Are You Making the People Dance?

“If they’re not moving and tapping, you’re not doing a good job”

By Jon Liebman
Week of September 9, 2019

This week’s interview was indeed very special. After a multi-year “electronic friendship,” with Benny Rietveld, I finally got to sit down for an in-person interview with the longtime Santana bass player. Benny told some great Santana stories, not the least of which was about getting to record with Santana alumni Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, Michael Carabello and Michael Shrieve for the enthusiastically received 2016 release, Santana IV.

The conversation also included a rundown of Benny’s gear, and updates on a few of his side projects. 

When we got to talking about bass technique and the role of a bass player, what he had to say got me the most excited I’d been about bass playing in over 40 years.

First, as if to say, “Let’s get this out of the way,” Benny chimed in, stating that, “If you need constant ego gratification, then it’s the wrong instrument for you.” 

I think we already knew that. 

On the other hand, I suppose it’s a matter of what strokes your ego!

Then things got a little more serious. Acknowledging that the bass is “a background” instrument primarily, Benny reminded us that it’s still an incredibly important part of the band, and that playing bass in a band is a huge responsibility. “It’s the pulse,” he says, “the earthing, the grounding.”

Expounding on that thought, Benny explained how, “the lyrics and the melodies fill our hearts and our heads, but without that grounding there’s no way to get it into people’s soul.” That’s why it’s vital for the bass player to be there, in order to provide that pulse, he says.

According to Benny, we bass players control whether or not the people dance. “If they’re not at least moving and tapping… then you’re not doing a good job,” he says. 

Wow! Still think the bass is “only” a background instrument? 

For you FBPO members, keep that in mind as you’re working through our grooves, whether they be Jazz & Blues, Rock & Metal, Funk/R&B, Latin, or any of the other styles in our course library. Are you playing bass in a way that will make people dance?

With great power comes great responsibility.

Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Benny here.

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