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baggster
Dec-28-2017, 5:00pm
Starting up a little family band with my brother and son. Playing bg gospel in churches and locally. My brother happens to be the best bg bass player I know. However he seems to think it is boring to be the bass and wants to learn the mandolin or something else! How can I get him to wake up and hear the low notes? Any ideas?

catmandu2
Dec-28-2017, 7:07pm
Tell him he can play jazz

Mark Wilson
Dec-28-2017, 7:26pm
If he plays an upright - get him a bow. Wallah, a big fiddle

allenhopkins
Dec-28-2017, 9:27pm
Honestly, it can be boring to be a bluegrass bassist. You play on the downbeats only, and it's a lot of 1-5-1-5 with maybe a few transitional runs in between chords.

But the bass is the heartbeat of the band. A bassist with rock-solid rhythm makes the whole ensemble tick. Also frees up the other instruments to take their breaks, even to play with the beat a bit, since they have a firm ground to stand on.

Does he slap? That's a super technique to use on faster songs, and it can be a show-stopper if done with a bit of flair. (Do gospel groups want a show-stopper? You tell me...) And there's the question of vocals, where a good singing bass player is a vital part of ensemble harmony.

There are tunes where a bass break's not inappropriate, if he's got the technique to pull one off. And developing interplay between bass and guitar in handling rhythm duties can let the bassist step out a bit.

Wouldn't want to discourage anyone from taking up mandolin, but a good bassist is worth preserving. Listen to groups that have good, solid bass lines, and you can see how important the instrument, and its player, really are.

chuck3
Dec-28-2017, 10:25pm
I play both bass (and both upright and electric bass) and mandolin in groups covering a wide range of styles. As Allen says, it can be boring to be a bluegrass bassist, for the reasons he says. One suggestion I have to keep him interested in bass - don't make him keep playing the 1-5-1-5 all the time. Maybe do the first two verses and choruses that way, but then when an instrumental solo comes, let him walk rather than staying with 1-5-1-5. And maybe you can arrange the third verse differently, so that he can put down a more original bass line of his own devising. It's not even so much about the bass player soloing - that's going to be limited to certain tunes. But make him feel like a complete musician who has a hand in the arrangements.

Not sure why you asked this on a mandolin forum though - my further advice (to him) would be to learn the mandolin as well and be able to play both, they're a great pair of instruments to play given that there are like three billion guitarists in the world and both bass and mandolin are often in demand. I really enjoy playing both.

Mandoplumb
Dec-29-2017, 6:23am
Any BG bass player that's bored should listen to any and all Stanley brothers recording with Geroge Shuffler playing bass. Strive to play a similar style. This man was doing stuff on an upright bass that we think was originated by rock electric bass 25 years later. No 1-5 on the beat for this man, and we think of him as a guitar player, which he is but what a basist.

ManjoMan
Dec-29-2017, 6:39am
Tell him to listen to AKUS. Barry Bales is one of the most prolific bass players to ever walk the earth. Well, that is my opinion. If you listen closely to their music, the bass is really what holds it ALL together. I know that it helps when everyone in the band has great timing, but Barry just knows how to emphasize the beat and plays the right notes where needed. AKUS plays varied music with different tempos and that have unique feelings within each song. It takes someone that can truly feel the music to play with depth such as Barry. I know that in BG, the bass has always been kind of pushed to the back, but that does not mean that they are unimportant. If that doesn't convince him, tell him he can drive the bus...

Timbofood
Dec-29-2017, 9:15am
If he’s not hearing it, he’s not feeling it or otherwise feels like it’s a dead end, it’s time to try something different. Let him try something new, he might just realize how important the bass really is. Give him a chance he will find a new love or realize that the bass is his friend.
You might try slipping some Tom Gray in on him or a few of the others listed above Ed Ferris, so many that are a source of solidity, with panache, and grace that good bass players bring to the party, it’s NOT all thump,thump,thump.

UsuallyPickin
Dec-29-2017, 10:54am
Good acoustic / viol bassists can always get work. Let him learn as many instruments as he can handle. There is no downside here.... R/

DavidKOS
Dec-29-2017, 10:58am
Perhaps he could also sing a part - that will help keep him occupied.

baggster
Dec-29-2017, 4:13pm
I really do appreciate all the ideas. I didn’t mean to bust up any mandolin thread but I was just feeling a little desperate!😬 Anyways, we got a fine little group coming on! And you guys are awesome for helping me out with these ideas! Many thanks!

doublestoptremolo
Dec-29-2017, 5:04pm
Any BG bass player that's bored should listen to any and all Stanley brothers recording with Geroge Shuffler playing bass. Strive to play a similar style. This man was doing stuff on an upright bass that we think was originated by rock electric bass 25 years later. No 1-5 on the beat for this man, and we think of him as a guitar player, which he is but what a basist.

