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  1. #1

    The Bass Guitar as a Mode of Being

    UPDATE: Fixed Link (as of 11/9/17)

    ***
    Hey everyone,

    I'm a long-time lurker here, but this is my first post. I wrote an essay about playing the bass that I thought y'all might enjoy? It's more about the psychology of playing the bass rather than the actual mechanics. Also, it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

    Anyway, enjoy!

    The Bass Guitar as a Mode of Being by Barrett Hathcock — The Collapsar

    Best,
    BH
    Last edited by cbhathco; 11-09-2017 at 06:02 PM. Reason: updated URL to article

  2. #2
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    Great essay, really enjoyed it. Thank you.

  3. #3
    ditto

  4. #4
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    Welcome to the forum! Loved the essay!
    Best regards, k

  5. #5
    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for reading and for the encouragement.

    Sam, I appreciate your comment. It's something I have thought about -- and will continue to think about -- a lot.

    Best,
    BH

  6. #6
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    I was a Fender bass player before I got back to the guitar. This article really comes way too close to home. It's all true. It happened just like the guy said. Incredible.

  7. #7
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    The only thing is that it doesn't really apply in jazz. The bassist is the default quarterback of the combo. He holds down the rhythm and harmony and keeps everything together. If something starts to drift, everyone checks in with the bass. You ask him to solo, and he says "I have been all night."

  8. #8
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    I have played bass for about as long as I have played guitar. The article really resonates. The two instruments--for all their similarities--are truly separate entities. I believe they stimulate different parts of the brain, in fact.

    Thanks for the article.

  9. #9
    "There’s a mean joke about bass players. A guy decides he wants to play the bass, so he buys the gear and goes to his first lesson, and the instructor teaches him the notes of the strings. He goes home and comes back a week later, and the teacher teaches him a simple walking bass line. He goes home. Teacher sees him next weekend and says, “Hey, I didn’t see you at your lesson.” And the bass player says, “Oh, hey, yeah sorry man, I couldn’t make it. I had a gig.”

    Loved it.

    The entire time reading the article my mind kept wondering, I wonder if Christian McBride, James Jamerson, Ray Brown, Ron Carter at any time in their lives thought about bass like the writer?

  10. #10
    Great line in that piece, well worthy of a quote:

    "(A band is just a gang with more equipment.)"

    Yeh. If you get it right, that is.

  11. #11
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    Is it true that bass players are in high demand in terms of gigs? Might be an incentive to double right there.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonzo View Post
    The only thing is that it doesn't really apply in jazz. The bassist is the default quarterback of the combo. He holds down the rhythm and harmony and keeps everything together. If something starts to drift, everyone checks in with the bass. You ask him to solo, and he says "I have been all night."
    Playing bass on jazz tunes is exhausting.
    "Hipness... is not a state of mind. It's a fact of life. You can't decide to be hip, you know? It just kind of happens." --Cannonball Adderly

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by mangotango View Post
    Great line in that piece, well worthy of a quote:

    "(A band is just a gang with more equipment.)"

    Yeh. If you get it right, that is.
    And since I wrote the above, something marvellous has happened....I have become a bassist again. I played bass exclusively from my mid-teens until early 20's, and then, feeling like I needed more harmonic control over writing and playing songs, I have played guitar since then.

    Except that this Spring, a trumpet-playing friend told me that he was putting together a new project. He had keys, probably a drummer....feeling that he just needed a push to get things going, I heard a voice (that turned out to be mine!) saying to him, "Look, if it will help, I could play bass, just until you find someone good enough".

    Turned out that someone was me after all. In addition to the quartet in which I play guitar, there's now a funky jazz quartet in which I play bass, and for which I have written or co-written half-a-dozen tunes.

    And I'm loving it. Even my wife has said that I seem more natural when playing the bass. I'm very lucky.

  14. #14
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    The Bass Guitar as a Mode of Being-scofieldguitarbass-jpg

  15. #15
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    I get a security warning when I click on OP's link.
    Norman

  16. #16
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    Yes! It's true that there are gigs on bass. You will get _many_ more calls on bass than on guitar. As I mentioned above, I have played both bass and guitar (organ, too) since about 1970. Since that time, the number of bass gigs has way outnumbered the number of guitar gigs. Historically, everybody _is_ a guitarist--looking for a bassist.

