Basically Bass

Day 89 Week 13 Q1  Thursday, March 30, 2023

There are many ways to begin to compose a piece of music. Songwriters can start with lyrics, piano and guitar players can start with chord changes, melody instruments can begin with the melody, drummers can start with the beat, and everyone else can begin with the bass line. Of course, the other groups can begin with the bass line if they choose to, but generally, they don’t. But bass players usually do, or at least this bass player does. I suppose marching bands could begin with a tuba in bygone years, but I bet they got edged out by the drummers.

I fully admit to being bass biased as I have been performing in public on bass since I was fifteen years old when I discovered an amazing thing. If the bass player played the wrong note, everyone else sounded wrong, and if the bass player was walking at a tempo of, say, 100 beats per minute, everyone else sounded like they were too fast or too slow unless they were playing in time to the bass. The exception is when a drummer is in the house, which is only the case for some musical styles at the beginning of the creation process.

As a fifteen-year-old, I wondered about this until studying physics and discovering that the universe was basically a one-over-F or 1/f place. Or, for a more common term, it is the spectrum of pink noise. Pardon the deep dive, but this is important. The concept of 1/f signals is a type of signal or noise variation with a power spectral density that decreases as the signal frequency increases. This type of signal is observed in various systems, including music, electronic circuits, biological systems, and even the stock market. So no, the entire universe does not follow this law, but the pink noise spectrum occurs naturally in various sound sources, such as waterfalls, wind, and heartbeats. It is also a common feature of human hearing, and some studies have suggested that pink noise can improve sleep, concentration, and memory retention. In music, pink noise adds depth and warmth to recordings and can be applied as an effect to various instruments and tracks to create a more natural and balanced sound.

Okay, back to English. Bass notes are of lower frequencies than the others; if energy is divided by a low number, it is higher. For example, if a bass plays a note as low as 40 vibrations per second and the top of the piano keyboard is a little less than 4000 cycles or vibrations per second, which number is bigger, 1/40 or 1/4000? The bass note has 100 times the energy as that high piano note.

The reason the bass wins is it simply outguns everyone else. So if you want to dance, what will you listen to? The clarinet? I don’t think so. If you want to establish a musical foundation, you had better rely upon the bass. It does not matter if an actual bass instrument plays it; it could be played by the power end of a piano, organ, guitar, tuba, string bass, bassoon, contrabassoon, or even the low end of a cello or a bass guitar. 

But you need low-pitched notes to establish the tempo and what key you are in, and when there are disagreements with the high-pitched instruments, they tend to sound like they made a mistake.

Where else does this apply in life? Certainly, in more than music, as mentioned above, from waterfalls to the stock market and to your heartbeat. Low-frequency energy is big energy.

You get the point. I think.