A couple of weeks ago I asked a question in the guitar community, “What are the main reasons for being a bass player?”
I received a variety of responses ranging from the humorous, to the practical, to the soulful. To better understand the reasons, I listened to various genres like Jazz, Funk, Hip-Hop, Blues, Latin, Reggae, Metal, and Rock, mainly to pick out the bass lines. I have yet to check out Classical.
It wasn’t hard for me to identify the low and heavy pitches, but I had to focus on the different styles of playing the bass. The more I listened, the more I found myself with a deep appreciation for bassists.
The bass is a member of the rhythm section. The bassist locks in with the drummer to create a “groovy,” or “head-bouncing,” or “foot-tapping,” or “swaying side-to-side” rhythm. The bass player not only provides the rhythm, but also lays down the harmony. In fact, he or she has two important functions for a song.
The bass is one of the easiest instruments to learn, with the most common being 4 strings (E, A, D, and G), yet it can also be the hardest to master. The bass is versatile. You can play the root notes, to chords, to arpeggios. Or, you can use diverse styles like slap, pop, palm-muting, double thump, two-handed tapping. Those walking bass lines or complex riffs, while linking the harmony to the rhythm, as well as, improvising is difficult. A good bassist just makes it look so easy.
I notice that bassists are often overlooked compared to the lead guitarist or drummer (another member of the rhythm section). But a solo performance makes a profound impact, whether it’s a fast and syncopated rhythm or an intricate and funky sound.
Of course their frequent spot on the side near the drummer, instead of center stage, doesn’t mean they’re not a star. Some bassists are lead singers in a band, such as Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Geddy Lee, Sting (who are great songwriters). Some are notable for their craft like Charles Mingus, John Entwistle, Cliff Burton, John Paul Jones, Bootsy Collins, Flea. The solo artists who inspire like Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Michael Manring. Let’s not forget the beauties such as Carol Kaye, Kim Deal, Meshell Ndegeocello, Kim Gordon, Esperanza Spalding. I’m missing so many other honorable mentions but I don’t want to sound long-winded.
So why do this short research on bass players. I needed to brainstorm.
I need some type of inspiration to write about my favorite one (he’s fictional). I want to make him awesome, just like a bassist must play perfectly for the song’s progression. I also want him to impress, just like a powerful buildup of a bass line that you can feel. Most of all, I want my character adored since I’m shining the spotlight on him.
Bassists will always be in demand, simply because they are one of a kind.
Thank you to everyone in the music community for giving me your insightful feedback. For those initially reading my follow-up post, list your top reasons or favorite bass players and I’ll check them out.