I’ve had numerous musicians ask me about the differences between a guitarist and a bassist as they often look like the same person. However, I’ve seen people always give more respect to the guitarist rather than the bassist.
Bass is an integral part of the music. Although you can barely hear it, one can not deny that they give a sense of scale to the music and make you feel the rhythm. So why are bassists often overlooked and underrated?
In this article I will explain why the bass is underrated and the importance of having a bassist in a band. Hopefully this article can help you decide whether you still want to stick with bass or divert to another instrument with more attention.
Here are the topics we will cover in this article:
- 4 Reasons Why Bass Is Underrated
- Why Do Bass Players Get No Respect?
- Why Do Bands Have Bass Guitar if You Don’t Hear It?
- Are Bassists Failed Guitarists?
- Why Are Bass Players Underappreciated?
4 Reasons Why Bass Is Underrated
Here are a few reasons why bass is usually overlooked by listeners and why bassists are often overlooked in a band.
1. Bass Is Not a Lead Instrument
Bass is severely underrated because it does not carry the melody. You generally don’t hear bass solos. Bass isn’t the type of instrument that garners attention. It’s generally there to drive the music and provide rhythm to the entire band.
Generally, the lead vocalist is at the front of the band and gets the most attention, while the guitar and drums provide the instrumentals for the most part. This leaves the bass guitar at the end as it acts as a support instrument.
Related article: 6 Reasons Why Bass Guitar Is Fun! (Even When Alone)
2. You Can’t Hear Bass That Much
Bass is generally modded out compared to other instruments, which typically have more audio presence as they are often right in the middle of the human hearing range. Instruments like the guitar or drums provide the melody, making them easier to hear.
The human hearing range is between 20Hz and 20kHz. Bass notes are played around the lowest range of human hearing which means that bass notes are often overshadowed by the higher-pitched sounds of other instruments or vocals.
Adding more and more layers of musical notes on top of the already hard to hear bass notes can often overshadow the bass.
3. Bass Is More Physically Demanding
The strings used in the bass guitar are also thicker and heavier than the regular guitar, which means bass strings require more strength to push down than the lighter strings of a guitar.
The bass is generally compared to the guitar, but the similarities in both essentially stop at their visual appearance. Although bass guitars are similar to regular guitars, they typically have a longer fretboard at around 25 inches than 18 inches for standard electric guitars.
The larger fretboard and the thicker strings mean that more finger strength is required to play the notes correctly, which is significantly more complicated than a regular guitar.
Bass can be physically more brutal to the point where people with small hands can’t play the bass guitar well.
4. Bass Is Hard to Be Good At
It’s generally easier for a complete beginner to pick up the bass and learn to play it well when compared to the guitar, which can be harder to get into.
However, the bass guitar can become significantly harder to play well past the beginner stages, while the guitar can be easier to master.
Learning guitar is like a linear rising graph. Learning the bass can be like an exponential graph where the starting can seem easy, but gradually it becomes more complicated and more challenging once you start rising in the skill level.
This is also because bassists are often tasked with the crucial role of providing rhythm to the band. One misplaced note by the bassist can mess up the rhythm and cause the whole performance to fall down on its knees.
Why Do Bass Players Get No Respect?
The bassist often goes unnoticed in most bands due to the simple fact that most bands consist of instruments that play in the mid to high-frequency range.
These mid to big instruments produce most of the sound easily heard by the human ear, which is why they garner the most attention.
Due to this, most people associate bassists with being the ones who contribute the least to a band’s performance. This is why most bassists are often at the end of the line while the other band members steal their spotlight.
Why Do Bands Have Bass Guitar if You Don’t Hear It?
Most people cannot hear bass simply because their ears aren’t trained to listen to the bass.
Instead, most people tend to focus on the melody. This isn’t to say that bass isn’t needed, as it’s the glue that holds a band’s rhythm together.
Bass isn’t something that gets stuck in your head as mostly it’s the melody. It’s not about not hearing the bass.
You are always hearing the bass. However, most average listeners usually aren’t trained in hearing the bass as the bass is generally used to provide the scale and rhythm to the song.
Are Bassists Failed Guitarists?
By no means are bass players failed guitarists. The two instruments are very different and require another skillset from the musician.
One of the most essential skills for a bassist is maintaining a beat perfectly. Think of it like a pretty-sounding metronome. If a bassist misses a beat, the whole band might sound off.
On the other hand, the guitar is the one playing the tune. A guitarist can fall out of tune without the entire band starting to sound off.
It’s not about if one is better than the other, but it’s more about who can do what better. A guitarist’s job is to carry the tune, while the bassist’s job is to maintain the rhythm.
Why Are Bass Players Underappreciated?
Bass players are generally criminally underappreciated as they have the crucial role of providing rhythm to a band’s performance.
Bass players are overlooked because the bass is a support instrument compared to the guitar, drums, or vocals. The lead instruments are generally heard more than the bass.
When watching a band perform, people tend to gravitate their attention towards the vocalist as they are in charge of the musical piece.
The guitarist and the drummer come second as they provide the melody to the song. Bass generally provides cohesion to the music and isn’t really meant to be heard instead felt.
We can’t ignore the fact that bass is generally overlooked by people when a band is playing, as their focus generally tends to gravitate towards the instruments that have more of a “bang” to them.
However, the bass plays a crucial role in holding a band together as they provide the rhythm and keep all the other instrument players synced.
I hope this article helped you better understand the importance of a bass player, and maybe we can start to appreciate them more.