As bassists, we cannot afford to loose sight of our most valuable skill--locking in and establishing the foundation of the music.
As bassists, we must have several skills to make us well rounded, the most important of which (in my opinion) is the ability to lock up tight with our drummers and lay a solid groove. Now, before you start to think I am a purist who wants to confine bassists to the dark corners of the stage, you are mistaken in your assumption. I am as much into expanding the instrument's role as I am in keeping a traditional mindset.
The bass is the bridge between melody and rhythm. As such, we must concentrate on two aspects of making music. The drummer can concentrate on keeping time and only on keeping time because of the nature of his instrument. The guitarists, keyboardists, and horn players can give their full energies to creating harmonically rich and exciting melodies. However, as bassists, our job is two-fold. We must keep excellent time, no question about it. But we also must know how to create rich melodies and harmonies as well.
This is our curse, but it is also our blessing. The easy part of bass is playing the notes. Why do I say this? Simply because almost anyone who plays bass is familiar with driving root notes and playing with simplicity. However, even the easiest of bass lines will not come off well without some committment to a good lock up with the drummer.
My drummer, Geoff, has commented many times about our working relationship. He told me a few days ago that he feels like we are one instrument. He went on to explain that we are so complimentary that when he steps "out of the box", I automatically, without a thought, hold down the foundation so the rhythm is not lost. Likewise, when I do a fill or run to accent and color the music, he stays rock solid. Even during improvisational work, we never stray from that formula. I also firmly believe that our friendship is a critical factor in our success as a team.
A word on personal relationships. I have played with drummers in the past that were merely co-workers. It is not that two total strangers cannot lock up well, but familiarity with the other person personally puts me more at ease with them and therefore, from a mental standpoint, I feel more comfortable with them.
The whole secret to a good lock up can be summarized in three points:
As usual, these are merely my opinions. I have been on bass for over 24 years and these are just a few things I have learned from playing with some good musicians. I hope this translates into benefit for you as well.
If you have any comments, please post them. I'd like to hear what you have to say. Thank you for your time. Now, pick up that bass and let the creative energies flow from your mind to your fingers. Be the BASS that you can!