Are you “just a bass player?”

While we all need to groove, some people have more to say

By Jon Liebman
Week of June 7, 2021

Is it enough to be “just” a bass player? 

If that’s how you define yourself, then that’s totally okay. Actually, it’s more than totally okay.

If, on the other hand, if playing bass serves as a starting point that morphs into something bigger, well, that’s okay too.

Take Sting, for example, featured in this week’s FBPO interview, conducted by Gary Graff.

Sting is a respected bass player, known for some of the more iconic lines in rock history, not to mention his distinct tone, and ability to hold down the bass part while simultaneously taking care of the frontman vocal duties.

But there’s more.

Never one to forget his “roots” (pun intended), Sting is also a singer, songwriter, bandleader, actor, and philanthropist. 

His success in the music world has afforded him opportunities to pursue many other avenues of self-expression. 

So what exactly drives him?

“I think it’s really about freedom,” he says, “the freedom to just follow my music and follow my curiosity about music.”

While a lot of bass players feel plenty fulfilled laying down the vitally important whole notes we need to supply, or putting forth their best 1-5, 1-5 patterns, Sting simply has more to say.

“My nature is much more of a gadfly,” he continues. “I’m intrigued by a lot of things, and I’m also intrigued by music as a continuum, as a universal mystery, not just one bit of it.”

Not everyone feels that way. What’s more, of those who do, not everyone has that chance.

“But I have that freedom,” he says. “I can say, ‘Well, I want to do an album of just songs of the winter, with a bit of Schubert and a bit of folk songs’ and it’s totally crazy but it amuses me and it pleases me.”

I’ve always admired people who are constantly exploring new roads, trying new things. Everyone from Chick Corea to Linda Ronstadt. In our own bass world, Brian Bromberg has done tributes to everyone from Jobim to Hendrix.

Sting likes to mix it up too.

“I can go out with a symphony orchestra or go out with this little weird combo. I don’t want to be tied down to one thing. I get bored too easily.”

I have immeasurable respect for the bassists who only want to lay down the groove and set the foundation for the band. First, that’s a mighty big “only,” and second, that’s what we’re called upon to do. Personally, I love doing that.

Others, though, simply have more that they’ve just got to get out. And I love that too.

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out Gary’s interview with Sting here.

Comments on Are you “just a bass player?”

  1. Richard Smith says:

    Sting is listed as author or co-author on well over half The Police’s recorded songs. He clearly has the capacity and determination and charisma to present ideas and convince everyone of his abilities, over decades, continuing to the present. Unlike many who ride waves of what is popular he has helped to create new musical styles. This interview nicely displays the outcomes and growth of musical genius; clearly, he is willful, but his many successful productions have left no doubt. Anything Sting is involved in deserves notice!

  2. Ted White says:

    I realize having been a choral conductor, opera & oratorio singer has made becoming a classical bassist doable. The more I make technical progress the more my musical skills are transferable. Your blog has helped me to improve the process. Thank you.

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