Multiple Basses or Just One? A Discussion for Working Bass Players
Q: I’m a fairly busy bass player working with five or six different bands ranging from funk to soul to hip-hop/neo-soul to jazz to disco to metal and a few function bands which encompass just about everything else! For the last four years, I’ve mainly used one sound (neck pickup, flatwound strings) on one bass for everything. But I recently bought a new bass (essentially a P-bass with roundwounds) and I’m wondering if I should have more tonal options available to me for different songs/bands. What are your thoughts on having an arsenal of different sounding basses versus just using one?
A: Here’s my short version of an answer: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Now the longer version…
If you have a sound you love and you and your band mates think it’s a great sound for whatever music you’re making, I’d call that a win and not worry too much.
I have three primary basses I use for various situations. Two are Skjolds, and I love both sounds, but I always know exactly which one I’m going to reach for depending on either the sound of the music or the feel of the music. Each bass feels differently and I play them differently. I also use a passive Marleaux with an Aguilar P-pickup (passive) that has a great old school sound. I am a different bass player on each of those instruments and not only do I sound like the music demands, but I pick the instrument that makes me want to play like the music demands.
Other guys have one instrument that they love and use for everything. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as the music is happening and everybody digs it.
You might very well pick up a few different kind of instruments over the years and have fun exploring different sounds, feels and textures. You might get into finding that sound that’s perfect for each style or stay with one good versatile bass that does a bit of everything (and there are plenty of instruments that get close enough to doing it all).
This is a real “follow your gut” situation. If you’re curious, explore and just remain open minded and keep your ears open. Let the sound and feel of the music guide you!
Readers, this is ripe for discussion. Let us know if you’re a “one bass” kind of person, or if you have a different tool for every job! Please share in the comments.