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What makes someone a great bassist?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by winterburn69, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    Straightforward question. What does it? Is it playing flashy solos and lead bass like Entwistle and Cliff Burton? Being melodic and all over the fretboard like JPJ and McCartney? Riding the same 4 notes the whole song? is it creating a bass part that makes people "ooh" and "ahh"?, like Black Dog or 5:15 from the RAH? Is it simply just playing those bass parts to perfection (or near perfection)? Is it the ability to slap or pop or do some crazy tapping thing (Super Mario theme?) on an 11 stringer?

    One thing I do know is that it isn't using picks or fingers.

    I asked myself this because I'm getting pretty good some of those difficult Zeppelin songs, although I've never had a good line in any original, nor any flashy bass solos live, and obviously, IMO, I'm not the same guy who had no rhythm and just wanted to play loud 7 years ago. I guess that would've been a moment of self-reflection?

    Dear Mods, please move this if it is in the incorrect forum. I wasn't 100% sure.
  2. It's being able to tell a story with your instrument, to communicate, keep people listening, no matter who they are or no matter how small that group is, that's the truth. Might not always get you paid, might not always make you famous, but if you've got something to say and someone else gets it and understands when you make music, you're a great musician, singer, bassist or whatever. Period.

    Case in point:

    Gabriel Mintz - Desert Sky on KEXP
  3. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
  4. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    Pretty big question, bro... gonna get a lot of opinions on this one, but to me there can be a lot of items that define a great bass player, although I would like to think the same qualities which can define a great person can also define a great bass player, or even a great musician, a great hockey or football player, or even just a great mom or dad.

    The first things that come into my mind, in my honest opinion are one's dedication and integrity to his/her craft. The dedication alone would define just how much time and effort they invested in their craft, and of course with dedication comes practice, experimentation and the ability to work well with others.

    Another thing I consider strongly is attitude. There are bass players who could probably play rings around even the best players in the industry, but because their attitude is terrible, rarely play outside of their basement.

    Confidence is another factor I consider. Confidence usually grows alongside dedication and attitude as the bass player grows and learns in their chosen instrument.

    I am sure there are a lot more defining qualities that would make a great bassist, and I am sure there will be folks in this forum who have different ideas, so I am sure you will hear many other opinions from many accomplished bass players in this forum, but to me, it is the positive human qualities that would help in defining what would make someone 'great' in their chosen craft. :)
  5. marijn van gils

    marijn van gils

    Jan 23, 2002
    "great" is both a relative and a subjective term. The answers in this tread will be likerwise...
  6. We're bassists. For the most part great bassists are player's players, not "wowing the audience" players. Team players. A great bassist makes the other musicians sound better. Timing, tone and just the right note to bring the whole thing together. Solid. Good listeners. In it for the groove. We know when it's right.
  7. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    For me, it's being an artist with the instrument, in whatever form that takes. I think being an artist is using the instrument to create a sound that makes you feel something. So Kim Deal for me is a great bassist, because she is really pure with her intent, and doesn't obscure her intention by putting in unnecessary 'bassist' fluff. People like Ray Brown or Charles Mingus are great in a different way, because they're more technically accomplished but still so creative and sensitive - really people like that have it all.

    But for me it's about having your own sound and having an idea of your context and doing that thing really intensely. Sometimes I find that if I don't understand someone's perspective, their playing will leave me cold, but if I take the time to understand it, I'll start appreciating it more. I think it's easier to give credit to flashier bassists, but I've come to hugely appreciate people who know what to leave out and how to refine their sound - for example I think Aston Barrett is a genius.

    Sorry if that sounds a bit poncey! I like 'artistes'. :D
  8. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    There was a thread on this exact topic not too long ago. Maybe this one will answer the question for all time. :D

    In my opinion, the answer will depend on what you think the role of the bass is. If you think the role of the bass is to play root and fifth, you'll have a very different answer than if you think the bass player should have more latitude. If you think the role of the bass is to support the rest of the band, you'll have a very different answer than if you think the role of the bass should be equal to all of the other members.

    Until you answer for yourself what you think the role of the bass is, you can not answer this question.
  9. Mharris


    Sep 25, 2007
    Missoula Montana
    These one word answers don't add much to the discussion.

    It depends on how you practice. You can practice arpeggios and scales and techniques all day everyday and still have nothing to say with it.

    I personally think being a great bass player encompasses all the basics (being a great listener, having good rhythmic sense, good timing, articulation, etc etc).

    In my view being a great bass player is about using these tools to have something to say musically. If you have something to say, and it's honest and true, I think you are on your way to becoming a great bass player.
  10. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    What makes someone a great bassist?


  11. Mharris


    Sep 25, 2007
    Missoula Montana
    You do have a point there.
  12. ejmy


    Nov 30, 2008
    A bassist who stop slapping a few years ago. LOL
  13. mcblahflooper94


    Aug 31, 2011
    Innovation, being able to come up with things that fit the piece's mood/sound, tone, technique, an overall knowledge of your instrument.

    I consider Duff from Guns N Roses to be the PERFECT bassist for GNR. IMO, he's always gotten the right tone/bassline for whatever they're playing. I guess GNR altogether is just a collection of amazing musicians... anyways. Are they *amazing* at technique? No. Can Slash/Duff play jaw dropping solos that you'd think only god himself play? Nope. But I'd love to see someone write such amazing solos as Slash did, or write the bass solo for Sweet Child O Mine. I can play them, but I don't think I could ever write anything that good...

    Not saying that technique isn't anything to consider. But if you think you're creative and a melody maker, technique will come eventually if you practice.
  14. and chicks!
  15. Ronbassman


    Jun 1, 2011
    A great bassist makes the band sound different from all the copy/paste bands out there in any given scene. It gives that "it" factor that people can't point their finger on but they know theres something they like in the sound.

    It doesn't have to be 100 notes-per-minute arpeggios or super complicated stuff, but the flavor the bassist adds to the music.
  16. fcleff


    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    "The most important thing you can do with this instrument is to not play fast, not play solos, but to get a good sound." - Ray Brown

  17. Play a slow blues in G at a jam with lousy guitar players without falling asleep...zzzzz
  18. mjbing


    May 5, 2005
    Western Oklahoma
    Pointy shoes and fish tacos warming on the amp.

  19. DBCrocky


    Oct 18, 2011
    Cary, NC
    Why would anyone think there is a formula to being a great bassist?

    It's just a great big maze. If you are lucky and/or persistent you might find you're own personal route to that lofty destination.

    Then again, you might not, so don't forget to get the most out of the journey.
  20. TodB


    Nov 7, 2011
    Los Alamitos, CA
    1. On time.
    2. In tune.
    3. Lay down a groove that holds the song together.
    4. Easy to work with.

    Those are the guys who keep getting calls while the flaming jackass who thinks he's John Entwistle sits in his basement alone.

    FWIW - I love Entwistle, but he ruined more bar bands by the bass player pretending he was John Entwistle when he should have been pretending he was John McVie. I'm just sayin'...

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