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Do we even need a bass player!!!


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Heathen, I hear you shout, the rattling of pitchforks begins!

 

I was lucky enough to have attended two gigs over the Easter weekend and both made me question our role within a band, Saturday evening saw me at The Alarm in Northampton, fantastic night, great band, great songs and no bass player! The band played to backing tracks which was basically the bass track and some percussion...I don't get it, The Alarm are a guitar based band, there was plenty of room on stage and the backing tracks were basically live recorded bass parts...nothing overly fancy but good solid audible bass parts......

 

Sunday night I was unfortunate enough to be at The Mission in Leeds, Craig Adams seemed to be enjoying playing a few bits further up the neck on his Rickenbacker...Craig, buddy, no point, we cannot hear a single note you are playing, the mix is the usual drum heavy bass mush laden sound that seems to be the go to sound for bass at larger venues....he would have been better using the Rick to swipe Mr Hussey around the head for being so drunk on stage that it was bordering a farce

 

So which is better, a bass track that sounds OK but no bassist or a live bassist who really needs play nothing but root notes because the mix is too poor to hear anything else!

 

Rant over 

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5 minutes ago, Roger2611 said:

Heathen, I hear you shout, the rattling of pitchforks begins!

 

I was lucky enough to have attended two gigs over the Easter weekend and both made me question our role within a band, Saturday evening saw me at The Alarm in Northampton, fantastic night, great band, great songs and no bass player! The band played to backing tracks which was basically the bass track and some percussion...I don't get it, The Alarm are a guitar based band, there was plenty of room on stage and the backing tracks were basically live recorded bass parts...nothing overly fancy but good solid audible bass parts......

 

Sunday night I was unfortunate enough to be at The Mission in Leeds, Craig Adams seemed to be enjoying playing a few bits further up the neck on his Rickenbacker...Craig, buddy, no point, we cannot hear a single note you are playing, the mix is the usual drum heavy bass mush laden sound that seems to be the go to sound for bass at larger venues....he would have been better using the Rick to swipe Mr Hussey around the head for being so drunk on stage that it was bordering a farce

 

So which is better, a bass track that sounds OK but no bassist or a live bassist who really needs play nothing but root notes because the mix is too poor to hear anything else!

 

Rant over 

Damn that's a shame, I love The Mission, such a shame to hear Wayne is still overdoing it on the booze.

 

I totally get what you are saying about large venues, for some reason the sound person always seems to think that bass should just be a subsonic mush that no one can actually hear properly, I think in the past few years I have been to about a dozen gigs, probably 2 of those gigs actually had a decent bass sound

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45 minutes ago, Roger2611 said:

So which is better...

 

Neither. They're both a poor compromise. 

 

At what point does it become glorified karaoke? Singer with a guitar playing to full backing track? It's OK, but it's not a live band. 

 

My brother played drums in a band with sequenced keys parts that he programmed. In the end they got a non musical drummer in and my brother played keys. IMO they should have just lost the keys the drummer wasn't a good match. 

 

Its a different skill set playing to a sequencer. Not something I enjoy doing. I prefer to have some breathing within the music that you don't get playing to a fixed tempo, or and an opportunity to extend songs adding verses and choruses if it's going down well.

 

Sound engineers who are PA operators aren't engineers. 

 

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Our keyboard player also plays in a band called Pearl Handled Revolver, a four piece band reminiscent of The Doors. He's a great player and fills the bottom end a treat but I still don't think, tonally, it comes close to sounding like a bass guitar. I can understand the advantages, and Simon is talented enough to pull it off but it doesn't sound like there's a bass player on the band.

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I would be interested to hear from any plo players out there if the buisiness has sunk to the level of being asked to mime to bass tracks on certain gigs or doubling over a track live because those fronting the band want a consistand sound, e.g when some function bands advertise you can book a 3 piece 4,5,6 or the 7 piece    recently saw a caberet show where the house band (organ Bass and drums) where not always playing each number,  The bass player seem to choose which he could manage I started to doubt if he was a bass player but then played other numbers well and was live ???

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Bands who deliberately choose not to have a bass player - sometimes it works OK (so OK then) sometimes it just sounds like there is something missing (not OK).

Having bass on a backing track..... no thanks, I wouldn't attend a gig like that.

The whole sub-sonic bass mush thing? Not sure why this has become a thing in recent years, but no thanks. It seems to be a modern incarnation of the old 'bass should be felt and not heard' attitude.

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It's been a while since I've heard a really distinctive (aka non-vaguely scoopy mushy) bass sound at a gig of the size of the Apollo (1500?) and up - even longer for an arena...possibly Rush about six years ago. For some reason, lately the trend is for PA Chimps to EQ the kick to sound like a cannon, and the bass to be a subsonic rumble, regardless of the band. I've walked out of the last half-dozen arena-sized gigs (including the Foos at the Cricket Ground (not a music venue, the worst sound I've encountered), Alterbridge et al at the MEN (just painfully, pointlessly loud) and that Johnny Depp ego trip band at the MEN), mostly because the sound was so poor.

 

I went to see The Stranglers at the Apollo last month, and had it not been a rare evening out with SWMBO, I'd have buggered off from there, too - the PA Chimp managed to make even JJB's sound scooped and vaguely subsonic*. I've heard it was better on other dates on the tour, but if you can make JJB sound like a scoopy mess, you're going some...

 

All very grumpy, I know, but the point being the bassist in each case may as well have been miming; in fact, if they'd had a well-produced backing track it would have been preferable sonically to the PAC's efforts on the night...

 

Smaller gigs are a different matter; I've still encountered that cannon/mush mix, but less frequently, and places like the Ritz are generally better than most; I've seldom heard a bad mix in there.

