What Makes an Excellent Bassist?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Philip McAdam, May 13, 2021.

  1. This has been on my mind and so I have decided to ask TalkBass members for their thoughts and or opinions on what makes an excellent Bassist. Knowledge of the instrument, technique and musical theory are three things that may play a part but, what do you think makes an excellent bass player?
    Last edited: May 13, 2021
    teh-slb likes this.
  2. AgostoMortal

    AgostoMortal Supporting Member

    Jun 28, 2005
    Miami, South Florida
    the ability to make everybody else in the band sound great and that includes having a good sound and solid time & groove.
    MrLenny1, smogg, MarMar and 32 others like this.
  3. SgtHulka

    SgtHulka Suspended Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2019
    Fort Arnold
    Pocket, time, serve the song.
    MrLenny1, Florinda4, FatCity and 30 others like this.
  4. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    Playing "in the pocket", musical runs, something flashy here and there. And other stuf that applies to other musicians too: ready for gig, team player, easy to work with, adequate equipment for the job.
  5. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Same as above, finding the rhythmic center/groove and working it. Sometimes your on the beat, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind. You find it and exercise it.
    Bad Bob, kobass, DTRN and 4 others like this.
  6. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    1. Time
    2. Choice of notes
    3. Sound
    Last edited: May 13, 2021
    doop, Jim Nazium, soulstew and 9 others like this.
  7. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I think a certain level of assertiveness needs to come through. I don't mean playing loud, up front or in your face. Or going all in with gimmicky stage antics or "bass-face'. I mean playing in a way that instils confidence in the other musicians. That is to say a reliability around which the band can coalesce. It means having solid time; making note and dynamics choices that 'show the way'; having a tone that clearly conveys pitch; consistently articulating notes and rests to sustain the groove or pulse. Playing that way doesn't constrain creativity or eliminate opportunities for improvisation or switching things up, provided those principles remain in mind.

    Just to be clear, and for the avoidance of all doubt, I think knowing (understanding) the music forwards, backwards and inside out, and having the honed techniques necessary to play it are givens, and are pre-requisites for the other stuff.

    dan1952, RocknRay, teh-slb and 11 others like this.
  8. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Good riffs. Gotta be in the pocket, or nothing else matters.
  9. Smith357


    Jul 7, 2018
    Knowing when not to play.
  10. Being the rock-solid foundation of every song. Nothing fancy, just solid, tight playing.
    MynameisMe, dan1952, GlennRH and 5 others like this.
  11. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    What makes an excellent player? Someday I hope to be one! In the meantime, I play dance music, so my thing is attention to the details of rhythm: Placement and duration. When I know in my bones where the kick drum is going to land on the note, so we land on it together and sound like one instrument (I suppose "playing in the pocket" is another way of saying this...YMMV.) Similarly, duration involves making sure you can hear the space between each note. I find that shortening up duration gets the attention of others who are playing with you--even in open-mic situations. (So you know it must be powerful medicine.;))
    SteveCS and Groove Doctor like this.
  12. Dragan


    Oct 5, 2009
  13. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Time, taste, ears, repitoire, tone, chops and not being an @-hole, in roughly that order.
  14. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Cell division.
  15. AboutSweetSue


    Sep 29, 2018
    What makes an excellent bassist is someone who plays for the song.

    An excellent bassist is also someone who mean mugs the drummer at least once every show and then later has a hand in firing them. Worthless rock beaters, the lot of ‘em.
  16. Making the band SOUND better and FUNCTION better by you being there.

    And a P Bass with a Tort PG.
    Killing Floor and Philip McAdam like this.
  17. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Same as any other instrument... a love of music, interest in learning, attention to detail, regard for the domain knowledge in the genre that you're interested in, ensemble skill, and lots of practice.

    Every instrument, every genre, has "groove." Solo fiddle can groove. A band in which only the bassist and drummer are in the pocket, is going to be a dull sounding band.
    fishdreams, 31HZ and Philip McAdam like this.
  18. LeFunk Machine

    LeFunk Machine Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2014
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    I don't want to name names but I can't resist telling about James Jamerson. I don't want to say much, but look him up and listen to some of his stuffs.
    Kipp Harrington and OogieWaWa like this.
  19. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Timing, good ear, fretboard knowledge, ability to pick up new songs quickly, ability to lock down a supportive groove and patience - lots of patience.
    Philip McAdam likes this.
  20. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Lukewarm Water.
    MattZilla, thunesBARROW and 31HZ like this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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