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underplaying?


BigKahuna855

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ok i know how it is good to just lock in and play the root far a bassline, but is it possible to underplay(not play enough)? is there ever a time when one should stay away from the root?

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It's definitely possible to underplay.

 

But mainly it's about knowing your own abilities & limitations, as well as what the music & the situation needs from you. Then you strike a balance.

 

Sometimes the result of that balance is a flurry of chromatic notes, ghost notes, & off-kilter syncopations that leave heads spinning. Sometimes the result is one or two carefully chosen notes in a whole measure or two. I have favorite bass lines that fit both descriptions.

 

Maybe it's helpful to think also about the many ways one can fail to achieve that sort of balance. E.g. some will want to play something "really cool," either to show off, or because they think it'll disappoint others if they don't, or whatever; and they go beyond what they really can do well, or do something not appropriate to the song or situation. Others will not "put somethin' in it," because they're lazy or timid or limited in ability or whatever, & the result is something that just doesn't move anyone. I suppose you could call that underplaying; sometimes it's bad, & sometimes it's not so much bad as just not good (which I think is just as bad). ;)

 

I think every time you play, you should put yourself in it. You should play what you feel & allow your personality to come through. You should have energy & sensitivity. And of course, in order to do that you'll need to have prepared quite well; practice, skill, broad exposure--these allow you to figure out what you want to get across & how to get it across. If you've taken care of all that, then I don't think it will matter how many notes you put into a measure. You'll be closer to putting in just the right ones.

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I'd say under-playing is basically when someone plays only roots and fifths "because." I don't reall want to say people are dumb, but I think quite a few bands' bassists play roots "because."

 

I don't think Van Halen is one of them. Especially if you've ever heard Michael go crazy during any given Van Halen solo. Something you pick on.

In Skynyrd We Trust
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I think there is such a thing as under-playing. I think it's possible to under-play from a melodic standpoint (for instance, playing only roots when the song calls for more), and from a rhythmic standpoint (for instance, playing straight eight notes when the song would be served by a different rhythm).

 

That said, I think whether it's under-playing, over-playing, or just right depends on 1) the song and where you collectively want the song to go, 2) your ability to execute, 3) the talents and opinions of the other band musicians.

 

To expound on those more, I think you can take a song and make it funky by changing the bass part, or make it more mellow by playing a mellow bass part, etc. That's pretty self-explanatory (I *think*).

 

I think the ability to execute the part is important. If you're trying to play syncopated sixteenths and you can't do it well or consistently, then perhaps you'd be better off playing straight eight notes. Same for a more complicated melody.

 

Finally, if you take both of those things and throw two different sets of musicians at it, you'll get different results. One group may feel like you should stick to roots but do a syncopated rhythm...the other group may want you to do a more complicated melody but stick with a more straightforward rhythm.

 

When you can get all those things right all the time, then you have become a great bassist, at least in the minds of those who like the way you do what you do... ;)

 

My 2 cents,

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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I play oldies rock & roll from the 50s 60s and 70s. Most of those songs use roots, root/fifths, and lots of 12 bar arpeggios. They also incorporate basic walkups and walkdowns.

 

Only on a few songs out of our 60 song setlist, are the basslines more complicated or sophisticated.

 

What I have learned from that is that "lots" of notes aren't needed all of the time. But I have also learned that lots of notes sound good too. Basically, whatever the bass player does is usually fine. :D

 

I think that it is underplaying, when you 'feel' that there should be a walkup or a fifth, and you don't play it. I NEVER miss hearing complicated bass lines, unless the original song had it that way.

 

I underplay all songs the first several times I play them, until I get the feel for the song. Then I'll either learn to play it the way it was played by the original artist, or I will develop my own "kind of close" bassline.

 

My bandmates know that I underplay in the beginning, because I tell them, "I am only going to play roots for the first few times we play this!" It works out fine, cause they are all learning it at the same time too.

