Bass - the final frontier?

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RockerRocker Frets: 2570
Bass is the instrument that few musicians in a band understand or even know what the bassist is doing.  Possibly sometimes the bassist doesn't know what he is doing......

I jest of course.  From my perspective, the bass is the only fully interpretive instrument in the band.  Take any song and five bassists will likely play bass differently for this song.  And all will be right as long as they are playing in the right key!  Googling the original band and learning the bassists chops is not the only way to play bass on the song.  The original bassist has, himself, interpreted the song and he played it as he felt it should be played.

Guitarists have not got this freedom.  Well known riffs like SCOM, Sweet Home Alabama etc need to be 100% right by the original as the audience know the song and expect it to sound as per the record.  The 'correct' way to play bass on Brown Eyed Girl does not work for me.  By correct I mean the way the guys on YouTube play it.  I hear it differently and play it differently.  And at no stage did any of the band members say that my efforts sounded wrong.  For some songs they might say - we will play it with a shuffle feel and leave it up to me to make sense of that.

So: is bass the final frontier?  It may well be.  No other instrument, jazz guitar, sax etc. allows the player complete freedom to play a song as he hears it in his head.  And if the groove is good, nobody in the audience is even aware of this fact.


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 17399
    No.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13022
    octatonic said:
    No.
    Can you be a bit more specific?
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 17399
    octatonic said:
    No.
    Can you be a bit more specific?
    I can not.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 774
    To paraphrase FZ:

     "I like Bass, it gives people something to listen to if they don't like the music"
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • DulcetJonesDulcetJones Frets: 382
    When I played lead guitar in a bar band I often strayed  from the original and no one ever called me on it.  The only two songs my bandmates insisted I play at least close to the original were Sultans of Swing and Black Magic Woman.  Oddly, when I saw Dire Straits,  Knopfler didn't play it anything like the recording.   Maybe I was lucky that I had a band that encouraged me to improvise.  I did play bass in a power trio for a year at one point and that did prove to be something like you describe, but I think too many guitarists take the note-for-note approach too seriously. 

    Whoever called it "rush hour" should not be allowed to name anything else.

    Dulcet Jones Creepy Music Blog http://dulcetjones.blogspot.com/

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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13022
    octatonic said:
    octatonic said:
    No.
    Can you be a bit more specific?
    I can not.
    I’m glad that’s clear then
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 17399
    edited May 20
    octatonic said:
    octatonic said:
    No.
    Can you be a bit more specific?
    I can not.
    I’m glad that’s clear then


    To answer it seriously (ish)- it all depends on genre and setting.
    If you are playing in a wedding band and playing jazz then you have to mostly stick to the script across all the instruments.
    There is a bit of room to move for improv, but not much.
    If you are in a 3 piece power trio playing original music then you go do whatever the fuck you want and it goes down as 'artistic expression'.

    The rule is generally that the more instruments you have the less sonic space each member has.
    I played (drums) last night at a functions gig- normally we are 8 piece, but last night there were only 5 of us.
    Usually I mostly keep time as 8 people fill things up.
    Last night I was able to stretch out a bit more.
    More instruments also means more places to hide and fewer instruments means you get heard but if you fuck up then everyone knows.

    Bass isn't any different to any other instrument in this regard- if our bassist went off-piste in Vehicle, River Deep Mountain High, or Let's Dance then it wouldn't work that well and I'd throw sticks at him mid-set.
    Other songs, such as It Must Be Love, Mustang Sally or Midnight Hour, he has a bit more flexibility as the horns and guitars carry it a bit more.

    We recently lost a keyboard player and the guitars are picking up the slack. Some of the parts they have come up with aren't exactly like the original but it is close enough that people recognise the songs, or at least they do by the time the vocals start. Up until that point it sounds like a 'mysterious' intro.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6794
    I remember an interview with Richard Cousins ( bassist with Robert Cray amongst others) and he said something to the effect that he liked playing bass because it was the instrument that controlled how a song felt. I saw Richard play a couple of years ago and he certainly knew how to control the groove so, for some styles at least, that seems absolutely true. 

    Another interview ( I’ve spent a lot of my life on the toilet reading guitar magazines) was with BruceThomas ( of the Attractions) saying he learned bass by playing along to Motown records and that getting the notes right didn’t matter, it was getting the feel ( or groove or rythmn or whatever e exact term he used) that counted. 


    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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  • SporkySporky Frets: 12746
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    Be your own evil twin. 
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13022
    octatonic said:
    octatonic said:
    octatonic said:
    No.
    Can you be a bit more specific?
    I can not.
    I’m glad that’s clear then
    :)

    To answer it seriously (ish)- it all depends on genre and setting.
    If you are playing in a wedding band and playing jazz then you have to mostly stick to the script across all the instruments.
    There is a bit of room to move for improv, but not much.
    If you are in a 3 piece power trio playing original music then you go do whatever the fuck you want and it goes down as 'artistic expression'.

    The rule is generally that the more instruments you have the less sonic space each member has.
    I played (drums) last night at a functions gig- normally we are 8 piece, but last night there were only 5 of us.
    Usually I mostly keep time as 8 people full things up.
    Last night I was able to stretch out a bit more.
    More instruments also means more places to hide and fewer instruments means you get heard but if you fuck up then everyone knows.

