A Bassist’s Manifesto

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Bass_guitar_(477085398)Bass. I love it! It is fun to play and the very epitome of groove. Even just the concept of a low-end instrument is only a few centuries old, and the first point of its absolute importance is found in waltz music (Source: How Music Works with Howard Goodall, Bass). As a bassist, one would have alternative responsibilities. I shirk many of these pre-conceived ideas in the pursuit of breaking what I perceive to be the norm in my own way. Bassists can be few and far in between, or sometimes abused in a non-physical sense. The passion is always present but not always in copious amounts.

I play guitar but I started with bass. A few other guys needed someone to play the low-end for them and they indeed helped me buy my first Squire, to which I own today. With two guitarists, one bassist and no drummer, that ambition died quickly. Not that I am any less appreciative to them for the assistance. I would bounce between guitar and bass when ever the notion would drive me to, seeing as I have owned both at the time. Years later, I would move to the city and join my first band. I was presented as a guitarist by a friend who was the bassist at the time. They chose a different guitarist who was indeed better than me. My friend would start missing practice and was eventually replaced by me. This was the point where I became known as a bassist. We would play a show almost every weekend, gaining something of a following. Side tip: when you play a show every weekend, people stop attending because they would rather spend their money on something new and exciting. After that band diminished, I would get offers to join bands as a bassist. None of these offers would extend to six-strings. I then became very picky about the kind of music I would play because I knew my skills where something of a commodity. I now play with a five string LTD bass, and multiple pedals. I will compromise my style for no one and no band.

As I have found, the responsibilities of being a bassist are on a completely different plane than anyone else in a band. The typical expectations are simply to maintain the rhythm and play the root notes. Only a third of these two examples are true. It is no secret that I believe that music has no rules, and by erecting limitations, one wounds the soul of a musical piece. Classical composers have very often created the bass section completely separate from the main score. Perhaps the violins would ascend and the cellos would descend. A simple technique almost lost to anything you would hear on the radio. If a violin where to sustain a D note, while the cello would alter between E-F-G within the bars duration, which would be the root note? Understand I have limited knowledge of musical theory, but I doubt many musical aficionado’s could answer better than I. As for the rhythm. Yes, it is absolutely mandatory for the bass to maintain the rhythm. However, rhythm in itself is not absolute. The very basic idea of music is based on fractions. The 4/4 bar beat is almost never broken in North America, almost to the point of being an entrepreneurial gambit should anyone ever try alternatives. If a bassist where to think like a drummer, he could achieve a whole new world while still playing perfectly within rhythm. Imagine for a moment. If Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil” bass line, where to adopt a samba beat while everything else stayed the same. It would change the dynamic of the whole song. What if AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” held a disco beat on bass. Maybe it would sound good, perhaps horrible, but my point is that rock music has been very formulaic for a very long time, for the purpose of financial gain. If this is your aim, then I welcome you to pursue the structure of U2 and Nickelback. They are in possession of cadence combination dedicated to many successful albums, to which I am not a fan of. Les Paul himself was a Jazz guitarist after his country chords, but he became successful after he learned to play the melody, which Jazz is not entirely known for. For the few who just wish to make the music for the sake of making music, consider my suggestions.

I now implore you to ask your self, what is it that drives you to play music? Far too often, I find the answer to be fame and fortune whether the individual admits it or not. Commercial success comes at a cost and so so SO few break its trenches while maintaining their personal sound. Rush is the exception rather than the rule, but as I have already stated, the easy road is to mold your sound into the provided structure like a harlequin romance novel. The cadence combination is a term of my own invention used to describe music with very predictable outcomes.

Line 6

Intro/verse/pre-chorus/verse/pre-chorus/chorus/verse/pre-chorus/chorus/bridge/verse/outro.

In one line, I have described a marching majority of modern music. The chorus is often the same melody of the intro, which may vary little for 9391_800the outro. This structure does not make horrible music, but it does take away the mystery. I am sure there are millions of bass guitarists who love to live in this world, and to them I say “do it with gusto”. As for myself and the other half of the fraction pie, we will not compromise. This mentality extends beyond just being a bassist, or a rocker. This idea is the person, the individual as it is the genre or instrument. Personally, I would rather not play at all then adhere to the structure above, and my skills have been abused due to this mentality. I choose to play rock and metal, unlike jazz it has a high preference to the cadence combination. I have been in a band where me on bass was simply a warm body on bass. When I refused to simplify my technique, they sought a bassist who would. In respect to their sound I understand this move, and probably wouldn’t have it any other way, but to have five individuals come together and create music, it should be, if not suppose to be, a collective of influences melted down like alchemy. Instead, we have a series of capitalists switching the roster like a sports team. I have always said “to each their own”, and I always mean it, but this is the world I live in and it is lonely.

As I have stated, I love playing bass. It is fun to play and the very epitome of groove. My will to play guitar is not for fame, but simply the justification of me spending thousands of dollars over X amount of years on guitar equipment and having it never see the stage. The mentality will still remain the same. I would rather not play at all then fallow in the cadence combination.

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About the Author: Started playing bass at 15. It was Danko Jones who inspired me to play at all, and in a small town I couldn't be picky on what I can get my hands on, so I bought a squire with pride. Obtained a B.C. Rich guitar months later. Moved to the city at 17. At 19 joined my first metal band as a bassist which ended at 20. Joined a bass heavy rock band, which I loved being in whole heartily. I now wait to venture into a new project. For the time being though, I am exploring my abilities as a writer.

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