A bass rant

aydee

Platinum Member
...

Play for the song.. keep time even if youre not the drummer....serve the music...listen to everyone... keep egos and chops in the bag.... Easy to say but how many musicians actually practice it?


After a long time I'm in a nice gigging situation.

Im currently playing with 2 bands which are gigging a fair amount. Both bands share a common bass player- actually, a converted guitar player whos been playing bass for a couple of years. Really nice guy, extremely talented, but with a surprisingly immature attitude towards his music, given his overall experience and ability. He does like to show off given the chance and is a little into 'who can smoke who out'. Watch out if theres a known bass player in the house.. he turns into Victor Wooten

Not surprisingly, he is very melody line oriented, plays mostly in the higher registers, plays a lot of riffs, and is constantly watching ( or listening to the guitar player or our alto player, depending on the band - NEVER NEVER is he watching or listening to the drummer, as in moi- ). Our guitar player is also very concious of this and tries to compensate with some groovy comping ideas...

The outcome is obvious. The groove is weak and thin, becuase he's following the melodic lines rather than creating a grooving counterpoint. Im overcompensating too and almost not enjoying my playing, because Im feeling the weight of holding down the groove which nevers really works in my book unless youre locking in with other instruments.

....... frustrating!.

Having said this, these are both good bands, and after a long time Im in a playing situation which is smooth, functional, with good people who get along...

However this remains the weak link. The guys in the band eventually got together and summoned the nerve to have an akward chat with him and tried to tell him that he needed to hold on to the tunes rather than do wheelies all over em'.. and just do the wheelies in the parts which are designed for him to do wheelies in... AND

...he didnt like it !


I think he felt a little hurt that we'd ganged up on him and stomped on his ego, He said " well this is the way I play, and its how it is". " If you dont like it, get another bass player."

Other bass players are not an option because we've been through most of them, and it doesnt work on one level or another..

I know, this a situation I cant change and I guess we gotta take the bad with the good, but I can at least get it off my chest, so here it is! : )


....
 
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konaboy

Pioneer Member
Yeah that's a tough one, especially if you've been through most of the bass players in your area.

Not sure how often you guys practice together but might be worth trying to setup a little recorder and have him play a song the way he normally plays, then go back and get him to play a pocket style groove with the same song and have him listen to the difference. Not sure if that will help but might be worth a shot.
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
Melodic bass players aren't necessarily a bad thing. Peter Hook is one of my favourite bass players and he tends/tended to play in the higher register a lot more than most other bass players. That has to do with his formative years when he played with a small amp and needed to cut through by using the higher registers. John Entwistle was another great example of a melodic bass player that still held it down, even with a totally wild rhythm section.

On the other hand, if the groove is affected then it obviously is an issue in your situation. Really what it comes down to is whether or not you and the guitarist can compensate by holding it down in the rhythm department. The issue obviously has to do with his upbringing as a guitarist and still thinking in those terms rather than as a rhythm player.

Either the band embraces what he does or he has to change. In this case, I would give him some time. You say that he is quite musically immature and that is something that only tends to work out with experience in the instrument.

It's difficult. I've played in bands with terrible bass players - which is worse than having one that is at least in time! I always followed the vocalist and rhythm guitar player for my cues and it worked well enough. Asking for guitar and vocals in the monitor is quite a good hint that I used to use!
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
To me it comes down to groove and feel - not just melodic / versus not melodic. To me, it's more about how skilled is the bass player.

I play with a bass player who is very melodic but will groove you to next week. He is always listens to what's happening musically and not just me.

I've played with a bass player though in the past that isn't skilled enough though to pull melodic playing off and as a result, his time feel wasn't all that good. I eventually had to stop working with him.

I don't care if your melodic or not - the time feel is of the essence and if it can't be done musically and with a groove, the music suffers.

By the way, this not only applies to bass players, but to all players.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Reminds me of my very early days when I was keen on Ian Paice and Bonzo and various heroes ... I was listening to a song with a friend who was a roadie for a decent band and I complained about the drummer because he wasn't playing any fills. My friend replied "That's because he a musician" ... with the obvious intimation.

Like most people I didn't respond at first when my fragile eggshell ego (thanks Jim Morrison) was threatened ... at first. Thing is, how often do musicians get real feedback? I'm not talking about the bouquets but honest and perceptive critiques.

Not too often, which is why I still remember that comment over 35 years later, even the inflection in my friend's voice when he said it. Still, I mulled it over in quiet moments, did some more listening and realised he was right and made adjustments. If your bass pal is smart he'll be doing the same thing ...

I've probably said it before but my writer mother talked about how when she was young a prominent writer told her "Murder your darlings" - to let go of that brilliant turn of phrase, those inspired conjunctions and participles if they do not further the story. Save them for another time. Good advice that translated directly to playing music IMO
 

Taye-Dyed

Senior Member
I think you guys did the best thing by getting together and talking to him about it. If you did not let him know about it, he would have gone on thinking he is doing just great. Although he did not like it and got defensive, it is possible that it was just his initial response. Unless he is totally stubborn and selfish, the talk will sink in, he will be more aware of what he is doing and try to be more of a team player - hopefully, for the sake of your bands!

