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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Gospel According to Fitz - Chapter 15: Bass

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Comments: 9
Get a drink.
No, I mean it. Stop reading this, get up, and get something to drink. And tell everyone in your house to just fuck off for a minute.
You done? Good.
My first Gospels were rooted in information and quickly turned into opinionated pontification. Now, don't think for one second that I'm losing one particle of opinion in this blog, but I'm going to go out of my way to teach you something today. Prepare to do one of 2 things; learn, or fuck off. I'm thefitz, you're on my profile, and you're reading my blog. I'm about to make you both smarter and a better bass player.
Unfortunately, you're going to have to learn my teaching style; I'm going to confuse the fuck out of you, provide an eureka moment, and leave you smiling. If you read this blog and are too stupid to figure out what I'm talking about by its end, you're too stupid to make any difference in life anyway and can just fuck off right now.
Now, guitar players are actually great listeners. No, really. Sure, we make fun of their self-important ways and moan about how they mistreat us, but I really do believe that none of it is malicious. Seriously; if they knew better, they wouldn't do those things. I've been in many conversations where guitarists were plainly and simply wrong. They didn't know they were wrong, but they were. I explained the situation to them, and they all listened. If you don't have the balls or self confidence to properly talk (down) to a guitar player, then you're probably a shitty bassist (since you don't have the balls or confidence to properly play bass).
Guitar players are people, too. Very naive people. Most people are, so we can't blame them too much. A lot of people have problems temporally relating to the time before they were born; if something happened 45 or 60 years ago, by and large it doesn't make a difference. If something was true 60 years ago, and kinda seems true 500 years ago, then things must've held constant between those 2 points in time. Guitar players don't understand that their prized and loved guitars by and large started with the Fender Telecaster. Nay, they think the guitar is this amazingly popular standalone instrument that has been around and the same for centuries. They think it's an instrument that's steeped in tradition, as celebrated as the piano or the violin. Oh, it's such a wonderful thing; I mean, it was around since before many of us were born, and you do hear it in classical music, so it... must be... fuck, guitars are SO cool.
I mean, it's the patriarch of... oh, sorry, I'm just thinking about how much pussy I'm going to get later, I mean since I own a guitar and all. Actually, I gotta go to the washroom for a sec. Be right back.
OK, wow, I don't feel so horny now. Anyway, like I was saying, the guitar is the patriarch of the guitar family. You know, the guitar family. This one:
Yeah, that family. Yep, the family of instruments that was conceptualized in 1980. Nineteen Eighty. Yep, the instrument family that was funded in the year 1986 (Nineteen Eighty-Sicks) by an Austrailian Council grant.
Did your boner go away, you fucking retard guitar players? I am the same age as the guitar family. But then again, I could probably convince you that I'm an ancient person with centuries of tradition and billions of fans. In fact, I do this daily.
The "guitar family" was made 37 years AFTER THE TELECASTER WAS. Y'know, the first properly sellable solidbody electric guitar. Wait a sec, am I denying the existance of the classical guitar? No, I'm not. I'm saying that instrument families are completely and totally fucking irrelevant in modern music - hell, since music started becoming amplified.
Who gives a fuck about instrument families? Guitar players do. It makes them feel special like they're part of some sort of multicentury family; it makes them feel classier, better, smarter, and more talented. Y'know, fuck the instrument without frets or side markings... you know, ones that require bows instead of picks (which classical guitarists don't use) and have a fingerboard radius that's just unfair. Fuck that shit. I want to be part of some amazing tradition that's so fucking easy to play it's almost stupid. Fuck standard notation - just tell me the numbers where I'm supposed to put my fingers. Yeah! I want it all! Yeah!
Sorry shithead, no. There's no guitar family for you. There's the electric guitar. There's just one. Electric guitar. That's it. Oh, right, acoustic, almost forgot. Oh, sure, forgot, there are baritones. Yep, they didn't exist before 1986, but let's pretend they give legitimacy to my instrument's historical importance. Right, almost forgot to mention the completely oddball 12-strings. They don't fit into a "key", but... they... are there. Oh, by the way, Santa Claus isn't real. But, if it's any consolation, fat guys exist. I've seen them, I swear.
If for one second you think "but there is a guitar family! You just showed me!", you're an idiot. You're missing the point entirely.
The point is that guitarists have a built in ego. A chip on their shoulder that has was created in 1949. It's not their fault, really; if they knew that their instrument isn't as (historically) important as they thought it was, they wouldn't take themselves so seriously. That's the problem. They take themselves way, way to seriously. But lurkers, just relax for a sec before you claim I am a blanket statement maker. You're not the only ones, but you're the ones that are the biggest pain in the ass. Also, all Americans are stupid.
