How to Be a Bass Player

The above illustration by a genius artist named Hopkins, clipped out of an old issue of Musician magazine, has been inside my bass case, underneath either a 1962 Precision or a '61 Danelectro, for a long time now. Every time I see it, unpacking before a gig or a jam, it makes me smile. It's a three-second bass lesson, an inspiration and affirmation, and a quick reminder of what's important no matter what kind of music you play: who you are, why you're there, what it is that you want to happen.

1) Jazz. Ron Carter, Charlie Hayden, Charles Mingus, Scott LaFaro... Listen to jazz combos, especially trios - the bass not only holds the root down through the changes, but sets the mood and direction of both the song, and the band. A well played bass line is the living breathing bridge between the rhythmic (Yang) and the melodious (Yin).

2) A quake, a seismic deep rumbling disturbance, a rift opening upon the earth's crust. It's the groove, man: deep, wide and pulsating-- dance as close as you can on the edge without falling in. It's within the power of your fingers to excite the rhythmic beast and bring down the house, or lay back and float after the eruption, on a mellow stream of cool vibrations.

3) Shake that booty. What else needs to be said? Shake it baby, shake it all night long.

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