    Hmm? Is it exhausting playing jazz bass? If you are a guitarist, trying to conceive bass lines on the fly I suppose it truly is exhausting. However, if you have been playing bass for any length of time, things become sort of second nature. Suddenly, walking--and I am not talking about repetitive ascending or descending lines to the next chord--becomes MUCH easier.

    The analogy that comes to mind is sports. When you first take up basketball or tennis, you are thinking about your next move constantly. Once you reach a certain level of play, however, you actually stop consciously thinking about what you are doing and you get into the flow of the game. It becomes supremely more fun as your body seems to move slightly ahead of your mind.

    Same with gigging. On bass, you reach a point at which you are mindful that you are playing (you hear it) but you are more conscious of what the drummer, the pianist, and the sax player are doing. It becomes a real treat, at that point. You are walking...your hands seem to know the chart. YOU, however, are actually anticipating "I can throw in the quote from song-x right here.

    At this point, it isn't exhausting. It becomes great fun. It takes a couple of years or so to reach this "level of play." It is worth the effort.

    It is actually the same thing with guitar. I can remember as a young guitarist "chasing the charts" on the gig. At some point, it actually got better if I only glanced at the paper and, instead, listened to the flow. Took a few years to get there, but at that point the gigs became less exhausting.

  17. #17

    Thank you, ohlcv

    . . . for pointing out the broken link!

  18. #18
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    I've been a diligent bass-player since I was 12 or 13. (That's about 45 years since you ask.) The whole time, up until about five years ago, I was a guitar gearhead but never invested time in working on guitar playing.

    It's hard to master any instrument. By and large, true musical mastery is as hard to accomplish on any instrument as on any other. But that said and meant, some instruments are a LOT easier to start than others. With the possible exception of hand-percussion I have never found an instrument easier to START than bass guitar:

    . The strings are all tuned alike. No black-and-white key patterns; no G-to-B is different fingering. If something works in one place it works anywhere else. Try that on the trumpet, where you push a key and any one of about nine notes can come out!

    . To a very substantial degree tone is available for sale. If you spend $x,xxx on a pro rig you can make SOME pro noises from the get-go. In contrast, there is no amount of money spent on a violin-family instrument which will make a beginner sound like anything but a beginner.

    . As posters note with reference to the jokes above, expectations are often low. If you learn four notes and you can pace in time the entire Chuck Berry repertoire is open to you. Play four notes on anything else and people figure you out darn quick.

    Bass been berra berra good to me. Can't wait to play tonight -- I've been working on a fifth note!
    "Don't worry about that. Everybody talks about finding your voice. Do your homework and your voice will find you." - Branford Marsalis

  19. #19
    Thats a great bit of writing !

    I am not a bass player ...

    For the JAZZ idiom here ....

    Ive noticed on the occasions when the bass player
    hasn't made the gig /late etc and I've filled in
    on guitar that ...

    The bass voice is the MOST important voice in the group
    When it stops , or plays two-feel , or changes feel ....
    It dramatically changes the whole sound of the band ...

    If a stand-up bass walks at medium tempo , that
    already sounds like JAZZ to me ...
    Add a melody to it and you're 90% there ...
    Last edited by pingu; 11-10-2017 at 01:26 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu View Post

    If a stand-up bass walks at medium tempo , that
    already sounds like JAZZ to me ...
    Add a melody to it and you're 90% there ...
    +1

  21. #21
    I've got 2 basses. A Fender MIM 4 string, and an Ibanez GWB-2 5 string. Maybe it's time to start learning to play. I've been putting it off. But judging from Sam's comments it's easier to learn bass than guitar. Which bass should I concentrate on learning first?
    "Miles was one of the few jazz soloists who listens to his accompaniment, and it's the feeling of a dialogue, and it's a marvelous quality" - Bill Evans

  22. #22
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    2bop,

    4 string gets my vote.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    2bop,

    4 string gets my vote.
    Is that because it's easier to learn 4 strings than 5? Thank you.
    "Miles was one of the few jazz soloists who listens to his accompaniment, and it's the feeling of a dialogue, and it's a marvelous quality" - Bill Evans

  24. #24
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    Great writing there, enjoyed the read.

    I was the stereotypical "guitarist playing bass" for years, until two things happened:

    1) I bought a Portastudio and started demoing my own songs, and

    2) I got a gig playing bass in a Hendrix cover band.