 

Best sound in a long long time was at Night & Day Cafe (150), when Elbow did a charity gig late last year; they were the quietest band I've seen in a good while (quieter than most pub bands), but sounded superb, bass and all.

 

 

* The whole band had dropped the backline and moved to in-ears; it might have sounded fine to him, but out front it was sooo disappointing...

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25 minutes ago, Muzz said:

It's been a while since I've heard a really distinctive (aka non-vaguely scoopy mushy) bass sound at a gig of the size of the Apollo (1500?) and up - even longer for an arena...possibly Rush about six years ago. For some reason, lately the trend is for PA Chimps to EQ the kick to sound like a cannon, and the bass to be a subsonic rumble, regardless of the band. I've walked out of the last half-dozen arena-sized gigs (including the Foos at the Cricket Ground (not a music venue, the worst sound I've encountered), Alterbridge et al at the MEN (just painfully, pointlessly loud) and that Johnny Depp ego trip band at the MEN), mostly because the sound was so poor.

 

I went to see The Stranglers at the Apollo last month, and had it not been a rare evening out with SWMBO, I'd have buggered off from there, too - the PA Chimp managed to make even JJB's sound scooped and vaguely subsonic*. I've heard it was better on other dates on the tour, but if you can make JJB sound like a scoopy mess, you're going some...

 

All very grumpy, I know, but the point being the bassist in each case may as well have been miming; in fact, if they'd had a well-produced backing track it would have been preferable sonically to the PAC's efforts on the night...

 

Smaller gigs are a different matter; I've still encountered that cannon/mush mix, but less frequently, and places like the Ritz are generally better than most; I've seldom heard a bad mix in there.

 

Best sound in a long long time was at Night & Day Cafe (150), when Elbow did a charity gig late last year; they were the quietest band I've seen in a good while (quieter than most pub bands), but sounded superb, bass and all.

 

 

* The whole band had dropped the backline and moved to in-ears; it might have sounded fine to him, but out front it was sooo disappointing...

Yes, it seems to be the bigger venues .I manily go to gigs at small venues, so don't suffer as much.

Ref the Stranglers example..... don't bands like that have a touring soundman who can prevent that kind of thing?

 

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26 minutes ago, Muzz said:

, lately the trend is for PA Chimps to EQ the kick to sound like a cannon, and the bass to be a subsonic rumble, regardless of the band.

 

 

I saw a gig last year of a well known band and was checking out the venue the day before (small to medium). The sound guys were there setting up and we got chatting. I mentioned the bass sound and I was assured that above would not be the case. Was it clear and defined? Was it buggery!

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5 minutes ago, Nail Soup said:

Yes, it seems to be the bigger venues .I manily go to gigs at small venues, so don't suffer as much.

Ref the Stranglers example..... don't bands like that have a touring soundman who can prevent that kind of thing?

 

Well, you'd think/hope, but hearing from a couple of people who went to other nights (rubbish in Sheffield, better in Nottingham, that kind of thing), it might have been not getting the hang of the new non-backline/in-ears hoohah. I went all over the Stalls, hoping it was just where I was standing, but nope, rubbish everywhere. Even standing just behind the engineer at the desk...  As I say, an extreme example (given JJB's distinctive sound), but very much the trend these days. Maybe it's the mismanagement of the new line array-style PAs? I dunno...

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If it's one of those rock bands that only want a bass player to "fill out the bottom" and just stand in the back root pumping then no thanks, I'd rather not, get a backing track.

But yeah, most PA handlers (I dare not call them sound engineers) are used to just providing undefined boom and mud and call it a day.

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Some gigs over the last few years that I've attended:

 

Scritti Politti at Birmingham Town Hall- no bass player

 

Tower of power- same venue, no bass player (due to late notice illness)

 

Yungblud- O2 Academy, Brum- no bass player except for 2 songs at end of set, huge bass drum and nausea-inducing throbbing bass, total mush sound mix

 

There are unfortunately some on this very forum who do not recognise any problem at all in the fact that an increasing number of acts are choosing to ditch the bass guitarist 😪

 

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2 hours ago, Nail Soup said:

Did the OP know that when making the OP? Didn't seem like it.

In which case: Weird co-incidence, man!

He was jesting you, I don't think Alarm have had a bass player on stage for a number of years and the bassist on stage for the Mission was Craig Adams who is the bands original bassist!

 

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Whenever YouTube foists a latter-day performance of the Sisters with Craig Adams' bass lines being churned out by whatever Dr Avalanche's bit on the side is called on me, I can't help but recall Black Lace's performance in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

 

 

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2 hours ago, Roger2611 said:

He was jesting you, I don't think Alarm have had a bass player on stage for a number of years and the bassist on stage for the Mission was Craig Adams who is the bands original bassist!

 

 

Wikipedia has CA as having left The Alarm in 2017, but still being in The Mission, Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny

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Last time I saw The Alarm (perhaps 3 years ago?) James Stevenson was playing bass for 95% of the set, a bass/guitar double neck on a few songs and guitar on a few songs. The songs where he was playing either of the guitars he was also using bass pedals to play root notes. Nothing on tracks at that point. Mind you, he did look like he was bored out of his mind when he was playing bass so maybe that’s why they made a change.

 

From what I’m told (by friends who know them well and others who support for the tour I saw) Craig Adams left to do Mission stuff and they decided not to replace him as they’re a very close-knit almost family-like band.

 

I still think it’s a strange decision though.

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I saw a band years ago in a bar and the group of people I was with were saying how good they were. I pointed out that it was a guy on guitar and a singer but all of the music was backing tracks so they were not particularly good at all. Strumming along to a song does not make you a decent musician.

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