Why Isn’t Solo Bass More Accepted?

Bassist on Stage

Q: Why are other instruments like piano, violin, guitar seen as more acceptable to play solo without accompaniment but the bass is still up against it so to speak? I like playing solo arrangements on my six string bass (E to F) and have had good reception playing some local coffee houses but it still feels like there’s a barrier! Even some bass friends I know are like “where’s the groove?!”

A: Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent!”

To answer your question, the reason is likely simple: Violin and guitar have more years of acceptance as solo instruments than the electric bass has even existed. That, in concert with the perception (and historical context) that the role of the bass player is one of support and… boom! Stigma.

But, to hell with ’em. Music is an art form. If you consider yourself an aspiring or functioning artist, NEVER let anyone dictate how you express that art. Period.

(With a few exceptions. If your art is that of a session bassist, then it’s your job to take direction and deliver what someone else needs. You all know what I mean here.)

If you feel like people are judging you, but nobody has actually said anything? Then you may be overly sensitive and a bit insecure. Don’t worry about what people may be thinking.

If you try and intuit peoples desires and unspoken opinions in life, you are often left feeling insecure, offended, or uncomfortable in some way and the fact is, nobody likely cares nearly as much as you may think. If these feelings are coming from a place of insecurity, do everything you can to reframe your perspective into something more healthy.

The only thing that separates many artists with potential from artists with careers is a belief in what it is they are doing. Be bold, speak loudly and clearly. Do your thing brother! Just make sure to give it every bit of attention it requires to make it the absolute best it can be! Develop your craft and go for it.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to askdamian@notreble.com. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Warner

    Right on brother!!!! Exactly the way it is in the band I’m in now. Along time member and multi-instrumentalist thinks she can dictate what I play. Been trying to get help from the band leader for two years now until a couple of days ago. In preparing for a big gig this weekend, this band member is emphatic on me not playing an intro with the two guitars. BUT finally, after much discussion, she was told that I was playing that part and that’s it!!!! So yes, the struggle is real my friend!!!

  2. Eric Brewington

    This part absolutely nails it:

    “The only thing that separates many artists with potential from artists with careers is a belief in what it is they are doing. Be bold, speak loudly and clearly.”

    Well said and thank you Damian!

  3. I’m a songwriter and bass player… usually I write on piano, and when I record, I do it with a full band (drums, guitars, keys, other)… but I’m a bass player. When I play solo shows, it’s often just my bass and me. (Every now and then I’ll bring a keyboard, but I’m not very comfortable playing it in front of people.)

    Folks definitely notice the ONE guy who shows up with a bass in a sea of acoustic guitars. That said, I feel like if the songs are good enough, you’ll win the audience over. I’ve been trying to make sure my songs are good enough.