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Why are bassists important?

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I realise this is a somewhat controversial/stupid question to ask a bass forum, but I am new to the bass, as I mainly play a 12 string acoustic alone, with chords and everything.

:If the drummer keeps the underlying beat and the six string guitarist sets the tune/melody, where does the bassist fit in musically?

The truth is I can only think of a minority of songs where the bass line is immediately obvious - the Bee Gees Stayin' Alive spring to mind(yes it's a classic,)

That said I can't think of a well known rock/pop band that does not have a bassist so they must be equal, in some crucial way.

 

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Posted (edited)
59 minutes ago, TJ1 said:

If the drummer keeps the underlying beat and the six string guitarist sets the tune/melody, where does the bassist fit in musically?

 

Moves it all along with a groove...

It's the 'Rockin' Horse' in ya Sausage Sarnie... You can have it without, but makes a world of difference with Sauce...

 

Edited by PaulThePlug

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Even if not providing a groove the bass brings a depth to the music - think about guitar, having a “bedroom sound” that is full, with a depth to it live usually translates to rotten mush, it needs to be sharper to come through. At that point the bass is there, bringing the depth that’s needed, and in many genres providing that groove as well.

A good genre for that is Motown, remove the bass and even with those fantastic songs and great singers, well, not too sure myself.

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Posted (edited)

This is a question left unvocalised by keys players who've kindly 'moved over' to give me a go, with the unspoken inference that I have devoted my whole being to something they're perfectly capable of doing as an afternought with their left hand.  Otherwise I agree with Lozz. 

Edited by lownote12
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Someone in the band has to bring equilibrium to flouncing singers/psychotic drummers/“it should have been me” guitarists/and the inevitable paisley shirt of the keyboarderist. 

At least that’s why I ended up on bass. 

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9 minutes ago, lownote12 said:

This is a question left unvocalised by keys players who've kindly 'moved over' to give me a go, with the unspoken inference that I have devoted my whole being to something they're perfectly capable of doing as an afternought with their left hand.  Otherwise I agree with Lozz. 

As an experiment I've just listened to Abba's 'winner takes it all'(for me the undisputed emperor of keyboard-driven pop songs), unless I am mistaken - there is a subtle echo of a bass guitar matching the low notes on the keys - possibly giving them additional depth/poignancy. But as a casual listener it would'nt have occurred  that a bassist even existed in that early 80's studio. 

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Guitar and drums are the 2 slices of bread. Bass is the filling.

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39 minutes ago, TJ1 said:

The truth is I can only think of a minority of songs where the bass line is immediately obvious

I’m guessing you don’t listen to much reggae or dub  🙂, the bass is the foundation , it’s crucial , without it you haven’t got anything 

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6 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

I’m guessing you don’t listen to much reggae or dub  🙂, the bass is the foundation , it’s crucial , without it you haven’t got anything 

Not a lot no, in fact i've never come across dub.

 

But listening to Marley's 'No Woman,no cry' I would not have said the bass was the foundation, it seems to be the drums and keys on that one.

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To paraphrase the great Mike Watt:

"When you go into a bathroom, most people look at the tile. Bass is like the grout."

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14 minutes ago, TJ1 said:

Not a lot no, in fact i've never come across dub

Ah , fair enough TJ, please don’t think I was being cheeky, because I wasn’t 👍, but dub (which is what I play) is very bass and drums orientated , if you took the bass away you wouldn’t have anything , sly and Robbie is a good example 🙂

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My way of looking at this question is, I guess bass guitar as an instrument isn't anymore or any less important than any other instrument. 

However the bass frequencies are crucial to making music sound full. What instrument fills that sonic range is up to the musician. 

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Paraphrase a phrase that was left here recently....

"You may not know that I am playing, but you'll know when I'm not..."

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54 minutes ago, mep said:

Guitar and drums are the 2 slices of bread. Bass is the filling.

Disagree...Drum and Bass are the sandwich, guitar is the interchangeable bit that you squeeze in for a bit of variety but gets all the attention.

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10 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

Ah , fair enough TJ, please don’t think I was being cheeky, because I wasn’t 👍, but dub (which is what I play) is very bass and drums orientated , if you took the bass away you wouldn’t have anything , sly and Robbie is a good example 🙂

Not all, it's good to come across a new genre.

Just watched one of Sly and Robbie's youtube videos and it's an impressive display of the versatilty of the bass guitar centre stage - I am assuming they only use a bass and drums?

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Completely ignoring the rhythmic and melodic aspects for a second...

The lowest pitch is important for how our brains make sense of chords. If a guitarist plays the notes C-E-G-A and the bassist plays a C, then it'll sound like a C6 overall, because the C is lowest. But if the bassist plays an A, the harmony will sound like an Am7. The same four notes are being played, but our brains use the lowest one to give the others context. And since the bassist* is usually playing a lower pitch than the guitarist, they're generally in charge. You could have a whole song where the "chord" played by the guitar never changes, but the harmony still goes through a sequence of chords because that's what the bassline makes us hear. It's a big simplification - melody is important too - but that's the basic idea.

* Or pianist's left hand, or organist's feet, etc. - whoever's got the lowest notes, wins!

Edited by MartinB
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Posted (edited)

In my band the bass player was important because he (I) was the one that knew how the songs go 😂

Edited by dave_bass5
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The bass player is usually the only one with spare leads, batteries, fuses, plugs, tools. Often the one with the PA and a clue of how to fix things when they don't work.

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Posted (edited)

....and we're the only instrument with it's name on the amp....

There's no knob saying "guitar" on it!!!

 

Edited by TheGreek
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4 minutes ago, nilebodgers said:

The bass player is usually the only one with spare leads, batteries, fuses, plugs, tools. Often the one with the PA and a clue of how to fix things when they don't work.

Yep, thats me....or was. I’m I’m honest i was the one who took it seriously the most. Sometimes I was a bit embarrassed about going on at the others if they weren’t pulling their weight etc.

but someone has to......

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2 hours ago, TJ1 said:

I realise this is a somewhat controversial/stupid question to ask a bass forum, but I am new to the bass, as I mainly play a 12 string acoustic alone, with chords and everything.

:If the drummer keeps the underlying beat and the six string guitarist sets the tune/melody, where does the bassist fit in musically?

The truth is I can only think of a minority of songs where the bass line is immediately obvious - the Bee Gees Stayin' Alive spring to mind(yes it's a classic,)

That said I can't think of a well known rock/pop band that does not have a bassist so they must be equal, in some crucial way.

 

Hi. Not sure how old you are but back in the 70s when funk and disco ruled, the bass was the lead instrument. Many iconic basslines have come out of that era not least Chic's Good Times.

In the 80s, bass was also at the forefront of a lot of chart songs with bands like Level 42, Japan, Paul Young's band,  Wham etc

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33 minutes ago, MartinB said:

Completely ignoring the rhythmic and melodic aspects 

Yes that's the part I play in our band.

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