Treatise on Playing Bass
To Be or Not To Be...a Bass Player. That Is the Question.
I often get asked if I started out a bass player or did I switch from guitar? My answer is, “I played guitar for a week and hated it, so I sold my guitar and bought a bass.”
A lot of time the bass player gets no respect.
“Oh you just play bass, that’s the easy instrument.”
Sure there are some aspects of playing bass that are easy…just as any other instrument; there are always the beginner songs which tend to be really easy.
As you progress as a bass player (just as with guitar, violin, piano, etc.) you will find that you can continually challenge yourself with each new thing you learn: It sure becomes more than just riding the E string.
Obviously, to me being a bass player, it could quite the most important job on stage. Many people would argue to the contrary, but it’s all a matter of opinion…but someone needs to hold down the low end.
Sir Paul McCartney
Okay, let’s get into being a bass player:
If you are considering this as your instrument, you are going to have to decide what kind of player you want to be. Do you want to be the one who stands in the back and lays down the rock solid bottom end? Or, do you want to be the over-the-top, in-your-face bass player who’s popping, slapping and shredding all over the neck. Or, maybe, you’re the lead singing bass player…
All of these are great choices…but one of them will secure your spot in a band right away: being a lead singing player makes you more valuable than just the guy in the back laying it down. (There are always exceptions to the rule, but this has been my experience.)
For me, if I was not a singer, I would have been the first guy to get cut as my band was looking to downsize. I don’t play any other instrument well enough to switch roles, nor would I want to.
Playing bass is an art in of itself. It requires concentration, discipline, creativity, feel, and the ability stay in time with the drummer all night long. I love playing the bass and couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Plus, it is a crucial element to any band. Sure, sometimes keyboard players try to play the bass lines instead of an actual bass player, but this has only worked out very few times in history as far as I know. The Doors and Gary Wright are two examples of successful acts with keyboard players who cover the bass with their left hand; though I’m sure there may be one more.
But the bass is so critical to the structure of so many songs (and so many bands!) that it requires a specialist.
Just imagine songs of The Who without John Entwistle, arrangments of Tower of Power’s without Rocco, or the music of Rush without Geddy Lee…and what would Motown be without James Jamerson or the recordings of the Beatles without Paul McCartney’s bass?
The late John Entwistle of The Who.
I could go on and on about all the great bass players, and the great music that would never be without them.
Here are a few video clips with about 150 of the top bass lines in music.
So if you’ve decided to be a bass player, good for you!
We’ll talk about various basses and bass amps in upcoming blogs to help you decide which ones are right for you. We’ll also touch on learning bass, music schools and/or taking lessons…or teaching yourself like I did!
As always your questions and comments are welcome.
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