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In a band? Where do you stand?


Gopherbassist

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As my name implies, I'm a bassist. On the forums that I regular, other bassists talk about how guitarists treat them like second class citizens. They say that bass is easier, complain about their volume, and gripe when low enders used pedals. It's a pretty common complaint that bassists seem to have that guitarists just don't value them, and someone in a band with one that does is the envy of most others.

 

Another common complaint is about keyboard players. Most bassists say they won't stand for a keyboard player "with their left hand too low." Apparently, is a capital crime for a keyboard player to "get in [their] way." The general idea, they say, is that too much going on within the frequencies that bass uses will muddy the sound.

 

So, one person was venting about their keyboard player. They said the guy wouldn't work with the rest of the band, couldn't play very well, and even had the gaul to as a group that had hired the band to re schedule an event, because he was going on a trip. But aside from all this, he complained that they guy was always in his register.

 

He said he'd expressed many times that he didn't want him to play those frequencies. Now, as a band member, this guy should have respected that the bassist didn't want him to play what he was. His refusal to consider what others wanted paints him as a jerk. But I began to wonder why no one ever wants to let the keys play "low."

 

So, they key guy quit. The bassist said that his lack of skill made the band sound a lot worse, and his attitude wouldn't be missed. I said I was glad for him that his band sounded better.

 

But I also raised the query: why can't bassists let keyboard players play lower? Shouldn't we accommodate other members of the band? Shouldn't everyone be working together to make the best possible music? I was attacked by no fewer than three people. The same people who feel subjugated by the guitarists who won't tolerate certain behavior.

 

tl;dr version

Bassists feel like they're treated like second class citizens by guitarists, but do their antics make keyboard players feel the same way?

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First of all, I have to admit I'm a member of that KB players' offenders union. I have had to work hard to get out of the low end, and still occasionally screw up and find myself stepping on my bass players' toes.

 

My jazz instructors and mentors unanimously tell me that stepping on the bass player's register is the first telling sign of an amateur. It's not tolerated or taken well, and some bass players are more rude about bringing the matter to everyone's attention than others. I'm told some of this is rooted in the days before electric bass and amplification - if the pianist stepped on the upright's register, the bass player couldn't fight back. Typically, pianists get used to covering bottom end from playing solo (or playing with bad/timid bass players) and build bad habits that need to be unlearned. It taken me a while (and some real shedding) to build LH voicings and voice leading, and I'm still a work in progress.

 

Of course some of it depends on genre too. Some songs have synth bass as a staple, and a cranking Minimoog simply sounds better than bass guitar on for instance, some of MJ's "Thriller" tunes. But I'm thinking that's the exception more than the rule for what I encounter. But now I'm just rambling.

 

So IMHO, bass players are right to ask KB guys to get out of their register, as typically it will muddy up the sound and preclude the good bass player from "singing" something interesting. I also think it's unwise to lump all bass players under one banner, just as it's unfair to lump all KB players together. Some bass players are nicer about pointing out 'overlap' than others - just b/c their cooler cats in general. Just as some KB players will respond to this request well, and others will ignore it like a$$holes.

..
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When I'm using my C1 I AM the bass player. In case I sub out with a band that has an established bassist, I play piano and try to stay out of the way.

 

Jake

1967 B-3 w/(2) 122's, Nord C1w/Leslie 2101 top, Nord PedalKeys 27, Nord Electro 4D, IK B3X, QSC K12.2, Yamaha reface YC+CS+CP

 

"It needs a Hammond"

 

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So IMHO, bass players are right to ask KB guys to get out of their register, as typically it will muddy up the sound and preclude the good bass player from "singing" something interesting. I also think it's unwise to lump all bass players under one banner, just as it's unfair to lump all KB players together. Some bass players are nicer about pointing out 'overlap' than others - just b/c their cooler cats in general. Just as some KB players will respond to this request well, and others will ignore it like a$$holes.

I understand that everybody has their place in the sound, but the great thing about music is that it can be dynamic. Nobody should be forced into a box that they can never leave.

 

I think in most band situations, everyone is there to enjoy themselves. If the key player likes to dip low, there should be an agreed upon time or song to allow this. Just because the bassist is there doesn't mean they keys should be forbidden from playing bass notes.

 

It's good to see thoughts from the other side though.

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Any relationship is about working together.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Well, I am a bass player - although now I spend most time on keys. The main group that I am in has a bassist that is active duty USMC - he is there some of the time, not there some of the time.

 

When he is not there, and bass is needed, I use my upper keyboard and do bass (and I have a large number of purchased samples of different basses). When he is there - I do my keys thing up higher. Don't mind it a bit - its easier to either be comping chords or using some Hammond or orchestral (and occasionally a bit of a strong lead sound just to keep the guitarist from thinking no one else can do that thing too).