It's kinda funny that I've gone on this long without really talking about the bass. I just kinda started going off on guitar players there. Well, I'm laying out one of my arguments backwards. After all, some people think bass players are a type of guitar player. Y'know, since the bass guitar is a type of guitar.
I'm about to suck the spine out of your asshole, son.
I don't have to argue this point much - the bass is not a guitar. It's not an offshoot of a guitar. It's not a type of guitar. IT'S NOT A FUCKING GUITAR. Mercifully, I've already proven that there is no guitar family, so I needn't harp on that now. You've already soaked in the details I was going to drown you with.
But, maybe... just maybe... the making of the bass guitar created a guitar family. Y'know, a modern instrument family. With... erm, 2 members. It's just a guitar with... 2 less strings. Just randomly. Also, a significantly longer scale length. Just because. Erm... string tension... yeah. That's the ticket. Because Carvin didn't make 25.5" basses back then. Gibson didn't try to reinvent the scale length. Neither did Rickenbacker. Nope, guitar is king, and bass is their supportive brother.
Let's stroll down the evolution of the modern band, shall we? I'm not going to drop names or years - just needs. Country, rockabilly, any genre - the music business was booming, concerts were getting bigger, everything was becoming popular, and shit was hard to hear. The guitar, with it's chordy goodness, was what made a song identifiable (after the voice, of course, which was already amplified). They needed to make that electric, and they did. Now, these big, giant wooden basses - they were getting drowned out in the cacophony of it all. They're so hard to play though... and so hard to hear... enter Leo Fender. He wasn't the first to do this, but he was the first to make it work. Let's take the upright bass, shrink it to a managable size, and make it play like one of those Telecaster guitars. They don't feed back too bad. And get rid of that silly fingerboard radius - nobody uses bows nowadays! And... let's give them frets, just like a guitar. We'll call it the Precision bass, since the notes are precise. Precise means consistant. Every time you reach for that note, it's going to be the same note every time. You don't have to worry about your intonation as much.
No, you fucking retards, Leo Fender (or anybody else for that matter) didn't say "let's take that guitar and make it an octave lower." Oh, well fuck me, he did! The Bass VI! And how did that work out? See them often?
Guitar players either think the bass is its own instrument, or they don't know what a coincidence is. That's the only reason the bottom 4 strings and all 4 strings of a guitar are tuned EADG. 
I'd love one guitar player to explain to me:
- Why there are 4 strings tuned exactly like an upright bass
- Why the strings that are on a bass guitar are only the strings in common with a double bass and a guitar, and NOT just a guitar
- Why the first bass strings were flatwound, just like on upright basses
- Why you're so fucking stupid
The bass guitar is an upright bass/electric guitar hybrid. It's not a guitar. It's not an upright bass. It's its own instrument. But it's bass first, guitar second. That's why it's a bass guitar, and not a guitar bass.
But come now, let's give guitarists their dicks back. They do belong to an instrument family: the string family. The same family as all violwhatevers, all classical guitars, all basses. A musical family, like the the notion itself, that is completely irrelevant and archaic in this age of music. Get fucking used to it.
Every single bass that was designed as a type of guitar is terrible. All Gibson basses derived with/from guitar designs play, sound, and balance poorly. Acoustic bass guitars, which are basically (and sometimes literally) guitars with long necks, are acoustically feeble and are tonally inept. There is not one guitar-derived bass that works; all well balancing, sounding, and playing basses were designed from the ground up, with at most a visual inspiration from a guitar.
Now, it's disclaiming time.
There are a few good points to raise here that the idiot "I've raised a counterexample and therefore your whole argument is defunct lalalalala" crowd maybe have.
Anthony Jackson. He invented the low B string. A legend. As ugly as sin, but a legend. Check him out; he's awesome:
He believes the bass to be a type of guitar that should be used in an orchestral setting. He invented the 6-string bass, which even predated what most would consider the first modern 5-string bass (the high-C 15-fret Fender Bass V doesn't count). However, he's basically the only person who believes this, and his 6-string contrabass guitar (as he and only he calls it) is the least guitar-like instrument that has been made; it has 28 frets (almost/exactly like an upright), no tone controls (just like an upright), and the longest scale length of modern basses (36"). That's right, a scale length closest to that of an upright and farthest from a guitar. The dude's essentially blowing smoke. He goes on and on about the contrabass guitar yet he has invented the least guitarlike bass ever. Another case of someone taking themself way too seriously, but I'll get to that later. I promised already.
Now, argument 2 - electric uprights. If the bass guitar wasn't a type of guitar, why do they exist? They exist because the bass guitar doesn't sound very much like an upright in many situations where the distinct upright tone/look is needed but the size and difficulty of amplification is a burden. And let's face it - those situations are few and far between. It's a niche instrument that exists as a poor excuse for the real thing, and there are essentially no situations where someone would spring for an electric upright over an acoustic. If they want an electric, they get a bass guitar.
