Music Blog covers the Underground/Indie Rock Music Scene in a positive manner with a focus on the WNY area. Bands and promoters are encouraged to submit promo material/CDs for review. Listening to new music with an open mind is important and I enjoy listening to creative bands that aren't afraid to break new musical ground. This blog isn't about Joe Tell it's about exposing new music and promoting new bands that want a push. I also post about any interesting topic that may cross my mind.
Being primarily a bassist I wanted to do a post about the role a competent bassist plays in a original or cover band.
Playing the bass can be dismissed as being "easy" to play because the traditional bass has just 4 strings, but that is just a comparison to the guitar because a guitar has 6 strings.
The comparison is false because electric basses can be bought in any amount of strings these days, you can buy an 8 string bass and then you can legitimately say the guitar is easier to play because it only has 6 strings.
Below is a photo of a 12 string bass. This bass would indeed be harder to play than a 6 string guitar because the neck is wider than a guitar (and fretless!) a I'm sure tuning 12 bass strings would be a task in itself.
The reason why 4 or 5 string basses' are so widely used is even a absolute beginner can pick up a 4 string bass and play rock and roll. The important thing to remember is the bass is not just played to support the root notes of the guitar. Don't let anyone (guitarist or vocalist) steer you wrong, the bass can support the rhythm of the drums, the root notes of the guitar while at the same time enhancing the vocals and the overall melody of the song. The only limitations a bassist has are the ones that he/she puts on themselves.
Here are some important things I have learned through my experiences as a rock bassist...
along with a working bass and a good, loud rig a good bassist must have good technique, expert timing, awesome listening skills and the ability to play well within the context of a band setting, any bassist lacking in any of these skills will not get many gigs and the overall sound of the band he/she chooses will be lacking.
An amplified bass needs to move alot of air to be heard in a small room, so a good, loud rig with plenty of headroom comes in handy when going thru a PA isn't an option.. You can always go thru the PA in a larger venue, so a loud stage volume isn't always necessary but it's nice to have plenty of headroom (volume) if you need to use it. Learning when to play louder and setting the tone controls correctly for each venue/room is an art in itself. If the bass is too loud it can take over a room and drown out the rest of the band. This is where good listening skills come in handy, it's ALWAYS better to be told to turn up a little than to be told to turn down. A bassist who always plays too loud and isn't willing to turn down won't last long in any band.
Musical versatility is also required if you want to have a reputation as a competent bassist. Versatility is required because a good bassist knows that he/she must continually weave in and out of supporting the rhythm and adding harmonic melody to a song. Musical versatility is gained by listening to and appreciating any type of music you usually wouldn't listen to. Learning a couple of bass lines from this music is how you can truly become versatile as a bass player. This skill becomes very important when you attempt to play along with songs and cover them within a band context.
A good bassist must be able to listen to the rest of the band, the most basic reason is the bassist must be in the same key as the rest of the band, a wrong note by the bassist usually throws the whole band off and the listening audience as well. Discipline is required to know when to lay back in the pocket and where to move melodically up the neck to compliment the melody of a song. A good, musical ear will recognize certain points within a song where melodic fills will enhance the music and when to play certain notes to enhance the musical melody. A general rule is to lay back during the verse and play more to enhance the chorus or you can switch it completely around and lay back during the chorus and play more notes to enhance the vocals during the verse music. The most important thing is to be creative and have fun while playing.
Constantly supporting the rhythm is OK but this will result in a boring bass line and a bassist who never goes above the 9th fret or so. These type of players are usually stuck in the background and they go unnoticed until the singer introduces them to the crowd. The same can be said for a bassist who always adds melody to a song, there will be no foundation to fall back on and the bass will always be competing with the guitar and vocals for the melodic spotlight.
Most budding bass players usually start out playing a laid back rhythmic style until they realize that so much more can be done with the instrument once they listen to a jazz bassist like Jaco Pastorius or full out rock bass players like Geddy Lee or Billy Sheehan.
Here's a basic start up plan for a bassist who wants to play rock and roll bass, listen to and learn some basic AC/DC, KISS and Aerosmith songs. The bassists' for these bands tend to play rooted eighth notes following the guitar very often, but if you listen closely, the bass will veer off the main guitar riff for a few bars, thus providing some additional melodic movement within the songs. It's important to recognize these subtle movements and learn how the notes interact with the guitar and vocals to create another voicing within the songs.
After you've mastered and played some of these songs within a band context, you can then move on to listening to Jaco or Stanley Clarke to learn how to solo and move around the melody using more sophisticated playing techniques. Of course, to be a complete bass player it always helps to read music. Or you can just start off playing jazz and learn rock and roll bass later. Either way, good, competent bass players are always in demand because everybody wants to sing or play guitar.
In October 1965, DC Comics presented "Superman's Pal," Jimmy Olsen, playing a guitar on the cover of issue Number 88. The 8-string instrument appears to be the artist's reinterpretation of a Hofner bass.
Starting in the mid-1960s, guitars became a frequent element of comics and then animated cartoons, providing the cool factor for Saturday morning shows like "The Impossibles," "Josie & The Pussycats," and "Scooby Doo." (note...that it's left-handed), and used the instrument to impart a level of rock and roll cool to the Man of Steel.