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The Angry Bass Player

The Angry Bassist

Hey you! Bass player! Yeah, you in the cover band. Do you realize you’re playing everything wrong? Do you even care? You’re getting paid, right? Would playing the songs correctly be too much to ask?

It’s not that hard, really. Just spend some time listening to the bass part. Then copy it on your bass. Now do that 5 or 6 times in a row until you’ve memorized the song.

Never bothered to properly develop your ear? Then find the tabs. It won’t take long to get them. They’re all over the internet. Sometimes they’re wrong, but they’re probably more right than you are.

Maybe you took up the bass because you figured it would be easy. So you ignored the basic musical principles of practice and dedication right from the beginning. After all, there were more important things to worry about, like chicks and beer, right?

And don’t dismiss your lack of commitment to your craft with some shitty excuse like, “It’s only a bass part, no one cares”, or, “I like to play things my own way.” That’s just code for, “I don’t care enough to learn the songs properly and I’m pretty sure most people won’t notice.”

Your lazy attitude pisses me off.

I love the bass. I’ve been faithful to it for almost 25 years. It’s my outlet. My joy. I live for it.

The bass makes me happy. The way you neglect it makes me angry. It deserves better than you.

Photo Credit: darpatator (Flickr)

17 thoughts on “The Angry Bass Player

  1. well isnt that special …. another gotta be just like the original sorta rant from a player who thinks that expression is nothing and playing it like it was recorded by somebody else is the highest order of success …. i just happen to be one of those players u are ranting about and i have an answer for each of your paragraphs and here it is
    #1- if it sounds cool it is not wrong and no i dont care if im playing it the way u think i should be because i get many compliments on my abilities … most of the time they are saying i always thought bass players were guys that couldnt play guitar but after watching u i have a lot more respect for bass players …. ya im getting paid and it would be too much to ask me to lay back and be the ho hum stand in the back and hardly get noticed by anyone and be that “couldnt play guitar guy”
    #2- wouldnt be hard enough is more like it …. when i am learning new covers i might play it 50 times before i even get to practice with the boys …. first i learn the part as recorded … then take it to such an extreme that it is overkill … then tone it back and keep key parts where they ought to be and add my own shit where i feel it fits best ….and really some tunes hardly get changed at all after all that cuz some tunes ya just cant do shit to make it any better or it just wont fit with what the rest of the band is doing with it …and that is what really matters …what we are going to sound like
    #3 -never developed an ear my ass …. i tell others when they are out of tune ect …. i tune by ear all the time cuz i dont wanna lose it by using a tuner …. only time i use a tuner is at gigs before the set …. and that is just to save time and noise on stage … my battery ran out of my tuner years ago and has never been replaced …. u need 1? you can have it and we will call it a christmas gift … and tabs are for beginners …. only time i have used them in the last 15 yrs (or more) is to get a position on the guitar or something like that or maybe a tight group of notes that are hard to figure out …. never in my entire time of playing have i ever learned a whole song or even a large portion of a song from tabs
    #4- i took up the bass because i thought it was the coolest place to be …. i mean really …. geezer butler, john paul jones, geddy lee johnny entwistle .. do i need to say more?….i dont need to be in a band to get laid or get beer …. anybody who tells u they are in it for chicks and beer is either a liar or a loser
    #5 -its more than a bass part … it is the groove that drives the song … the link between a driving beat and the icing that the so called “lead” guitar players get to build upon so that they can take all the credit…. i dont play it my own way because i dont care and i think people wont notice …. i play it my own way so they will notice …. to prove to the think they know what the hell they are talking bout kind of guitar oodling losers that it takes a lot more than a bit of shredding and string bending to make a tune sound good ….and above all that bass players are no less ranking than their 6 string shadow makers …. and i do it with 4 strings!!!! (well i do have a 5 string as well)
    #6 -lazy attitude? ya right go back and read #2
    #7 i love the bass too ….i too have been at it for bout 25 yrs but have been very unfaithfull …. have spent time on the drums, guitar,keys and any other instrument anybody has put in my hands…. although the biggest reason for the drums was to improve my understanding of what i needed to be doing on the bass …. and i think it helped me out quite a bit … but all in all i live for the whole music experience … whatever i am doing … playing, listening,writing,and of course checking out other live bands
    #8 deserves better than me? ouch !!!!!! why dont ya just lay my hands down and smash em with a hammer … might hurt less .. even if ya did it one finger at a time .. i will forgive ya for that 1 just cuz u have never seen me play … i will trade licks with ya any day .. i have just as much to offer as u do and maybe more …. and by the way … i do my thing while im also singing lead vocals …. i do more than 80% of the vocals in our band while cranking out some not so perfect bass lines that make u so angry

