Becoming a More Versatile Bass Player
Being a bass player in any style off music is fun and rewarding, but it can be even better when you branch out and learn to play in different styles. Today we will go over the basics of several different genres and how bass is typically used and played.
Rhythm plays a huge part in rock. In this style, possibly more than any other, you should be locked in with the drummer. When you are beginning to play with other musicians, whether in a studio or a live setting, watch the drummer’s feet. Hit your notes with each hit of the bass drum. As corny and/or obvious as this may sound, that is all you will need to do when you are first starting out. Gradually, you can add fills and extra notes. Keep in mind, however, that the rhythm section is typically there to support the overall song, so it will rarely be necessary (or desirable) to play as many notes as the guitarist.
More than any other form of music, jazz tends to use the upright or double bass. Although there has been an increase in the use of electric bass guitar in jazz, the upright is still the norm. If you are choosing this genre, it is best to learn upright.
Jazz is the most improvisational form of music we will be discussing here and typically uses walking bass lines more than any other. Unlike in rock, jazz bassists need to be more in tune with the group as a whole, and in particular with what the lead instruments are doing. Jazz bassists solo more than in other styles, too, but it is important to stay in line with what the others are doing at the same time.
Although there are exceptions here (as there are with all of the other styles we are discussing), the idea in country is to keep it simple. Typically, hitting the notes on the 1st and 5th beats is all that is needed. Just like in rock, however, once you have mastered the basics, you can add in fills and extra notes to keep things fresh and interesting. Just make sure you’re not overdoing it.
Blues bass is much like country bass in that simplicity is the key. As most blues songs follow a simple rhythm and chord progression, so do most blues bass lines. This does not mean it has to be boring. Putting a little bit of swing into your playing, or possibly a bit more “slapping” or “popping” into your playing style can keep it fun and keep in line with supporting the song at the same time.
Why Do This?
Playing in multiple styles of music not only expands your mind and confidence regarding your playing, it can pull you out of a creative rut. It also makes you more marketable as a player. Playing competently in more than on genre can land you more studio and live gigs, which gets you out there more, potentially attracting even more work.