Deep Thoughts

Ever had one of those mind-blowing deep thoughts about your bass playing? One that changes the way you “approach" playing bass. Do you have any that you’ve heard that you agree with? Any that you don’t agree with at all? Curious minds want to know… (a.k.a. me)

Example: Victor Wooten has that mind-blowing you tube video where he teaches that it doesn’t matter what you play, it’s the groove you set. Even wrong notes can sound right. That blew my mind when I first saw it; but, I have found it to be true.

One that I’ll throw out there is: “it’s all just bass licks with some transitions in between.”

Click on the spoiler tag if you want to read my experience leading to the gist of the philosophy below.


I guess you could file the following experience under “methods that help trick yourself to learn a new song.”
Back when I was playing with a few gig bands, I hit a wall. I had a melt down or learner’s block or whatever. So a buddy sat me down and asked if I had learned one of the songs the band wanted to play at an upcoming gig. “NO!” then I told him how I felt. He said, “Ok that’s cool, what’s your favorite part of that song?" I replied about a cool lick in the song. He said, “do you know how to play it?” “I haven’t tried,” was my response. He said, "just work on that part, I’d like to see the way you play it—maybe even show me how to play it.“ So, I worked on that part only, and then showed him the line. He said, “that’s cool, how does that part lead into the chorus?” “I said it’s only few bars, probably something close to this.” I messed around with it right there in front of him. He said, “wow that sounds really close! What does the bass play over the solo?” “I’m not sure it might be the verse, I’ll listen to it real quick… oh wow, it’s not the verse, it that’s that lick I like!” He said, “So you already know over half of the song now.

…It’s just licks with transitions to and from the next lick, don’t think of songs as something you have to learn from beginning to the end. Just learn the parts you dig, then move on to the transitions to the other part of the song, that way you’re only fleshing out the small spots."


So take it for what it’s worth–that’s how I learned Tom Sawyer.

I’d love to hear from you.


You might like this thread:


Thank you @Mike_NL! I had no idea that thread existed. It was an awesome read. There’s a lot of actual music theory in there! I’m more leaning into stylistic “choices” in my thinking.

One that I’ve not seen in writing anywhere is something John Paul Jones has discussed in interviews. He talks a lot about where the note sits in the bar. I think he uses the traditional upbeat and downbeat references. But when he was explaining it, (I think he was talking about ‘Ramble On’ actually) I instantly “got” what I like about “Since I’ve Been Loving You” !

It’s not the chord progression or the expressive playing by the musicians… It’s where they are playing in the progression. The bass sits late in the bar already, but strangely the drums are just behind the bass, and the guitar feels a solid beat behind both of those. But the choice of how they sustain and cut off that groove somehow brings the guitar back to the right place. It’s really an incredible example of how the rhythm section can make or break a song. The most bluesy part of the song is the interaction between the drums and bass and how one is daring the other to speed up and then backing themselves off. Add to this the sound mixing choices made… The biggest: to leave in the squeak from the bass drum pedal. That’s the one sound in the whole mix that is actually keeping the beat! I can’t unhear it now.
Mkay… rant is over (for now).


Another one: I don’t know the correct term for it but I call it a contrasting melody. And the only way I know to explain what I mean is when listening to songs by the Beatles. It’s musical embellishment when there are pauses in the main melody. “Something” is the one that comes to mind, the bass is playing a different melody of it’s own that somehow compliments the main melody and then they join forces for a bit and then start contrasting again. Totally blew my mind when I realized what is going on there. Then I heard it in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Anyway, at times when playing with others, I’ll work on contrasting melodies that embellish the main melody. To me, it’s a totally different approach to playing bass than working within something like the circle of fifths.

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There’s “counter-melody” and “counterpoint” which are two melodies played simultaneously and there’s “call and response” which is 2 musical phrases which alternate successively.