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Why Bother? :)

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Just thinking through a post I put on another thread and I thought it may be useful to open the discussion wider.

I started playing bass in September, 1980, when, after starting work full time, I bought a black Hondo II Precision copy. I was playing Rock and Heavy Metal at the time but my head was already being turned by other music forms including Prog, Fusion and Jazz. As my playing progressed, like most of us, I was exploring the big names and couldn't get enough of everything. I recall reading bass magazines and hearing all these names and I would always check people out when I could (it was harder in those days as this is pre-internet and finding a recording with a certain player on it was not nearly as easy as it is now). I remember hearing names of the funk greats; Marcus Miller, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Rocco Prestia and, much later, Victor Wooten etc. I also recall everyone getting excited about the tapping guys like Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Jerry Peek and, later, Michael Manring. Both of these areas got a little attention for a while and I learned some slap playing (remember that Thumb Basics things with Jonas Hellborg) and tapping (I recall playing Jeff Berlin's Motherlode and a couple of things off Hamm's 'Radio Free Albemuth'. I recall a couple of years ago learning about double thumbing so I could 'do' it. Despite these forays, I never really used them because, fundamentally, despite 'enjoying' the challenge of applying the techniques, I never actually liked the music that is played using these techniques. I listen to Run For Cover by David Sanborn and LOVE that bass line but I cannot listen to the whole song. Same with Good Times by Chic; 'great' bass line but the much is a big fat nothing. I just find funk ultimately unsatisfying and hatefully repetitive. Two handed stuff is the same. Impressive as a technical exercise but, ultimately, pattern based, repetitive and not particularly nice to listen to.

 

In modern bass playing, there is increasingly too much 'technique' for one person to be able to do it all at a satisfying level and, whilst I can (or, at least, could) slap and tap, I don't, for no other reason than I find that I don't like any music that uses those techniques. My pick playing, for instance, is very good although I never use it live but the other two have been consciously left to wither.  Lots of great music out there to play, why bother playing stuff you don't like. Consequently, I don't need these techniques.

 

Thoughts, anyone?

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I think it depends what you want to get out of playing an instrument.

For many the playing is the most important thing and learning as many different techniques as they can is what it is all about.

For others, being able to play an instrument is means to an end - in my case to be able to compose music that I like, so I haven't bothered to learn techniques that aren't relevant to the music I want to create. For me the time would be much better spent writing more songs. Because of the way I write there's nothing potentially stopping me from learning a new technique if it become relevant, but unless I had an immediate and definite use for it, I find it a poor use of the limited time I have available for playing music.

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I really admire all those wonderful players who are consistently push technique and strive for excellence. In my younger days they were inspiring and I spent hours diligently trying to emulate them. 

However as @Bilbo has stated. I have never used the techniques in my weekend warrior playing career. I imagine if I were endorsed and had to promote a product or did clinics I’d defo have some slick runs and fancy techniques to impress my audience and paymasters. 

I feel there’s a place for us all in the choir. These players spark interest and inspire the next generation and no doubt those young players  will go on the same journey as many of us and if they are lucky end up content playing the music they really enjoy

Edited by KingPrawn
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Now retired so I play what I like playing and have no need to use techniques that don't interest me.

Having said that, a good chunk of my income in my 'proper playing' days came from teaching. While I'm aware there are people out there who teach on the basis of 'this is what I do; if you want something else then get another tutor', most musos who teach across the spectrum don't have much choice but to be able to play in a wide variety of styles and be familiar with a wide range of techniques.

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1 hour ago, Bilbo said:

I just find funk ultimately unsatisfying and hatefully repetitive.

Blocked. 

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I’m currently learning a different style of music, but it’s still playing with a pick and guitar-based. Unless I was looking to be depping or a session musician learning styles/types of music I don’t like isn’t for me, I only want to get enjoyment from the bass, so only play - or attempt to play - stuff I like.

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I used to feel a bit embarassed going to bass meetings and hearing folks doing stuff I couldnt but then accepted that I've always just learned what I needed to do to play the songs in bands I wanted to do. I can listen to a bit of jazz funk or other music employing a lot of slapping/popping but it soon bores me, hence never had any thought of looking at joining a band doing that material and as a result never bothered learning those techniques. I'm not into bass playing for abitrarily learning technical stuff, its a conduit for me to get out and entertain folks whilst having some connection with the type of music i like (mostly).

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This is something that dawned on me midway through my second year at uni, studying bass of all things. It suddenly occurred to me following a tutorial with my composition tutor, that what I was being asked to do, ie all the technical stuff, the slapping, grooving etc, really hadn’t much attraction for me. It was something she had noticed, I think I’d tried to ignore it. 
 