If at this point you think the electric bass is a type of guitar, you're fucking nuts. I cannot understand why people just love taking themselves so seriously. The whole concept behind these Gospels is to caricaturize people who take themselves too seriously. That is what thefitz does every second of every day. Music is a fun, wonderful form of entertainment. Most people can't mentally process engineering or medicine or science or theoretical math and physics - so they need to legitimize the fuck out of shit that should be taken for what it is. Music isn't art. It's AN art like cooking, but it's not art. It's showbusiness. It's showbusiness with elements of art. It's performance art. Exactly like movies. People need to sit and enjoy movies and music for what they are. Love it - hate it - analyze it - blindly follow it - just don't make up shit. Don't try to form an infrastructure that doesn't need to be there. Instrument families... roles in music... who fucking cares? Sure, people who don't have the mental capacity to deal with real issues of the mind want to feel important. But why not just shed the unnecessary shit and make fucking music?
It's AN art like cooking - so technique is most important. You should play bass the proper way the same way you should cook fish and chicken the proper way.
Did I just contradict myself? For people who love contradictions and think they end conversations, no I didn't. "Infrastructure doesn't matter" doesn't mean "it doesn't matter if you consider a bass a guitar or not". Either take things for what they are, or don't take them for anything. There's absolutely no need to complicate things and relate them to eachother and to history for no reason other than to make them seem more intellectually legitimate than they really are. Chicken and fish are both animals. You don't bother saying they're both in the "animal family" (and therefore the "chicken family" if you think chicken is #1). You don't cook chicken and fish the same way. You don't play bass and guitar the same way. They're not the same instrument. They're not the same type of instrument. The only things they have in common and on purpose are their frets, their solid bodies, and the way you hold them. Everything else is either negligable or coincidence.
The second you refuse to take things for what they are in favour of adding frivolous infrastructure, your performance will suffer. It doesn't matter what the performance is; acting, music, writing, anything. The second you start playing the bass as if it were a type of guitar is the second your bass playing suffers. You're limiting yourself with made up rules and you're going to hit a ceiling of your own creation.
Take this for a spin; the bass isn't an instrument, it's a concept. The bass is what you play and the way you approach an instrument that can play the bass, whether it's an upright, an electric, a piano, or anything. It's your amp, it's your pedalboard. It's the sum of everything. Keep your fingers straight and have one finger per note, and you'll play the bass. Run it clean, dirty, with a pick, without one. Bass transcends all instruments. The upright bass is a hybrid of a violone and a viol de gamba and changed over time. The electric bass is a hybrid of an upright bass and a guitar and has changed over time even more drastically. It's all the same. Don't start tying yourself down with an irrelevant lineage that doesn't exist. It'll hold back your playing.
Now this is where the whole 'taking yourself too seriously' thing can fuck you up. Don't take this "concept" and run with it far beyond its useful boundaries. Technique is not a concept, and another huge difference between a bass and a guitar. Know the sound you want to get and get it with the instrument you want to get it with. Nothing more, nothing less. If you think shit left and right hand technique will get you the sound you want, you're either a liar or an idiot. You'll still need to play efficiently and in tune to get the concept happening. Think in terms of the song and in terms of bass. Play what will sound good. If you want to play in 16ths along with the guitar and drums, fucking do it. "But it'll sound muddy." How the fuck do you know? If you've read my previous blogs, it won't sound muddy. Get the fucking guitar to play in 8ths. If it doesn't sound good, don't do it. But make your decisions on the SOUND of the bass and not on what the other instruments are doing. There's no lead, there's no rhythm, there's just a song.
What the fuck is a rhythm guitar player anyway? I don't want an answer. As far as I'm concerned it's a guitar player who isn't a talented lead player. If you're a great lead guitarist who can't play rhythm, you're taking yourself way too seriously and are limiting yourself laughably. What, all you practice is leads? Too good for playing the other parts? Like... can what I'm saying get any more clear? How the fuck can you know the theory behind leads but not rhythm? Bass players, how can you dilute yourself into thinking this idiotic way? I have no respect for a lead player who can't play "rhythm" (whatever that is) and I simply will not be talked into the notion of a "rhythm" player who can't play leads as a skillful equal to a real "lead" player. A "rhythm" player who comes up with crazy alternate chord voicings should have no problem coming up with a really cool lead, even if it might not be as fast as the "lead" guitarist. A "lead" player who plays crazy arpeggiated solos should have no problem playing cool, alternate chord voicings. It's irrelevant.
Play the bass. Play the guitar. Learn real fucking technique. Don't pick random bits and bobs to learn because they suit these made-up "roles". For fuck's sake...
3:53 am - 9 comments - 14 Kudos - Report!
skippy_moogoose wrote on May 19th, 2009 7:50pm

