Melodic percussive Thunder holding down the bottom end, sticking the rhythm and the foundation of chordal progressions.
Such is a partial description of what the electric bass means in all forms of today's Music.
I'm going to pry open my skull for a bit, and allow some thoughts on the lineage highpoints of the 4-string to spill onto the screen in hopes of sharing a glimmer of my perceived evolution concerning the bass.
We'll be exploring the subject by having a look at some of the players who I think made a big difference in style, technique, and approach to the instrument and its Rockin' role.
E = John Entwhistle of the Who broke the mold with his intricate use of the pentatonic scale, incredible breakthrough in fingering techniques, and the struggle to be heard amidst Townshend and Moon. A pioneer of the Marshall stack and bi-amping, it might have been his cranking of the treble control all the way up that helped foster the unique sound he continuously explored and developed over his career.
Yet few can argue that "My Generation" is the song that cast aside old views about what the bass was for, and took those first steps onto the role of the 4-string as a "lead" Instrument.
A = Geddy Lee of Rush who took up the cause of the bass as a lead with a fervor. His left hand is renown for its virtuosity coupled with the rhythmic intensity and odd time counts of his right hand which created a sound and approach to the 4-string that has earned him six times bass player of the year and induction to the Bass Player Hall of Fame according to Guitar World magazine. His influence on so many other players is incalcuable, but your humble narrator freely admits he bought his first bass guitar after seeing Rush in the Felt Forum for the 2112 tour.
D = Lemmy, the Master of Motorhead. "Everything louder than anyone else" is not just a slogan with Lemmy, but a philosophical mantra. Coming from the prog-rock band of Hawkwind, Lemmy stepped out on his own to do something radically different. Standing astride both the nascent punk and fledgling metal genres, Lemmy introduced sheer speed into the mix with his pick strumming power chords on the bass at ludicrous velocity. All controls on his signature Richenbacher turned all the way up, Marshall amps with bass and treble controls turned all the way down, and mid-range cranked to 11 provided a unique and blistering soundscape that ripped your face off. Still rocking strong past the 60 year mark, a Motorhead show is not to be missed.
G = Les Claypool of Primus is last, but certainly not least. His superhuman agility with the Instrument and bizarre sense of sonic propulsion places Les in a category by himself. Snapping, popping, tapping, strumming, fingerpicking… any technique that could produce a sound is accomplished with seeming ease by Claypool. Quirky and innovative, he achieves sounds like no other, and demonstrates an impish glee in spewing it all over his audience like they are in on the joke.
There's a sampling folks, and a brief touch upon 4 of the greats. Sound off with your thoughts in the comments section and let the Discussion begin!
The preceding was merely one sixth billionth's of the World's opinion… your mileage may vary.