Going beyond the fundamentals
By Jon Liebman
Week of August 30, 2021
What determines whether a bass player is truly getting the job done or not?
Recently, I spoke with veteran NYC jazz bassist, Harvie S, for this week’s FBPO interview. For as long as I’ve known him, Harvie’s always been one of the busiest bass players on the scene.
When I asked him what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass, his answer blew me away.
I’m always going on about how the bass is a supportive instrument, how we need to lock in with the drummer, lay the foundation for the band, etc.
In talking with Harvie, though, I’d never heard the role of a bass player described in quite the way he put it, and I absolutely loved his answer.
While there was no push-back from Harvie about the bass player’s need to honor the fundamentals, he offered a much deeper perspective.
“Understand that when you play the bass,” Harvie says, “it’s…really, how to make other people sound better.”
Think about that. As emotionally secure adults, good bass players understand why they’re there and what they’re supposed to do. If you want to take your bass playing even further, think of Harvie’s insight while you’re playing. Be prepared to test your security even more, though, because you’re not likely to get the credit for what the audience feels. And that’s okay. We know.
Harvie’s mantra is, “A bass line is only as good as how it makes the other members of the band sound.”
Of course, when learning bass, the fundamentals are still important, time is important, intonation is important, groove is important, as are all the other things we’ve been taught. Mixing in the goal of making other sound good will give you a beautiful thing to strive for.
“If you play great bass lines and make a band sound good,” Harvie says, “you’ll work and people will hire you.”
No wonder the guy works so much.
What about you? 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 Harvie here.