Marcus Miller: The Most Overlooked Crucial Skill Every Bassist Should Work On

"Drummers don't even notice: they say, 'Hey man, we play real good together.'"

logo
Ultimate Guitar
Marcus Miller: The Most Overlooked Crucial Skill Every Bassist Should Work On
12

Marcus Miller talked bass stuff with Music Radar, saying about the power of properly locking in with the drummer:

"Locking in is a skill that a lot of players overlook, and it is very important.

"As a studio musician, you learn to lock in with a lot of different drummers, and of course, they're all different.

"They all have a very different way of playing. Sometimes it's ba-boom; other times it’s baaa-boom!

"To everyone else who's listening, they sound the same, but the bass player's job is to find that sweet spot and hold it with the drummer.

"Some play on top of the beat, some sit behind it, some go a little in front. Your job is to figure out which way it is, and match it.

"Drummers don't even notice: they say, 'Hey man, we play real good together.' And I say, 'No man, I play real good with you - it's me making all the adjustments here!'"

Marcus also discussed his sound and musical vibe, saying:

"On the bass, I'm very influenced by vocalists.

"From producing Luther Vandross, you can imagine how much I learned about what really goes into singing - tone, phrasing, the idea that being in tune isn’t always right, and when to use vibrato.

"You hear fretless players always playing with vibrato to hide the fact their intonation is out: you can use it to round a note off, but if you don't work with a singer, or you don't sing yourself, you won't really understand it. Even singers get it wrong!

"As human beings, if you can own whatever it is you got, you can win. People respect that."

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    miguel-m
    So true. As a guitar player, it's "OK" if you aren't always in the pocket, but for a bassist, it's unforgivable. The best bassist is the one that plays few notes but grooves along with the drummer.
    aeon.fusion
    I would say as a guitar player being before the note is unforgivable. On or after is fine but before is just nope. 
    miguel-m
    Tell that to Santana or Yngwie Malmsteen. You don't have to sound like Guitar Pro in order to sound good. 
    User0fAName
    "You hear fretless players always playing with vibrato to hide the fact their intonation is out" Dang, calling me out.
    l33twurst
    Playing in a hiphop band really beat me into shape on this one. After that experience I can follow most 4/4 patterns like nobodies business.
    enry.arias
    I'd love to learn more about the "idea that being in tune isn’t always right" thing.... :O
    miguel-m
    There are several explanations for that remark. In his amazing book "The music lesson", Victor Wooten offers you the idea that there are no wrong notes as long as you are grooving like you should. And it's true. Just today I heard one kickass guitarist, Martin Miller, say that his singing coach doesn't discuss intonation with him, because it's not that important. Phrasing and dynamics in general are what people should care about. Same applies to the guitar and the bass. 
    SWIFTERS
    It would be nice if once in a while the drummer would actually listen to the bass while thumping away