Making Your Guitarist Happy

A summary of common practices designed to help bassists play more effectively with a good guitarist.

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I am writing this article in response to my last article: (The Guide to) Making Your Bassist Happy. In an effort to gain more understanding and insight into my thoughts, I am presenting a juxtaposed standpoint based on how I perceive the respect needed to be given to good guitarists. 1) Respect the guitarist's frequencies: Oh Snap! Let's see how many bassists complain about this one! Here's the deal. In my last article, I presented the idea that, in order to keep a mix from getting muddy, a guitarist should never CRANK his lows under a certain frequency. This was based on the idea that different frequencies will "fight" in the "mud zone" unlike the mids and highs where multiple notes can reside without becoming muddy. It's the reason many bands have more than one guitarist. But it's very rare for a band to have more than one bassist. However, a bass player should know and understand his position in the group as well. This doesn't mean he cannot play high. It means he must do it tastefully when required. Being the holder of the groove, a bass player should be more concerned with being the "glue" and making a song groove than showing off. 2) Don't overplay: Basically (no pun intended), you shouldn't constantly be trying to outdo the guitarist. As a groove instrument versus a lead instrument, the bass should not be in "competition." It should be "en complement." 3) Don't play too loudly: True, your bass can carry a lot of sound energy and still leave headroom for a guitarist's solo. But there is a limit on the energy you should put out in comparison to the other musicians. You only need to have definition, clarity, and some punch defined as per song. Try positioning your amp more toward your ears before turning up if everyone can already hear you. (Thanks to mrddrm on my last article for pointing this fix out) 4) Less IS More: More about the grooving aspect of not overplaying than competing with the guitarist, sometimes when playing a part that can be mostly improvised, keep your heart on the ONE and try not to play so much. Sometimes, when I am playing something REALLY funky, I try to hit it on the one and lay out for as long as I can without "stopping" the groove. Listen to where the guitarist is going and give your support. 5) Don't double every lead line: I'm not saying it ain't cool to do every now and then. But you don't want to be simply a lower octave guitar. That's why I absolutely HATE the term "lead bass." Bass is NOT a lead instrument unless the song (or groove) specifically calls for it. 6) Don't criticize like Simon: Yeah, that Simon - the one from American Idol. It's totally ok to be brutally honest. But it can be done without insults or attitude. A truly good guitarist will take this criticism well and become better because of it. But if you act like aforementioned jackass, you may find you need help only a proctologist can provide.... and some good cleaning chemicals for the neck of your bass afterwords. 7) Don't complain about not getting as much attention: As long as you are playing with a good guitarist, consider yourself lucky. It's ok to complain about bad guitarists if they are that way by choice. People simply like guitarists better numerically speaking. And if you are good enough, you'll get plenty of followers too. 8) Practice: This should be fairly obvious as every musician should know and be required to do. Just because you may play less notes doesn't mean you are exempt. If you make it so you are always "on" when you play, other musicians WILL look to you for guidance and inspiration. 9) Carry extra picks and cables (if possible): It's a guitarist's dream to have everything there when and if he needs it.... ESPECIALLY if it is coming from a non-guitarist and is just what he uses. Though not much, it's just another common courtesy thing that so many forget these days. True friendship and a spirit to help will make you appreciated even more. 10) Sincerely compliment him (or her): (note: I hate political correctness!!!) But yeah, when you do find that guitarist that just "fits," treat him like he is as good as he is. If he is truly a good guitarist, this won't make him get a big head. It's also a good litmus test for judging his ego. I hope this has served well as devil's advocate for my other article. As always, all criticism is welcome. Thanks for reading.

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    dorado91
    I like it Definitely some good points. Playing TASTEFULLY is one, if not the most important part of playing in a band and applies to all members/instruments.
    Jonthecomposer
    @vonroden: No. A LOT of people aren't able to identify pitches and only play from what they are taught. However, a trained ear DOES help out a lot. Perfect pitch is much harder to acquire than relative pitch.
    vonroden
    That some useful thought, some i know some i never thought of starts playing in a rock band very soon just awaiting the call from the leader to come up with a meeting time i allready talked abit with him per mail and it sounds i pretty much got the job question do you have to have perfect/relative pitch to be able to work in a band. I am practice my ears but not there yet?