    Bass isn't any different to any other instrument in this regard- if our bassist went off-piste in Vehicle, River Deep Mountain High, or Let's Dance then it wouldn't work that well and I'd throw sticks at him mid-set.
    Other songs, such as It Must Be Love, Mustang Sally or Midnight Hour, he has a bit more flexibility as the horns and guitars carry it a bit more.

    We recently lost a keyboard player and the guitars are picking up the slack. Some of the parts they have come up with aren't exactly like the original but it is close enough that people recognise the songs, or at least they do by the time the vocals start. Up until that point it sounds like a 'mysterious' intro.
    As it happens, I completely agree with you ;)
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  • RockerRocker Frets: 2570
    octatonic said:
    No.
    Beautifully argued @Octatonic.
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6794
    Sporky said:
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    My Sting quote ( although I think he stole it from somewhere else) is ‘always try to be the worst musician in the room.’ 
    I know he’d be incredibly proud of me.
    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13022
    Sporky said:
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    My Sting quote ( although I think he stole it from somewhere else) is ‘always try to be the worst musician in the room.’ 
    I know he’d be incredibly proud of me.
    I always try to be the worst magician in the room.
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  • martmart Frets: 2629
    Sporky said:
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    My Sting quote ( although I think he stole it from somewhere else) is ‘always try to be the worst musician in the room.’ 
    I know he’d be incredibly proud of me.
    I always try to be the worst magician in the room.
    I always try to be the worst escapologist left in the room.
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  • flying_pieflying_pie Frets: 365
    Totally depends what you play. I was in a rock /punk cover band with 2 guitars and bass. If our bassist went off piste in... Say... Killing In The Name,  Longview or anything by Royal Blood then it would have destroyed the set 
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  • pintspillerpintspiller Frets: 458
    Everybody I ever played with has their head so far stuck up their arse that if I just played the root note instead of the groovy lines I usually do, that they wouldn't know the difference!

    The guitarist I lay with now always plays over my solo in Brown Eyed Girl.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13022

    The guitarist I lay with now always plays over my solo in Brown Eyed Girl.
    Read that line back to yourself and decide if that’s what you meant to say ;)
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 2578
    Sporky said:
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    But supremely talented musically. You two must be opposites then. 
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  • axisusaxisus Frets: 10087
    Sporky said:
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    My Sting quote ( although I think he stole it from somewhere else) is ‘always try to be the worst musician in the room.’ 
    I know he’d be incredibly proud of me.
    I always try to be the worst magician in the room.
    I tried that for a spell
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13022
    axisus said:
    Sporky said:
    I read an interview with Sting.

    He came across as a complete twit.
    My Sting quote ( although I think he stole it from somewhere else) is ‘always try to be the worst musician in the room.’ 
    I know he’d be incredibly proud of me.
    I always try to be the worst magician in the room.
    I tried that for a spell
    Tricky isn’t it?
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  • BezzerBezzer Frets: 191
    The OP has confused me here and I'd say in the main the opposite is true ... if a bassist goes off-book on a cover it can be horrendous (I have one who does it, and we need to beat it out of him).  Having played bass in a "Seattle" covers band for three years it was obvious the songs had essential bass parts to make them sound right.

    Yeah, OK, you've got to play the intro riffs to famous songs right ... and few you need to play the solo right to save being lynched.  But most cases you get to the solo and you're completely free to play how you feel.

    OK, in improv jazz the bass can do whatever it likes ... but so can the guitar, trumpet, triangle and wobbleboard ... so it still doesn't make sense.

    I'm going for a lie down ...
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  • RockerRocker Frets: 2570
    My point is that the bass is the only instrument that the player has a free hand to interpret the song and how he plays it. Subject of course to keeping within the chord structure and tempo as set by the drummer. Playing root notes and tracking chord changes is right. This may be all the song requires. Playing complex bass lines is also right if they fit the song. So two different approaches and both right. Another player might play a bit of both and still be right. This is why I consider the bass to be the only truly interpretative instrument in the band. Think about it, look and listen to bass players (playing standard popular songs) and you might begin to understand my point.
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 17399
    Rocker said:
    My point is that the bass is the only instrument that the player has a free hand to interpret the song and how he plays it. Subject of course to keeping within the chord structure and tempo as set by the drummer. Playing root notes and tracking chord changes is right. This may be all the song requires. Playing complex bass lines is also right if they fit the song. So two different approaches and both right. Another player might play a bit of both and still be right. This is why I consider the bass to be the only truly interpretative instrument in the band. Think about it, look and listen to bass players (playing standard popular songs) and you might begin to understand my point.
    I'm afraid I don't agree.

    Bassists have as much freedom to do what they want as other players.
    There is no 'one size fits all' approach for any instrument.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2776
    Rocker said:
    Bass ... the final frontier
    Sly & Robbie - Rhythm Killers. 


    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • martmart Frets: 2629
    Bezzer said:
    ....
    OK, in improv jazz the bass can do whatever it likes ... but so can the guitar, trumpet, triangle and wobbleboard ... so it still doesn't make sense.
    ...
    I’d never understood improv jazz before - it just sounds like a bunch of people playing random notes. But now I understand - they’re not quite random - they’re carefully chosen so that the whole thing doesn’t make sense.
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6794
    Rocker said:
    Bass ... the final frontier
    Sly & Robbie - Rhythm Killers. 


    Doo doo de doo de doo de doo doo 
    Doo doo de doo de doo de doo doo

    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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