 

We also have a primary keyboardist, which leaves me with a lot of freedom to add little bits of interest. I have enough chance to do solo keys - when I'm with a group - share the work, share the enjoyment, and help make it all fit together better.

 

Howard Grand|Hamm SK1-73|Kurz PC2|PC2X|PC3|PC3X|PC361; QSC K10's

HP DAW|Epi Les Paul & LP 5-str bass|iPad mini2

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Jim

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Bingo, Gopher.

 

Any guitarist who doesn't appreciate the importance of a good bassist is an idiot who should be left to play alone. Most music goes nowhere without a good rhythm section.

 

Keyboard players should know how to play *with* the bass player. That doesn't mean not playing bass notes, it means not stepping on the bass player's part. There are a number of songs where I double the bass parts, often at the request of the bass player. There's something about the sound of bass and piano walking together that really does work, too. Also, there are parts where I know the bass player is going to ride up, and I'll pedal something below him if appropriate, or leave the bottom empty for variety in other cases.

 

But, IMHO, the bottom line is what the bass player wants. When I first start with a new bass player, I do my best work out where he wants me and where he doesn't, and I ask to make sure he doesn't feel I'm overdoing it.

 

I do the same kind of thing with the guitarist. Most guitarists I know tend to come in on the downbeat and at the beginning of measures or beats, so I often work parts that come in behind. Earlier in my life I had a hard time not stepping on guitar parts, playing Rhodes and having learned voicings by transposing all those lovely guitar jazz chord voicings. Live and learn, eh? Hey, all those keys at the top of the keyboard ... they actually do have uses! I confess I still spend most of my time in the middle and lower registers, though.

 

But for most songs, I feel my part is to reinforce the other players. And on the songs that are keyboard-centric, I expect and encourage the rest of the band to do the same for me.

 

I find it works better to ask someone to do something than to tell them not to do what they're doing. Rather than saying "don't step on my xxxx part", I try "could you try yyy there, so we dovetail better?" OK, once I'm tight with the players, I won't use kid gloves all the time. But practice and playing should be enjoyable, and it's a good idea to keep that in mind.

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the older I get,the less I play.

here's my rule of thumb;

count the number of people in the band,then divide that to figure out how much you should be playing.if there's 4 people,you should only be playing 1/4 of what you would play solo.

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Why play in the low end when there's a bassist to cover it?

 

As a keyboard player, my job is to play without getting in the way of guitar, bass, vocals. These players have little to do bout their spectral range. I have a range of 128 notes (this is what, 11 octaves?) so it's up to me to fill what bass/guitars/vocals can't.

Stage: MOX6, V-machine, and Roland AX7

Rolls PM351 for IEMs.

Home/recording: Roland FP4, a few guitars

 

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You can play any note, anywhere on an 88 key keyboard, if it "works."

 

Attempting some rules of thumb (just to see if I can do it) :

 

Don't get in the way of anyone. Best to supply what's missing, than double what's already there.

 

Times when you can play in the low register: if you want to reinforce certain roots, bass lines or repetitive riffs; to add a counter line, or to add something to a bass note, like a fifth, etc. None of these things "get in the way" if they're used with discretion.

 

If a keyboard player's left hand chord voicings are getting into the bass register, 'something's' wrong. :rolleyes:

 

If the bass player is completely lost or just really really bad, it's ok to play over top of him to hold a song together. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

And if the bass player and keyboard/piano player really use their ears, they shouldn't get in each other's way.

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Depends on the music.

 

Playing piano in a jazz context, I'll lay of the low end generally, but that doesn't mean I'll never go there. The best, most creative bass players encourage me to go there, and tell me they can deal with it. OTOH, I had one guy on a gig in NYC, where I was the bandleader and we were playing my original tunes, who complained that I was playing the root in my voicings too low and he couldn't play in tune. That was the last call he got from me.

 

Sometimes I'll play synth down low. Definitely on a synth solo-- but sometimes sparsely as part of the groove (Reggae/African). Keeping ears open, it's easy to tell if it sounds bad. Sometimes I like to end a freaky funk solo by testing the subwoofers :)

 

If the bass player asked me to stay high in a given part, I'd listen to him because I usually play with good bass players who have good instinct.

 

 

"Where do you stand?" as in "what is the pecking order"? I guess I don't engage in that so much. I lead one band, so there's no question there. I play in a Reggae and Funk band where I work closely with the songwriter, and the role of the bass is clear: play big loud solid repetitive parts. In other bands I play what the bandleader tells me to.

