The bass. Four strings positioned above and across a piece of wood. It may sound simple described when broken down to its main components, but the instrument has been the backbone of many styles of music since its creation. How one instrument can be such an integral part of music is not a question easily answered. Part of the rhythm section, the bass guitar helps to carry a song, and sometimes the whole band. Sometimes subtle, always powerful, the bass can shake people's asses and mix their bowels. Guitars, vocals, keyboards, woodwinds, brass ... all are allowed the freedom to perform parts the bass traditionally ignores. The bass has its position in a band -- working with a drummer to ensure the groove of any song bounces listeners along, while still maintaining a solid ground for other instruments to carry melodies and solo.
How have many musicians settled on the bass as their first instrument of choice? What are those same musicians' secrets to entitle them the moniker of `bassist'? What's the right bass for you to play? How do you know when you've finally gotten your own sound? This article should bring to light the answers to these questions and many more. Some questions may never be answered, like how do bass players always end up being responsible for their band's Web sites. CM has talked to 10 of the top bassists in Canada today. We bring you their answers, unaltered, to questions many musicians are curious about.
CM has brought you Stuart Chatwood of the Tea Party; Orin Isaacs, bandleader for Open Mike with Mike Bullard; Alain Caron, bassist for Quebec-based band Uzeb; Bruce Gordon from I Mother Earth; Jeff Pearce of Moist; Brian Minato of Jack Tripper and Sarah McLachlan (live); Rich Priske of the Matthew Good Band; Earl Pereira of Wide Mouth Mason; Tim White of the Headstones; and finally Chris Brodbeck, vocalist/bassist of See Spot Run.
Some may say we're leaving an important bassist out of this article, especially when talking to Canadians, and that would be Geddy Lee of Rush. Check out page 34 of this very issue for an in-depth feature written specifically on Geddy's work on a new solo album.
Why The Bass?
Stuart Chatwood: When we started the Tea Party, I was singing and playing guitar. We wanted to form a three piece, so it was Jeff Martin or I on bass. I guess Jeff lost. (heh-heh)
Orin Isaacs: My friends and I started a band when we about 11 years old. I volunteered to play bass.
Brian Minato: My brother put a band together in my parent's basement with a couple of friends. They had two guitars and a set of drums. I was elected bass player by my brother as I had been taking guitar lessons.
Earl Pereira: I had started a band in Grade 9 and there was a drummer, a keyboard player and four guitar players including myself. We were sitting in the basement of my house which had my older brother's band gear. His bass was sitting in the corner so I said "what the hell, somebody has to play bass." Since classical guitar was my second instrument I tried learning the bass which was an easy and more comfortable transition.
Alain Caron: At the age of 12, I was playing guitar and a little bit of drums in a trio with no bass. The organ player was playing it on the keyboard and the bass pedal, but since he was a former bass guitar player, he asked me to play the bass on a couple of tunes and taught me a few bass lines and the basic concept of bass playing. I loved it, I thought it was a big guitar that you can play the drums patterns, a mix of guitar and drums.
Chris Brodbeck: I started out as a guitar player in a dual guitar band, and ended up playing bass because the other guitarist was better than me. I like to think it was because I was taller than him. I was glad to have learned to play guitar first. It helped my bass playing, especially my pick work.
Tim White: At the time when all my friends were getting guitars I wanted one too, but they said "NO, YOU get a BASS."
Rich Priske: I first chose the bass guitar because my high school band teacher suggested it. I figured I could score more chicks with this guitar-type thing than with a trumpet.
Bruce Gordon: I first chose bass as my instrument because I wanted to play in a band and I figured, hey, it's only got four strings, it can't be that hard, right? Several of my friends also played bass so I'm sure that influenced me too.
Jeff Pearce: I started playing bass by accident. I played trumpet in my high school stage band, when I was in Grade 10. I loved being in the band, but I was the worst trumpet player ever. I probably would have been asked to leave, if I wasn't so enthusiastic about it. Luckily, the band didn't have a bass player, so my band teacher took me aside and suggested that maybe I should give that a try. I was already a big Rush fan, and thought the bass was a really cool instrument, so I was happy to make the change.
My First Bass Was A ...
Bruce Gordon: The first bass I ever owned was actually a Hohner. (They make harmonicas.) I think it was the only bass they ever made! I still have it ... somewhere.
Chris Brodbeck: One of Ned Steinberger's carbon fibre experiments. I liked it because it was small like a guitar, and I could sing easier.
Brian Minato: A black Framus Fender Jazz copy. …