    Spawn2
    Actually I am both... I play guitar in a rockband and coverband, and bass in my own jazz combo, so yeah, I know what youre talking about. Its just that I found the overall tone of the article a little bit kiss ass. And if you play some jazz tunes: bass CAN be a lead instrument - not too much though -
    Jonthecomposer wrote: @Spawn2 Dude, I AM a bass player. And for the most part, I HATE guitarists who are lazy -which seems to account for a lot in my humble opinion. You should read the WHOLE article and my earlier article "Making your Bass Player Happy." Just look at some of the responses to it. You must remember that I am talking about respecting GOOD guitarists NOT guitarists over bass players.
    JohnnyApplecore
    The tuning comments are spot on. When someone is tuning, it's a good idea to stfu and let them tune up unless you're looking to sound like amateurs. Another great article.
    Jonthecomposer
    Jasonbts wrote: (note: I hate political correctness!!!) Haha. Same here. I have to say I (bassist) disagree at one point in particular. MANY bassists out there break away from the lower frequencies and venture up higher with great success, also still leaving plenty of room for the guitarist.
    And I quoteth mineself: "This doesn't mean he cannot play high. It means he must do it tastefully when required." But I do get your point and agree. It just takes a GOOD bassist to pull it off successfully.
    Jasonbts
    (note: I hate political correctness!!!)
    Haha. Same here. I have to say I (bassist) disagree at one point in particular. MANY bassists out there break away from the lower frequencies and venture up higher with great success, also still leaving plenty of room for the guitarist.
    Jonthecomposer
    Krieger91 wrote: one thing you forgot..when the guitarist is tuning, don't make noise..especially the drummer!
    Yep. Or when the bassist is tuning
    Krieger91
    one thing you forgot..when the guitarist is tuning, don't make noise..especially the drummer!
    Jonthecomposer
    Partyboy2k05 wrote: Am I the only one that thought he was the only one on that show to actually sift out the bad? When you're helping a record company shell out millions of dollars for instant publicity and a record deal, I think you have a right to be critical.....
    Oh no. I AGREE with you about Simon. He IS brutally honest and has a great ear. But I still maintain he is a jackass NOT because of his honest criticism or abilities, but because of his generous use of insults. You can be just as critical as Simon without using insults. People just don't seem to get that these days. I would kind of expect someone to call this article "kiss ass" who DIDN'T READ THE FIRST ARTICLE, lol.
    KlinikaNekros
    I doubt anyone undermines the importance of a bass player.Bass has much potential,if you don't just limit it in the "groove".I hate using a second guitarist in my band,and I deeply rely on the bassist.Before I get the guy I have now,who's awesome,I must have gone through 5 bassists or so.Making guitarists happy or bassists happy or drummers happy isn't the case,just that.The major dominant element of any band is the lead singer.That's who people notice,with the exception of shred-lead guitarists.They manage to take 10 seconds off of him/her.Nobody should carry stuff for the guitarist,if he can't even get his own pick and cable he's an imbecile.And if he's good,he doesn't need anyone to toss his salad,he will probably know he's good.I am not judging your article though,I understand why you wrote it but I can't really say I agree.
    Partyboy2k05
    But if you act like aforementioned jackass
    Am I the only one that thought he was the only one on that show to actually sift out the bad? When you're helping a record company shell out millions of dollars for instant publicity and a record deal, I think you have a right to be critical. On topic, not a bad article. Seemed a lil kiss ass at times, but oh well.
    derpdragon
    Pretty good I'd say. As a guitarist I'd rather have a good bassist that has my back than another guitarist who just does his job and leaves.
    Spawn2
    Sorry, but I find this article a bit too prejudiced. Only the first point (about frequency range) seems to make sense. The rest I find a bit offensive to bassplayers in general. Carrying picks and cables for your guitarplayer to use??? Give me a break!
