Bass players are frequently seen as lower-class citizens in the music world. You struggle to get credit from other types of musicians, non-musicians who don’t understand bass, and people mixing your sound if you play a show. You hear the same jokes constantly, and nobody seems to understand your struggles.
1. You learn to be very patient with people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Bass is one of the most misunderstood instruments, and as a bass player, you constantly hear things like, “Oh, you use a pick? Don’t you use your fingers on bass?” (you know that both have their place) or “Bass is always just single notes, right?” To be a bass player, you need to learn patience quickly, or else you will constantly be correcting people. This kind of patience comes in handy when you come across frustrating people elsewhere in your life.
2. You don’t let being underappreciated get you down.
The average music listener pays very little attention to bass and what it does for the music they are listening to. That’s fine, though. You know how important you are, and won’t let this lack of attention or appreciation get you down. Even when it takes the form of people who think bass is an “easy” instrument and that you aren’t working as hard as other musicians, you know the truth, and this kind of hate won’t keep you from showing up and doing your part.
3. You can accept that you don’t always get what you want.
Bass players are routinely put at the bottom of the list in terms of importance, and nowhere is that more obvious than when you play live. You might have a better amp than the guitar player, but will still be asked to use a DI. Or if you are lucky enough to get your amp mic’d, you will still be asked to turn it down so much that almost no volume is actually coming from your amp. In either of these situations, you lose the tone you want out of your amp. This is an unfortunate reality of life as a bass player, but it’s something you learn to simply do your best to fix yet accept in the end.
4. You are very humble.
Bass players don’t only have live issues with their tone, but also being heard at all. If you have ever played shows, you know that a sound person who actually mixes bass into the overall mix well is an absolute blessing. The sonic frequencies that bass creates behave and resonate very differently than guitar does, and many sound people seem to either not understand this or not to put forth the effort that would be necessary for bass to sound like it should. Even if you’re audible in the mix, you are still generally very well-hidden. It seems that they keep bass lower in the mix so that it doesn’t stick out. As a bass player, you understand this, and though it might be frustrating, you just keep doing your thing. Your ego and need to be recognized don’t trump your loyalty to the music. Outside of issues playing live, the mindset of a bass player is generally a humble one. Bass players can absolutely be flashy and impressive, or be the lead instrument, but largely you serve to provide rhythm and structure for other instruments to build on top of.
5. You have really strong muscles and great lifting form.
Bass gear is incredibly heavy for the most part, especially in comparison to similar guitar gear. There is basically no way around developing stellar muscles hauling your stuff around, and it only takes getting a sore back once from lifting your amp with bad form to lift things properly every single time after that.
6. You have a refined sense of humor.
Bass players are very routinely the butt of jokes. If they were original or creative, you would have no issue with it. You won’t get far as a bass player without learning to laugh at yourself a bit. Unfortunately, a large majority of these jokes revolve around either the Seinfeld theme song (which every bass player knows was actually played on a keyboard, not a bass), or doing their most obnoxious Paul Rudd impression to yell “SLAPPIN’ DA BASS” at you. These are very tired and basic forms of humor, and you have a more sophisticated palate.
7. You make do with what is available to you.
If you walk into almost any music store, you will see that the selection of bass gear, whether it be instruments, amps, pedals, or any bass-specific accessories, is substantially smaller than what is available for guitar. Your local Guitar Center will probably have almost as many Stratocasters available as they have total basses. While you still know exactly what you want, you realize that you sometimes have to make some compromises and work with what is available to you. You will see guitar players swapping out gear for something new before it seems like they even had a chance to really use what they’re getting rid of, but bass players tend to stick with something for longer. You wait until you find something that really fits your needs. This outlook is really valuable in life. Finding ways to get by with what you have leads to being innovative and determined.
8. You can school people with your knowledge, even if they think they know what they’re talking about.
Musicians of all types know what it can feel like to talk about music with a non-musician. It feels like you are speaking another language, even if you are trying to state things as plainly as you possibly can. This is because musicians not only are more familiar with music terminology and theory, but actually listen to music differently. A study by Dr. William Berz, the Area Co-Coordinator of Rutgers University’s Music Education Program, found that experienced music listeners are significantly better at identifying structured events within music. This difference in knowledge level can make it difficult to be on the same wavelength when trying to talk about music. For bass players, this frequently happens even when you are talking to other musicians. Bass players perceive music differently than guitar players do. You notice what’s going on below the surface of songs more than they do. Using this, you can talk about music in ways that will completely go over the heads of people who think they know everything about music.
