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Day 288 Week 42 Q4 Monday, October 16, 2023

This is mainly for music people but also does apply to innovation in general. Music is a very primitive, complex, and engaging form of communication. It can be broken down into three fundamental basic elements: rhythm, melody, and harmony. Although it may not be intuitively obvious, bass instruments are capable of providing all three roles simultaneously, more so than most other instruments. Perhaps this is why all bands and orchestras have bass players. The role of the bass player in most small ensembles includes that of a time keep keeper as well as a tonal center keeper as the provider of the fundamental note in harmony. The outline of a song can be delivered on a bass with a melody provided by a voice, woodwind, and just about everything else except, in very special cases, a drum.

What is less obvious is the bass can also extremely capably deliver the melody as well, although interleaving being a timekeeper, harmony keeper, and melodist simultaneously is not a trivial skill. Additionally, most instruments that deliver the lowest notes are large and awkward. Compare the size of a string bass to a cello, for example, not to mention acoustic keyboards and harps. There are brass and woodwind instruments also capable of delivering deep melodic sustained notes, but for the most part, they are large, expensive, and difficult to play, which places them in the realm of specialty instruments never taken out for a solo performance but usually in the company of others. 

In the late fifties, when the electric bass was invented, this changed everything. All of a sudden, bass players could be more than timekeepers and simple harmony providers. These instruments were far less expensive and easier to play than all of the acoustic bass instruments like tuba, contra-bassoon, and string bass. This new instrument radically decreased the barrier to entry for countless musicians to modernize many music forms like country and jazz, as well as giving birth to new ones like rock, fusion, punk, and all of their derivative music forms.  

After a lifetime of composing for and dabbling with multiple musical forms on a variety of different musical instruments, I have found adding electric bass to almost any other instrument or voice increases the musical power of the ensemble and performance. It is bassic and actually delivers the musical fundamental tone, tempo, and rhythm and can also provide the melody. It does something most melody instruments can not do, which is to deliver a groove, and two things most drum and percussion instruments can not deliver: melody and harmony. 

As such, it provides a musical foundation that can be added after a house is already built.  The electric bass guitar is lower cost, easier to play, more robust, and more flexible than most instruments. This single innovation may have had more musical impact than any other in the last 100 years.  Fidn. The metaphor in your domain.