And we’re starting to build the band now. We’ve spoken to the consistency of the drums, now it’s time to add another instrument. You probably know what instrument makes the most sense to add at this point (because it’s in the title of this post) — the bass guitar.
There are many reasons the bass fits logically into the puzzle piece that we have in the drums right now. Sticking with the “100% rule” logic here, the bass fits in with the kick drum on the drum set. Why? For one reason, the sonic range is actually similar. Hanging out around that 50-150Hz mark, both instruments are more often felt than they are heard in the mix. Secondly, when both instruments (kick & bass) line up their primary accents, the groove of the song becomes clear for the rest of the band to build on top of. It’s a beautiful thing when both the kick and the bass lock into each other and give you no option but to feel the groove. Carter Beauford of The Dave Matthews Band is brilliant at this. He is a phenomenal player, yet in his complexity, he still finds the simplicity of locking into the foundation laid down by the kick and bass
In this example, the kick and bass are identically on playing with each other rhythmically for the entire song — they’re playing the primary accents together and nothing else. Do you hear the space that it leaves? There’s nothing wrong with that space. The whole band is playing on top of what the kick and bass are playing and even then, that space is still there. Don’t be afraid of leaving that space!
Now, not every song is going to lean towards the “chill back and relax” vibe that this song does.
Let’s take another Dave Matthews song — Funny the Way It Is – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
This one is much more complex, the sound is much more full, the space from the previous song no longer exists, but if you can peel back the layers when you’re listening to this example, you’ll hear that the kick and the bass are still locking into each other almost identically. There are a few notes here and there that the bass (or kick) will throw in to give some movement to the next note, but besides these, rhythmically, they’re next to identical.
The Goal: Make sure your primary accents are lining up on the kick and bass. There is room for the bass and kick add fillers to what they’re playing with each other, but it will come at the expense of another instrument in the band that will have to lessen their playing. You see, when the bass and kick lock into each other identically, because they’re playing the same thing rhythmically and live in the same sonic range, they’re not actually taking up any more percentage of the overall sound by having 2 instruments playing. They basically become 1 sound in the listener’s ear.
But be warned, when you try to match ANY instruments identically in the same rhythmic and sonic range, the margin for error raises significantly — if you fall off of each other rhythmically, the sound that was once clean with a groove now becomes muddy and distracting.
Kick and Bass — play your primary accents together.
Kick — be intentional about EVERY kick shot you do that the bass doesn’t play.
Bass — be intentional about EVERY note not played by the kick.
Now, you’ve got a foundation for the rest of the band to build on top of!