Zen and the recording bassist - but I only say 'Zen' to make this sound more interesting
This week I spent some time playing music in a trio, as their bassist. We were working on one song and intended to record it, without vocals. ver the past few years I've done more recordings than gigs and thought I'd share a few thoughts on this:
Pressing the red record button changes the atmosphere of the room. This has to be acknowledged so you can move on.
Thinking, “oh, this is going well,” virtually guarantees a cock-up. I think of this as the confidence disease. Maybe it’s just me.
The best state of mind to play accurately and interestingly in seems to be one where you become one with your instrument and the music. There are no conscious thoughts of “play over the B minor chord now” but a reliance on having either learnt the piece or knowing how you can improvise around what the others are playing. Thinking about what you are doing just gets in the way.
Let the wrong notes happen and wait to hear the playback before deciding it’s a disaster. Sometimes, wrong notes are the right notes. That said; if you accidentally trap your fingers under the strings, fall over your pedals or hit the guitarist in the teeth with your instrument then it’s probably best to stop straight away.
Much like writing; if you do something flash and are immensely proud of it, it’s probably worth taking it out.
If you’re going to play only perfectly intonated notes, with no vibrato, on a fretless bass you might want to ask yourself why you’re playing fretless.
Despite a plethora of jokes about the unimportance of bass players (“Q: How many bass players does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Who Cares.”), the role is an important one. Unless you’re a big White Stripes fan. Bass provides foundation and direction. In a band with no drummer (or a drummer so bad everyone is trying not to listen to him/her) the bass player provides the closest thing to rhythm too.
Bass players who remind other musicians of their own importance are universally despised.
Being a bassist in a live context is much easier because almost no one is listening to you.
There are exceptions to all the above points and I welcome comments, further examples or foaming mouthed invective.