Why does Austin City Limits hate bass players?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by GretschWretch, Feb 20, 2024.

  1. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    One of my Saturday night rituals is to play along with Austin City limits broadcasts -- standing, and usually with a slab bass -- partly for ear training and partly as a stamina litmus test. A recurring and frustrating motif here is that the bass is so low in the mix I can barely hear it, and the bassist so often is standing in the shadows (literally) I cannot see the fretting hand. Since often the featured artist is performing music I am not familiar with, I also am robbed of getting any idea how bass for this music is supposed to sound. It's been like this for years.

    Talk about your real learning experience. Not.
  2. ShadowGroover


    Aug 16, 2020
    Funny, because if I play with pre-recorded or livestream music, I switch my subwoofer off. The only bass (including kick drum) I want to hear is mine, locking in with the music. Drum hits on 2 and 4 are all I need.

    To me it's the best type of learning experience of playing "live" at home. I'm a creative artist, not a mimicking parrot.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2024
  3. J Posega

    J Posega Cat Dad and Dingwall Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2005
    Portland, OR
    That's pretty typical for any live music broadcast. Unless you're Rush or Primus or Metallica (and it's only because Rob's playing stance is so unique), the average person just wants to see singers and guitarists and sometimes drummers.
  4. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I know zero about mixing audio for television but PBS does log ACL episodes for streaming and the bass anecdotally is more audible.

    I ignorantly have always suspected it had to do with the assumption that TV speakers have always had poor bass response so they mix to the cleanest signal response.

    I am confessing my wife and I LOVE attending tapings and have been to many. It’s not hard but Moody is a small venue and they don’t want a packed and rowdy crowd so you have to know how to get tickets.

    Go watch Duran Duran from last year. JT isn’t hiding. Or St Vincent, JMJ isn’t hiding. I don’t think ACL crew is any more or less interested in capturing the bass player than anyone else. If the bassist is standing by the scrim or hovering behind the hihat they’re not going to be on center camera, they’re just going to be captured by the rover occasionally. If the bassist is singing or a more assertive stage stalker they’ll be on camera more.

    A - I don’t think it’s personal, too many bassists tend to hide. My own opinion is hiding on a soundstage is counterintuitive.

    B - If you can, it’s a fun experience because it’s semi intimate and the live sound is usually very good and the crowd is usually quite respectful and you can get out early(!).
  5. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    But the music I am referring to is music I have never played and oftentimes never even heard. I am not referring to copying the bass part exact note-for-note. I still would, to quote a friend, "mess the song up in my own little way." But without the guidelines referenced in my initial post, I worry I will fall into my comfort zone, which may not be appropriate to what I am hearing on ACL. I seek some guideposts so that if ever invited to be a part of one of these sorts of bands my playing will be appropriate.
  6. ShadowGroover


    Aug 16, 2020
    It's an understandable perspective, but entirely opposite of someone like Leland Sklar. He creates amazing bass lines because he knows music, the function of the bass, the requirements of a song, and how to compliment not only the music, but his fellow musicians.

    Obviously, his learning didn't stop when he could play root-based eighth notes. A better beginning would be listening to the melody of the song, how the harmonies and rhythms support it, and crafting bass lines that support and compliment all of it. . your way.

    Listen to everything except the bass line for that, and it can be a transformative, profound educational experience (assuming music and instrument proficiency).
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2024
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  7. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2024
  8. roller

    roller Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Yeah, +1 on James Genus sounding pretty dang good a few years ago when he played ACL with Herbie...

  9. 2cooltoolz

    2cooltoolz Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    Lake Conroe, TX
    They don't hate us. They just realize that the viewing audience doesn't care that we exist. We ain't the singer guy/girl. We rarely, rarely do a solo, beyond a one bar lead-in/walkup, which no video producer alive considers worth a camera. How many times have you seen the wrong guitar player zeroed in on a solo? We are foundational, the background; the focus is on the flowers, the bowl of fruit, the naked lady in the painting, not the room they're in.

    I like to upoad mp3s to Moises, down/up load that to audacity, take out the bass part, and play with that.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2024
  10. KohanMike

    KohanMike Gold Supporting Member

    I add my bass arrangement to the vocal, ukulele and drum machine mp3 the leader of my uke group sends me. I will lower the kick drum on her track most all the time because it overpowers my bass track.
  11. Yet you are playing other people’s songs. Why is it that musicians everywhere read and play the music for their part yet bass players want to reinvent the wheel?
  12. More relevant to the thread is that the OP, for lack of bass in the tracks he listens to, is forced to "reinvent the wheel".
  13. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    ACL is an integral part of my Saturday night viewing schedule...ranks right up there with Antiques Road Show. Truth be told, the majority of bassists is boring-as-hell in the visual sense but I'm listening to their chops and checking-out the gear.

  14. ardgedee


    May 13, 2018
    This reminds me of European concert videos from the 70s where the tv crew is so bass-averse that a full view of the stage crops the bassist off (when it doesn't hide other band members), and if there's a bass solo they'll show the other band members standing and waiting rather than show who's actually playing.

    The bassist is usually not mixed down to being inaudible, at least.
    Jeff Scott and Kubicki Fan like this.
  15. Five or Six

    Five or Six

    Jun 21, 2022
    West Michigan
    This^^^at least until you get things figured out if that's the goal? By then the song in question may be kaput. But, it's still a learning experience. Thats why we do it. Most of us do well if we can see a guitar players fretting hand to get the basics and go from there. That can be a challenge as well. But, over the years bass players have stepped forward and aren't hidden. Well, most anyway.

    Nothing really to do with the OP. It seems to happen more in bigger bands, hide the bass player? Sometimes I see that's mentioned here by bassist that they are shoved aside. Are we just stage fodder? I think not.
    Slacking Zac likes this.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    We rarely get camera time because…we don’t move much. Playing fingerstyle especially - your sound changes if you pluck the string at a spot a sixteenth of an inch different; we need to move less to be able to play well. A drummer can miss his target by an inch, so they have more freedom of movement. They get on camera a lot more as a result.

    This hasn’t changed in at least the last half century - it is what it is. If you want to be on camera, play drums, sing, or play guitar like Pete Townshend.
  17. dustinymichaels

    dustinymichaels Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2023
    Southwest Michigan
    I agree with whoever said that it's almost a benefit to not hear/see bass if you're playing along to it. It should help you with staying in time, but it will probably help you with improvising and find the key to be in. That you haven't heard the music it should develop your ability to think on your feet. I guess.
    Flamingo21 likes this.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    I can't say anything regarding the mixes, but I don't think they are hiding the bassists on purpose. It is common to give the singer and the soloists priority, but most of us bassists look so bored playing the bass that I wouldn’t show us either honestly. If we look engaged, we'd be on the screen.
  19. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    It’s all about the singers and the lead and soloing instrumentalists. TV directors are schooled to concentrate on closeups since the pre-widescreen television mentality still persists in TV land. How many sports events have you watched where they’re spending a third or more of the screen time focused on an athlete's face?

    Bass plays a largely supporting role in most music. There are exceptions like with anything else. But as a general rule bass players are like compressor pedals. Which is to say they usually go unnoticed by most listeners until you turn them off. Sad to say we’re more often noticed by our absence rather than our presence. If that’s a problem then maybe it’s time to reconsider the instrument you’ve elected to play and the main role in music you’ve taken on.

    to:dr - if you want more of the spotlight, either learn to sing or take up playing a lead instrument.
  20. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    I'd be shocked if this didn't have something to do with it.
    Killing Floor likes this.