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Your Musical "Identity"

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rickbass, Feb 4, 2002.

  1. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Two guys who were bandmates from quite a few years ago passed through town and stopped by. I played a recording of my main band for them.

    I never told them who the band was before they heard it. All I sort of jokingly said was, "Tell me what you think of this great new band that came out of nowhere."

    About half way into the first song, a cover song, they cracked up saying, "That's you! Who are the others in the band???." This kind of shocked me because I never saw myself as having any kind of "signature" sound or style. In fact, I have to play a lot of covers and always thought I did a good job of staying close to the original recordings (albeit, with my own touches). I asked how they knew it was me, and all they said was, "Oh, just little things, like not staying in one place."

    My first question is - Would this bother you??? Like, maybe, your playing is too cliche'd or too predictable???

    Second question is - Do you consider you have your own musical "signature" or have you ever been told your playing is identifiable???
  2. Hi Rick. And how's things?

    Errrr......No and no.:D

    I'm sure most players would like to have their style recognised; it's part of the game, isn't it?

    As a player on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm perhaps @ about 3 1/2 so nobody's going to recognise my playing anyway.

    But folks have said the band sounds a touch distinctive, even though we're only a 3 piece.

  3. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    The first question:

    I had this happen to me a couple of weeks ago, but when I thought about it, the type of lines I was playing was typical of what I would play i.e. phrasing, note choices. It was kind of easy for a friend of mine, a drummer that I've played with on numerous occassions would have figured it was me playing. I think initially I was taken a back by that but sort of took it as a compliment being that I set that track up for him to hear because I felt I was doing some decent playing. On the other hand though, one of my concerns is to not play too predictable, but if I sound like me and I'm laying it down effectively, I think that's a good thing.

    The second question:

    I don't know, I'm playing different styles of music and approach them in a different way. I'm going to sound different on things where I feel the music more and am more comfortable playing thereby I'm more prone to take more chances with what I'm playing.
  4. I'd say it's an honour if people can pick you out :)

    ( hey at least they're listening to the bass ;) )
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Years ago someone told me I always played the same riffs when I first plugged in my bass. I've been trying not to do that anymore, but the fact is that unless I get inspired I stay within my usual bag of tricks. I don't have a problem with that: I'm just a support guy; I try not to get too fancy.
  6. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Hi, John - That's what kind of concerned me - some people go out of their way to be "distinctive" even at the risk of ridicule. Sure, Fieldy laughs all the way to the bank. Apparently, musical "validity" isn't as important to him as the coin. I understand that.

    But, my conscious intent isn't necessarily to sound distinctive, yet these guys said they recognized my almost "mid-less" tone and all the phrasing embellishments. I take it seriously since others mentioned it and I think about what a huge influence Entwistle was on my playing (scooped sound: all high and low end w/o mids).

    If your entire band sounds distinctive, John, that is probably a major asset, IME. I respect any band for risking a distinctive sound rather than trying as hard as they can to replicate a proven marketable sound. We have more than enough cookie cutters. As much as I love an SVT, I am weary of young bassists with that SVT "signature" thump, or worse - "mud", on every song. But, I'm still sucker for that Precis + SS roundwound "rinnnggg".
  7. Well i was recently listening to a demo i recorded back in '92 - speed/thrash metal - and I definitely play the same, and have the same sound. That's probably because its the way I like my bass to sound. I really wail on my strings pretty hard. Don't know if its signature, but it is consistent. The guys in my current band knew it was me playing.

    Once i got "recruited" out of one band to another when they heard me at a gig and liked my sound.

    And my wife always thinks its too loud.
  8. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    No doubt about that, Phil (you have a good feel for this subject).

    I think it was much easier for Sir McCartney, Entwistle, J. Bruce, D. Dunaway, L. Graham, P. Palladino, et al, because they could take advantage of some relatively new technology (at that time), tones, and techniques, all of which, are interrelated.

    As bass evolution goes on, it seems the playing field has become much more "level." I listen to all kinds of music, yet my end product is recognizable, apparently.
  9. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    i played a gig last friday with a jazz/soul quintet, and a friend of mine who i went to high school with was wandering around and happened to hear us.

    he said that when he heard us, a band he's never heard before, without seeing us immediately a picture jumped in his head of me on bass, and my brother on keys.

    that, and i have a pretty distinct tone around these parts (no one plays warwicks in madison, for the most part), so i do get picked out.

  10. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Well, I think that you are going to have a "style" no matter how you look at it. Unless you are a machine and cover songs to every nuance of the recording or you bash root notes on every single song. (meaning songs that you can expound past roots) Everyone has the spot where they can play comfortably and that's there "style". Granted, you are somtimes limited by your style, currently, I barley have any slap skills, but I want to get a good video and change that. That's what's good about style, as long as your improving it (either purposely or just naturally) you should be happy about it. Most musicians, even the greats, rehash themselves often. Also, you are confined to the style of music you play. Let's face it, playing a bunch of two handed tapping isn't going to work in the middle of Johnny B. Goode.

