Where Did The Bass Chord Go?
-Written By: G.M.
Whatever happened to the beloved bass chord? You will not find bass chords in the music coming out today. Well, not entirely true, you have to search for it. There are still select few bands that have a bass player good enough to throw one in there but it also depends on the song. Most of these bands however you will only find on Sirius/XM’s Jam band station. The modern band (you’ve heard them: Hollywood produced, over use of effects, very polished, use of auto tune) of today are lucky if the bass player even has a major role in the song let alone throwing in some killer bass lines and a chord on occasion.
Now I’m not talking a song filled with a progression of bass chords (I don’t think there is one??), I’m talking the songs that have a bass line running through out and every once in a while a bass chord is added for a full sound at that perfect moment of the song. Paul McCartney is the master at this. Phil Lesh did this often. Flea loves his bass chords.
McCartney is mostly known for his songwriting, voice and melodies, but hidden behind all those wonderful songs is the bottom end that wouldn’t be the same without him. As a long subscriber to bass player magazine and reading interview after interview, one of the reoccurring comments was McCartney’s bass playing being a huge influence in these artists lives. I never listened to him in that way and turned my ear toward what he was doing on the low end. I was blown away. Sure there’s the killer bass lines in songs like Every Body’s Got Something to Hide but Me and My Monkey, but he sneaks in those bass chords that go unnoticed in songs like All I’ve Got to Do.
Flea is also a chord user. Listen to the bridge section of Soul to Squeeze by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and you’ll hear Flea’s chords. That powerful section wouldn’t be the same without them but chords seem to go unnoticed.
The local band 'The 123’s' bass player Chris Robinson has figured out the beauty of placing bass chords. Listen to track 6 “Future Comes Fast” on their new album Satellites and Frequencies and you will hear a bass line that falls into a chord. Brilliant and beautiful and not heard often today. The entire cd is filled with moments like that. I had a conversation Rob Farquhar a while back, currently the bass player with local band Diamond Joe, about when he’s in the middle of a improve jam what is he thinking and where does he know where to go in the song. He said that he likes to think of bass chord progressions through the jam but play the notes individually. If you follow that rule your scales will fall into place. Excellent advice.
Chords are still around but as I stated earlier, you have to go find them. So I’m asking all the new bass players out there writing new songs, throw me a chord every once in a blue moon and I’ll stop bitching about it. Rock on!
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