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I have generally gotten on well with bass players, and stay out of the low end unless the song needs it. The again, I also used to play gigs where (as the old joke goes) the bass player was my left hand. Practically the only time I ever had a problem was with a guy with incredible technique who felt inclined to show it off as much as possible, as well as use my keyboards as his drink stand. The bass line to "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads is not the time to show off popping and slapping.....
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Stage right and I sit more than I stand. ;)

 

We recently got a new bassist in our band and before we first played I let him know that the other keyboardist (piano mostly) writes with left hand parts that he'll have to consider when coming up with his parts. It worked out fine. Some stuff we were working on in the gap before the new bassist joined, had me doing more left hand stuff than normal for me. Once the bassist was on board, I really thinned out much of what I was doing to free up the real estate for the bass.

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I like to be close to the bass player rather than on the opposite side of the dummer, where its harder to hear what the bass is doing.

 

As for staying out of the bottom end, I have got pretty good at that but that's part of the instrument. What I hate is bassists who don't understand playing with a piano player, so they don't understand that having the piano playing bass is an authentic sound (go listen to Fess for example or even Bill Evans) and insist on continuing to thump away down there instead of coming up into the tenor range or else laying out.

 

As always its a matter of respect, knowledge and listening on both sides. Lack of this can come from either side.

 

A cool thing to do on funk numbers is to share the bass between bass and keyboard and get a call and response thing going down there. Its an excellent way to build rapport.

 

 

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Me too -- I want to be on the same side of the stage as the bass player, and opposite the guitar. I usually play stage right (hey, I'm a piano player, right?) However, in my current band the guitarist is a lefty, so I'm on stage left. The horn section is over by the guitarist.
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"...A good musician is one who knows when NOT to play...."
Montage 7, Mojo 61, PC-3, XK-3c Pro, Kronos 88, Hammond SK-1, Motif XF- 7, Hammond SK-2, Roland FR-1, FR-18, Hammond B3 - Blond, Hammond BV -Cherry
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This topic brings up a related area that I've been thinking about. It seems to me that a piano voice can exist in closer proximity to a bass guitar without mud than an organ voice can. When I'm using an organ sound, I avoid getting close to the bass space. But with a piano, it seems to my ears to be somewhat complementary and not muddy. Is it just me? If so, I probably should quit. I've never had anyone complain about but it, but that doesn't mean it's OK.
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And if the bass player and keyboard/piano player really use their ears, they shouldn't get in each other's way.

 

Amen. :cool:

 

That's really the answer to your question - and it applies to all of the musicians in the band.

 

I find I have more clashes with guitarists than bass players anyway. Some guitarists rarely listen or feel they own certain frequencies. When I play with someone like that, I let them have the root and the fifth and jump up to extensions.

 

I also run into trouble with a couple of blues harp players when I'm playing a Hammond part in the lower register. It's just a matter of listening, adjusting and not being territorial. I have a lot more harmonic and register options on keyboard than many instruments.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. W. C. Fields
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I guess I'm lucky, since I only get compaints from the singer..

 

The guitarist in my current band tought me how to stay away from lower range. I'm really thankful for that.

 

Even when I do go low, for a certain effect, or while playing a piano ballad, I EQ out the lower freqs, so my low notes only have the attack and texture of my sound without actually making a lot of low freq noise. This way my patches sound like crap by themselves, but great with the band.

 

 

Actually, I've noticed some time ago - if the patch sounds like crap on it's own, it will probably work very well with the band.

Stage: MOX6, V-machine, and Roland AX7

Rolls PM351 for IEMs.

Home/recording: Roland FP4, a few guitars

 

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I mostly stay out of the lower registers, and I think that's mostly the Right Answer. ;)

 

For me, the reason isn't so much that two parts can't both be playing in low registers. It's that in lower registers, things sound muddy unless they are either precisely in unison, or at least a fifth apart. So, doubling your bass player on a specific part, where you know exactly what he's going to play, can sound cool -- I do that sometimes and it works well. But to generally play in the low-end, when just comping -- not so good. At any given point in the measure you and your bass player can be on notes that are close together, but not in unison. Or, in strictly technical terms, it will Sound Like Crap.

 

But previous posters already nailed it -- it's about using your ears. If everyone in the band is actually listening, none of this stuff should be a problem.

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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I cherish and revere my bass players, because, to me, they are the most important part of the band. A bass player gives me freedom to do what I want, instead of laying down the fundamentals. Now I can think about color.

 

There are times when I will literally put my left arm behind my back to force myself from getting in his way.

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How many bassists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

 

None. The keyboardist can do it with his left hand.

 

Or in some cases, with his foot.

 

;)

I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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