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  • Had an Insight about Guitar vs. Bass...

    I was checking out the new Gibson bass when a friend came by and started playing it. I mentioned how much I like playing bass, and he said "Well I don't really play bass, I'm a guitar player." We all know what he means...most guitar players overplay and just don't get it right. But I blurted out some words and after thinking about it, realized maybe I was on to something: "Guitar players don't realize a bass is a rhythm instrument...it's not about melodies, it's about tuned drums."

    Even someone like Chris Squire, who was a very "busy" player, certainly knew how to use melody but his playing was rhythmic in the sense of someone like a jazz drummer.

    Does that make sense, or am I deluded?
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  • #2
    It makes perfect sense. If you listen to bluegrass music you will notice there are no drums. The bass plays the role of the kick drum, and the mandolin the role of the snare drum. That is one reason the mandolin has that "chuck" sound when playing chords, they don't ring like a guitar. The bass and mando provide the "boom - chuck" that is normally performed on drums.
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    • AlamoJoe
      AlamoJoe commented
      Editing a comment
      An amazing insight! I never thought of that at all and now I'll be listening for it! Great post Mando!

    • Mandolin Picker
      Mandolin Picker commented
      Editing a comment
      Here's a video from the Seldom Scene. They are doing the old rock hit, 'Nadine' which has some interesting bass and mando spots. Again, no drums, but you can here the 'rhythm section' provided by the bass and mando

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yV4kbV3h3Y

  • #3
    I totally agree. And one thing all bass players should think about is that the end of a note also has a rhythmic function. Come to think of it, many guitar players should also consider this.

    Cheers,

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    • #4
      Yes.
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      • #5
        No doubt a bassist needs to be locked to the drummer and vice versa. You cant view playing bass as an individual. I played bass long enough to know when you've played with a drummer long enough you develop a symbiotic relationship and walk in the other guys shoes and trade places so to speak.

        The bassist and drummer pattern their parts to enhance each other in a teamwork effort. Its no different then a pair of basketball players working together to make a basket. They develop similar thinking, some of it based on repetition and some of its body language where they can predict what the other guys going to do before they do it. In effect the Bassist hears the drums are musical notes instead of noise and patterns his notes to the drummers parts and the drummer patterns his fills to the bassist.

        A non musician tends to focus on the vocals and melody and blocks out most of what's going on in the background. They concentrate on what's most enjoyable to them.

        A guitarist surfs the midrange frequencies of his instrument and tends to block the highs and lows when he's focused on playing difficult parts. He often walks and chews gum at the same time. The walking is linked to the rhythm and the chewing gum is his playing. He also extends this focus when singing and may completely block the lows while surfing that crest.

        A guitarist who doesn't play bass allot has the hardest time changing his surfing habits. His concentration continually drifts back to where he feels most comfortable surfing the midrange frequencies. He may know what notes to play but his listening perspective needs to change in order to play bass really well.

        Most guitarists have good listening habits so they are able to pick out and play bass parts. What they lack is the ability to surf at a lower frequency. When you've played bass long enough, you learn to block out other instruments like the guitars and vocals at will instead of being distracted from focusing on your instrument and being lead astray like a pied piper.

        A Bassist hears the mids and melody in the background and his main focus is surfing those low frequencies and producing the emotional rhythm response in conjunction with the drummer first and foremost. A Bassist who sings, tends to ignore the midrange frequencies and the lows become an automated response, much like a rhythm guitarist is able to play chords while singing.

        Most important, a bassist and drummer are responsible for the dynamic level of the band. Both are very dynamic instruments and the two will raise or lower the impact of the music to whatever level is needed.

        A guitarist is used to a compressed sound and though he may slam some power chords at the right time he is less likely to have the kind of dynamic control to raise and lower the emotional level of the band. He is more likely to surf the wave instead of creating it.

        A tight bass drum combination can drop back to a simple patter or climb to the awesome power of thunder. A guitarist can only fill or scoop the midrange of that thunder. When he plays bass he has to expand dynamic control and lock with the drummer to produce the dynamic waves the rest of the band surfs on. Done well you can have a great band that evokes major emotional response from an audience. Done poorly people will ignore them like they do elevator music.
        Last edited by WRGKMC; 12-10-2016, 08:47 AM.

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        • #6
          The bass is such an important instrument. It's the bridge between the drums and the rest of the instruments.

          Playing bass is like playing guitar and drums simultaneously.
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          • #7
            I've always thought of bass as more of an attitude than an instrument. It plays the mood notes.

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            • #8
              Originally posted by Jasaoke View Post
              I've always thought of bass as more of an attitude than an instrument. It plays the mood notes.

              "More of an attitude than an instrument..."

              That's a pretty cool quote, and I understand exactly what you're saying.
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              • #9
                A good bass part can make a mediocre song great but a bad bass part can make a great song mediocre.

                I listen to a lot of "70s at 7" on XM radio and it has occurred to me that one of the things that attracts me to that music is all the great bass players on those records. Even the top 40 pop hits of the seventies had a lot of great bass lines in them. A lot of melodic grooves from that era and it seems the players back then were much more musical in that they locked in with the drums so well and they creatively composed their parts. Both up tempo and slower ballad type songs had parts that you could hum. They also had great punchy warm tones that really cut though the mix and you could hear all the notes they were playing.

                When I switch to "80s at 8" and beyond I hear a lot of that basic 1/8 note root note stuff and some slapping but the melodies and the grooves are not as distinctive. Many of the bass parts are further back in the mix and there's a lot of keyboard sequenced bass lines from that era. Some of the songs sound like the bass lines were just an after thought. Starting with disco and then punk and metal the bass lines seemed to become much more basic. "Just get some guy to play those driving 1/8 notes and we're done."

                I don't think guitar players necessarily make good bass players even though a lot of bass players start out playing guitar. It's just a different mindset.
                Last edited by Folder; 12-22-2016, 09:38 PM.

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                • #10
                  The bass is the key to figuring out the chord changes (i.e. chord progressions). In most pop and rock music prior to 1980 (the music I'm aware of) the bass player outlines the progression, emphasizing the roots of the chords. Focusing on the bass is the key to unlocking the chord changes by ear. Melody is important too, but for figuring out chord changes - bass.

                  I'm speaking of music that has some harmonic movement of course. Not all music has much of that these days.
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