In the hierarchy of coolness in your average rock band these days, you have the singer at the top and the lead guitarists come next. More often than not, the bottom tier is left for the bassist and the drummer to fight over. For years bassists have lived in the shadow of the lead guitarist, but when you think about it, this doesn’t make much sense. Why does this happen? Is it because bassists are less important, or are they just shyer than the rest of the band?
Let’s think about this - what does a bassist do? Bassists keep rhythm with the drummer by adding a deep, melodic piece to go over the percussion. They add a base layer for the lead guitarist to play over. If you’ve ever played with an equaliser when listening to music and dropped the bass from your favourite songs, you’ll have noticed how empty and hollow the music sounds. Bass is integral to any complete and competent piece of music.
Part of this is because the bass guitar is often the first thing you hear in a song; the bass line is an incredibly powerful musical hook, and a solid bassline will stick in your fans heads far longer than anything else. Let’s take Slipknot as an example – they may not be your favourite band, but they have one dedicated bassist and a lead guitarist who also plays bass for the band. Notice how that’s not the other way around – bass is very important.
There’s no real reason that bassists should be less in the limelight than anyone else – it’s simply a coincidence that people with the biggest egos gravitate towards “lead” guitar, as that’s where they expect attention to be focused. If you’re an incredible musician, people will sit up and take notice – Geddy Lee, bassist and front man of Rush is proof of this. Flea from the The Red Chili Peppers is an incredible bassist who everyone is familiar with, but how many people can name the Peppers’ lead guitarist? Paul McCartney is one of the most famous musicians of all time, and yes, he was the bassist in The Beatles.
It isn’t a case of “4-strings is easier than 6-strings, so lead guitar is better” and it never has been. The major difference between bass and electric when you’re on the stage is that the bass is the glue holding everything together. If the lead guitarist plays the wrong chord they can claim that it was just them being creative; if a bassist misses a note everything sounds wrong, your band loses rhythm, you lose your groove, and everyone loses out as a result.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative with your bass at a gig – going back to the bass line, the melody and rhythm a bassist puts out are a massive component of any decent song. Once again, Paul Mc Cartney and Flea are living proof that when you can marry melody and rhythm you step up into the upper echelon of great musicians.
The last benefit to bass is that being a bassist almost guarantees you a gig. Lead guitarists are a dime a dozen these days, but of all your friends how many are competent on bass? My Chemical Romance struggled to get off their feet without a bassist until the lead singer’s little brother picked up a bass. He learned to play bass to help his brother, and look at Mikey Way now.
If you’re thinking about picking up a bass guitar or playing bass for a band, make sure you have a gig bag which fits your bass. Bass guitars are bigger than electrics, and can be cumbersome without a proper gig bag like the kind we sell at Fusion Bags. Give us a call today for all your gig bag needs, or even if you just want to chat to someone about how great being a bassist is.