Layin’ down the groove, versus “Look at me! Look at me!”
By Jon Liebman
Week of May 27, 2019
This week, we published an inspiring interview with Ryan Madora, the Nashville-based dynamo, currently holding down the bass chair in the Robben Ford band. During our relaxed, one-on-one conversation, Ryan shared her story about having gone through her school’s music program as a drummer and percussionist before. Growing up listening to Nirvana, ‘90s rock, and a lot of soul music, Ryan heard a recording one day and said, “Oh, I wanna learn that!” The “that,” of course was the bass.
Can you identify a moment when you heard a bass groove so captivating that you were immediately struck by the instrument and just had to learn how to play it? Stories like Ryan’s abound throughout the bass-playing world, including many in our FBPO interviews, now numbering more than 600.
But we need to be careful. Playing bass is not what a lot of people think it is.
As bass players, we’re the ones that lay down the groove and make the music feel good. Oftentimes there are misconceptions about what’s required of a bass player. It’s cool if you’re into Billy Sheehan or Victor Wooten, or Jaco, or Federico Malaman, arguably the greatest bass players in the world. Just don’t lose sight of the groove aspect of playing the bass. While the aforementioned bass players have demonstrated grooveability remarkably well, they’re perhaps even more highly regarded for their jaw-dropping virtuosity on the bass. And there is certainly a place for that. But understanding how to lay down the groove and give the music what it needs is what’s going to get you hired, and keep you from getting fired.
I can practically see you nodding in agreement as you’re reading my admonishment, underscoring the importance of the groove. Sadly, not everyone adheres to said bass code, as you likely know. At forbassplayersonly.com, we do our best to drive the point home, whether it’s by way of our interviews, blogs, or rapidly growing online bass instruction courses.
Paul McCartney wrote some of the greatest pop songs in history, but don’t overlook the way his magic touch, on the bass, enhanced those songs immeasurably (“I Saw Here Standing There,” “Dear Prudence” and countless others). The same thing can be said for Chris Squire (“Roundabout”), Bernard Edwards (“Good Times”), James Jamerson (just about any Motown tune), and hundreds of other mega-groovers.
How about you? Can you honestly say that you’re a dedicated groover, unquestionably devoted to serving the song and forever striving to give the music just what it needs?
Or (tell the truth, now) do you sometimes find yourself succumbing to “Look at Me!” mode when you’re supposed to layin’ it down for the band?
Leave a comment below and let me know your story. In the meantime, check out my interview with Ryan here.