Last Updated on
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Every member of the band has a cultural identity. The bass player is usually an afterthought in our mind, right? The singer and lead guitarist get obvious attention and the drummer seems relevant. But, who’s in the driver’s seat when a band is playing music? Who keeps the train on the rails? If it’s not the bass player, then the band needs a new bassist!
In a way, the bassist has the best job. On one hand, they can run the show and enjoy all the power to direct what’s happening. On the other hand they aren’t the center of attention and so they get to work in relative peace. A knowledgable bass player can recast an entire song with a different mood. They can quicken the pace and dictate the moments of importance. The bass is exciting because it’s powerful. It is by far the most efficient and elegant musical force in music – with the most far-reaching influence*.
*Unless the drummer isn’t keeping time, then they will have the most far-reaching influence 🙂
Of course, most people just want to dance! Good luck getting folks on the dance floor without solid bass. Pounding out the same bass note like a jack hammer worked well for The Ramones, but groove is more than timing. Contour, pedalling and harmonic reenforcement are the elements that made dancing to bands like The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles feel inspiring (rather than compulsory).
At first glance, bass seems simple (even simplistic). The fact that pounding root notes gets a reaction just complicates things. If you aspire to “move” people (emotionally and physically), then you’ll want to study harmony… yes, harmony. Give a listen to these different audio clips and see what a difference bass notes can make: