The hypnotic rock bass’ secret
A lot of people listen to rock primarily on guitars and vocals.
Very rarely do you have people talk more about the drums and the bass than their impressions of the lead singer. This should not become a surprise because, in your typical rock quartet or quintet, the singer is a larger-than-life personality. You can’t miss this person.
You can’t become blind to this person. This person is in your face. This person is front and center. And whatever personality quirks, weird actions, or abnormal gestures done by this person is sure to be picked up. For better or for worse, the lead singer or vocalist is really the face of the band.
If you don’t believe me, check out the iconic 60’s band, The Doors. Their frontman’s persona is so strong that many people instantly think of Jim Morrison when it comes to the doors. This is a slap in the face to the rest of the band. Seriously. When you look at the band’s most awesome songs, it is almost always a collaboration between Morrison’s weird off the wall hippie dippy lyrics and the precise sonic chemistry of Bobby Krieger and, of course, the blues inherent in Ray Manzarek’s keyboard work. You don’t get an impression of this when you read the typical Doors fan boy screed. It’s all Morrison all the time.
The same applies to the lead guitarist because this person provides the meat in music. This individual is not all that far from the singer. When you look at the band playing and pay attention to the positioning of their bodies, the lead singer is usually near the lead guitarist.
Lost in transition and often falling between the cracks is the impact of the bass. People are thinking that the bass is really an afterthought. What matters is the raw urgency of the guitar. What matters is the pacing set by the drums. What matters is the emotional and expressive range of the lead singer.
People are all too happy to dispense with the bass. They don’t even bring themselves to a clear understanding of why a bass line is important. Well, if you think about it, the reason why the rock bass is so important to great rock music is the fact that it gives it structure. It not only paces the music, it also creates boundaries for it.
When you explore a different shape and you play it out on a schedule, things become clear. Things definitely become better defined and it’s easier to appreciate the music. It longer plays out like some sort of musical disagreement, with different instruments playing on top of each other and notes crashing and cascading all over the place.
Instead, with a healthy base back beat, you get a sense of organization. You get a sense of flow. Beats that came before easily flow into beats that are taking place now or issuing now, then give way to the beats that come after.
This is what makes the rock bass guitar so hypnotic. It is so important that it is too easy to overlook. That’s how cool it is.