Despite this issue, I am glad to hear that you are back in a gigging situation.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I think you guys did the best thing by getting together and talking to him about it. If you did not let him know about it, he would have gone on thinking he is doing just great. Although he did not like it and got defensive, it is possible that it was just his initial response. Unless he is totally stubborn and selfish, the talk will sink in, he will be more aware of what he is doing and try to be more of a team player - hopefully, for the sake of your bands!

Despite this issue, I am glad to hear that you are back in a gigging situation.
I think this is a good take on what will hopefully turn out to be the truth. Having the weight of carrying the groove solo is a bummer. Perhaps the odd drumming slip away from groove & into melodic tom wankery just might send a message too. If you drop the groove utterly, & just emulate the bass player's vibe, when the song goes empty, he might just notice what he's doing. If he asks what the hell you think you're playing at, just tell him you're hooking into his vibe, "as the drummer & bass player, after all, are the rhythm section".

As A side note Abe, I find your post especially relevant, as I've just spent a weekend in the company of an uber groove bass player. Certainly set a benchmark in my mind :)
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
I think this is a good take on what will hopefully turn out to be the truth. Having the weight of carrying the groove solo is a bummer. Perhaps the odd drumming slip away from groove & into melodic tom wankery just might send a message too. If you drop the groove utterly, & just emulate the bass player's vibe, when the song goes empty, he might just notice what he's doing. If he asks what the hell you think you're playing at, just tell him you're hooking into his vibe, "as the drummer & bass player, after all, are the rhythm section".

As A side note Abe, I find your post especially relevant, as I've just spent a weekend in the company of an uber groove bass player. Certainly set a benchmark in my mind :)
That wouldn't be Yolanda Charles would it?Not only could I listen to her playing,but she being easy on the eyes is a bonus.

I played with a couple of bass players,who were just really just frustrated lead guitar players,and the result was at times just a lot of noise.No foundation except for what I was laying down.If I decided to go for it to,there would have been a train wreck.

To me some of these guys view themselves as new age Jack Bruce type players,but the difference is, Jack Bruce played WITH Baker.There was melody, rhythm and foundation.

This guy has to learn to lock in with your bass drum and what you're doing on your hats or ride cymbals.He's not hearing that right now.Playing melodically is great, but there's a reason that the bass player and drummer are called the "rhythm section" Section meaning in this case, more than one.

Best of luck with this guy,but right now his ego is writing tickets that his band shouldn't cash.A little humility would be in order.

Steve B
 

Seasonedpro

Member
You did the right thing. Not including the whole band in on your conversation could have started a blame game or some behind the back talk, which is a band's kiss of death. I think you prevented the potential of more issues with that approach. Looks like the ball is in his court now.

Amazing! A drummer telling a bass player he needs to stop showing off and listen to me more. That's a rare bird, that one. Haha
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
So let me get this straight, are you guys playing your own music? Or are you guys doing covers?

I'm assuming you're probably doing more covers since you guys are working, so, whatever happened to playing the part that is there? Because the rest of the band is doing it, right?
The "This is how I play" bit only gets you so far, then it becomes, "Well can you play the part or not?"

I like a good melodic bass player as much as the next guy, but to completely disregard the part for the song is unacceptable. Maybe it's time to let the bass position be a revolving door for a while?

Or......bass pedals!
 

MJD

Silver Member
Sounds annoying but this is a situation where you are going to have to adjust to his playing style. I suggest doing a drum and bass jam for a minimum of 45 min. just you and him. this will help get you 2 on a more solid playing basis. If he's not going to pay attention to you then you are going to have to learn how to follow him. Good luck.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I think you should also just follow everything that the guitar player does. When you're asked about it, just say "What? I thought there was no rhythm section in this band!"
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

@ BO- Its mostly covers ( done very much in our own way ) with some original writing thrown in. A lot of the songs open and stretch out and thats where most of the trouble is. The heads and the sections are played pretty accurately but even there the interpretation can get very 'non-groovy' if you know what I mean.

As for knowing the parts, the Stratus ( Cobham ) bassline, for example, is almost a single note and grooves like crazy, but one can manage to straighen up that note and add other pick up notes to it and kill it completely.

Revolving door is a thought we've considered but the right guys arent available yet.

Until then, I guess he's our lead bassist :)

@ DR. WATSO- Honest to God, I've tried that one in rehearsals. He realizes he's drifted off, comes back down to earth for awhile, we laugh about it... until the spirit moves him again.

@ ANDY- Man, I loved those two girls going at it on your thread..whoa!

