Opinion: Bassists; Must They Be Boring?
Guitarists are known for ripping out shredding solos and playing beautiful chords to swoon girls. Vocalists are known for impressive vocal work to swoon girls. Drummers are known to keep a beat and throw impressive fills in here and there. Bassists are known for standing in the back playing the same thing all set. Why?
So many bassists and bass tracks are so simplistic and unadventurous. Understandable though, bass is there to keep the time and rhythm thumping in the background, but I just don’t understand why they can’t do the same thing with a nice arpeggio or bass line. Typically, it’s mainstream music that uses the bassist as a metronome, which I think is just unfair! Personally I’m not bothered about being ‘big’ in the music business, but for those phenomenal performers who are, you won’t be given the chance to perform to your full potential. Ridiculous!
Quotes about bassists, such as ‘Its only got four strings, anyone can play it!’ are one thing stopping bassists being more appreciated. Yes, although a bass guitar has two less strings, its frets are wider, the neck is longer, and the strings are much bulkier, making it a much more challenging instrument than the guitar. Moving further onto the aspects of the instrument, it has a much wider variety of playing styles. Guitarists can finger pick, or use a plectrum, or any other improvised way, but I guess the reason I prefer bass is the variety. You can do everything a guitar player can, and more. For example, funk introduced slap and pop to the masses, which is one of the sexiest sounds you will ever make with a stringed instrument (in my personal opinion). Red Hot Chili Peppers are a good example of the slap and pop technique, ‘can’t stop’ being their popular example of this. This is upsetting, considering the funkiness of Flea (RHCP bassist) in Aeroplane, or their cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher ground, which is much more impressive.
But of course Flea isn’t the only slap and pop bassist about, that would be ignorant to think. Funk has been around for years upon years, and sadly deteriorated with the uprise of ‘generic’ music. The better thing about slap and pop, is it’s never tied down to just funk. Primus, a very alternative Californian band, use elements from any and every music style they can express. Not only does he (bassist & vocalist, Les Claypool) slap and pop, he also uses a wide range of other techniques which guitarists can’t do. If there was one example of bassists being better musicians than guitarists, he is that one. But then I contradict myself, when I introduce to you (hopefully not for the first time in your life) my personal inspiration; John Paul Jones! Recognise the name? No!? Oh yeah, I guess he is ‘just the bassist’ of the legendary British band Led Zeppelin. Not only is he one of the best bassists in history, he is also one of the greatest musicians still alive today. His understanding of music shows up even in university lectures. A composer, multi-instrumentalist rock-star as a bassist, the guy that today would be thrown into the background to ‘keep the time’.
In conclusion, I guess the entire thing just comes down to the music today. Yeah, keeping time is necessary, but I guess musicians now have lost the spark of passion that makes them musicians as opposed to guitarists, vocalists, drummers and bassists. Personally, I think the love’s lost, but only to those involved around the business of music. Obviously there’s still the occasional band or artist that pops up with a spark of love, but it’s a rarity when tracks like ‘Rude Boy’, by ‘artists’ that don’t even write their own music, are topping the charts. I guess it all rolls back to the music business to take the blame. Cheers for reading, please leave your opinions on bassists and musicians 🙂