Why does the bass player still stand in back?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Altitude, Jun 15, 2020.

  1. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    I hit a Google photos search on the word "stage" today for an unrelated reason - lots of gig pictures came up that I haven't looked at in a long time.

    Like a lot of bass players, I'm standing in the back in most of them.

    If you're the kind of player who wants to stand in back, chill, and play - sure. No need to rationalize or justify. But maybe some of you, like me, have decided that the fact you play bass should not, on its own, banish you to the back wall.

    In fact, in my groups, keyboardists go in the back (they can't move) along with any player who needs to use his or her iPad or sheet music at the gig.

    Me, I want to be up front interacting with the crowd - like I sometimes get to on this stage, where I guess I'm in the front and the back at the same time:

    Anyone else abandoning the "bass in the back" rule?
  2. ThudThudThud


    Jun 4, 2010
    I guess that's a personal choice, or at the discretion of the BL.
    Many touring bands use hired guns who aren't technically part of the named band. Those bass players aren't required to get up front.
    dkelley and mcnach like this.
  3. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Sure, but why would the BL be preconceived to think the bass player should stand in back? Many of them are. It's definitely their prerogative, though I wonder if the logic is current.

    I specifically wonder about these choices when bands have horn sections.
  4. QweziRider

    QweziRider Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    Depends on the band I'm in. No hard rule. If it's a single artist with us backing band people, back we all go. If it's my four piece cover band, three of us up front and drummer in back. If it's the wind symphony I work with on occasion, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy back I go!
  5. Because he’s the BL, and the bass player is just the bass player :) We are, after all, part of the back line.
    BazzaBass and fhm555 like this.
  6. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Ironically, I've done a few gigs with the Dallas Metropolitan Winds and got to sit in front. They were "jazz" gigs with that group and I think the conductor wanted to showcase the rhythm section. But - if you've never played Peter Gunn with the entire wind section right behind you, I recommend it. Visceral.
  7. ZedLepp


    May 12, 2013
    Well I like to stand next to the drummer's high hat so I can groove with the drummer better. It also helps to see what he is doing so I can better time hits and changes that happen.
  8. I tend to lumber around like a lummox when the stage is big enough.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I ran a band for a couple of years. When I sang I stood right up front with the other singer(s). When I was not singing I took a few steps back. That doesn't mean I stood there like a fence post.

    IMHO the primary attention should be focused whoever is singing, but everyone on stage should make an effort to maintain some sort of stage presence. Standing motionless and staring at your fingering hand does not cut it in my book. One should move with the music, smile, and make eye contact with other musicians and the audience. Although I never used it much, choreographed moves can also add a lot to a show.
  10. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    In theory it helps lock in with the drummer better. (Not really that critical in practice IME if we have a good rapport.)
    Might also have to do with my personality, favoring a support role and disliking exposure.
  11. QweziRider

    QweziRider Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    How cool would that be! I felt the same doing Russian Christmas Music with horns and tubas in front of me and one of the best tympani players I've ever heard immediately to my right. Didn't need any other orchestra to make me happy!
  12. 57pbass

    57pbass Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Bayside, New York
    I prefer to stand behind the front man or along the back line. I try to locate my sweet spot and stay there.
    The guy who fronts our band moves around often and I like to give him a clear pathway..
  13. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Every band I've been in, I've been in the front thrashing away, headbanging, dancing around, sometimes I'd even jump into the crowd. When I'm on stage, I'm a performer. I could be playing in the most mellow jazz/indie band, and I'd still be going berserko on stage as the music moves me.

    If you want a bassist who just quietly stands in the shadows like a shy wallflower, then I'm not right for your band.

    I'm a performer, darling, not a Swiss train conductor.
  14. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    It depends on a lot of factors. I'm perfectly happy being in the back - I have better vision of the band when I'm back with the drummer and on his right. But I inexplicably typically get pushed to the front of stage because of backup vocals. I'm not what you'd call a pretty boy nor am I overly engaged with the audience. I'm getting used to it.

    A lot of times stage (area) size will play into how you set up. We're a 5 piece and don't always have the space to put 4 of us on the front line.

    It's not at all unusual for the rhythm section to be behind the "talent". But there's really no rules beyond what works for everyone in the band.
    Johnny Crab and 2playbass like this.
  15. lucas303


    Mar 11, 2019
    I can't think of a single band I listen to that has the bass player "stand in back" when playing live.
    Pet Sounds, br1qbat, DrMole and 3 others like this.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    With in ears, I've found that the further I am from the drummer, the cleaner the drums are in my ears, and the better I can play. It makes eye contact harder, though.
    Gearhead17 likes this.
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I liked standing as close to the drummer (hi-hat side) as possible.
  18. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    I like to be in sight-line of the drummer, and close enough to get a definite kick drum. I've found that working as a quick sub bassist for bands with quite a few drummers over the years, that they all have a slightly different sense of time. Memorising bass lines quickly isn't my main problem, it's keeping the arrangements in mind especially if it's half-choruses, modulations, split bars, original arrangements, whatever. So I look for cues there too, as well as have them down on paper.
    alaskaleftybass likes this.
  19. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Agreed. As I see more IEMs though, that matters less.

    Good point right there; hadn't considered that yet.
    Bboopbennie and Jefenator like this.
  20. I’ve always wanted to be in the band and do my part without the pressure of having to like, look at people. Or talk to them. I liked being in the band, not in front of it.
    cdef, lordradish, Mili and 4 others like this.