I’m actually just writing a piece for my blog site about it. Funk and groove mean nothing to me, I’m really not interested in them. I see bass as an instrument, a very beautiful instrument, to be played however you want to play it. If that means ignoring tradition, then so be it.

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I can only do the basics of slap & tapping, never interested in solo-ing and I've no idea of jamming jazz....

However, I've never been without a band, have toured the world and can lock in tight with a drummer as well as turn up on time and be a good bandmate.

I guess it depends what you want out of it. I LOVE my basses, playing bass and providing solid basslines in a band. I prefer the traditional role of a bass guitar in blues, folk, rock and roll, rock etc and the grooves in proper original r'n'b, soul, funk etc. Never had any interest in playing lead solo lines, playing 10 string basses or the like....

Everyone is different and gets something different out of it and that's great/as it should be. Personally, I prefer to play my role in a band communicating great music to large groups of people and the inherent energy and emotion that brings...

Edited by cetera
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seems most are of the same mind, if I enjoy a song and think it'll work live I'll try and play it, if I don't I've no interest in learning it, I can't even motivate myself to learn to play with my fingers because the stuff I like, is played, or can be played, with a pick,  no interest in funk, slap or anything remotely related to Jazz, I wouldn't listen to it and certainly don't want to play it. I suppose if it was my living I'd have to, but then it wouldn't be fun, would it?

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1 minute ago, ambient said:

Funk and groove mean nothing to me, I’m really not interested in them.

I completely agree. Whilst there is a 'groove' in everything, playing in a 'Groove' (capital G) in the sense that it is used in Funk music generally means playing between one and two bars of music again and again and again or, in other pieces, the same phrase but with a changing root note. I can see why this might work in these genres but, for me, it's just a bit merrrr? I could play one note throughout Ravel's 'Bolero' and enjoy every second of it but a two chord vamp under some cheesy dance music? Not my bag..

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I'm a drummer, but I totally echo the OP's thought train. I've spent quite a few hours listening and picking apart stuff from the Masters (giants such as Joe Morello, Terry Bozio, Neal Peart and many more...), wondering in awe at their dexterity and imagination. I've spent decades, also, playing in variety orchestras, small bands and rock groups, and have never been called upon to play anything even approaching what those folks do. Of course, I have never gravitated in the musical circles where my colleagues and fellow musicians play at that level, either, and in my current band (The Daub'z...), I don't need any more than basic rudiments for playing Radiohead, or Noir Désir. Did I waste my time studying all of that flashy stuff..? I don't think so (and, in any case, what little I did try to emulate was a very poor ersatz, not worthy of insisting upon...). I'm very content to be simply the 'motor' of the beat, playing relatively simple stuff (modestly...) pretty well. For anyone starting out, I'd insist on working on the Rudiments, the basis of all techniques, really, and encourage the curiosity to look at what the experts are doing, but for every Top Gun, there are thousands of competent players doing sterling work every day, out of the limelight. Maybe I lack ambition, but I don't have the dedication (nor the raw talent..!) to be 'right up there'; I'm quite complacent and content to do what little I can as best as I can for as long as I can, and no more. 

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I know this is Basschat, and most folks are only really concerned with bass here. but meanwhile in the real world, the song is all that exists! If you ask someone to sing Good times by Chic, they won't sing the bass line. the bass in that tune is there to serve the bigger picture! If someone likes a song for its sentiment, or it's emotion, or to dance to, They don't care what any of the musicians techniques are doing to achieve the desired outcome. The ability to hear and serve the whole is what all musicians should strive for. All great songs are more than the sum of parts.

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7 minutes ago, Tobe said:

I know this is Basschat, and most folks are only really concerned with bass here. but meanwhile in the real world, the song is all that exists! If you ask someone to sing Good times by Chic, they won't sing the bass line. the bass in that tune is there to serve the bigger picture! If someone likes a song for its sentiment, or it's emotion, or to dance to, They don't care what any of the musicians techniques are doing to achieve the desired outcome. The ability to hear and serve the whole is what all musicians should strive for. All great songs are more than the sum of parts.

You're right about non-musicians not being bothered what instrument is doing what. It’s particularly strange the way musicians are obsessed with what other musicians are doing, especially if it’s not in the traditional way.

I think it depends on how prominent a particular instrument is. I was reading recently how in experiments non-musicians and singers were asked to sing a song. They were incredibly accurate with regard to both the tempo, and the key and pitch of the notes. Even though they couldn’t actually sing the pitches, they knew mentally where the pitch was. They were remarkably accurate with the tempo.