I had a very simialir conversation about this with a friend recently,but with less fucks :p almost the same structure to it as well,and same points,tho you had some I didnt bring up,or rather more supporting evidence, scary...

Good blog as always dude, and one I agree with, got any ideas for the next?


ScottB. wrote on May 19th, 2009 11:05pm

great read


the humanity wrote on May 20th, 2009 5:45am

must agree.

most of the earliest electric bass players were uprighters before they played bass, not guitarist, as a support to this argument.

or at least the ones anyone ever reads about, ex. Bill Black.

the first really important guy who was a guitarist primarily before starting electric bass I believe was McCartney.


fatgoogle wrote on May 20th, 2009 9:29pm

You have a way with words, a very good way. Cool read.


Palodigon wrote on May 20th, 2009 9:58pm

Great blog, I loved reading it. very interesting.


wouldyakindly wrote on May 23rd, 2009 2:55pm

Very readable, you talk alot of sense.

As for "rhythm" and "lead" players, you have to take into account that some times it's not a question of ability, or musical know-how but a question of preference. In my personal experience, I've seen people who are more inclined towards chordal playing simply because they enjoy the tonal quality/techniques more, and vice versa. Perhaps they have the talent to do either "role", but there is simply more incentive for them to practice the one they like the most. A similar argument could be used for bass players and bass guitarists.


slurpeexyza wrote on May 23rd, 2009 7:27pm

Think a guitarist read this and thing got into his head. Started posting flame threads over at the forum. Check it out. Weird, funny, and the living proof that Thefitz has made his point.


jb_reborn wrote on May 25th, 2009 3:09pm

Words of wisedom there!


intenseshawn wrote on Aug 10th, 2009 7:38pm

what a fuck, you just based this entire thing clearly off of one guitarist you knew. You ignorant fuck...


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