Ignorance is bliss, unless it's not.
Hello dear reader, thanks for visiting Blake's Blog.
I am someone who doesn't like to offend or upset people, so I tend to avoid approaching topics that could make people squirm. A friend and colleague told me this past weekend that she has never heard me say anything bad about anyone. I told her, "Wow, you obviously don't hang out with me enough." Believe me, I have plenty of things that I could complain about and/or be highly critical of. So, I shall use Blake's Blog here to "vent" and release some of the steam pressure that builds up during a career as a bassist. In a future post I shall get downright uncensored in some of my chief complaints about the ignorant comments that I receive in my line of work. Why? Because you oughta know, and you will be highly enlightened and entertained.
For today I need to address some of the most misunderstood bass-related beliefs that many people cling to. Time to reveal the truth now and pulverize those old myths.
1. Seinfeld. The 'bass' on Seinfeld is a KEYBOARD playing a generic slap-bass patch. The signature blues lick is done with the pitch bend wheel. I can show you how it's done on a keyboard, and play it perfectly for you. I can also play it on my bass but that's not how it was done. People ask me if I can play 'Seinfeld' all the time. I sigh and explain the truth.
2. Keyboard/Synth bass. Some of the greatest tracks ever recorded have a synth-bass track. Way too many to mention here. There is nothing wrong with this, sometimes it sounds great and allows a different articulation than you get from a bass guitar. I embrace this, and I enjoy playing keyboard bass when the song needs it. The 'ignorance' factor is that too many musicians and bandleaders are unaware that their bassist ain't gonna be able to play the part like it sounds on the record. Sometimes it's impossible to recreate the keyboard articulation. I recently had to play an Imagine Dragons song that has a synth bass track which is nearly impossible to play on bass guitar. I was able to pull it off, but it was very hard. On the keyboard it is very easy! Another song with keyboard bass that nobody knows about is "Black Velvet" by Alanna Myles. That's a keyboard fretless patch, not a fretless bass guitar.
3. Pick vs. Fingers. The only people with any opinion about which bass technique is "right" are people with no clue... I find that non-bass players are usually the only ones with strong opinions about this topic. The fact is, bass played with a pick can be the best approach sometimes, bass played fingerstyle is best sometimes, bass played thumb-style is the right sound sometimes. There are many different techniques to produce a variety of bass tones. I pride myself on being proficient at various approaches. When a non-bassist tries to debate this topic with me I shut that down promptly, as they don't know what they're talking about.
4. 4-String vs. 5-String. Here's another topic where non-bass players have strong opinions.
And again, they don't don't know enough about bass playing to know what they're talking about. I can play 4, 5 and 6-string basses, upright, electric, whatever. My 40+ years of full-time bass playing has taught me that a 5-string is more versatile than a 4-string, and it's also the preferred choice of most pros. Non-bassists seem to cling to melancholy longings for the past, or whatever nostalgia makes them feel sophisticated. I have a keyboard playing colleague who routinely tells people he prefers playing a 4-string. I cringe every time. He's not a bass player, he maybe picks up a bass and plucks a few notes once a year. Ignorance is not bliss here. I recently read a quote "4-string requires you to be more creative than a 5-string." Hogwash, that makes no sense. Obviously, a 4-string provides fewer notes and therefore you can't be as 'creative' as you can on a 5-string...more choices there for parts and patterns. Do the math dude. Oy.
5. Call Me Al. Bakhiti Kumalo played his Aria fretless on this track. It was his birthday. Paul Simon asked him to play a bass fill at the famous spot. At lunch break, the engineer took the first bar of his bass lick, then reversed the tape and played it backwards to create the second bar. Bakhiti himself explains, you cannot play the bass part on the record, half of it is backwards! He advises bassists to simply play whatever they want and not to try to play the lick. Bet you didn't know that. Of course, Chevy Chase plays air-bass on the video.
Okay, I don't know about you but I feel better!
More posts to come! Maybe nice and warm & fuzzy next time. Maybe not.
Love & Peace,