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Why are bassists important?

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We provide the forward motion that every tune needs. Without us it just doesn’t move.

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Anyone else keep misreading the title to this thread "Why are bassists impotent"? Just me? Righty-o. 

*slips out the door*

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Posted (edited)

They're not. Or at least no more so then any other instrument in the arrangement.

Music is the sum of all its parts. Good music is more than the sum of its parts.

Edited by BigRedX
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Posted (edited)

Science has something to say about why the bassist may be the most important member of the band. According to research carried out by PNAS, people are more likely to respond to the rhythm and the lower frequencies of the song than they are the melody and higher pitches, such as played by the vocalist and the guitar.

 

The bassist provides both the harmony - the arpeggiated chord tones - and the rhythm of the song. So I would say that we're at least as important as any other member of the band.

 

 

Edited by TheLowDown
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13 hours ago, TheLowDown said:

Science has something to say about why the bassist may be the most important member of the band. According to research carried out by PNAS, people are more likely to respond to the rhythm and the lower frequencies of the song than they are the melody and higher pitches, such as played by the vocalist and the guitar.

 

The bassist provides both the harmony - the arpeggiated chord tones - and the rhythm of the song. So I would say that we're at least as important as any other member of the band.

 

 

I am getting that -in fact I have discovered using my own empirical, scientific research faculty: that Paul Mccartney was the go to bassist with the Beatles, and whatever you might think about Paul versus John , it probably is true that he wrote the majority of their material - including Yesterday.

The reason I questioned the importance of the bassist was in the sort of music I like the Bassline is generally semi-hidden or mainly in the background. But I can now see that even then stripping it would be a big mistake. But TBH I am not a dedicated troll and I think the question represents the views/prejudices of a lot of non professional/non knowledgable music lovers.

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, TJ1 said:

I am getting that -in fact I have discovered using my own empirical, scientific research faculty: that Paul Mccartney was the go to bassist with the Beatles, and whatever you might think about Paul versus John , it probably is true that he wrote the majority of their material - including Yesterday.

The reason I questioned the importance of the bassist was in the sort of music I like the Bassline is generally semi-hidden or mainly in the background. But I can now see that even then stripping it would be a big mistake. But TBH I am not a dedicated troll and I think the question represents the views/prejudices of a lot of non professional/non knowledgable music lovers.

 

 

 

That’s something a troll would say 😉

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Bass brings body to music, at the lower end of the sonic spectrum,  and can provide movement, counter rhythms and sometimes melody, beneath the chords that polyphonic instruments play.

Interestingly, the bass line in God Save the Queen, illustrates many of the above points.

 

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The science of sound and pitch is very interesting(if only they could write in actual English), OTOH I believe(don't actually know) that intense low pitches are more likely to kill a person than intense high pitched ones. The human ear may be responsive to bass than treble but this can work both ways. For me listening to it now the bass line of God Save the Queen(or King) cues the crowd to sing-along - as such it works but it is not subtle.

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Depends on the song/genre.

Sometimes the bass plays the melody (e.g. post-punk), sometimes it plays the groove (e.g. funk).

But even if not the above it normally glues the whole performance together and acts like a foundation. I haven't studied the etymology of the  word bass, but I assume it is rooted in the word base.

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man-from-uncle-ss5.jpg.a8f0b3a6e956ce093d5708b3badeb42d.jpg

"Illya, there's been a bit of a rebrand- you may want to hold onto something."

"Why, what's the matter?"

"Well, we're no longer the men from U.N.C.L.E...."

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47 minutes ago, mep said:

 

43 minutes ago, Jus Lukin said:

I wouldnt pay too much attention to PNAS- they're all just a bunch of stiffs.

Same study from PNAS.

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9 hours ago, TJ1 said:

The science of sound and pitch is very interesting(if only they could write in actual English), OTOH I believe(don't actually know) that intense low pitches are more likely to kill a person than intense high pitched ones. The human ear may be responsive to bass than treble but this can work both ways. For me listening to it now the bass line of God Save the Queen(or King) cues the crowd to sing-along - as such it works but it is not subtle.

This really happened to me. The first band I was in was a rock band and we did some Sabbath and I insisted on doing Gezzer's Bassically. I had a Morley Wah/Boost (the big chrome one with A.C. power) and we were playing in a gymnassium set up on the floor. A girl that was sitting on the floor in front of us (I noticed her 'cause she was cute) came up to me afterward and said "Wasn't that a bit EXPANDING?" I said "What do you mean?" She said "I thought I had to go to the bathroom." To this day I have no idea if she was criticizing or complimenting me but I thought, "Wow. I can make people lose their bowels..."

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On 07/01/2021 at 19:40, MartinB said:

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!

This ... totally this. The lowest voice controls harmony. Sting put it as “it’s not a C chord unless I play a C”.

In terms of “keeping time” that role is often played by the bass but not always. In a classic 60s Motown tune the tune keeping is more in the guitars (chords on 2 and 4 over a driving unwavering drum part) whilst the bass pushes and pulls against this. 
 

 The bass line typically is the place where harmony and the basic groove come together. You should be able to hear the shape of the tune (both rhythmically and harmonically) by just listening to the bass.

I like to think of the drums as the heart, the bass as the skeleton with the rest of the band layered over that shape and powered by the heart. 

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On 07/01/2021 at 23:01, TJ1 said:

My final question is: If drummers are insane, guitarists are knobs, singers are prima donnas - what is the bassist's standard personality defect?

The one who always has spare cables and insists that they are properly wound up and put away. 

Edited by Nickthebass
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In Jazz, I think it was Bebop, they used to say that the bass was the heart beat.

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On 07/01/2021 at 18:18, Steve Browning said:

How about All Right Now by Free? There's an example of the difference the bass makes. 

Was going to say similar - listen to tracks where the bass drops in/out and hear the difference it makes.

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Why are bassists important?

There is no ‘why’ there just ‘is’ 😁

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6 hours ago, Mykesbass said:

Was going to say similar - listen to tracks where the bass drops in/out and hear the difference it makes.

Definitely, Motley Crue do this very well on their song Wild Side, in the break it drops to drums and guitar, when the bass comes back in the power and depth to the track that it adds is amazing.

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Also, a lot of ACDC songs start with vox, guitar and drums. Then the bass comes in and bang, it really fills out.

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Why are bassists important? Because someone has to sit on the beat to keep the drummer from speeding up

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Radio 3’s The Listening Service is always a fascinating listen. In this one they explore why we’re so addicted to bass and how it works in music...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07vwg5w


This little 3 minute video snippet gives a good taster...

<iframe width="400" height="500" frameborder="0" src="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p049y9gb/player"></iframe>

 

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