    Those two experiences weren't just lessons in playing bass, they were lessons in musicality -- especially the Hendrix band, where I couldn't just be self-indulgent on free studio time, but had to keep the song rollicking. Jimi wrote some fantastic bass lines and riffs, and if anyone tells me they want to learn bass, I steer them to his body of work. For me, I learnt that it wasn't about jamming every lick and trick I knew into the mix, but about tying the drums and the rhythm-guitar together (when in the studio), or carrying the body of the song and giving the guitarist a launch-pad (when doing the Hendrix gig).

    Those two experiences taught me more about arranging a song, about slotting instruments into roles, than any of the guitar gigs I've had.

    And yes, in rock, if you play bass, you will have gigs, multiple bands if you work it.

    Regarding who gets laid:


  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu View Post
    If a stand-up bass walks at medium tempo , that
    already sounds like JAZZ to me ...
    Add a melody to it and you're 90% there ...
    Add ghost-notes on the "and-a" and you're home.

  26. #26
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    2bop,

    No. Easier to jump to upright bass.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop View Post
    I've got 2 basses. A Fender MIM 4 string, and an Ibanez GWB-2 5 string . . . .Which bass should I concentrate on learning first?
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    4 string gets my vote.
    4 string gets my vote.
    . Less 'shtuff' to think about means you can focus better on the music.
    . Not having flap-oriented ultra-low notes simplifies amplication
    . I had a C-extension on my last DB and have a drop-D tuner on my current DB. For me, ultra-low notes work best when used VERY sparingly. And ultra-low power is a strong musical force -- people notice.

    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop View Post
    Is that because it's easier to learn 4 strings than 5? Thank you.
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    No. Easier to jump to upright bass.
    GT, what you say is accurate but although musical aspects of BG shift over to DB, technique generally doesn't. They are almost always fingered differently (and I say this as someone who uses four-finger technique on DB much more than most players). More importantly, PULLING SOUND is a completely different process on DB than on BG.

    This isn't trumpet and flugelhorn, or alto and tenor. It's more like guitar and fiddle, or drumkit and tambourine. DB and BG are different critters filling similar musical functions.

    But 2B, I hope you have at it! Playing bass is musically rewarding and tons of fun.
    "Don't worry about that. Everybody talks about finding your voice. Do your homework and your voice will find you." - Branford Marsalis

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    2bop,

    No. Easier to jump to upright bass.
    Okay thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Sherry View Post
    4 string gets my vote.
    . Less 'shtuff' to think about means you can focus better on the music.
    . Not having flap-oriented ultra-low notes simplifies amplication
    . I had a C-extension on my last DB and have a drop-D tuner on my current DB. For me, ultra-low notes work best when used VERY sparingly. And ultra-low power is a strong musical force -- people notice.

    GT, what you say is accurate but although musical aspects of BG shift over to DB, technique generally doesn't. They are almost always fingered differently (and I say this as someone who uses four-finger technique on DB much more than most players). More importantly, PULLING SOUND is a completely different process on DB than on BG.

    This isn't trumpet and flugelhorn, or alto and tenor. It's more like guitar and fiddle, or drumkit and tambourine. DB and BG are different critters filling similar musical functions.

    But 2B, I hope you have at it! Playing bass is musically rewarding and tons of fun.
    Right on, time to learn something new. Thanks all for the input!
    "Miles was one of the few jazz soloists who listens to his accompaniment, and it's the feeling of a dialogue, and it's a marvelous quality" - Bill Evans

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by cbhathco View Post
    UPDATE: Fixed Link (as of 11/9/17)

    ***
    Hey everyone,

    I'm a long-time lurker here, but this is my first post. I wrote an essay about playing the bass that I thought y'all might enjoy? It's more about the psychology of playing the bass rather than the actual mechanics. Also, it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

    Anyway, enjoy!

    The Bass Guitar as a Mode of Being by Barrett Hathcock — The Collapsar

    Best,
    BH
    "If you’re going to play the bass guitar, the first thing you need to realize is that you’re going to get laid a lot less than anyone else in the band. The lead singer, naturally, is going to get laid a lot more than you."

    blah blah blah blah

    No wonder women rarely visit this site.
    Rock musicians should play more and talk less.

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