No disrespect to Mr. Shuffler—one of the greatest to ever hold a flat pick— but I think the walking bass makes the first 4-5 songs on the Mercury collection nearly unlistenable. I always cut the bass all the way down on those numbers. Might work better with a more swinging band (Flatt and Scruggs, perhaps ) but not with Ralph’s banjo. Start doing that on a driving bluegrass song and you’ll probably get some dirty looks at a jam. Almost as bad as the heavily reverbed fiddles on disc 2 of the Mercury set. Sometimes less is more.

catmandu2
Dec-29-2017, 5:29pm
Bass can easily open whole worlds, jazz. (Jazz pedagogy is very good on "talkbass" site - I always thought it was the best site for..). Show him some vids - Kent carter, Wilbert de joode, chris dahlgren, barry guy...tell him he can play any note he wants... (Christian McBride said that's what hooked him on bass). If he isn't now, he likely will be into jazz (if he studies bass)

For me, bass (viol) is the king of strings if you pick up the bow.

DavidKOS
Dec-29-2017, 6:46pm
For me, bass (viol) is the king of strings if you pick up the bow.

I do love a bowed bass, although I'm not sure I like bowed bass more than I like violin and cello -

BUT

bowing the bass is what it was invented for. Most of the time the bass has been bowed in music before the early 20th century and the rise of jazz, pop, country, BG, etc.

That's when a pizzicato sound became the norm rather than a special effect.

Mandoplumb
Dec-29-2017, 8:00pm
No disrespect to Mr. Shuffler—one of the greatest to ever hold a flat pick— but I think the walking bass makes the first 4-5 songs on the Mercury collection nearly unlistenable. I always cut the bass all the way down on those numbers. Might work better with a more swinging band (Flatt and Scruggs, perhaps ) but not with Ralph’s banjo. Start doing that on a driving bluegrass song and you’ll probably get some dirty looks at a jam. Almost as bad as the heavily reverbed fiddles on disc 2 of the Mercury set. Sometimes less is more.

To each his own,I don't consider Suffler as playing a "walking" bass.Tom Grey, John Palmer, Ed Farris walked a bass, Shuffler played runs, octaves, syncopation, mixed and matched thru out the number. Yes a lot of that would not work on a fast song but it put the drive in Stanleys slower songs that made it drive in my opinion.

catmandu2
Dec-29-2017, 11:02pm
David,
The shear scale of the instrument provides the greatest sonic capacity. There's simply more to work with - in terms of area, material, air moved, etc. Its sonic range is immense. Joelle Leandre is one who exploits much of its range. These two give two of the more expressive instruments a good workout - https://youtu.be/dWrk--5TsPc

https://youtu.be/2wTndujzy10


*maybe some context. I dig the European stuff, ronnie boykins, weird stuff. But I like it straight too.

BrianWilliam
Dec-30-2017, 8:49am
I moved from bass to mandolin. It's much better here :)

Timbofood
Dec-30-2017, 10:09am
I moved from bass to mandolin. It's much better here :)

Much easier to play in the front seat of a VW!

Steve Ostrander
Dec-30-2017, 10:28am
I played bass in A blues band for many years. I have to admit that walking it got a little boring sometimes. But I always told the band that I was driving the bus. I think that’s even more true in BG. He could learn mando-we certainly won’t discourage him here-but you may lose your bass player.

doublestoptremolo
Dec-30-2017, 10:42am
To each his own,I don't consider Suffler as playing a "walking" bass.Tom Grey, John Palmer, Ed Farris walked a bass, Shuffler played runs, octaves, syncopation, mixed and matched thru out the number. Yes a lot of that would not work on a fast song but it put the drive in Stanleys slower songs that made it drive in my opinion.