    i cant remember who it was that said it but words said in an interview of a very prominent and accomplished guitar player come to mind …..a player listens to others and learns their licks to be a better player …. a musician listens to others and steals those licks and makes them their own

  2. oh ya …. forgot i wanted to mentioned what makes me angry ….. even more than the gotta be the way i want it or its shit opinion…..
    many times over the years i have been asked what instrument i play …. and when i reply bass most of the time i get …. couldnt play guitar eh? …. well if ya read the last post i sent u know what i think bout that

  3. @James — Looks like we actually have a couple of things in common; we’re both very passionate about the bass and are dedicated to continually getting better at our craft. My rant is actually aimed at bass players who are lazy and don’t care about being the best they can be or getting better. That doesn’t sound like you at all.

    I actually don’t mind when bass players add their own flair and style to bass lines. As long as it’s done tastefully and retains the spirit and groove of the original bass-line. What I hate is bass players who can’t be bothered to take a little bit of time to learn something properly, use the “I’m just gonna play it my way” excuse, and then proceed to absolutely BUTCHER the song.

    Anyway, thanks visiting the site and thanks for the comment!

    Paul

  4. Thanx for the passionate discussion fellas. I, like you guys have been thumping for quite some time (I am in my mid 40’s). I compose and record complete songs (all guitars, keys, drums, bass, etc.) by myself, but I am almost always the thumper on stage (cover bands as well, like you guys were discussing). This is the case generally because I don’t like the way most of they guys have bassed in bands where I have been a guitar player, stand-off lead vocalist, etc. Much like you James, in the band I am currently working with I do about 75% of the lead vocals, as is commonplace for bands I have worked with in the past. I rarely get the smart alec guitar comments. I generally get things more like: “how do you manage to pull off singing those songs that most bands can’t get away with because none of ’em can sing it, etc.?” and “how do you get your fingers to move like that, especially while you are singing?” This is often in a power trio. I don’t use tabs either, they are usually wrong. It makes much more sense to me to listen to the WHOLE song and get the feel of it. Also, in my believe, a real bass player rarely plays the same song the same way with different bands (especially drummers). Your job as the thumper is to tie the percussion and the rest of the band together while adding the flavour appropriate to the song. You must read your band members and complement them as you create (withing the spirit of the song, of course) your own part, as needed. Enough tooting my own horn and colostimising…I mean philosophising (I think ya get my point). My real point is, yes, the Good Lord was gracious enough to give me more than my fair share of musical ability, to some He has given much more than me, others much less, it is His call (not mine or anyone else’s). The real objective is: are you having fun jamming? And more so, “are you doing something good with the musical ability you have been alloted?” (Again, we don’t choose how much musical…or any other ability…that we get, we would do best to be thankful for what we have been alloted.) If you can answer yes to both of these questions, excellent. If not, reconsider what you are doing, no matter how “good” you [may think that you] are. Also, I have heard some guys that only use a pick on the 4 stringer and they sound great. A lot of them happen to be well known and are or have made lots of money doing it….and they meet the criteria that I just labled that I strongly feel are key to playing. This of course applies to bass or whatever your forte/preference may be of playing/singing.
    Therefor pick bass playing is legal and often sounds cool, therefor is permissable (I am a finger player 99+% of the time). Do good and have fun. God bless. Jerry

