Why is it that bass is so frequently unknown? How can an instrument so present in every type of musical genre be so unrecognized? Well, friends, we’re opening the Pandora Box! We’ll shed some light on this mysterious topic and offer insights and answers for you to overcome some common misconceptions and appreciate the beauty of the bass.
The first reason for its lack of recognition is definitely its musical range. Bass is responsible for the lower range of the music we listen to, and that can usually make it hard to identify when not trained to do so. As it lays under the rest of the instruments in the mix, one has to focus to isolate it.
On top of that, most of the speakers we use daily cannot even physically reproduce it. Low-frequency wavelengths are too wide for the small and portable speakers integrated into our phones and laptops.
On the flip side, this same low range is the reason that bass has its rhythmic nature. The lower part of the audible spectrum accommodates the percussive elements of music, so bass is natural when it comes to making us dance. Do you want us to prove this statement? Easy!
Another reason for the bass’s lack of popularity is its shape. Since 1960, the year in which Leo Fender gave birth to the electric bass, this musical instrument has been confused with the electric guitar an uncountable number of times.
Fender was a guitar builder when he witnessed a market need – the upright bass wasn’t fit for the new loud and moving rock and roll groups. Because of that, he pioneered a bass that had all the benefits of an electric guitar shape.
The result was more than satisfactory, but the resemblance between the two instruments made the guitar eclipse the bass in the broader audience’s eyes. So, for a lot of years, many thought that the Beatles were a band with one drummer and three guitar players. Luckily, that didn’t stop Sir Paul Paul McCartney from recording this true hymn to our instrument!
Lastly, bass can be overlooked because of its role. Often, the bass is seen as dull, sometimes even as basic, but all of that has to do with its function. It is quite infrequent to hear a bass take the lead role, and it is because it spends most of the time supporting the music from the bottom upwards.
The bass role is all about gluing every instrument together. While the drums and keyboards are focused on rhythm and harmony, respectively, the bass sits in the middle of it. It keeps the beat while providing the pitch foundation that all the other instruments relate to. As a result, it is regarded as an essential role among musicians, but it is frequently overlooked and ignored by the audience.
The bass does uphold a lead role, but it leads by support rather than command. Here is the great Thundercut with a brilliant example of that:
After these considerations, we would like to think you have a better understanding of bass, and that you have learned to vibe with it. Spread the word, let others know about it, and join the bass appreciation community!