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Why Non-Bassists Can Make You A Better Bassist

I can guarantee that everyone when they began playing bass, started playing because of AT LEAST two of these players:

  • Jaco
  • Stanley Clarke
  • Flea
  • Geddy Lee
  • Chris Squire
  • James Jamerson
  • Victor Wooten
  • Les Claypool
  • Jack Bruce
  • Bootsy Collins
  • Geezer Butler
  • Marcus Miller
  • Larry Graham
  • John Entwistle
  • Paul McCartney
  • Cliff Burton
  • Steve Harris
  • Mark King

Was I right?

(*Readers said I missed Mark King – my bad!)

Jay_DeeNow, I’m also sure that since starting out, your musical tastes, interests and goals have changed and you began to draw influences for bass from different sources, not just solely music that has a strong bass guitar influence.

I too am like this.

Looking back at the younger version of myself as I was just getting started on bass, the reasons why I started playing were because of many of the players on that list. But as I got older, my tastes moved to different areas of music and I found myself taking on

I found myself drawing from different areas I never would have imagined: classical music, concert band compositions, Frank Zappa’s guitar playing, J Dilla’s production methods, Pretty Light’s feel and sound quality, the harmonization from bluegrass techniques and many many more all helped me in becoming a better bass player by forcing me to see music from different perspectives.

Concert band and classical music caused me to think about music in the big picture way. Hip hop producers and DJs made me think in a way similar to the way that classical music made me think but with the added awe and appreciation for the seemingly encyclopedic knowledge that DJs have to have to know what music can go with what other music and then blend the two ON THE SPOT!

Bluegrass music’s rich harmonies taught me to think in terms of musical layers and to strive for a specific quality of sound. And Zappa taught me, well, that anything is possible – both in music and in life.

Even Tom Morello, the guitar player from Rage Against the Machine cites hip hop DJ’s scratching technique for the inspiration for his own hybrid guitar technique.

Have these other musicians helped my technique and my playing abilities? Absolutely.

How did they do it?

1. They gave me perspective. I was now seeing music from different areas – both together as a whole picture and as separate pieces. The new found insights pushed me to try new things on bass and recreate things I liked hearing.

2. They challenged me. Much like the point above, having these phases where other, non-bass centric bands and acts were my musical obsession exposed me to new melodies, harmonies, motifs and ideas that I would say, “I like that – how can I re-make that?” on bass.

To best illustrate the point I’m trying to make in this post, here is the hip hop duo, Madvillain (MF DOOM and Madlib) with one of the singles off their 2004 album, Madvillainy, “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Below that is how the jazz/hip hop pianist, Robert Glasper re-interpreted the song with live instruments.

Here’s the original:

Here’s Robert Glasper’s version with his band, The Robert Glasper Experiment with DOOM on the verse (starts at 5:17):

Did you draw influence from other non-bass players? How did they affect you?

Comment or shoot me a line at mike@smartbassguitar.com and share your story!