Posted Aug 05, 2010 12:41 PM
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.