  5. hi jerry …. first off …. i am a lot like u when it comes to feedback as well …. the guys that give the ol couldnt play guitar shit are guys that really dont know shit about music let alone playing the bass and its function within a unit …. and they never say that after they see me play ….lmao … and i dont totally disagree with bass players that use a pick …. it is a really cool sound for the right kind of music and i would never put down a good player for using 1 …. i really should have elaborated a lil more on that statement …. many of the guys i have met that play strictly with a pick got into playing the bass cuz they had a bud or 2 that were jammin and they needed a bass player …. and in most cases the guy wasnt much of a player as far as gutiar was concerned so instead of practicing like hell on their chosen instrument they decide that anybody can play bass so he gets a bass and starts jammin …. well that attitude generally transcribes into them being one of those guys paul was refering too …. only they didnt even take the time to learn how to play with their fingers …. which in my opinion really limits the exploration of your axe … a player who only uses a pick has 1 thing to strike with … a player who uses his hands has 4 fingers and a thumb to strike with … no matter how ya look at it it opens a lot of doors as far as speed and mobility across the strings …. and to be honest with ya i never use a pick cuz i feel awkward with it and limited ect …. and yes i am guilty of being lazy that way …. i could get used to it and practice more at it and add to the bag of tricks …. problem is ….well like i said …. i use 4 fingers and a thumb …. kinda hard to get any satisfaction from a pick ………… getting the feel for a song is always the best approach …. sounds like we approach the art in the same way ….. sometimes when i am not real familiar with a band i may learn or at least tool around with 3 or 4 tunes …. picking up as many trademark sorta licks from the bassist so when i get with the boys i can adapt with the drummer and play something a lil different but still capture the essence of the band as well as the song … or maybe cuz i like his style and wanna adapt a lil peice of it to blend in with my own style ect ……… also …. glad to see there are more of us not satisfied with standing in the back …. lotta people are blown away when they see a bass player doing a good job fronting a band and make a big deal of it …. but when a guitar player does it he is just a guitar player with a good voice ….lol …

  6. Thanx James for a great response. You sound like a very cool and down to earth kind of guy with not only more than your fair share of musical performing abiliby but some very cool and genuine musical insight as well. I am guessing that I would probably very much enjoy watching you perform. Do you have any material available for listening to online? Rock on and God bless.

    Jerry

  7. thanx jerry for a great response.you sound like a guy who has excellent judgement of character … lol … im sure u would enjoy watching us perform … it is real … i dont really get into the awestruck rockstar personna like a lot of others …. we just go up and do our thing … and it works for us … we are there for the music first …. to feel the crowd second …. and the money 3rd …. but of course it is rare to get the first 2 without the second ….lol… we do have some stuff online …. all home made of course … easiest place to find it all is at our facebook group if you are on there …. the group is called HI FI LOWRIDER …. there are links there to a couple places we have some recordings posted and there are some videos there as well …. recorded on a camcorder so the sound could be a lot better …. and of course the mistakes are all there too ….lol …. once i figure out how to post a link or 2 here i will if ya cant find anything …. let me know

  8. Hi everybody I have just found this place and I like it alot so I will be coming back in the future. I am a bassist and I play with a pick. The reason I play with a pick because I like the snappy attack it gets when you play with it at the end of the bridge and it cuts right on through suits my style and seems to seperate my sound from most of those that play around my area. I even had a few musicians recognise this fact by telling me I had a very unique sound I put it down to the fact Im proud of using a pick where as I bet most other bass players wouldint dare use one because as we all know real bass players use there fingers 🙂 Listen to spme of the later clash basslines for instance thats a cool sound man its all with a pick of course the list goes on. I will usse my fingers ocassionally on certain songs such as chilli peppers or something like that or if it needs that fat round sound but I reckon do what the song needs. Just my two cents cheers to all of ya’ll

  9. Yep, I’m the guy that pisses you off. I took up bass because everyone needs a bass player and it was the fastest instrument to learn well enough to get into a band, with the objective to get girls and have fun. For me the bass was a tool for this purpose, and, at least at first, was little more than that. And to piss you off even more it worked like a charm. I hated taking lessons and i hated practicing scales. I hated learning theory and have forgotten most of it by now anyway. I liked playing easy covers like AC/DC and Judas Priest and never aspired to do anything more…and I was happy doing it. Somehow I managed to gain some proficiency and even a reputation as a decent player, but I keep it root note simple. No progressive rock or solo bass gymnastics for me, I don’t want to work that hard. Believe what you want, but NO ONE in your audience, aside from the other bass players you’re so desperate to impress with your chops and expensive gear, cares whether your playing a Fodera 6 string through an Eden rig or a cheap p bass copy through a Crate combo. As long as they hear boom boom boom coming out of the PA and it’s reasonably in tune, that’s usually more than enough. The average bar fly at your club gig, if he notices you at all, wouldn’t know how good you are compared with other players or how many hours you spend practicing modes with a metronome. Want to be really pissed off? Nikki Sixx is famous, rich and has banged more hotties than you’ve ever seen, and he probably still hasn’t learned where the notes are on the fretboard. Think about that the next time you’re forced to play some song you hate with your wedding gig in front of a bunch of blue haired old ladies. Ever read a top 5 greatest bass players list in a musicians magazine? I just did, Steve Harris from Iron Maiden usually makes the top 5…because he looks cool and has two fast fingers. You probably learned more music theory than he knows in your first two months of lessons…and he’s a legend.

    Bottom line, no one but other bass players gives a crap about bass players. If you believe otherwise you’re ego is getting the better of you. Go ahead, go see a cover band and ask random non-musicians how good the bass player is. Wan’t to bet you’ll get more than a few who ask you “which one is the bass player?”

  10. @Gino: Dude, I actually 100% agree with everything you’ve said. We are completely on the same page. I guess this post can come across as me preaching that bass players need to be more technical and flashy. But all I’m trying to say is at the very least, put a little effort in to become the best bass player YOU can be, whether you’re a root note thumper or a crazy ass technical wizard.

    But like I said, my outlook and experience on bass is pretty much exactly what you described in your comment. I cut my teeth during the hair band era, playing covers of Motley Crue, Cinderella, Poison, Guns ‘N Roses. I love Nikki Sixx and have seen Crue three times. Steve Harris was my earliest bass hero, and I just saw Maiden in concert for the third time a couple months ago.

    I currently play in an active cover band that is gigging about 2-3 times per week. We do nothing but simple crowd pleasers, from 70’s classic rock to modern rock and pop tunes.

    Have a look at this post and I think you’ll see we have much more in common than you first thought.

    Cheers! And thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    Paul

  11. Hi Paul,
    I’ve been playing bass for almost 9 months (I played normal guitar for 13 years before I switched to 4 strings. Why? I switched out of frustration.) I at present can’t afford lessons so I teach myself based on how my previous guitar teachers taught me to play (I’ve had two previous teachers) using TAB and the principles of classical guitar. I use books (my bible has been James Brown’s “Funkmasters”) and I occasionally “challenge” and develop my musical ear. I just need to know if this is the right thing to do & if I’m on the right track as far as learning bass guitar goes. Thanks.

  12. Hi Neil . . . Welcome to the wonderful world of bass! I think you made a good choice 😉 From my perspective, there’s no right or wrong way to learn to play bass. The path that you take to master the instrument really depends on what your ultimate goals are. Formal lessons and training are critical if you’re looking for a professional career as either a touring or session player. Also, the genre of music will dictate how much formal and technical knowledge you need. For example, if you want to be a jazz cat, better get ready to bone up on your musical theory.

    Personally, I’ve been playing bass for almost 30 years. I’ve never taken a lesson and am 100% self-taught. Learning to play by ear has served me well. I’m no virtuoso, but I’ve developed into a solid, dependable and respected player. Two things got me here:

    1) Playing along with recordings of my favourite bands and players, and

    2) Playing with other musicians as much as possible. No matter how much you practice on your own, you’ll never be a fully formed player until you log a lot of hours rehearsing and performing with other musicians.

    If you love the instrument and put the time in, you’ll get there. Just keep plugging away!

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