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The Bass Pattern… Please Do Not Betray It!

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This month’s article will address, which in my opinion, is probably the most important asset that we the bass players have when it comes to exercising our profession… it’s name? “The Bass Pattern”.

The Bass Pattern is a musical concept that has existed for centuries before the appearance of the Electric Bass. We would be able to say that the first “Bass Pattern” that looked really close to what we play today on our basses, showed up during the Baroque period, about 500 years ago. We can even identify the concept of “bass lines” centuries before the Baroque, but those are not really similar to what we would understand by a Bass Pattern nowadays.

A Bass Pattern is a short bass melody that 90% of the time doesn’t surpasses the 4 bar barrier, in fact they generally last just 2 bars. The main requisite for a Bass Pattern is that it has to be repetitive and keep steady throughout most of the song or the musical piece.

A Bass Pattern in my opinion is, “The essential Cell of Bass Playing,” and responds to the minimalistic essence of our instrument.

The Minimalism is an art movement that is about the age of our instrument (little younger), and that essentially proposes that the strength of the idea relays on the maximum simplicity and the reiteration of small units within it. You can apply this concept to every artistic expression like Painting, Acting, Dancing, Poetry and obviously to Music.

The wonderful thing here, is that for some “magical” reason the fact of reiterating a really simple idea (in any artistic expression), starts producing and generating an amazing energy boost, exactly like a “Mantra” does, so the person who is performing a minimalistic art expression creates and feels that energy himself and also is able to make the ones that are around him to experience that energy too…. does this sounds familiar?

As you can see, when you describe “What is Minimalism” you are describing “What is Bass Playing”, so in my opinion that’s the main reason why we, the Bass Players, like to play this instrument; we are crazy enough to be able to enjoy playing the very same notes, mostly in the same order, for about 5 minutes and sometimes for more than 15 minutes!

A Bass walking line for example, doesn’t comply totally with this requisite, but rhythmically fills it, because even though the notes always vary, it remains playing usually quarter notes all the time, so the audience at least will be able to identify a Bass Pattern on its rhythmic aspect (very simple though), so the Minimalism of the expression will be still present.

I have to say here that if for some reason you don’t feel that you enjoy this essential aspect of bass playing, in my opinion it is very probably that you chose the wrong instrument…. oops…. sorry about that, but don’t forget it’s just my opinion. Guitars, keyboards or saxophones are maybe waiting for you, and I sincerely think you might enjoy music even more than you are now should you make the switch.

So, “When you betray the Bass Pattern you are betraying the soul of this instrument…”

What are (in my opinion) the ways for avoiding betraying the Bass Pattern?

It’s very easy and very hard at the same time. If the musical piece has one, two or three specific patterns, keep playing them and if you want to get creative, I have a most challenging task for you….

Be creative enough so to make sufficient variations to be able to allow the audience and fellow musicians of your band to recognize your Bass Pattern all the time throughout each and every song or musical piece!

Keep always in mind that the word “variation” don’t necessarily means “adding notes” like everybody has the tendency to think in the first place, it also means omitting them! In fact, the word variation in this context mostly refers to those variations that haven’t any relation with an “amount of things” whatsoever.

For example, you can vary the dynamics of every single note or you can make subtle variations with the length of the notes and the rests too (which for me is the most rhythmical variation). You can also add subtle nuances without adding any notes, like bendings, vibratos and short slides. There are lots of variations, more that I can mention here really.

I want to stress the fact that there’s nothing wrong with adding notes, but please always keep in mind that this specific variation is probably the most “dangerous” to address.

As a good example in the singing context, and the respect to the melody line that the singers have to always consider. Please recall the yearly interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner performed at the Super Bowl by a talented singer… has this made you think sometimes, “Where’s the melody?”

Finally, if you start making variations on your Bass Pattern that eventually make your pattern disappear, all the essence, spirit and soul of the Electric Bass speech will be betrayed, even more than with the Double Bass because of its mainly different stylistic origin and application. Think why you play bass and you’ll find that is not just because of the low frequency coolness, it’s mainly because of its’ role and its’ function within the given contexts…. Try always respecting that.

Obviously, you are free to just simply forget about considering what I’m proposing here. In that case, I humbly suggest you find the proper music style to fit in with your bass (probably 1% of the music styles available); finding the proper musicians to play with (like a guitar player who likes to play the bass part for example); and finding the proper audience to play for (there will be always somebody attending with the proper advertising)…. but believe me that complying with those three requisites will be harder than ending world hunger… But anyway, the most important thing by far is your being happy!

That’s it for this month my friends… see you in the next.

Bass CDs

Album: John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two

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Album- John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed - Volume Two

Album: John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two is the second of the series of posthumous releases coming from John Entwistle.

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two is a compilation that was curated by drummer Steve Luongo, who served as John Entwistle’s producer, bandmate, business partner and good friend for many years. As Luongo states, “When I agreed to do two volumes of John Entwistle rarities, I knew volume two had to be even better than volume one. It is!” The collection of songs on Volume Two are from his years with the John Entwistle Band and include re-mastered versions of studio tracks including “Endless Vacation”, alternate mixes of tracks like “Sometimes”, and live tracks including The Who cuts “Real Me”, “Long Live Rock” and an epic version of “Young Man Blues”. The latest preview track to be released is the Who cut “Had Enough.”

Listen to “Had Enough” here: push.fm/ps/hadenough

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume One was quickly embraced by longtime fans as it featured gems like “Bogey Man” featuring Keith Moon, “Where You Going Now” (demo for the Who), and a raw live version of “Trick of the Light” recorded during the John Entwistle Band’s final tour in 2001. Deko Entertainment is thrilled to have been able to bring both volumes of this unearthed music of John Entwistle to the fans and forever solidify him as one of the greatest rock musicians ever.

For more information, visit online at dekoentertainment.com/john-entwistle

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Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Bass Books

Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

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Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

I was intrigued when The Bastard Instrument showed up on my desk… let’s dig in!

When we dive into the history of our beloved instrument, the bass, we find roots that go back as far as the 15th century. This instrument was a member of the violin family and was for the longest time, an acoustic instrument. As the years passed and music changed, there was a need for the instrument to evolve and the electric bass was born.

Comparatively, the electric bass is a relatively new instrument with its earliest appearances dating back to the 1930s and it is exciting to be an electric bass player while this history unfolds around us. Fortunately for us and future generations to come, Professor Brian F. Wright has taken on the herculean task of documenting the trajectory of the electric bass with this excellent book.

The Bastard Instrument presents an extraordinary amount of fine details about the instrument itself, the development of the amplification to handle its output, the pioneers that dared play it, the rapidly evolving music that flourished because of its presence and so much more. 

When I first started reading this book, I noticed that it felt a tad academic, like a textbook (it might be one someday) or a doctoral thesis, but to present all this information accurately, this approach is more than appropriate. Another detail that might be a bit of a spoiler is that the book only gets us up to the late ’60s. I was left wanting more as we know that so much has happened in the bass world since that time frame; I hope there is another volume in the works to get us up to the present!

All in all, “The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass” is a must-read for all of us who play electric bass and understand its essential place in music.

I found that there was a lot that I already knew but also quite a bit that I was unaware of. I believe that to know and understand where you are, you must know the history of exactly how you got here.

Highly recommended.

The Bastard Instrument is available at Amazon.com (beginning July 2024)

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @meridian_guitars @adamovicbasses @anacondabasses @mgbassguitars @xylembassguitar @officialspector @edwinpaanakker @alesvychodilbasses @boyarskycg @dmarkguitars

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