Normally when you hear of a certain band you’ll normally associate it with the lead singer. The singers are often the most known member of the group, followed by the guitarist and then the drummer and possibly keyboardist but one instrument of the band I feel doesn’t get a lot of spotlight this the bass guitar/bassist.
Bands like Rush, Yes and Chili Peppers are examples where this isn’t the case but there are a lot of bassists out there that perhaps don’t get the recognition that they deserve.
Now, this isn’t because I’m a bass player myself but I genuinely really think that bass guitar is an underrated instrument.
One thing could be that growing up, some people aren’t aware of the concept of a bass guitar. I first found out what a bass guitar was at six years old when my dad told me about Rush and how Geddy Lee sometimes plays the bass using bass pedals but I would always thought a bass guitar looked like a double bass. In Paul McCartney’s case that works but when I was about 8 or 9 whenever I saw a band on TV, I always thought, “Where’s the bass?, Where’s the bass?!”. Not knowing that it was just a taller guitar with four strings.
But yeah, I was in second year and I watched this show where their was a bassist onstage (there were no guitars) and everyone around me kept saying. “That guy with the guitar is insane!” I avoided telling them it was a bass guitar to seem like a know-it-all but I knew I was right and they were wrong!
You always find that bassists are the most forgotten about members of the band, even the late John Entwistle, one the best bassists of all time, still wasn’t as remembered as singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend or late drummer Keith Moon.
Other times it’s a case of mentioning a bassists name like Ben Shepherd of Soundgarden or Nate Mendel of Foo Fighters and everyone around me going, “Who?”.
There are also certain ways of playing guitar that doesn’t have the same effect as bass. For example slap-style. Slapping a guitar sounds like slap bass and “slapping” was made popular on bass. Examples of bassists who “slap a da bass” (say it with your best Jamaican accent!!!) include Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Les Claypool (Primus) and of course Victor Wooten.
In most contemporary music, bass guitar keeps to the rhythm with the drums, something I mostly do in my band whilst providing lead vocal duties but there are rare instances where I play my bass a lead instrument. One thing I notice as that bass players that use the bass guitar as a lead instrument tend to be more well-known as the likes of Lemmy (Motorhead), Les Claypool and Flea have shown but a lot of melodic but rhythm bassists are well-known as well such as Chris Squire (Yes), Bernard Edwards (CHIC) and John Deacon (Queen). It’s just very easy to mistake a bass for a guitar if you don’t see the strings (one thing I still do this day).
If you’re a shop or an arena or somewhere loud and you hear a popular song it can be extremely difficult to hear any bass, not just bass guitar as sometimes these days, bass synth or even double bass as both mainly stick to the “dun-dun-dun-dun” rhythm in contemporary music but it still remains an important part of a song. Dave Grohl said once during an interview when he talked about bands without bass players, comparing the bass to gluten, “No gluten, no gooten,” he said. I can only assume “gooten” means “a great song.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEfxS60bIYE (Dave Grohl’s analogy between bass and gluten.)
I genuinely think that bass guitar is underrated is it isn’t talked about as much as guitar or drums or piano/keys yet still plays a key role in a band’s style and performance. The bassist also tends to have less of an ego then the guitarist has!