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Qualities To Look For In A Bassist

by | BandMix 101, Bassists

Bass players are the often understated heartbeat of many musical projects. Bass acts as a bridge between rhythm and melody and can often help tie crucial pieces of a composition together. Many musicians and listeners often assume that if you can play guitar, you can play bass. This is not true, and underestimating the importance of a good bass player in your band can lead to some counterproductive frustrations. Today we’re going to give you a few pointers on what to look for when trying to find a good bassist for your project:

Cohesion and Chemistry

The rhythm section of your band or project consists primarily of bass and drums. Regardless of the type of music you’re planning on making; you’re going to want to make sure that this area of your music acts as a reliable pulse. If your drummer and bassist can play as one cohesive unit, composing and performing are a lot easier for the rest of the band. 

Some acts like to schedule rehearsals exclusively for the rhythm section. This time together allows the bassist and drummer to lock in without the added distraction of other instruments. If you are auditioning a bassist, let them jam or rehearse with the drummer in this fashion. These intimate sessions will also help the rhythm section determine the level of their natural chemistry together – as players and as people. 

Groove & Pocket

It should go without saying that a great bass player understands the fundamentals of pocket and groove. Your bass player does not need to be a well-studied musician to understand these concepts, but they are drastically crucial to a player’s musical vocabulary.  

Pocket is a musical term loosely used to refer to the strongest parts of a backbeat in a musical composition. If a drummer were to play a simple four-to-the-floor beat, a good bass player should be able to root their playing on each note of that four count. Experienced bass players know how to use specific techniques to either further enhance or soften the pocket of a song. 

Groove is an evenly loose phrase that describes the overall characteristics of a song’s movement or motion. The term is used to paint a song’s rhythmic effect on the brain and body. It’s often said that the best layers have a natural ear for groove and can stretch the rules of music by fusing grooves into each other. Having a natural feel for groove and timing will serve your bass player a significant advantage when they’re keeping time or trying to come up with rhythmic elements for your compositions. 

Dynamic & Creativity

It never hurts to grow your skill set or knowledge base in the world of music. Much like food, learning about different styles and techniques will only open you up to more creative choices and exponentially improve your playing. Even though bass may seem like a somewhat one-dimensional instrument, there is a relatively wide range of playing methods, genres, and styles to explore that challenge the boundaries of bass playing. 

A productive musical project will survive with a reliable bass player, but it will thrive with a creative one. Across music history, players like Sting, Flea, and Thundercat have managed to make the instrument seem incredibly versatile and focal. Even if your music isn’t centered around the bass parts, it will only help to have access to more expressional options when writing or playing. Try to seek a player interested in expanding their musical vocabulary so that your project may reap some of the benefits. 

Self-Care

Like any trade, a reliable musician needs to have a growing understanding of the tools they use while working. The greater your bassist’s knowledge base of gear and production tools, the more fluid and productive your writing and recording sessions will be. While it’s not a mandatory requirement for your bassist to know every side of gear-related info, they should at least know how to operate any amps, pedals, software, etc., that they bring to the table. 

Great bassists also have a reasonable understanding of which area of the frequency spectrum they occupy in a song’s playback mix. Many bassists focus primarily on playing and music theory without diving too deeply into the sound engineering side of things. Finding a bassist with a strong understanding of how their instrument affects an overall mix will ensure that your recorded songs sound great in the low-end. 

Common Ground

The final pointer on these qualities applies not only to bass players but musicians in general. Running a musician project can require a considerable amount of commitment, sacrifice, and organization. While you may find yourself a bass player that fits the profile you seek musically, both sides need to determine whether committing to each other is worth their time. 

Some artists want to become full-time professionals, while others want to have fun to do in their spare time. When seeking out bass players, it’s essential to know your intentions with your project both creatively and professionally. This will help you provide a clear brief for prospective players regarding the amount of commitment required from their side. You’re much more likely to enjoy the process of writing and performing with someone who wants to take their music to the same places you do. 

Final Thoughts

When a brand has a good bass player, they are enjoyable. When a band has a great bass player, they can become irreplaceable. Finding a reliable and interested bass player with musical chops and a relatable personality can be compared to finding a four-leaf clover. If you are a bass player looking to join a band, we hope this article gives you a basic outline of what other musicians generally require. Thanks for taking the time out to read through our article on Qualities to Look For In a Bassist. 

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