In our ever-expanding search to bring value to the settings we choose to contribute to, here are 4 ways to make yourself indispensable as a bassist and contribute on multiple fronts. These are the elements I’ve seen over 25 years that have helped bassists succeed, be in demand, and thrive.
1. Sing (even just a little)
This may be the element that I have seen separate more bassists in auditions, in the studio, or on stage than any other. Bassists who can sing often get gigs over those who can’t. And it’s not a matter of singling lead (more power to you if you can) it’s about providing solid backup vocals.
This doesn’t require a great voice, but it does require a few skills: producing a decent tone, singing harmony (so much fun) and blending (getting your vocal sound to fit in smoothly with other voices). These can all be accomplished with practice, the development of vocal confidence, and guidance.
What can you do to add this tremendous skill?
Pick a few songs and learn to sing and play them simultaneously. If you’ve never done this before it can take time to develop the coordination to play a bass line while singing. If you take the time, it’s worth it!
It’s also never been easier to find vocal coaching as there are some well-designed courses online including The Perfect Voice and Superior Singing Method. You can also find some insightful free lessons from Felicia Ricci.
2. Bring Multi-Instrumental Skills
One of the most enjoyable and beneficial ways I’ve grown as a bassist and as musician is through learning new instruments. For me, this process isn’t about mastery, it’s really about perspective. When I pick up a new instrument I get to see music from a slightly different perspective: like Picasso taking in multiple simultaneous perspectives we can see a song in a different way, in a new way.
And this, my friends, leads to being a better bassist. We expand our understanding of music and of a song by understanding how others see it. This new sight increases also our understanding of how to contribute better bass parts since we know what others need. And, we develop a clearer understanding of our role and ultimately, if we choose, of how to both fulfill and challenge that role.
You can get expansive music training online offering professional instruction on a wide variety of instruments from bass to cello to flute and more at Artistworks, Inc.
Piano for All is one of the leading online piano courses and they are song-focused so you can jump into playing songs.
One of the highest quality online platforms for learning guitar, bass, and even ukulele is Fender’s new Fender Play.
Being a bass player, we have serious skills that can be transferred over to other instruments. And if we learn the basics of another instrument this often offers wonderful returns that help us grow as bassists and as musicians. Even learning to play just a few songs on a new instrument can get you a long way.
3. Learn a Little About How Drummers Think
Bassists and drummers form the core of the rhythm section in many music forms. Knowing how our musical siblings approach music can be tremendously beneficial to our own ability to communicate and lock in with drummers by better understanding their unique perspective on music.
If you’re interested in learning more about the other half of the rhythm section, two solid free resources are youtube channels for Drumeo and 180 Drums.
4. Always Be Learning
Bass players are the salt of the earth. We are the binding force in a band in more ways than the obvious one as we are the bridge between rhythm and harmony. We have one foot placed squarely in the rhythm section and the other in the harmony section. (Well done us!)
In our efforts to always be learning, as is our way, there are some high-quality resources available. Three excellent resources available online include the Fender Play program, Artistworks, and, yes, my own course, The Professional Bass Masterclass (of which I’m very proud).
With some extra work, we can develop the skills to contribute in ways that help us better understand our own instrument and express ourselves even more fully as well-rounded contributors to the song, to the sound, and to the band.