It’s time to pick up the bass and refresh my skills from the past. I used to play the bass for a couple of years in my former band Hanif. That time I learned lots of things. Not that much about the technical possibilities of the instrment. But I definitely became a lot better musician in terms of being a team player and I learned to listen to all parts of the band that needed to be in tune mentally and physically.
All of these skills are useful when producing an album of my own. But right at this moment I’m most happy about the fact that my fingers remember how to coordinate into the right feeling.
The bass player is the odd guy in the community of popular music. He’s always there, but no one kind of knows what he’s actually doing. If the singer is the attention whore, the guitarist his competitor and the drummer the guy who everyone makes fun of, then who the hell is the bass player?
The historical bass player can be the less talented guy in a band, who might be a member of the band only because he owns a car or has access to a garage where to rehearsal. He can also be the one who has the right attitude, but require some one who actually plays the bass behind the stage, like Sid Vicious. Or he can use pyrotechnical effects to balance his feeling of being less important than other band members, like Gene Simmons.
But everyone who has learned anything about making music, knows that the bass player and his skills are vital to a band, not only for the overall sound, but also for the rhythm.
The bass is like the concrete foundation of a building. It keeps everything steady when the other string instruments go bananas with their picking and tiny melodies. At the same time it gives the drums substance as it confirms the beat, and thereby connects the harmonies and the rhythm of a song.
So everyone who says the bass player is just a primitive version of the drummer, as he only can follow the kick drum – they don’t know what they’re talking about.
I agree though that playing bass isn’t necessarily a technical challenge, or that you have to be very talented overall as a musician to be successful. But being a bass player is about taking a role in an orchestra, similar to a defender, in football or the secretary of a big boss. The guy who scores or the boss gets the cred for the job you perform together – but the bass player does it anyway for the team.
A good pass player has an overview of the orchestra’s different elements and he follows everybody and becomes the reference that holds everything together. Having that overview is maybe not what most people think of when defining musical skills. But that skill is essential for every orchestra. Some musicians don’t realize that until they stand there in an orchestra with only solo performers.