A BASS PLAYER/SINGER/SONGWRITER FIRST,
This is historical information on my formative experiences in life, culminating in the multi-instrumentalist that I became.
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I am a bass player/singer firstly, because my attention arrived on bass and singing first.
The reasons for this is because I was a double bass player before I was introduced to the electric bass concept, by David Scarisbrick, guitarist, colleague of Alan Vallance, drummer, who were in our first band together, and who both informed me in the Wimpy hamburger bar in East Grinstead High Street, that the electric bass guitar, was tuned up the same way as a double bass, and that the Fender electric bass guitar was a logical progression from double bass, by Leo Fender, who came up with a design that didn't feed back under amplification, and wasn't so unwieldy as a double bass, and was extremely portable like the electric guitar, and sounded great through tube amplifiers.
Obviously I was aware of the electric bass from the earliest times of my childhood, and heard the propulsive quality of the bass as the fundamental, reacting harmonically with the top line of the vocal.
The first record I ever bought was "Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself Again" by Sly and the Family Stone, with the legendary Larry Graham, funky bassist on electric Fender jazz bass guitar.
Next, I heard Billy Cox, playing rotational cyclical groove bass lines underneath Hendrix's cascading inventive guitar.
This led to me understanding the power of Motown, Stacks, and Blue Note, and the likes of Wilson Picket and such soul shouters like Sam and Dave, with the propulsive bass underneath, inter reacting with the vocal lines.
I was now firmly placed in the concept of hearing the bass and the singing.
Some people hear drums first, some people hear singing first, some people hear keyboards firstly, some people hear saxophone firstly, some people hear guitar firstly, I heard bass and singing firstly, which led me into the concept of bass player/singers.
Guitar came later, to understand the polyphony of songwriting, as did piano.
My guitar career, was a response to being endlessly messed about and bullied and condescended to by some guitarists, who treat the bass player as some idiot who couldn't get along with guitar playing, so were too stupid, and could only play one note at a time, not having the intelligence to grasp more notes at the same time. As any double bass player will tell you, this is not the case, after discovering triads and arpeggios and scales of chords on the double bass, either played with a bow, or pizzicato.
By learning guitar, I realised that guitarists were not immortal superior beings from a higher dimension, but like the rest of us. Only a few guitarists work at it continuously, to get to the level of the best.
Some people realise the value of a great bass player.
Some people realise that a bass player has to know a lot to get around, little alone be inventive, little alone write songs, little alone be a good lyricist, little alone be a good guitarist, and above all, be a good keyboardist.
Why keyboards, you ask? Because piano has everything in front of you, being the master instrument of all things. Any self-respecting bass player, has got the intelligence to go to the piano, and start exploring the keys, with his bass on his lap, or his guitar.
But as every keyboard player knows, and every good guitarist/vocalist knows, and maybe some singers who are evolved, the bass player is the fundamental core of the band, providing impeccable groove, rhythm, and harmony, and melody, and musicality, whilst being the engine room of the queen mary, along with the drums, propulsively moving the material along.
Us bass players play the bass firstly because we love it, and if the truth be known are terrific songwriters, when we are allowed to be.
Us bass players, play the bass because we love it, and when involved in songwriting, a band takes on a whole new dimension of originality and creativity.
The bass, in the right hands, is a revolutionary ground breaking tool. You have only to look at Jack Bruce, Glen Hughes, Paul McCartney, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Mark King, Larry Graham, Alan Roberts, Michael Anthony (Michael Anthony is an enormous part of Van Halen, which is not understood to the uneducated eye), to understand the phenomena of the great bass player, who hopefully sings as well.
The keyboard player understands this, but does the guitarist?
The reason I teach bass, and the power of triads, arpeggios, and scales of chords, and inversions, is so that bass players can now break out of the tyranny of the guitarist yelling endlessly "just play root notes like the bass player in Status Quo, over everything". Yes, obviously this is required where applicable, but also in chord structures, triads, are the first emerging support and weight of chords.
Obviously, some bass players, who have been to college, end up playing total shred bass over everything, more like a lead guitar player on the bass, who end up being far too busy, and take the bottom end away from being solid, and harmony, into a showcase for incredible chops, and super shred. It's all very well and good knowing how to do this, but is it really bass playing? Bass should be melodic, interesting, pleasing, propulsive, and motivating, and in good juxtaposition with the singer, because after all, the singer sings to the bass. Just ask Elkie Brooks.
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