I think most people who know Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean for instance, would be able to sing; however badly, the opening riff. The same probably with Lou Reed’s walk on the wild side. A non-musician probably wouldn’t know what’s going on in the bass line, but they’d probably have a good go at singing the ascending/descending tenth figure.

It’s possibly the same with My Girl by the Temptations, Walking on the moon by the Police maybe too?

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Being in a funk band,  i  naturally take the other side,  but we all have our likes and  dislikes, blah blah.

What i dont like is slap in funk songs, or any song really.  It seems to me,  ( only IMO ) that its more a technique than anything else, and its a tool that  some bassers use to exact a " look at me "  thingy. There just doesnt seem to be any musicality in there.

Thing is,  if had more talent,  i'd be in a Brand X outfit, because Percy Jones  bass playing really floats my kayak and has been till  Brand X fell off the planet.  I think i have around 4  CD's of that band and have had them since the 80's.

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How can you try basses out in a shop if you don’t know basic slap technique. 

And...

How can you post a bass video on YouTube if you don’t know some rudimentary tapping. 
 

And....

In order to facilitate a guitarist playing a 53 minute “blues” solo, one must have mastered 12 bar blues walking lines (but nothing fancy mind).

So as one can see it’s important to know all sorts of stuff. 

 

😉

Edited by oldslapper
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3 hours ago, Bilbo said:

Just thinking through a post I put on another thread and I thought it may be useful to open the discussion wider.

I started playing bass in September, 1980, when, after starting work full time, I bought a black Hondo II Precision copy. I was playing Rock and Heavy Metal at the time but my head was already being turned by other music forms including Prog, Fusion and Jazz. As my playing progressed, like most of us, I was exploring the big names and couldn't get enough of everything. I recall reading bass magazines and hearing all these names and I would always check people out when I could (it was harder in those days as this is pre-internet and finding a recording with a certain player on it was not nearly as easy as it is now). I remember hearing names of the funk greats; Marcus Miller, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Rocco Prestia and, much later, Victor Wooten etc. I also recall everyone getting excited about the tapping guys like Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Jerry Peek and, later, Michael Manring. Both of these areas got a little attention for a while and I learned some slap playing (remember that Thumb Basics things with Jonas Hellborg) and tapping (I recall playing Jeff Berlin's Motherlode and a couple of things off Hamm's 'Radio Free Albemuth'. I recall a couple of years ago learning about double thumbing so I could 'do' it. Despite these forays, I never really used them because, fundamentally, despite 'enjoying' the challenge of applying the techniques, I never actually liked the music that is played using these techniques. I listen to Run For Cover by David Sanborn and LOVE that bass line but I cannot listen to the whole song. Same with Good Times by Chic; 'great' bass line but the much is a big fat nothing. I just find funk ultimately unsatisfying and hatefully repetitive. Two handed stuff is the same. Impressive as a technical exercise but, ultimately, pattern based, repetitive and not particularly nice to listen to.

 

In modern bass playing, there is increasingly too much 'technique' for one person to be able to do it all at a satisfying level and, whilst I can (or, at least, could) slap and tap, I don't, for no other reason than I find that I don't like any music that uses those techniques. My pick playing, for instance, is very good although I never use it live but the other two have been consciously left to wither.  Lots of great music out there to play, why bother playing stuff you don't like. Consequently, I don't need these techniques.

 

Thoughts, anyone?

I agree to a point, but there is value in learning even skills you know you will never use because doing so often improves those skills you do use. Learning slap has made me more aware of note to note consistency in volume and tone for example, and better at regulating that playing FS. 

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7 minutes ago, oldslapper said:

How can you try basses out in a shop if you don’t know basic slap technique. 

And...

How can you post a bass video on YouTube if you don’t know some rudimentary tapping. 
 

And....

In order to facilitate a guitarist playing a 53 minute “blues” solo, one must have mastered 12 bar blues walking lines (but nothing fancy mind).

So as one can see it’s important to know all sorts of stuff. 

 

 

All valid points

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10 minutes ago, oldslapper said:

How can you try basses out in a shop if you don’t know basic slap technique. 

And...

How can you post a bass video on YouTube if you don’t know some rudimentary tapping. 
 

And....

In order to facilitate a guitarist playing a 53 minute “blues” solo, one must have mastered 12 bar blues walking lines (but nothing fancy mind).

So as one can see it’s important to know all sorts of stuff. 

 

 

Reckon there may be a smiley missing from this post ...

