How should technology affect the job of the bass player?
By Jon Liebman
Week of April 20, 2020
It’s always a great experience whenever I get to sit down with legendary designer Ned Steinberger. In our newest FBPO interview, published this week, I got to marvel yet again at how this non-musician has had such a dramatic impact on so many players throughout the world.
For this interview, we were also joined by acclaimed author Jim Reilly, whose new biography, Steinberger, hit the streets, last week.
Ned’s story is truly incredible. While he never set out specifically to serve the music industry, he fell into it pretty much by accident. His “headless” design became an absolute game-changer for musicians.
Ned’s creations got me thinking of other brilliant innovators, and the impact they’ve made in the music world in the post-Leo Fender/Les Paul era. Names that immediately come to mind include Emmett Chapman and Sheldon Dingwall, to name but two.
Chapman, of course, is the inventor of the Chapman “Stick,” a game changer if there ever was one. Once the Stick found its way into the hands of Tony Levin, Nick Beggs, Don Schiff, and other prominent players, the music world was never the same.
Dingwall, hailing from western Canada, is known for his fan-fretted layout, totally revolutionizing the conventional fingerboard. This amazing, totally unique system has been popularized by the likes of Dann Glenn, Leland Sklar, Adam “Nolly” Getgood, and many others, completely redefining the fingerboard as we know it.
So how should innovations like these affect the role of the bass? And the role of the bass player? Does the bass still maintain its role as groovemaker? Or has it started veering off in another direction?
The way I see it, one can still groove on all of these instruments, notwithstanding the way they open up countless other opportunities for expression and soloing, limited only by the creativity of the player. In fact, some of the techniques applied to these instruments have gone far beyond what their creators ever conceived.
Still, the bass needs to supply the groove.
For those learning bass here at FBPO, our primary focus is on the groove. Our lessons in technique, sight reading, etc., are all means to that end. Simply stated, it’s vitally important for the bass player to maintain the role of groovemaker.
I marvel at innovators like Steinberger, Chapman, Dingwall, and the others who are incessantly obsessed with pushing the envelope. If becoming a solo artist is in the cards for anyone who embraces game-changing technology as introduced by brilliant minds like these, I wish them success. I just hope the bass never loses the groove-making role upon which the music world has relied for decades. After all, if there’s no bass, there’s no groove.
How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, watch my interview with Ned and Jim here.
Jim Reilly’s just-released biography, Steinberger, is available in the FBPO store.