The joys — and dangers — of the upper register

Here’s a great way to enhance the music — if you’re careful!

By Jon Liebman
April 18, 2024

As bass players, we’re always told to stick to the low register of the instrument.

But is it ever okay to venture “north,” up into the higher range?

The answer is YES — provided you’re careful!

Watch this video to learn what to do, what not to do, and when.

Comments on The joys — and dangers — of the upper register

  1. Joe says:

    Nice clip Jon, thanks. I’m in a covers & originals band. With the covers I playing as the band intended. With the originals I have room to stretch. Our guys take is as long as I’m hitting the pertinent chords it doesn’t matter how I get there provided it works with the structure.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks, Joe. You remind me of something I heard Bootsy Collins say about working with James Brown. James would say, “I don’t care about all that stuff you play in between, but after you play all that stuff, I need to hear you come down ‘on the one!'” 🙂

  2. Celia Bradley says:

    Oh my goodness you’re actually giving the bass the freedom to be the beautiful melodic musical instrument it’s capable of being. Just play a piece of music that’s creative and expressive – why does it have to be about a ‘song’ – if you play in a band that’s the discipline you have to put up with I suppose but it takes away the ‘fun’ element for me. I hate the message of confinement that comes across when you say things like ‘keep it in the bottom end’, ‘don’t play fancy chops’, ‘serve the song’ – it’s like telling a woman she should stay at home to do the cooking and cleaning and look after the kids, just because she’s a woman and that’s her role!

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      I’m glad you liked the video, Celia. I’m a little concerned, though, about your using words like “put up with” and “confinement” when it comes to being the kind of bass player the band wants and the music needs. Generally speaking, the bass player’s job is to set the foundation for the band and lay down the groove. It shouldn’t feel like a chore; it should be embraced. It’s fun! That said, there are times when it’s okay to break out and play outside the traditional role of the bass player, but those instances are the exception to the rule. Maybe you want to pursue a career as a solo artist, which is totally fine! Thanks for weighing in.

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