@ STEVE B - Humility, thats a good one. Im actually kind of surpised. He's techincally quite good but has this high school " I can take anybody out" kind of attitude despite the fact that he's 25, and has been playing professionally for about 5 years now.

@ GREA- you think its an age thing? sigh..

@ SEASONEDPRO- cant under emphasize sociability. He rates very high on that. Very good with promoters/sponsors/festival organizers.

@ DUNCAN- interesting point about the band embracing what the man is doing.. like I said the rest of us are compensating.. the guitar/ keys comps are what I play to a lot.

...
 
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Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
As A side note Abe, I find your post especially relevant, as I've just spent a weekend in the company of an uber groove bass player. Certainly set a benchmark in my mind :)
I'm guessing you're talking about Yolanda, right? The opening sample of the classic range video is an absolute killer, groove, groove, groove... when you play with someone like this, it seems so easy to groove, I bet you've seen and heard much more than what was displayed in the video, and I'm sure she can be very melodic if the music calls for it.

Abe, you mentioned Victor Wooten, which might implies that your bass player is a big fan of him, which is good, there's plenty of bass monsters who can play melodic patterns, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Paul Mc Cartney, Jack Bruce, just to name a few... but, he needs to see further than the melodic parts that these pro guys can play, as they can groove like hell too, it's a common mistake to be influenced by a specific part of a player, you tend to emulate and play what inspire you from such players, but there's much more than this into their playing, if your bass player is a big fan of Victor, perhaps you could mention that he focus now on the groove side of Wooten, he has digested and applied the melodic parts, now it's time to explore the other side of VW, it might work, as it's a compliment linked with (good) advice.

In any case, to limit oneself in a limited approach AND to say "this is the way I play" defect the purpose of playing "music", you need an open mind and to re-invent yourself all the time, it's called evolution, furthermore, if the whole band share your view, he should really consider this as "good advice" and not as "a blame", once his "ego" managed the critics, he might change his view, and ultimately change his approach, or at least, compromise, the music "needs" groove...
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
@ GREA- you think its an age thing? sigh..
More the point that he may well come around, Abe. It depends on his ego.

Agree with others about "former guitarist" - he hasn't fully given up guitar, or worse, he's convinced himself that the extra facility and melodic/harmonic content of his playing "sets him apart" (at least from the small percentage of bassists who aren't refugee guitarists ;-)
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
...

Play for the song.. keep time even if youre not the drummer....serve the music...listen to everyone... keep egos and chops in the bag.... Easy to say but how many musicians actually practice it?


After a long time I'm in a nice gigging situation.

Im currently playing with 2 bands which are gigging a fair amount. Both bands share a common bass player- actually, a converted guitar player whos been playing bass for a couple of years. Really nice guy, extremely talented, but with a surprisingly immature attitude towards his music, given his overall experience and ability. He does like to show off given the chance and is a little into 'who can smoke who out'. Watch out if theres a known bass player in the house.. he turns into Victor Wooten

Not surprisingly, he is very melody line oriented, plays mostly in the higher registers, plays a lot of riffs, and is constantly watching ( or listening to the guitar player or our alto player, depending on the band - NEVER NEVER is he watching or listening to the drummer, as in moi- ). Our guitar player is also very concious of this and tries to compensate with some groovy comping ideas...

The outcome is obvious. The groove is weak and thin, becuase he's following the melodic lines rather than creating a grooving counterpoint. Im overcompensating too and almost not enjoying my playing, because Im feeling the weight of holding down the groove which nevers really works in my book unless youre locking in with other instruments.

....... frustrating!.

Having said this, these are both good bands, and after a long time Im in a playing situation which is smooth, functional, with good people who get along...

However this remains the weak link. The guys in the band eventually got together and summoned the nerve to have an akward chat with him and tried to tell him that he needed to hold on to the tunes rather than do wheelies all over em'.. and just do the wheelies in the parts which are designed for him to do wheelies in... AND

...he didnt like it !


I think he felt a little hurt that we'd ganged up on him and stomped on his ego, He said " well this is the way I play, and its how it is". " If you dont like it, get another bass player."

Other bass players are not an option because we've been through most of them, and it doesnt work on one level or another..

I know, this a situation I cant change and I guess we gotta take the bad with the good, but I can at least get it off my chest, so here it is! : )


....
Because many more people wish to play guitar than bass, there are many guitarists who play bass not because they love the bass, but because it's a way to be in a band. They are guitarists who happen to be holding a bass, against their preference. Avoid such people like the plague. I prefer to play with bassists who do not play the guitar at all.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
Because many more people wish to play guitar than bass, there are many guitarists who play bass not because they love the bass, but because it's a way to be in a band. They are guitarists who happen to be holding a bass, against their preference. Avoid such people like the plague. I prefer to play with bassists who do not play the guitar at all.

I love when you and I completely agree DMC

two completely different animals

I know a lot of bass players who also dabble in guitar....or even play guitar very well......but they always understand their roll when holding the bottom back there in the engine room with me
 
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