 

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For me, it's kind of like learning for learning's sake. I decided to try and nail slapping about two years ago and made a point of practicing it regularly and using online lessons etc. I've got a level where I'm reasonably competent at it  - but there's no way I'd be using it in my band (a post rock, proggy thing) but I like learnings and pushing the envelope even though no one but me gets to hear it and it will never be used at any practical level - but I'm fine with that.


Tried to do the same with tapping but lost interest.

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The issue is capacity for me. A Rolls Royce has it's power described as adequate. Then wafts along. Same with technique for me, to continue the car analogy I want to sound like a Ferrari doing 100mph when playing something complex rather the 1 litre Shitreon I own doing 60....

I read an anecdote about Al Jackson Jr, the session drummer, warming up for a gig with blazing chops, then for the entire gig cruising away laying down 2 and 4. Extreme chops are always going to be a niche market, but they just might enhance small musical highlights in with panache whilst playing more regular material.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Bilbo said:

Just thinking through a post I put on another thread and I thought it may be useful to open the discussion wider.

I started playing bass in September, 1980, when, after starting work full time, I bought a black Hondo II Precision copy. I was playing Rock and Heavy Metal at the time but my head was already being turned by other music forms including Prog, Fusion and Jazz. As my playing progressed, like most of us, I was exploring the big names and couldn't get enough of everything. I recall reading bass magazines and hearing all these names and I would always check people out when I could (it was harder in those days as this is pre-internet and finding a recording with a certain player on it was not nearly as easy as it is now). I remember hearing names of the funk greats; Marcus Miller, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Rocco Prestia and, much later, Victor Wooten etc. I also recall everyone getting excited about the tapping guys like Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Jerry Peek and, later, Michael Manring. Both of these areas got a little attention for a while and I learned some slap playing (remember that Thumb Basics things with Jonas Hellborg) and tapping (I recall playing Jeff Berlin's Motherlode and a couple of things off Hamm's 'Radio Free Albemuth'. I recall a couple of years ago learning about double thumbing so I could 'do' it. Despite these forays, I never really used them because, fundamentally, despite 'enjoying' the challenge of applying the techniques, I never actually liked the music that is played using these techniques. I listen to Run For Cover by David Sanborn and LOVE that bass line but I cannot listen to the whole song. Same with Good Times by Chic; 'great' bass line but the much is a big fat nothing. I just find funk ultimately unsatisfying and hatefully repetitive. Two handed stuff is the same. Impressive as a technical exercise but, ultimately, pattern based, repetitive and not particularly nice to listen to.

 

In modern bass playing, there is increasingly too much 'technique' for one person to be able to do it all at a satisfying level and, whilst I can (or, at least, could) slap and tap, I don't, for no other reason than I find that I don't like any music that uses those techniques. My pick playing, for instance, is very good although I never use it live but the other two have been consciously left to wither.  Lots of great music out there to play, why bother playing stuff you don't like. Consequently, I don't need these techniques.

 

Thoughts, anyone?

Wow! So many similarities with my own experiences ( the Hondo/ bass mags / trying the various techniques etc). tho I'm not as good. 
For me , after finding out that I could  actually play a few songs , and was ready to join a band , I wasted a very long time being stupid by trying the slap pop and tap , hammer ons etc . A total waste of time for me . I was working long hours , drinking loads, socialising etc . After leaving my first band , I placed an ad in loot magazine . One guitarist I saw knew that I was neglecting the basics while concentrating on the flashy stuff . " f **k stu Hamm !" Was the turning point for me to see a teacher .  I learned a lot in a few months . Time, money and a long trek on the underground meant I couldn't keep it up . 
Mr. Teacher let me use his fretless wal , and I didn't seem to be too bad on it . I always took my usual bass along , but he just asked me to use the wal now and again .

I was a very naive person who played too many notes , because o thought that you had to follow the guitarist as well as drums . ( well I was trying to do everything metal 😹

much older and relaxed I just play what I want , either finger ,thumb or pick but don't try all that flashy stuff anymore . I think playing in a relaxed way helps me a lot . 

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3 hours ago, KevB said:

I used to feel a bit embarassed going to bass meetings and hearing folks doing stuff I couldnt but then accepted that I've always just learned what I needed to do to play the songs in bands I wanted to do. I can listen to a bit of jazz funk or other music employing a lot of slapping/popping but it soon bores me, hence never had any thought of looking at joining a band doing that material and as a result never bothered learning those techniques. I'm not into bass playing for abitrarily learning technical stuff, its a conduit for me to get out and entertain folks whilst having some connection with the type of music i like (mostly).

+1. Except that wher you "used to be embarrassed" I still am, which is why I've never been to a bass gathering.

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