    I think it's hard to be fully oringal now. Not saying it's impossible, but it is very hard. The electric bass is 50 years old and it's been pushed pretty darn far. My playing style is very similar to Donald Duck's but that wasn't done on purpose. My father taught me a lot of what he knows, so I took a lot of his style, and added my own twist on it. Personally, I would love for someone to listen to a recording of me and say "Hey, that's you".
  11. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    I've had several folks tell me that my sound, note choice, etc. are all pretty identifiable. I think this comes partly because I made a conscious effort from the start to have a personal sound, which was influenced early on by my love of jazz, where it's almost required to stand apart from others in some way in order to be recognized. Not surprisingly, that's the musical path I've followed for most of my playing career so far. I also was adamant about being allowed to keep my tone the same throughout many musical situations, mainly because I find it works well just about anywhere. Luckily, no one ever complained. So, that helped me to establish my given tone choice over the past few years as well.

    The biggest instance where my sound was recongized right off the bat was not in a jazz setting, however. I had recorded some rock tunes for a friend a few months ago in the studio, and a drummer I work with a lot came in later to record his parts. He told me that at first he thought my friend had just overdubbed the bass parts, but he could tell shortly thereafter that the tone was definitely mine (even though it had a touch of distortion on it), and I did a couple of fills here and there that he immediately recognized as mine, even though I thought they were nothing special.

    Granted, this is all relative to my playing on electric. So far, the only thing I have to go on that's "personal" in any way on upright is my note choices and solo style, which is adapted from electric. My tone on upright will come in due time..... a.k.a. MANY years of playing the thing. :)
  12. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
  13. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I don't really HAVE a style to be picked out...
  14. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Shoot, Brendan, you're young....you're still "clay"!

    All the bassists you are digging now and the tones of the bassists you are digging now should seep into your fingers in due time.
  15. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Man I hope so.
  16. This is a very inspiring thread. Time to go practice.

    - Jamey

    by the way, rickbass, I have a thread for you over in recordings.
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    That happens to me a lot...well, when I gigged/recorded a lot, that is. ;)

    About 3 years ago or so, I'm playing in a band outside(the club was on the street corner)...down the street, another band is playing. Anyway, I'm up there butchering some groove & a dude is leaning on the post behind...smiling. I wondering(ala Samuel L. Jackson in Coming To America), "...now who the f*** is this a**h**e"?
    We do one more tune & the guy sez, "JIM"!
    I know him; he's a trumpet player from a band I was in about 15 years earlier(didn't recognize him with the shaved head!).
    He's tellin' me, "...I heard that bass & knew exactly who it was".
    Anyway, that kinda made me feel good, then again...
    I haven't gotten any better in 15 years!?!

    Then again, I am a predictable & cliche'd goof...
  18. Hi Rick.

    I think the reason we appear to have developed our own sound - if that's what it really is - is because we've put our own interpretation on the songs we do. That's not to say we've deliberately set out to create our own sound as such, but we've refused to slavishly follow others' songs note for note, phrase by phrase.

    Added to that, of course, is that we're only a 3 piece (+ vocalist) so considerable 'bending' of the original has to take place anyway.

    For a rock band, we do quite a reasonable version of a well known soul number that had a local music guru exclaiming it was the best version of that song he'd ever heard.

    Many bands seem to do covers that closely mimic the record with the result that each song of a set is very different. I guess the individuals or the band as a whole cannot develop individuality by doing that.

  19. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I like to think that people will know me in a second if they hear me, but I have no hard evidence that that's the case. I do think I'd be real hard for someone to rip off (do a cover of one of our songs exactly as I did). I say this because it's nearly impossible for me to that myself - I rarely if ever play the exact same thing twice. If anyone is interested in an expample you can download "F'd Up On Drugs" on our homepage (link below).

    One of the things that helped shape my style was a bassist in a no-name blues rock type band I saw in a local club a few years back. He had this sliding technique that I'd never seen before, and in my opinion the guy was god. He didn't have the fastest chops, but he made the bass sing in a way I never heard before. I wanted so badly to steal his style from him - never came close, but wound up with my own kind of thing. It's kind of a cross between what this guy was doing and Gene Simmons's barrrrrrroooooommmmmms.
  20. Seems that many pub / club bands in my neck of the woods get hold of backing CDs and / or get the tab and learn it as nearly as possible to the recorded song. I guess it makes it easier that way because all (ha! ha!) each member has to do is learn their part from the recording backed up by the other material.

    A mate of mine's band learned 4 songs stage ready in 2 hours the other week - or so he said. Can't really see how that's possible, myself, but there you go. He admits his band has no identy because the songs sound very different from each other because of the way they learn them.


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