"[Shuffler] is known for his distinctive walking style of bass playing as well as his cross-picking method of lead guitar playing." Gary Reid, The Music of the Stanley Brothers

"[Shuffler's] 'walking' bass techniques, which energized breakdowns and fast songs, has been emulated by successive generations of bluegrass musicians." Fred Fussell, Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina

"Even today, some twenty years after he left bluegrass, instrumental fans are fascinated by his unique and original cross-picking guitar style and his immediately recognizable four-four, or 'walking,' bass." John Wright, Traveling the High Way Home

A transcription of his line on "The Weary Heart You Stole Away," described by the transcriber as "walking": http://www.jacktuttle.com/jackspdfs/tabs/bass/wearyheart.pdf

When people talk about Shuffler's distinctive bass style, they're usually referring to the style he played on the first Mercury session: a note on each beat of a four-beat measure. It's very distinctive but, to my ear, doesn't work with a non-swinging bluegrass tune. It'd be awesome on "Footprints in the Snow" or "I'm Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open," but I don't think it adds any drive to a fast-tempo song, only a lurching feeling. I think it's telling that more bass players don't emulate this style, and I'm not sure if Shuffler himself did it much after that 1953 session.

allenhopkins
Dec-30-2017, 11:12am
IMHO, "busy bass" doesn't work as well in bluegrass; "solid bass" is the cornerstone of a good BG band. Some of the bands that use(d) electric bass got into more "note-y" bass work, and I never found that much of an improvement.

Let us know how it turns out, OK?

banjoboy
Dec-30-2017, 11:25am
I am not a fan of a lot of the bass playing on older albums. First of all, it sounds like the bands needed someone to play bass and taught that person in five minutes before the recording session. Second, I think there was way too much walking going on. I play bass with a couple bands. On one hand it can be kind of boring, at least to practice. But when you get together with great musicians on stage or in a jam, playing bass can be really satisfying. I think too much walking distracts from the music. Really great bass players add to the music with right hand techniques. Ghost notes, slapping (if not done excessively), and other rhythmic techniques really can make a tune stand out.

Mandoplumb
Dec-30-2017, 5:05pm
Don't care what Reid or Fusell says the octive jump, the semi slap, the syncopation that shuffler used on any bass playing I ever heard him do is not walking by my definition Walking is up and down quarter notes. I know Shuffler was known for his guitar playing, one of the first to do lead in BG on a guitar, and yes I'm aware of his approach to cross picking as well as the rest of his flat picking and to a lessor extent finger picking. He was one great guitar player but in my opinion he was one great bass player too. Like Reno on banjo his style has yet to be copied correctly on bass and although many have tried on guitar either.

doublestoptremolo
Dec-30-2017, 7:04pm
To each his own,I don't consider Suffler as playing a "walking" bass.Tom Grey . . . walked a bass . . .

"George was my hero, absolutely. His driving bass lines played behind the Stanley Brothers early Mercury recordings made me want to be George Shuffler. That was even before I had a bass fiddle of my own. I would sit on my bed, playing bass runs on my guitar, as close as I could get to what George played on his bass. Once I got my first bass, I could finally try those runs on the real instrument.

John Duffey also recognized George’s power on the bass, and encouraged me to try more of the same walking bass when we were in The Country Gentlemen together. Years later, as part of The Seldom Scene, I think I had finally matured enough to not try to walk the bass all the time."

https://bluegrasstoday.com/tom-gray-on-george-shuffler/

emphasis added:grin:

doublestoptremolo
Dec-30-2017, 7:07pm
Walking is up and down quarter notes.

http://www.jacktuttle.com/jackspdfs/tabs/bass/wearyheart.pdf

lowtone2
Mar-09-2018, 11:58pm
Show me a bored bass player, and i'll show you a bass player who is not doing his job. Whether you are walking or playing 1/5 or whatever, the notes are way less important than getting a good sound and the Time. Time is not a simple thing. You should be subdividing every beat, sometimes with a triplet feel, sometimes straight, looking for a feel that grooves, and every note's end is just as important as its beginning. The beat is a circle, not a point.

You have to set up the other players and try to make them hear a groove that works, that makes people want to move. That's difficult, because mandolin, banjo, guitarist and fiddlers are primarily thinking about what notes they are playing and where they can stick a G run. But the most important thing going on in a bg band is rhythm. BG is about rhythm.

Even if you are playing roots and 5ths, you can be melodic, and you should always be thinking about exactly how every note sounds against the melody note, and how the lines are moving. The bass line even in a BG tune should have a contour, and your note choices can provide or enhance the tension and release in the song. There is plenty to think about, and you have to make the right choice every time.

There are many great players to listen to, too many to list, but just pay attention to Barry Bales on a few AKUS tunes to start. That sound is built from the bottom up!

Yes, it's easy to just stand there and play root five on three chords, or even walk the three or four chords, but that is not getting it done. If you hear a band that sounds good or bad, and you're not exactly sure why, it's the bass player.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOTvk36Tr6s