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josie

Does your bass shape your playing style?

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Seems like many of us chose a playing style first, and then chose a bass to suit it. 

I had no particular style or heroes in mind when I went out to buy my first bass, and didn't realise for a long time how lucky I was that my beloved GMR 5 fell into my arms (almost literally), and how unusual her sound is. She has a very melodic sound, with exceptional sustain, and a perfect B string. I assumed all basses were like that, and had a shock when I first picked up a P-bass! My whole approach to playing, and to developing a bassline, is completely shaped by her sound and feel, although I do play other basses now and have become more versatile and punchy. 

So I'm curious where other peeps are on this - did you start with a sound you wanted, or was there a bass that shaped or changed the way you play? 

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Our old producer described me as a typical Precision player, so I suppose it has. I was delighted to hear him say that btw.

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Guest oZZma

Both... I chose the bass for the sound and the style I had in mind, but the more I get to know it, the more I get influenfed by its strenghts and weakness to play in a certain way. 

 

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I own a few different basses and yet always sound like me when I play, so I'm going to go with a "no" in answer to the original question. 

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3 hours ago, josie said:

 . . . did you start with a sound you wanted, or was there a bass that shaped or changed the way you play? 

The sound of a bass is secondary to the lines I'm trying to play.

I've gone from a 4 string Framus Star Bass to a 5 string Sadowsky Jazz but, while I do it better these days, my playing style isn't so far removed from how I played on that first bass.

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On the whole I’d say I play how I play regardless of the bass. However, I do recall many years ago reading an interview with Macca when he spoke of how playing a light, hollow bodied bass (Hofner) lent itself to melodic lines etc. I had a 60’s Hofner bass at the time and I must admit I did concur with his comments. It just felt a little bit different and teased you into playing differently.

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I used to think so but now I think I was just using it as an excuse to buy different kinds of basses. I play like me and will adapt to the style of music no matter what I’m playing.

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I'm probably going to go against the grain here, but I choose my basses on two criteria. Firstly and foremost, what I can afford, which isn't a lot. Secondly aesthetics. This is purely a personal taste thing. The standard "Fender" shaped guitars bore the hell out of me. I'm not saying they don't sound good, but to me they're just a bit (actually a lot) bland. 

As for sound, I think people way overthink it. All basses sound like a bass. Certainly in the context of a weekend warrior pub covers band anyway. People spend thousands on this or that cab, amp, bass etc to create a certain "sound", but for the most part the only person that would notice is the player. When you're cranking out Summer of 69 (replace with covers band staple of your choice) to a room full of half whizzed pub goers, let's be honest. No one gives a flying fig about the bass players "tone". Although I'm happy to concede this is probably not the case with recording or originals bands trying to culture their own sound. 

To answer the original question, I would say definitely yes. If, like me you play what you can afford and make do, then you adjust your playing style to make it sound as good as possible (again whether anyone else actually cares is debatable) 

 

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The bass does shape your playing style so I would say I don't know if I play the way I play because of the basses I had. I generally have ibanezes, and for all them looking the same, they obviously feel and play in a very similar way. Other 5 strings such as the G&L and Maruschyck play the same. The ibanez 4 strings aren't that different either. 

However, I have had basses that made me play very differently. The thunderbird, the short scale gretsch, the fretless, the 8 string etc. I play differently on those, so if I had started on those, maybe it would be different.

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I'm another pub covers player and I don't think it affects what I play much. The whole thing is about playing to the song rather than inventing new basslines though. Maybe Summer of 69 kills any creativity :)

The Hofner thing makes sense, they have no sustain so you can't really play one note and hold it for three bars so you pretty much have to keep playing a more mobile line. My only experience with a bass dictating my playing was with a Thunderbird. I felt Like Jim Carey putting on The Mask. It turned me into a hyperactive monster, the sound is monstrous, the neck really fast and just holding the thing in any sensible position makes you throw poses. I couldn't get away with it trying to commit suicide on the floor and constantly twisting itself out of my hands though.

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I certainly think so.

I know this is going to be a huge generalisation but I have tended to lump players into two categories (very basically), Precision players and Jazz players. I have observed that Precision players tend to play more simple, rooted lines while Jazz Bass players tend to play more in the middle of the neck and be more busy.

I am not commenting on ability in any way. I have always imagined that the particular tone of the Jazz, slightly more definition, encouraged players to play more notes. I would guess that these definitions extend to the tonal characteristics of other basses of the ilk of the 'main'; two.

For myself, I am the world's most boring Precision player. I avoid solos like the plague, have never slapped and just lock in with the kick drum. To do that job, the Precision design is the best tool there is (for me)

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Yes completely! I play my P bass very differently to my Smith. I deliberately keep them both because they sound, feel and play totally differently. Together they cover a lot of ground. 

The synth equipped basses are different again; obviously my mini bass is completely different and my Vigier feels like an old favourite jumper. 

The proof for me is that if I pick up a bass I don’t like (aesthetically or in feel) then I just don’t feel inspired to play anything in particular. 

Guess it’s like cars - I drive my big estate car quite differently to my previous saloon shaped one even though they have the same engine. You just pick up in the vibe from the object, be it bass, car, whatever. If there’s no vibe then I move on to something else. 