    Danjo's Guitar
    Good article, though my bassist would probably disagree with point 5. He doesn't double my leads ever, but he bascially plays his own separate lead, a lot more riffage than most bassists. He really likes Steve Harris though, so crazy bass-lines can be expected. Our band is weird, and most of the time our rhythm guitarist ends up taking the bassist's traditional role of keeping the beat with the drummer.
    Jonthecomposer
    @Spawn2 Dude, I AM a bass player. And for the most part, I HATE guitarists who are lazy -which seems to account for a lot in my humble opinion. You should read the WHOLE article and my earlier article "Making your Bass Player Happy." Just look at some of the responses to it. You must remember that I am talking about respecting GOOD guitarists NOT guitarists over bass players.
    !-twisty-!
    Nice balanced pair of articles overall between them they dont have particularly any bias and are useful Godd work (theres a sincere compliment) ^_^
    109 Riff
    Yeah make us happy! About the extra pick for other guitarist, think Ive heard this somewhere before..
    mrddrm
    Yay! I was mentioned! Sounds are all about where they are directed in addition to the dB level produced. At least live. Recording wise I suck at getting levels nice. But yeah... I'd disagree that bass isn't a lead instrument. There are a lot of genres of music that have the bass being more leadish than the guitar and the guitar being more rhythm. But even rock has leading basses, in example: The Cure do a lot of more leading bass lines rather than rhythm lines, I once read somewhere that they write bass lines then the songs around them (minus lyrics). That's my only comment, it's good to see equality... somewhat. I don't think it's wrong to carry extra cables, but both parties should do it. It's best to be best prepared as possible.
    Jonthecomposer
    @SilverSpurs616 & mrddrm There's another place that I should have made more clear. I'm talking about general context as far as the bass being a non-lead instrument. I love Primus and Rush and RHCP. They're pretty much classified as "lead bass" bands. But usually I find that when someone calls it a "lead bass," they aren't referring to the groove at all but simply the guitar part doubled!
    Gyoung1991
    Spawn2 wrote: Sorry, but I find this article a bit too prejudiced. Only the first point (about frequency range) seems to make sense. The rest I find a bit offensive to bassplayers in general. Carrying picks and cables for your guitarplayer to use??? Give me a break!
    You should use a pick once in a while, different techniques give a different sound. If you don't ever play with a pick, even if it's just for practicing alone, you arn't using the instrument to its full potential imho.
    Jonthecomposer
    109 Riff wrote: Yeah make us happy! About the extra pick for other guitarist, think Ive heard this somewhere before..
    lol... Hey, I've been bailed out by a guitarist when my chord has gone bad. So why not return the favor? : )
    ljpfahey
    haha you turn the rest of the band into the guitarist's personal roadies. I'm a guitarist and I know that the band doesn't revolve around me. Basically, save your breath from talking shit mate.
    Jonthecomposer
    ljpfahey wrote: haha you turn the rest of the band into the guitarist's personal roadies. I'm a guitarist and I know that the band doesn't revolve around me. Basically, save your breath from talking shit mate.
    Seriously dude, did you even bother to read the explanations or my first article? If you had, you'd know that's nowhere even CLOSE to where I am coming from. Seems I'm not the one talking shit here.
    Frank_Black
    Good articles, I don't understand the low rating. I'd like one from the drummers point of view (although, when I think about it getting into a drummers head could be scary)
    Jonthecomposer
    Frank_Black wrote: Good articles, I don't understand the low rating.....
    Thanks. Oh, just read some of the comments. Apparently, not very many people listen well.
    Jonthecomposer
    @Spawn2: Yep. But I don't really think bass should be a "lead" instrument. That's only my opinion, though. The only way I really dig bass as lead is if the bass part doubles as the melody. Like, the melody IS the groove like Wooten's Sinister Minister. I do, however, like the tone of a good fretted bass played high ala Pattitucci style. And of course, who could NOT like some of Jaco's fretless phrasings regardless of the register?!