It’s a fact: Bassists have always been overlooked. When Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he jokingly said “Thank you to my friends for finally remembering my phone number.” But the joke might actually be on the band because there is now scientific proof that not only are bassists important, but they are vital members of any band.
Several studies involving the bass have been tested and the results have been the same: Bassists bring powerful neurological and structural reasons that are crucial to music needs.
Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada have found that our brains are far better equiped to feel rythmyic tones when they occur at a lower frequency. The study’s lead author, Laurel Trainor, proved this theory by hooking up participants to an EEG monitor and found that participants were better at recognizing errors that occures in bass notes.
In a second study performed at Northwestern University, researchers found that bass-heavy music is far more effective at inspiring feelings. The study, done by Dennis Hsu, showed that participants reported more feelings of power while listening to heavy bass music and also chose more power-related words to describe their feelings.
In a more established study done by Robert Challoner and published in his 1880 History of the Science and Art and Music, Challoner wrote of the importance of the bass when it comes to establishing the harmonic and melodic direction of music.
“The bass part … is, in fact, the foundation upon which the melody rests and without which there could be no melody.”
Challoner described the bass as defining chords that set a song’s melody in context. Backing this theory, one of the world’s biggest bassists, Sting, praises the bass and its harmonic control.
“You know, the piano player can play a C chord on the piano, but it’s only a C chord if I play C on the bass. If I play something else, it’s a totally different chord. For instance, an A,” Famous bass player Sting told Singing Bassists. “So you control the harmony. If you are also a singer, you control the top – yes, I’m a control freak! So everybody performs within your parameters. So, as a bandleader, it’s avery good position to be in.”
And so now it is proven: The bass is absolutely vital to any song. It fills out the background, creating harmonic and melodic direction, and stimulates feelings of power. No longer are the days of allowing bassists to go underappreciated and overlooked, and it deserves its credit.