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For folks who play guitar and bass, is bass easier sometimes?

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  • For folks who play guitar and bass, is bass easier sometimes?

    I'm primarily a guitarist who doubles on bass sometimes. A while back, the praise band played "Revelation Song" to accompany a soloist and since our bass player was out I played bass. It has a very simple, repetitive chord progression and it was easy to play. Fast forward to last Sunday. We were practicing the same song except I was playing guitar. It should have been easy, right? No, because I kept getting the timing wrong. If you play both, do you find bass "easier" sometimes or is it just me?
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  • #2
    Originally posted by DeepEnd View Post
    For folks who play guitar and bass, is bass easier sometimes?
    Sometimes. Sometimes guitar is.
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    • #3
      In reality, they are two very different instruments requiring totally different approaches. It is not about easier, since one could get away with singing and playing 'cowboy' chords on guitar all night, and one could get away with playing chord root notes and I-V patterns on bass for every chord change. But to excel at either is never easy.

      I started as a bassist and moved to guitar. I rarely play bass in public, because I honestly don't play it as well now as I do guitar.

      The bass is a melodic instrument that needs to to keep a solid framework going throughout a song. That is not to say that you have to plod along on the same riff all the time, but that you need to be holding down the bottom end of the sound, tight with the drummer, laying the foundation on which the rest of the song relies. Easy? I don't consider that easy at all.
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      • #4
        The rhythm of the guitar is usually consistent with the vocals, but the rhythm of the bass is very often not. That's why you often see singing guitarists, while singing bass players are more rare. Additionally, guitarists generally have more flexibility where rhythm is concerned, but the bass does not. If the bass goes out of time, it can easily throw the whole band off. Guitarists can do pretty much what they want, as long as the bass and drums are locked in.
        "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
        -- Bob Parks

        "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
        -- Oscar Wilde

        "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
        -- Oscar Wilde

        "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
        -- Theodore White

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        • #5
          To master either well takes allot of effort. They have similarities but given the extra strength needed to play bass well I'd say bass can be just as much of a challenge as guitar.

          A Lead guitarist relies on agility and speed of notes so he covers allot more ground is a short period of time. The physical stress is less and is more of an aerobic workout. That's not to say a good bass player is a slouch either. If the music allows for riffing like in the case of a good slap bass player, the agility of a bassist may be just as complex.

          I played pro bass and guitar long enough to know they both require allot of hours to master each.
          The big problem you do run into is with muscle control. If you play bass allot the muscles in your hand become strong and tend to become like the muscles of a weight lifter. Switching back to guitar can be very difficult. Guitar requires an aerobic workout. You ten to monkey grip a guitar holding the strings down much too hard after playing bass allot and loose the light touch and speed needed to play leads at high speed.

          Switching from guitar to bass you quickly notice the additional strain on the back of the hand holding down notes and all that speed you have on the guitar has to be refocused into power. You have to slow your responses down to the inertia of the bass strings.

          I constantly switch back and forth between Guitar and Bass when recording and the adaptation between the two can be very difficult for me.
          If I spend say 4 or 5 hours recording bass parts and try and pick up the guitar the following day I often find my agility all shot to hell. I can play chords but even my right hand can be pretty beat up from playing notes with the fingers to where Its difficult to hold a pick well.

          This is why I usually alternate. I'll record a dozen songs with guitar chords one week, record bass parts another week, do vocals on the third, then leads on the 4th week, and do nothing but mixing on the 5th. Of course I do play the instruments in between on a daily basis, but the big marathon sessions I stick with one instrument.

          I used to do songs one at a time switching instruments immediately but at my age I get much better results by having time to warm up and reach my peak playing performance when sticking to one instrument vs constantly switching.

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          • #6
            Either one is fairly easy to get started on and learn at a very basic level (strumming "cowboy chords" or basic root / fifth country patterns), but as others have said, they're very different instruments with different requirements and approaches, and as with any instrument, they take a lot of work to really master.

            I consider mastery a lifetime pursuit, as opposed to a specific point to be reached. YMMV.
            **********

            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

            - George Carlin

            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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            • #7
              I do find it much harder to play bass and sing. It totally baffled me for years and I couldn't do it at all. I can now, but it really depends on what I'm playing. With guitar, I find it much easier... at least if I'm playing rhythm. If I'm doing leads or riffs, I find it equally hard as I do when playing bass and trying to sing.
              **********

              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

              - George Carlin

              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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              • #8
                I didn't have any choice. I started off as a singer, then added guitar to accompany myself. My first band couldn't find an acceptable bass player, so I got drafted, but I was still the lead singer. So I had to learn to play bass while I was singing, rather than learning to sing while I played bass.
                "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
                -- Bob Parks

                "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
                -- Oscar Wilde

                "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
                -- Oscar Wilde

                "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
                -- Theodore White

                Comment


                • #9
                  I learned to do both as well.

                  Its similar to playing lead and singing at the same time. I grew up playing stuff like Johnny winter where he's play leads when singing so that walking and chewing gum, split brain thing wasn't to hard to change over because I started doing it at such a young age.

                  In bass it does vary for me based on the complexity of the song. I have to be able to play the bass part without looking at the neck so I usually have to know the songs well enough to have block diagrams of the parts imprinted well enough to be able to play them while running on auto piolet.
                  If the song requires too much front brain concentration or covers allot of fret board then the difficulty being able to sing well increases.
                  Something like a walking bass line is pretty simple though. Even spicing it up adding breaks and showing off improvising comes natural.