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Been playing bass for many years, before that I was a guitarist.

Moving from guitar to bass it was natural to use a pick and I used it all of the time on bass for a few years, I gradually weened myself off it and now play predominantly with my fingers, so you could say my style has completely changed.

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Nope. I've been playing for about 45 years, mostly four string Fender style basses, played finger style. In the last few years I have had to change to using a pick (hand injury) and in the last 8 months or so, have been playing six string basses exclusively. But If I put on a tape of my playing 40 years ago, the way I play and the sound of the bass are very very similar to how they are today!

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DSC_0039.thumb.JPG.e8d4249006acd99890db06202a3a18cd.JPGYes completely. I tend to play a lot of funk and through a lot of effects with these. That said, I also play funk with my "normal" shaped Warwick Corvette$$! 🤩

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When I first started out, I was listening to a lot of 2 Tone stuff, Blondie, The Jam and others as the mod revival was the big thing in the early 80's.

A lot of these bands were using Fender Precisions apart from Bruce Foxton who used a R*******er but I didnt like the look of that, It looked ugly to me. (Although he later used a P bass)

With the wide range of tones they got from the Precision =  the deep bassy ska of Sir Horace and Bedders, the plectrummy twang of JJB and Lynott etc, I naturally gravitated towards a P Bass.

However, these days there is a lot more choice of basses than there was then. But today,  still mainly use a Precision.

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My first bass - a Burns Sonic - very much shaped my playing style for many years.

In the early 80s, the only easily available short-scale bass strings were Rotosounds, and on this bass the E string was essentially useless, so I tried as much as possible to avoid using it. This, coupled with the fact that I was very much into Joy Division and other similar post-punk bands meant that I mostly played higher register melody lines on the bass.

My next bass, bought in the 90s, was an Overwater 5-string and having 5 useable strings meant that my bass lines became more "conventional".

These days I play 5-string bass in one band and bass VI in another, and although there is some overlap of styles (there are some songs that I could play on either bass), I do write and play in different ways depending on which bass I am using.

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3 hours ago, Steve Browning said:

I know this is going to be a huge generalisation but I have tended to lump players into two categories (very basically), Precision players and Jazz players.

I don't (and haven't ever) play either. What category does that put me in?

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Playing bass is a mental process. Whether we think we play better with this bass or that bass is half the battle to actually playing better, but if we rule out basses that are just plain bad to play, the bass doesn't influence whether you play this scale, that riff or the other groove, you do that.

 

. . . . and Bootsy was just as funky when he played a Jazz straight into the amp.

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Yes. I play differently on different instruments, always have. The tone and response of an instrument dictates to large a degree what is played on it IME. One of the main reasons I've tended to favour Ricks is they tend to sing out as you go up the neck and the notes are still "big", which suits what I often like to play; I like playing melodic parts and I like them to have size in the upper register. However if I'm playing a bass that doesn't do that, I'll play different lines entirely. I remember a friend upon first seeing me in a band playing a Rick making the assumption that I was a certain type of player (which I am if the situation suits); he was shocked when he saw me playing my Seis because I was something else entirely.

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My first criterion when buying a fretted bass is, is it great for funky slappage. Then, is it available in natural finish and finally does it look good.  My #1 choice if I had the money would be the Stringray,. If it  was good for Louis Johnson then that's enough for me. As I cant justify spending £2k+ I have to make do with a Sub Ray 4 , and a Cort GB74

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Guest subaudio

I think basses suggest certain ways to play by the way they respond. Being made of wood they all have intrinsic, different things they bring with them, quality of sustain, deep lows, bite and tone that's good for busier lines etc.

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I used to avoid small body basses just because I'm a big boy and always felt a bit daft holding them. I now don't care therefore my favourite bass now is a nanyo bass collection which is wee!

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For me, I've never really been able to capture the sound I like. What I liked and what worked for me were two totally different things. I love Derek Forbes's early simple minds sound. We even spoke about it but even if I got anything close, I hated it for my own sound. Just didn't feel right for me and flanger works great for him but for me I hated it but I love his sound. I also love the whole Stingray sound but when I played my Stingray and got that sound, I hated it. Even the woody sound of Warwick's I love but for me it just didn't work. I did once get that typical Precision sound and it was glorious but generally my sound is very rounded and warm. Not thumpy like Jamerson, but full, balanced and no matter what bass I play, it always goes that way and if it doesnt then I just feel uncomfortable and awkward. 

As for technique then what I found was I was being subconsciously influenced by a lot of fretless bass players. A lot of my bass lines had slides and points where I would sustain certain notes so when I did start playing fretless, the lines came alive. The few comments I've had about my playing that have stuck are my notes are consistent in volume and I hold a note and let it sustain rather than cutting it short. I'm also a melodic player and like to keep busy which might be linked to the comment earlier about Jazz players tend to be melodic and play more in the middle of the neck.

As for basses, I love Precisions but always play Jazz, again, I always feel more comfortable with them tonally. I have never liked fancy woods like birdseye this or roasted that. Plus, no fancy colours please, just natural or pastel colours please.

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