Sometimes being the bassist is cool. Sometimes it means being the butt of everyone’s jokes. But all bassists know that no matter what others say, their role is important to the band, and their band mates know that too, if they’re clever. But for the uninitiated, why is the bassist so important, and why are they so often overlooked?
The bassist’s role is to keep the rhythm of the song going, no matter what else is happening. Like the drummer, it’s the bassist’s job to keep the song on the tracks, but unlike the drummer they get to add a little bit of their own flair into the mix. Although the bass is frequently not apparent unless you’re listening for it, the rhythm they play underpins the song in a way that a drum beat can’t, and helps to highlight key sounds in the lead guitar’s playing. Even when the guitars go wild, the bassist stays composed and lets you know that everything is going according to plan, even helping you to keep up.
Bassists have been described as the band members whose job it is to make you pay attention to the other members of the band, or as the players who make sure to get things back on track no matter how wild it gets. And even though some bassists do take the spotlight and get their moment to shine, a majority of them seem to be content being the background, on the basis that if you don’t notice them, they’re doing their job just right. Although it may seem like being overlooked would be demoralising, a good bassist knows that it’s all part of the job, and takes pride in what they do more than the attention they receive.
Paul McCartney - Remembered as a great Beatle, Paul also deserves acknowledgement for being a great bassist. His melodic bass playing is what gave the Beatles their groove;
Tina Weymouth - Though she was completely new when she joined the Talking Heads, Tina Weymouth made the bass her very own, creating the perfect funk/punk backing for the band’s unique style;
John Entwistle - John Entwistle is a perfect example of a bass player who stole the limelight, aggressively blasting out his bass so that it became essentially a second leading role;
Carol Kaye - Carol Kaye didn’t just play for one band, she played for everyone. Backing the Beach Boys, the Monkees and various songs from almost every genre, Carol Kaye is one of the most prolific bassists around;
Geezer Butler - Geezer Butler basically invented the bass line for heavy metal music everywhere, with a deep, aggressive growling style that made Black Sabbath, and all the musicians they influenced, into the growly, ferocious leaders of a new style of rock;
Este Haim - Like many bands before them, Haim might be easily lost in the crowd if not for eldest sister Este’s amazing bass playing. Energetic, dynamic and yet true to the principles of bass playing, Este is a great example of a great modern bass player.
Inspired? Perhaps you should be. If you want to learn bass guitar then you could try teaching yourself, but we always recommend getting someone to teach you. A skilled and experienced bass player will be able to show you the ropes and teach you about what it really means to play bass.
Find a bass guitar teacher local to you by searching musicteachers.co.uk, the leading UK site for finding music teachers, and completely free to use.
If you're in the Manchester area, Sounds Great Music can now offer personal tuition in our new teaching rooms. Find out more here!
Of course, if you’re going to learn bass, you’ll need a bass guitar to play on. Sounds Great Music have an awesome selection of bass guitars for any price range or level of experience. Find a bass guitar that speaks to you, or talk to us about what you’re looking for by calling 0161 436 4799.