9. You are good at budgeting and saving.
As a bass player, you quickly realize that some of your music gear costs significantly more than the guitar equivalent. Pedals designed specifically for bass are almost universally more expensive than the version designed for guitar. Even for an accessory like a hard case, you are likely to spend at least $10 more than for the guitar counterparts. While all of these can be brutal on your wallet, nothing beats the pain of buying bass strings in comparison to guitar strings. Though there are cheaper options for a set of bass strings, you are usually looking at spending at least $25, while guitar strings are much cheaper, with single sets usually costing around $5, and packs of ten sets available for $35. Because of this, it is essential as a bass player to learn to budget and save effectively. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to afford the gear you want.
10. You are very good at supporting others.
One of the primary jobs that you generally have as a bass player is to help lay down the foundation for the music. You work with the drummer to form the rhythm section, which provides a platform for lead instruments and vocals to work on top of. This isn’t the most glamorous job in the band, but without it, songs would have trouble maintaining their structure and dynamics. This kind of role requires you to be committed to supporting other people in their endeavors, possibly at the expense of your own work shining as brightly. There is a common misconception that bass is boring and not as important as the other instruments in a band, but if you took it away, you would quickly see how reliant on bass those other musicians are. It’s hard to have this type of attitude not cross into your life outside of music, as well.
11. You work well with others.
One of the most common expressions among bass players is being “locked in” with the drummer. When you get on the same page as a drummer, it is an incredible feeling. To achieve this, you have to work well with the drummer by becoming attuned to their strengths and weaknesses in order to react to their playing and stay synced up. This skill translates to almost every walk of life. Learning to work with others is maybe the most important lesson you could ever learn, but as a bass player, you already excel at this.
12. You know when to be quiet and when to speak up.
As a bass player, you need to know when to be subtle or drop out of a song, as well as how to build back up and make your presence more known. Doing this is one of the most effective ways to add dynamics to songs that otherwise lack them. It isn’t necessarily fun to stop playing during sections of a song, but you know that it is making the music better. Your skill with this also translates to the rest of your life. You are very skilled with knowing how to navigate conversations and when to speak up to let your opinion be heard, as well as when to simply listen to others.
13. You look at things with a different perspective.
Bass has a very different role in music than most instruments. You span the gap between the rhythmic and melodic components of the band in a unique way, which leads to you perceiving music differently than other people do. This affects both how you play music (any bass player will tell you how unnatural it sounds when guitar players try to play bass), and how you listen to it. While others focus on the lead instruments or the melody of a song first, you hear what’s going on underneath and how the rest of the music is built on top of it. By having this different perspective on something as universal as music, it shifts the way you look at the world around you. This way of looking at the world gives you valuable and unique insight.
14. You are flexible.
Playing bass requires you to work in a variety of situations that each pose unique challenges and obstacles. Whether you are facing live sound issues or playing with musicians who are not giving you the recognition you deserve, life as a bass player requires you to be flexible and deal with things as they come. While other musicians may get more benefit of the doubt when it comes to these situations, people still think of bass players as lazy, lesser musicians and expect them to just accept what is thrown at them. While you still remain strong in your demand for respect, you know how to adjust yourself to keep moving forward. Having this flexibility makes you strong in times when life throws curveballs at you, as well. While other people won’t know how to adapt, you succeed in spite of hardships.
15. You know how to surprise people.
As a bass player, you are used to being misunderstood, ignored, or totally overlooked by both musicians and general music listeners. This can be incredibly frustrating to you, but it also gives you one of your biggest skills—the ability to surprise people. When people have an assumption that bass is boring, or not very important in music, it gives you the chance to prove them wrong. You don’t need to break out into a crazy solo to do this, either. Things like having awesome bass tone or playing something in an unexpected way can do this, as well. Simplest of all, if you are proud of being a bass player, and aren’t afraid to say that and talk about why the misconceptions about bass players are wrong, you will constantly surprise people, and hopefully start to change their minds.
Featured photo credit: Musician Carrying Bass Guitar in Desert/Image Catalog via flickr.com