Busy Bass Accompaniment

Busy Bass Accompaniment

I know it’s a matter of personal taste, but does anyone here share my disdain for over-articulated (fussy) bass notes accompanying Irish music? Whether on guitar, bass guitar or piano, I find such playing really ruins the essence of the tunes and turns them into mere exercises.

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

Hard to say without specific examples.

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Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

Depends on the player. If theyve been playing trad for 40yts then they will likely do a sensitive and tastefull job . If theyve been playing another genre then they might not get it!
Traditionally the bass line is somewhat simple! A drone of D.

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

A drone of D! Yes! That’s the ticket.

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

Im a bass player myself originally and although ive been plaing trad ( fiddle banjo whistle etc) and backing it for 34 yrs ,i have never been able to feel even 1/4 satisfied when trying to back on the bass. I just cant do it.
I can play tunes on the bass , and on the cello , but the lower octave just doesnt work very well , solo its fine but playing with others…..
im not saying it can’t be done, and done very well, just that I cant. 😎
I have a friend who does it brilliantly on acoustic bassguitar so I know its possible. He is also a jazz Bassist for 40 odd yrs and was born into the tradition.
I gig with another bassist (double ) I get him to play in a reggae style. Hes new to trad.
No need for rhythm, certainly not busy because im often playing fast and furious tunes , so if we both were , it would be frantic!!! so I ask him to play laid back and off beat .
Its a funny combination the 2 of us, me on a soprano uke ( and voice ) him on double bass! But it works very well with our styles playing mostly Scottish tunes and the odd song to keep the punters happy 😎

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

Thanks for those insights Will.

I don’t play bass nor know anything about bass playing but I will say that I rarely hear bass in trad that really works for me. I think it works best when it is unobtrusive; supporting but not drawing attention to itself.

(Somebody said that about film directing/cinematography, that any device that drew attention to itself was bad.)

The best example I can think of at the moment of tasty bass playing in a trad band is Le Vent du Nord.

Something I hear even more rarely done tastefully is playing a full drum kit with trad.

No accompaniment at all….

I seldom hear any accompaniment that I like. I prefer the pure sound of the drop. We rarely have an accompanist at our sessions. Generally we have fiddle, pipes, flute/concertina, tenor banjo. The banjo provides a punch that accentuates the rhythm established by the piper. Discrete foot tapping replaces the superfluous bodhran. A piano or guitar would most likely clash with chords provided by the pipes and the concertina.
There are exceptions (Dennis Cahill comes to mind) but they are rare. Planxty would be another counter-example, but the whole thing was driven by the pipes. The excitement generated by Planxty was more a stage production than a pure expression of Irish music, for all that I love the group. In the old days as a solo singer-songwriter doing a three hour gig, I’d accompany myself on the guitar. Nowadays if I am singing in a pub, I prefer to do it a cappella. The words are what matter, not the chords, and they have more impact when delivered straight, no chaser.
I know I sound rather dogmatic and opinionated. However, those who know me will confirm that, in fact, I am.

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

For sure David some of my favourite recordings- ones I can listen to over and over- are ones with no accompaniment.

The pianist Paul Machlis (sp?) who made albums with and toured with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser said "this music has so much rhythm built into it that it’s unnecessary for the accompanist to do it- it’s more about adding texture." (I’m paraphrasing.)

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

I may not know any better, but a dear friend who has taught me a ton of tunes plays fiddle flute and guitar and is an outstanding accompanist. It might fall into ‘busy’ but I don’t find it distracting from the tune. Sometimes I get distracted listening to where he’s leading or something new he’s sharing that he hears in a tune, but really, that’s the fun part of playing tunes together.
Like I said, maybe I’m biased, but I think that great accompaniment comes from really knowing and sharing a version of a tune and sometimes that’s the barest bones of a drone and sometimes it’s augmented 7’s and complex chord progressions. Here’s an experimental version he did of a tune using a new app https://youtu.be/fsbgGwDwsy8

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

“augmented 7’s”: what is this?

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

Ok! Thank you, I know what we mean now! Dominant chords are amazing when you add the 7th, 9th and augment the fifth you end up with a cool whole note scale harmony (if you add a #11 (or augmented), it’s the whole lot! The whole tone mode is sadly rare in the ‘Trad Irish Music’ canon.
Meanwhile…backers and tune players: it half of one, half dozen of another. As ever depends on the people at each session.

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

I’m not so static in my taste - it goes well beyond the idealised ‘pure’ drop sound regularly.

I’ve never heard a recording that felt like it had too much bass.

I wonder if, like in the Scottish tradition, the cello was a part of the Irish tradition but it has been neglected since the invention of the ‘pure drop’ idea…

Re: Busy Bass Accompaniment

Recordings that exist of Richard O’Mealy show some very busy regulator work. It’s a personal style demonstrated by a skilled career player and builder of the bagpipes. He was also working in an era before ‘standardization,’ so to speak, by mass media and context scrubbed our interpretation of what "style" means, and what is acceptable to play.

https://youtu.be/CLf-YIUoY00


I always enjoyed listening to him. In fact, I love listening to him. It’s so colorful and fun. I suppose, if it’s done well, by anyone who can do it well, "busy" is just fine by me. On the other hand, if you’ve been playing the accordion for a few months (or any other instrument capable of self accompaniment) and really go wild with those basses, your mileage may vary with listeners.

FWIW more on O’Mealy is here, by Ronan Browne:
http://www.ronanbrowne.com/Ronan_Browne/Ronan_Browne/Home/Entries/1111/11/11_R._L._OMealy.html

And I love that quote abotu O’Mealy on the top of the page, "“He was small … low-sized … stout … very quick to talk! And when he moved … when he walked, he walked very fast – in a rush! And he plays the same – in a hurry!”

Jimmy Cagney of the bagpipes!