                  I can say all those years playing stuff like George Benson have come in handy. He's one of the best scat vocal/lead players alive when it comes to harmonizing his own voice with guitar at the same time. I learned allot for him I was able to transfer to playing bass at the same time.

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                  • #10
                    daddymack: A melodic instrument? Maybe but not when I play it. I'm strictly rhythm. Unless you're referring to filling in part of a chord, in which case, yeah, I do that.

                    isaac42: Different rhythms? Maybe. See my reply to Phil.

                    WRGKMC: I didn't say anything about "master"ing either instrument. I play fair rhythm guitar and enough bass to get by. As for what I play, it depends on whether I have practice time. If I do, I can figure out what note to play. If not, I stick to the root. I can't do much on the fly though.

                    Phil: I generally can't play bass and sing. Partly it's just plain hard and partly I'm not a good enough bass player. On this song, I probably could but this time around it almost felt like there was something wrong with what the pianist was playing. That's why I was wondering if it was a bass vs. guitar thing.
                    Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
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                    Member of the Schecter Society
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                    • #11
                      ^^^ That might explain the issue Deep end.

                      It may be the Keyboard player has a common timing issue called Rubato. The temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.

                      I first came across it when attempting to play along with a classically taught keyboardists when I was playing violin in a full orchestra.

                      You can listen to the keyboardist play and the music flow may sound natural, but when you try to tie your internal metronome to theirs it can be very difficult. This is especially noticeable when trying to match their left hand which produces all the lower bass notes.

                      A keyboardist constantly switches their focus from one hand to the other leaving the other hand on auto pilot, but they tend to focus more on the right hand which produces the melody. Their minds are usually 4 to 5 notes ahead of what they are actually playing and the left hand tends to follow the right with a slight delay. They may slow down during a measure or two then gradually catch up in speed. This can create a swaying to their tempo which can be dam difficult to follow.

                      I had an Aunt that played keyboard extremely well. She would sight read as she played music from guitar books I had and I'd play along with her on my acoustic. I often had to vary my own tempo to stay in sync and predict how she would vary the tempo. It can be very frustrating because you know your timing is right and theirs may be hald on and half off.

                      Playing bass with a keyboard player who has Rubato is even more difficult then playing chords on a guitar because the left hand of the pianist often lags behind the actual chord patterns occurring. The cure is for the keyboardists to practice with a metronome or drum machine on a regular basis.

                      An accomplished keyboardist may also bend the timing intentionally using something called rallentando (or ritardando) which can be resolved by an accelerato a speeding back up to tempo. These variations in timing highlight the notes being played in order to provoke an emotional response and are very common for a keyboardist.

                      Instruments accompanying the player may need to maintain a steady tempo so the person performing the tempo bend can comes back in sync with them. Depending on the music the players may also trail or sync with the tempo change, almost like an engine slowing down then speeding up.

                      I don't know if this is the issue you're having but it may be part of the answer.
                      Last edited by WRGKMC; 06-09-2016, 06:23 AM.

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                      • #12
                        The pianist, our music director, has been experiencing some medication related issues and that may be part of it but this goes back a few years. We got into an argument once over whether an original of mine was in 4/4 or 3/4. The praise band occasionally plays a song that has our regular bass player playing trumpet. Once, back before I started playing bass, I was playing along on guitar and our lead singer told me I needed to stop playing syncopation and play with the beat. We played the song again and I played exactly the same way and she said "That's better." Better than what? Were we hearing the same thing? I wonder sometimes if I'm rhythmically challenged or maybe I'm the one with involuntary Rubato because there are times when I just don't "get it."
                        Last edited by DeepEnd; 06-09-2016, 04:58 PM.
                        Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
                        Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
                        Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
                        Member of the Schecter Society
                        Person-2-Person on the Web

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                        • #13

                          I started off playing 23 years ago on both bass and geetar, so, I have no qualms or hangups about either instrument.

                          Sometimes, I like to "warm up" a bit on the bass just to exercise the fingers and stretch the hand muscles a bit before I tackle something on the geetar. I've gigged on both.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DeepEnd View Post
                            The pianist, our music director, has been experiencing some medication related issues and that may be part of it but this goes back a few years. We got into an argument once over whether an original of mine was in 4/4 or 3/4. The praise band occasionally plays a song that has our regular bass player playing trumpet. Once, back before I started playing bass, I was playing along on guitar and our lead singer told me I needed to stop playing syncopation and play with the beat. We played the song again and I played exactly the same way and she said "That's better." Better than what? Were we hearing the same thing? I wonder sometimes if I'm rhythmically challenged or maybe I'm the one with involuntary Rubato because there are times when I just don't "get it."
                            A metronome is your friend. I'd suggest regular practice with one for any musician, but particularly for rhythmic / rhythm section instruments such as drums, rhythm guitar and bass. The more you work with a metronome, the better your internal sense of rhythm - your "internal clock" tends to get.

                            If you find a metronome's robotic tick tick tick annoying, you can use a drum machine instead.
                            **********

                            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                            - George Carlin

                            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Okay, update. We practiced it again yesterday morning and there's an instrumental interlude between the verses that doesn't go the way it should. The timing for chord changes is odd, nothing like the rest of the song. I'm going to have to take a good look at the music and see what's going on.
                              Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
                              Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
                              Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
                              Member of the Schecter Society
                              Person-2-Person on the Web

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