OT: Bandmate thinks bass is unnecessary in a band

Hi all,

I’ve not posted in ages, but I have a problem and needed some opinions. It’s a bit off-topic, sorry.

Basically I’m trying to form a jazz band where I play bass, along with a drummer, keyboardist and sax player. I’m primarily a guitarist but have sacrificed this in order to play bass for the band as we didn’t have a bassist.

But the band quite likes me playing guitar, to which I say - but then we’ve got no bass player…so I’ll have to play bass. I’d like us to try and find a bassist, but the drummer’s not bothered and would rather we kept as a four-piece for some reason. (He even said there’d be less money to share out if there’s five of us! He’s obviously got his priorities right then…! As if we we’ll get gigs when we won’t be sounding so great as we’ll be without bass).

So back to square one…I have to play bass as we don’t have a bassist. The drummer seems to think bass is unnecessary in a band…and often picks the White Stripes as an example! He even said once that when he listens to music he doesn’t really hear the bass. (When I listen to music I hear every instrument!!). He might not notice, but an audience will, and we’ll frankly sound cr@p without bass…especially since it’s jazz we’re doing.

Am I going mad or something? I tell him, how come every band has a bass guitar (or double bass or keyboard bass even)? “Er well the White Stripes don’t have bass”. Bad example, and they’re hardly he pinnacle of music. And they don’t play play jazz anyway, like we do.

Arrgh! I’m banging my head against a brick wall. Please help. How do I deal with this? The other band members kind of agree with me, but somehow at the same time don’t seem to think the lack of bass is necessarily a great problem.

The other side issue, again to do with the drummer, is that he seems unable to distinguish between tunes that we play well and ones that we don’t. It makes sense to me to ditch the ones that aren’t working out and stick with the ones that are. But no, he has a set-list written in stone, and these are the ones we’re playing. Surely we should be compiling a set-list from the best tunes we have?!

He’s even been stressing about the band’s name for christ’s sake. Seems like the actual music has taken a back seat!

I’ll stop ranting now…

Thanks for reading.


Bass is essential instrument in any band. Having said that, it’s all sort of relative to the band & music isn’t it? I mean I play in an acoustic duo with no bass. It would sound better if we had a bass but we don’t. I also play in a rock ‘n’ roll band & we wouldn’t be able to do it w/o a bass. Relative.

In your situation (jazz band), you may be able to get away with not having a bass if your keyboardist is good enough to carry it. If not, you need a bass.

Mr Soul

Hmm…yes, the guitar duo thing or similar I was going to mention as an example without bass. However a normal band should have bass.

I’m also aware that a keyboardist can do bass…though not ours (talented though she is). I did once see a jazz band in London where the keyboardist had two keyboards, one set to a double bass sound, played with his left hand…and it sounded amazing, just like a real double bass.

Strangely enough I’ve noticed that the White Stripes DO have a bass in their recordings.

There is an old saying:

"There’s nothing a bass player can do that the keyboard player can’t do with his left hand"

I don’t know how you feel about the subject, but I’m rather partial to a bass guitar. Being that I’m primarily a bassist may make that a biased opinion. It is rather difficult to get a strong, confident sound without a well reinforced bass line.

Why not do both? Have guitar and bass on stage, if the keyboard player can play the bass line effectively - then play guitar. Otherwise play the bass part.

Maybe this is the reason they invented special drum rooms - that way when he starts talking you can just close the door.

Besides, the last time I listened to a drummer, I wound up sleeping in a field and waking up with black eye and a raging hangover. :D


A jazz band with no BASS!!!?????? :O WHAT?! Ok, no. White strips are throwback rock based upon minimalizim, and thus it works. Jazz is all about complication. It is about intriquiteness. You’d do better to have no guitar than no bass. Many a great jazz band has done it. Anyways, a drummer who has no appreciation for bass has no clue what a groove is, and thus should be forbidden from playing Jazz. It really should be a law. A drummer with no groove will KILL a jazz band. Sorry. I’m a bassist, and like jazz a lot, though I only know mostly thoretical things about it, as I play it more than listen to it (start asking me about famous jazz musicians, and you’ll lose me).

But yes, all bands need low register. with “guitar centered” musical styles, that is the bass. It is not just true with 20th century american musical styles. I challenge you to find a classical peice that doesn’t have the tubas and timpanis and double basses playing. Even female accapella pieces have their altos. Otherwise the frequency spectrum is unbalanced. The only thing with any definition at the 80 hz range is bass and kick. no bass, all you get it kick, which will make the music sond like crap. Of course, it sounds like your drummer knows nothing about music really. He may know rhythm, but he can’t know anything about theory or what really makes up music to say that about bass.

