Oftentimes, the quality of a song is driven by a good rhythmic pattern. While listeners get hooked with melody, ambient effects, or creative lead guitar lines, the song’s tightness and dynamics is what makes it fundamentally great. In contemporary music, the only way to achieve this is to have the bass and drums an inseparable pair. Below are some essential tips on how to achieve this as a bass player.
- Have an awareness of what the drummer is doing. This does not mean all kick patterns should be followed right down to the tee, but there should be an apparent awareness of what each other is doing. Observe what the groove interplay between the hi-hats, snare and kick drum. As the drummer uses both hands and feet, it is obvious that he/she can have more things going on than a bassist. You need to be aware of them and formulate a game plan on what your groove should be. In some occasions, playing slightly off may produce a unique feel and could unlock a creative atmosphere. Following the kick pattern is always a safe place to start with. As you get comfortable and sure with it, lay in some distinct fills and groove patterns in the repeated sections of the song. Before you finalize, agree with your drummer and so with the rest of the band.
- Do not be tentative. Keep your playing intact. Ensure that you pluck your strings cleanly and the notes sound clear. What usually differentiates a professional bassist from an amateur is their boldness of their bass sound and the clarity of their notes. There is no room to be a tentative bassist. The crowd easily feels an unsure bass lines In live occasions, hence, one of your main accountabilities as a bassist is to keep them engaged by not leaving empty spaces in the song.
- Know the right tone. This applies to all instruments. But specific to bassists, your tone can either make the band sound professional or novice. If you’re someone who started a band back in elementary or high school in your friend’s garage, you probably could still remember the way you guys sounded like. Most probably, the quality of the bass tone you had would be among other things you could easily point out. So what is a good bass tone? Well, a bass should sound low. This means you cant be clashing with the guitars nor with the keyboard tones. This may also mean learning to properly tweak your eq settings whether on the amplifier or on your bass guitar. Bassists may have varying taste when it comes to tone, but there is a common ground where good ones meet.
- Observe dynamics. As a bassist, you are the drummer’s co-pilot in driving the dynamics of the song. Be sensitive about how your intensity is affecting the mood of the audience. A good start is to understand the sections of the song. Normally, the second or third choruses should be the loudest. In some songs, there are bridge parts that have more energy and hence require added intensity. Some may have a down chorus or a down bridge, wherein you can have a window to play high on the neck for a short period of time. Learn to utilize your volume knob as a tool to fade in / out or create a swell. You can also use your bass guitar equalizer to emphasize certain frequencies on certain parts of the song. Think as if you are taking the listener for a ride where you don’t always jumpstart at full speed.
Hope these tips help you become a better musician. Remember, it’s good to enjoy while
playing, and it feels better to see people around you enjoy as you continue to develop
awareness of what you is doing.
Blog by Kim Ramos