We bass players are not commonly known for our stage presence in comparison to the rest of the band. I appreciate that this statement is a sweeping generalization – Flea, Victor Wooten, Robert Trujillo, Verdine White and Billy Sheehan are just some bassists who buck that trend. But there’s some truth to this, so what I really want us to focus on with this new page is how we bass players can become more effective performers on stage.
The first question to consider is whether we’re trying to find our own authentic way of performing, or whether we’re simply aiming to be more visually in keeping with an existing band of musicians. You can extend this to include stylistic considerations for performance, and whether what we’re doing on stage is appropriate for the genre. For example, windmilling your luscious locks while playing as part of Adele’s backing band at the most sensitive part of the set might not be an effective way of keeping the gig. Food for thought!
Regardless of the situation, there are some basic concepts that we can experiment with in order to start working towards a more engaging visual performance. Something that I start a lot of my students off with is a ‘choreography’ of sorts. Don’t worry – this isn’t the all-singing, all-dancing sort of choreography that you might expect in a production of Cats, say. Instead, we focus on your positioning on stage and align it to certain sections of the song being played. This sort of planning will result in a better visual dynamic, even through something as simple as moving backwards and forwards.
As an example, a verse section is the perfect opportunity for you to move towards the back of the stage, or over to the drummer, where you can lock in together. Musically, verse sections tend to be a little more exposed or vocally focused than other song sections, so there is no need for us to be lunging over the monitor wedge or scaling the security barrier. In contrast, when a chorus kicks in, moving to the front of the stage will mirror the build in intensity from the music. If several members of the band synchronize with these movements, it can really make the difference when it comes to creating an engaging overall performance. With this simple tip, you can begin to beat the bassist stereotypes and avoid being rooted to the spot.