, a few other points made in this thread are very relevant.

    Humility is a big one. Realize that the groove rests on your shoulders, and be happy it does. But don't expect the praise to fall on you...other than from those that count, that is...

    Covetability...when other musicians are seeking you out to jam with or write with, then you know you're doing something right!

    Entertainment value...at a live gig, if you've got the crowd on their feet, they'll drink. If they drink, the bar makes money. If the bar makes money, you get invited back for MORE money! Ergo, you hook the groove, you make the bucks. Which makes you a good bassist!

    But, and probably most importantly, if you wake up every day and think, "Today, I'm gonna NAIL that riff!", and DO it...then you have made it. You're a good bassist.

    Cheers! :bassist: