Poll: Is minimalism in bass bad?
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View poll results: Is minimalism in bass bad?
Yes, it's lazy.
1 10%
No, it can be a good idea.
5 50%
Whatever.
4 40%
Voters: 10.
#1
Here's a question with some defense, Is minimalism in bass guitar bad? I love playing bass and enjoy a complex bassline. However sometimes a simple repetitive bassline is a better fit for the song. Punk bands like the Ramones primarily play fairly fast 8th note roots yet sound good. More than a few good rock songs have simple basslines as well. While it's best to have the bass compliment and listen to the drums (especially the kick), sometimes it's better to play half time (especially if the guitar/guitars and drums are playing fast, complex patterns). Many musicians also prefer chord tones.

Here's an interesting article on the subject.
http://bassmusicianmagazine.com/2011/05/the-bass-pattern-please-do-not-betray-it/

While the guitar solo is wild enough, the bassline in "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent is almost meditative in its repetition (it repeats a simple riff for most of the 8 minute song).


"I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones (like most of their songs) has a simple bassline that consists primarily of fast 8th note roots yet sounds good. Also has a particularly catchy outro.


"Threshold" from Scott Pilgrim has a similarly simple bassline but the bass is used in a melodic way too. I'm a fan of that movie and its tie in game but haven't yet read the graphic novels.


What's your opinion on the subject?
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#2
Best basslines serve the music. In most music the bass part is not something that is supposed to sound good on its own. It's usually not something people are supposed to pay much attention to. Most people couldn't really care less about what the bassist is doing. They will focus on the singer and the overall groove most of the time. As Victor Wooten said, the job of a bassist is to make the song feel good.

But it's the same with basically everything in music. Complexity is not good, simplicity is not bad. It depends on the context.

This is one of the simplest basslines, but the song wouldn't work without it.

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#3
In the words of the great Yngwie Malmsteen - “How can 'less be more'? That's impossible. More is more!”
#4
agree with Maggara as long as it serves the song it doesn't really matter if it's simple or complex. However I think that most often the guys who make most minimalist stuff are the ones who are more about serving the song, some guys like to show off and some of them do it right
#5
Each instrument plays its part in the orchestration. If it does what it needs and sounds good doing it, that's enough.

Gonna add some synth bass

^ basically octaves only, but the intrigue is the rhythm. The bass follows the drums.


^ chord tones, often very prolonged, but enhances the mood of the song. The bass emphasizes other notes in the orchestration, and the occasional octave+ jumps make the song interesting when they work within the context.

There are so many ways to get there, but the main goal is to think about the overall effect you want and do exactly what is needed to get there. No more. No less. That's how you get to cheesy Devin Townsend precision. (which I like, but it isn't everybody's cup of coffee)
#6
I think I agree with NeoMvsEu most here but the others have good points. There's definitely a place for complex bass parts (Funk, Progressive Rock/Metal, and some Extreme Metal bands) but sometimes simple works better (it depends on the context). More info on "Devin Townsend precision" (he's a great Metal musician and very unique but slightly inaccessible) and what that's supposed to mean. The bass generally listens to and compliments the drums (especially the kick). It should do what the song asks it to do. I also believe that a bassist should be flexible enough to play both fast hard hitting stuff and slower subtler pieces.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#7
There's a very straightforward buildup of instruments (although effects are a little less obvious) that is very metronomical in DT compositions, a very produced in-your-face this-is-the-beat-follow-it type of production:


The bass follows the drums at quickest, and the attack is very sharp (little delay between playing and the majority of the sound). Drives the beat by following the eighths played by the guitars and drums.

Seasonal:

There is some variation (some fifths, following the guitar), but the metronomical eighths contribute to how big the other instruments and the drums sound in DT's style.
#8
Bass can easily be overplayed and kill a good song. It's all about the feel and how the bass part sets a foundation to support the song. Some of the best bass players I have worked with are the ones who keep it tight and simple and lock in with a good drummer who keeps it tight and simple. That's the heart and soul of the band. Nothing kills it more for me personally than a bass player who wants to play "lead" bass. If you want to play guitar, then play guitar. If you want to play bass, be a solid punchy bass player who holds down the bottom end. Bass players don't get enough credit for being the glue that often holds it together. Keep it fat and simple.

Personnel
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#9
Personally I think bass gets singled out for this discussion way too much in proportion to other instruments. I seldom (never!) hear a guitarist asking if he should be playing more held back and simlified, or a drummer asking if his playing would serve the song more with less complex stuff.
#10
I think Copperwreck makes a good point. It might be because the bass is in somewhere between a melodic instrument and rhythmic instrument. Drums have multiple parts regularly and guitars have good melodies. This singles out the bass and makes it unique in a way. I love bass but usually it plays either roots and chord tones rhythmically or it plays simplified guitar parts. Only guys like Les Claypool and Jaco play solos and leads all the time.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#11
There is nothing wrong with a simple bass line that fits the song, but don't let that be an excuse for lazy playing. The genre really makes a difference as to what role the bass is playing - in Jazz it's probably the busiest instrument out of the lot in the rhythm section and you need an enormous amount of skill just to navigate even simpler material - playing (good) walking bass lines that navigate chord progressions is no easy feat, even on a simple blues progression, which is why most rock players can't do it.

In my view, bass players should step up more in rock and related genres and carve out a bigger role. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers is a great example of what people should be aspiring to - he can fit the song, but still manages to make complex and very musical parts that basically lead the whole band.
#12
Aren't Walking basslines based primarily on quarter notes and connecting chords? By "Whatever" I should of put "Who Cares?" instead. Reverb66 shares much of my views on bass. Drummers can get a little wild but that's part of their charm.

I'm currently trying to write better basslines and was curious what people around here thought of simple basslines.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#13
I agree with some of the comments that say it depends on the genre of music being played. Jazz fusion or jazz type music often has very busy bass players. I am for simplicity in a lot of what I like to hear from a bass. A lot of guitar players think they can play bass but it's generally not true. Bass requires a sense of "taste" which is not dictated by playing more notes. In my opinion a good solid bass player is hard to find.

When the bass and drums play well together with strong consistent rhythm, the rest of the band can add the melodic stuff with no fear of losing the heart of the song. It's not easy to do. I have played with a few excellent bass players and in my opinion the ones that were the best played the least amount of notes and contributed more to the bands sound. Good bass players don't get enough credit.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#14
My grandma thinks Drumming isn't hard, LOL. She has no idea the coordination (playing multiple parts at once) rhythmic ability (drummers must have great rhythm), and stamina (ever try playing Rock Band drums?) it requires. Not to mention good drum parts aren't easy to write.

The best bassist are usually very versatile and more than capable of slowing down when it's required. I agree that the bass deserves more credit as both a rhythmic and melodic instrument. Imagine bands like Dream Theater or Meshuggah without a decent bassist (or even Iron Maiden). It wouldn't sound the same or even that good.

Also I agree that great bassists like Flea, Bryan Beller, Cliff Burton, and Alex Webster are both rare and valuable. I'd actually recommend Webster's book on Extreme Metal bass (I have it and it's very informative). Like I said, there's no shame in playing half time and sometimes it's the best choice (though not the most interesting one). It's important for bassists to listen to the drums (especially kick drum). I started out with guitar and suggest doing the same (it helps to know the fretboard, technique and have decent coordination).
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
Last edited by RonaldPoe at Oct 12, 2016,
#15
Quote by Sayonara6String
In the words of the great Yngwie Malmsteen - “How can 'less be more'? That's impossible. More is more!”

Did he really say that? He just described my way of thinking and my approach to songwriting
#16
If you think it needs to be one or the other, you just threw out half of all the ideas you could have come up with. Terrible mistake.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#17
Both complex and simple/minimal basslines can work depending on the song. Still aren't Jazz walking basslines mostly in quarter note and rely on chord tones? Like I said bassists need to listen to the drummer (especially the kick drum).

Also could someone find the pulse/basic pattern here after 0:17. According to an online tempo finder, the tempo is 172.50 BPM (which could round up to 173 BPM).
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#18
Quote by RonaldPoe
I'm currently trying to write better basslines and was curious what people around here thought of simple basslines.
Ronald, simple basslines are essential to achieving your aims.

If you can't write a simple bassline that works then the chances are the complex bassline you write instead is not very good either. It's just masking it's mediocrity with complexity - in other words it's pretentious. All those guys that write complex basslines could very easily write simpler basslines for the same song that would sound great.

Get the basics down first. Keep it simple
Si
#19
^Nailed it
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#20
Got any tips on writing simpler basslines aside from the obvious like listen to the kick, use lots of roots and fifths, ect. I mentioned that even in Extreme Metal, it's sometimes best to play half time (especially when the guitar is shredding and/or tremolo picking and the drums are real complex and/or blasting) in comparison.

I'd like to know the basic beat/pulse to that Meshuggah section but deep down I know it's probably just chaos and/or impossible. I've been researching a lot of polyrhythms, polymeter, and drumming lately but in the end, it's usually best to be simple (bass-wise) in those cases.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#22
Quote by RonaldPoe
Got any tips on writing simpler basslines aside from the obvious like listen to the kick, use lots of roots and fifths, ect. I mentioned that even in Extreme Metal, it's sometimes best to play half time (especially when the guitar is shredding and/or tremolo picking and the drums are real complex and/or blasting) in comparison.


What about not using only roots and fifths? Throw in the odd chord tone, or even a tension, and see what happens. You can still have a "simple" bassline that's slow and follows the kick, but that doesn't mean you should only play the root.

You can also have a simple bassline that does more than just follows the chords. A simple bass riff or melody might serve as a nice simple bassline just as well as root notes. Take something like "strip the soul" by porcupine tree for example. That bassline is pretty simple, but sounds great because it's more of a riff, with a clear rhythmic pattern.

Quote by RonaldPoe
I'd like to know the basic beat/pulse to that Meshuggah section but deep down I know it's probably just chaos and/or impossible. I've been researching a lot of polyrhythms, polymeter, and drumming lately but in the end, it's usually best to be simple (bass-wise) in those cases.


I don't think that Meshuggah is a good example of practical polyrhythms if you want to look into polyrhythms in more detail, you could just start with pop or rock.

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#23
Kev, that's a good example of a Prog-rock song that has a tasty and repetitive bassline (it's heavy and cool-sounding too). I only mentioned that Meshuggah example because I was genuinely curious about it (even my guitar teacher can't find the general rhythm and he's in a Prog Metal band too) and am having trouble with it myself. I know practical polyrhythm quite a bit (stuff like the Latin music, tuplets in bass, tribal percussion, ect). You put a nice 3/4, 5/4, 7/8, or whatever part over simple 4/4 pattern (like on the hi-hats) and you've got both a polyrhythm and polymeter. The trick is independence of parts (kinda like counterpoint).
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).