 

That of course, was just my own humble opinion! ;)

 

... connie z

"Change comes from within." - Jeremy Cohen

 

The definition of LUCK: When Preparation meets Opportunity!

 

http://www.cybergumbo.com

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As long as you're listening to the music, acting unselfishly, mean what you play and have the technique to execute it sufficiently well, then I don't think you can underplay or overplay. Of course, that assumes you're competent in all those ways.

 

I've come to love playing fewer notes - each one carries so much more weight. Even those clichéd straight 8ths basslines have masses of potential for self-expression by really getting into the groove and working every note like it's your last.

 

And then when you do step out with a fill or switch up to a busy groove, you change the whole dynamic of the group. I like power! :D

 

Alex

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Ya know, I don't mean to beat the straight 8th's thing to death. I generally play in church about every other week, and learn 3-5 new songs for that each time I play, and almost all of the songs have straight 8th's as the bass line. It just gets old (especially for someone coming from a rhythmic background like me). I vary this, for instance, by sometimes doing straight quarter notes...it's amazing how much going from straight 8th's to straight quarter notes gives the song more of a pulse. Also, sometimes I replace the straight eights with something like a dotted quarter note, dotted quarter note, 2 8ths (going up on the two 8ths)...that works well for some songs. Sometimes I'll simply take the straight eights and replace some of the on-beat notes with rests...gives a syncopated feel to it. Of course, sometimes straight 8th's serve the song or groove really well...in those cases I play straight 8th's!

 

If I can slightly modify something Alex said...I think playing some rests in addition to notes makes a big difference. It creates that contrast thing that I'm usually trying to achieve. That's one of the things that's key to my arsenal of high-level stuff...create contrast in some way or another (as long as it serves the song and purpose).

 

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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ConnieZ...when "I" hear an original for example (without a bassline), everything goes through my head. If I played that, it would stink. If I "sit back", and juuuust listen...that is usually when I find out what to play. And if "I" do the KISS thing, for some unknown reason the musak is better.

Thanks for letting me share.

p.s. I liked that drummer's quote.

Vince

 

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." ~ Pablo Picasso

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Sometimes less is more, bit other times, less is just less.

 

It takes a good ear and good sense to know when which is which.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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>>>I would worry less about underplaying and overplaying and just think 'does this part compliment the song'<<<

 

Bingo! You know, sometimes that 1-5 thing IS THE BASS PART.

 

A trap that some inexperienced players fall into is thinking that the person playing those 1-5 or root lines is playing them because that's all he/she can play. If a 1-5 style bassline is what the tune calls for, then playing fusion style or getting slap happy is just plain wrong!

 

In addition to playing bass, I also write songs. I have never written a 'bass song'. When I am writing a tune the bass is just another instrument and the bass line is there to support the 'whole'. If it happens to be simplistic or repetitive, I really don't care so long as it gives good service to the rest of the tune.

 

I spent the 1st half of my bass career trying to figure out how to play licks. I've spent the 2nd half learning NOT to play licks. More precisely, learning to 'lay back', play only the 'good notes', stay in the pocket and above all, honor the 'groove'.

 

 

 

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Originally posted by RalphM:

In addition to playing bass, I also write songs. I have never written a 'bass song'. When I am writing a tune the bass is just another instrument and the bass line is there to support the 'whole'. If it happens to be simplistic or repetitive, I really don't care so long as it gives good service to the rest of the tune.

Writing your own songs (or at least being involved in the writing process and original bassline creation for new music) will give you a deeper insight into what bass playing is really about than any amount of woodshedding.

 

Alex

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Refer to the quote in my signature line. I think that sums up what everyone is saying. You play what fits the music and style that you and your group develop.

Don't look back. You never know what might be gaining on you.

- Terry Pratchett: Going Postal

 

A good bass player knows the notes not to play. - Nick St. Nicholas

 

John

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