As far as “good/bad songs” go, it is quite a relative thing, remember that. But it sounds like you need to pick someone as a leader who makes final decisions. Some bands don’t need that, others do. It doesn’t make the band anything less to have someone who has the final say. If you have to, have the whole band vote on who they think it should be, and whoever that is gets the final say. shrugs it worked for me.

I’d say you need to find another drummer…

Where are you based? I play Jazz drums!!:)

Anyway, I would say that bass should be there to lock down the grove. I have often played at church w/o a bassist, and will then fill out the bottom end with a bit more footwork. It helps, but doesn’t give the melodic touches needed.

Failing that, play guitar, but have an Octaver handy…


The Bass is the Base. You can make a band without a Bass, but you will found that you will need to supply their functionality with other instruments, because always you will need a Base where build.

BTW, yes, you can always list solo or duet pieces unacompanied. But if you have more than 2 musical parts, one of them by nature becomes the “bass” part, that is, the lowest. Also, most of the chordal instruments that are played by themselves mimic this same orchestration. Best examples: guitar and piano. Both, when playing parts designed to be played solo, have lower notes that make the base, and higher notes that play chords, melody, and/or harmony.

I'd say you need to find another drummer...
I'm beginning to 2nd this idea.

It's one thing if your drummer thinks the jazz band get away w/o a bass player in because you "sound" good the way your are. It's entirely another thing if he thinks that band's, in general, don't need basses. If it's the latter, kick the bum out :laugh:

Mr Soul

Bass guitarist, hmm, watch out when the drum solo quits right? Uh, yes, bands with out the bass can be lacking, but then there was The Doors. But then there was Emerson Lake and Palmer, no guitar. Hmm. I think it falls on the group itself and what they want to project as an overall sound. Or hire a Geddy Lee to perform all the vocals, bass and keyboards (does he chew gum while he does all this too?). Fire the drummer, go as a 5 piece band, play golf 5 days a week, worship at St. Andrews!:D

Hey, thanks for your replies. I agree with that you’re saying of course, guess I just wanted to check I wasn’t losing it.

Hmm…the Doors had drums / guitar / keyboard / vocals. I think the keyboard did the bass to an extent when playing live, and bass guitar was recorded (by someone) on studio recordings.

Yes it is true that the White Stripes do have bass in their recordings. Was listening to them in the car with the drummer once when I first noticed. He wasn’t amused when I pointed it out! And yes it is true that his musical experience and knowledge is lacking…irritating really. But the thing is, it was him that started the band. I could go my seperate way of course. But it’s a bit like a marriage that you are too lazy to leave. Anyway, will keep my options open for other band possibilities… (I live near Oxford / London in the southeast of England for the one who asked!)

Anyway, I wanted to get this off my chest as it was annoying.

Thanks again


For now we’ll be sticking to drums / sax / keyboard / bass, and the keyboardist can also switch to flute / clarinet / sax…to give more variety as and when.

Hi James,

Here’s my 2 cents worth… Jazz? You NEED a bass! Why? Because unlike a lot of rock and roll music, the bass guitar in Jazz can play a BIG role in carrying the melody. What jazz bass player you ever heard that just lays back and bangs on the root of every chord in the song like some rock bassists? Not very many if they want to keep the gig!

Hang in there and maybe you can find a bass player so you can return to guitar. Keep an open mind though, you may find a guitarist who fits the band well and you could stay on the bass.

Good luck!


PS White Stripes? Blech! :D :D :D

saw the Blackkeys on Letterman. granted their blues and not jazz, i had to get used to them. after they played the song, good stuff. just guitar and drums with the guitar player singing. that’s it! very unusual but was very cool… my 4 cents :;):

In a way, you are both right. In jazz the the bass part is VERY important. It is the rhytmic foundation for the entire band. The bass player keeps the beat in a jazz band. The drummer more or less adds accents and fills. Having said that, a good keyboard player can play the bass part with his left hand, while comping with his right. I have heard it done and it sounds fine. But, again, the bass is fairly ubiquitious in jazz combos.

If it’s not too late, I want to play the role of iconoclast, or at least devil’s advocate here. In increasing order of iconoclasm: (1) Low end can be covered by other instruments. guitar was at one time considered a low end instrument. (2) Low end is not always a desireable feature in music. Think of how many excellent compositions have nothing in the lowest registers. (3) Low end it not even necessary. You could create a sound of your own by exploring ways to create music that is satisfying and convincing without the low end.

Of course, if you are playing to make money, people expect you to have a bass, so you’d darn well better have it, or at least something that functions as an obvious replacement. But I think it’d be an interesting artistic challenge to come up with a set’s worth that is interesting, varied, and compelling while eschewing not just a bass, but any low end sounds at all. :)