Where Have All The Bassists Gone?

That's why, according to Dave Hinson, a classically trained professional bassist and educator from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the decision of a band to go without a bass is such an important one. Not only, he says, can the music be robbed of such an important element, but if the songs aren't there, then a band risks being dismissed as mere gimmickry.

Sometimes, the decision is based on the music. Other times it's based on who's available. But it should never be based on getting attention or thinking, "Well, the White Stripes did it and they got rich!" Hinson says that, at that point, "you're not really making musical judgments; you're making other judgments about what you want your band to be or not be."

Hinson himself has played guitar in a duo, and he found the lack of bass to be beneficial to the music, rather than detrimental. He found that it intensified the groove, leaving only the kick drum to provide the pocket and clarifying what and where to play. Likewise, as the guitarist, he had to ensure that his playing covered any space that might be left by the absence of the bass guitar. By playing in a band without a bass, he says, he was forced to actually become a better player—because, he says, his awareness of his role in an ensemble was heightened, like a blind man who finds his other senses becoming more acute.

Perhaps there really is a value to this.

Only time will tell, however, if there's enough value to make this anything other than another phase or bit.

Hinson suggests the verdict lies in the subjective ear of the listener, ultimately.

"It's like pornography," he says. "You know it when you see it."

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