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What is the Most Important Instrument in a Band?

When hearing a song and visualizing the band that recorded it the mind tends to go right to the lead vocalist/guitarist. Nirvana had Kurt Cobain, Black Sabbath had Ozzy Osbourne, and Aerosmith has Steven Tyler. These front men became the representation of their music but did they and other front men contribute the most important musical features to their songs

Many drumers, bassists and even keyboardists have all argued that their instrument is the most essential instrument in their band. According to The Top Tens, a website that specializes in ranking “everything under (& including) the sun” drums are ranked as the number one instrument and most important instrument in a band. But there seems to be little-reported evidence to back up this assertion besides some people voting on the matter. However, science may have officially put this argument to rest.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, titled Superior time perception for lower musical pitch explains why bass-ranged instruments lay down musical rhythms, explains why the bass is truly the core of any band.

According to the study across cultures melody conveyed in higher pitch sounds while rhythm is conveyed in lower pitch sounds. However, when both these essential components of music are played at the same time, the human brain better detects timing deviations in the lower pitch sounds as represented by EEGs. Furthermore, when the researchers in the study conducted a tapping exercise using the different tones they found that the lower pitched stream influenced the tapping tasks more than the higher pitch tones.

The authors also stated that: “In music, bass onsets tend to mark strong beat positions. For example, in stride and ragtime piano, bass notes lay down the pulse on strong beats whereas higher-pitched notes play syncopated aspects of the rhythm. Similarly, popular and dance music commonly contains an isochronous “four-on-the-floor” bass drum pulse. This pulse is critical for inducing a regular sense of beat to synchronize with and provides a strong rhythmic foundation on which other rhythmic elements such as syncopation can be overlaid.”

What the scientist are basically saying is that the bass drum pulse serves as the musical foundation that every other instrument is built on. These results support thousands of bassists’ claims that their instrument is the most important piece in musical bands. Another interesting finding that the authors report on is that the observed differences between higher and lower sounds arise in the auditory pathway in the cochlea of the inner ear and therefore the bass’s superiority as an essential musical instrument is rooted in very basic human physiology.

When asked about the topic, Emmy Award nominee and CEO of RRHOT Rob Aster, commented that “the 1st instruments to be “laid down”/recorded on a new song are typically bass and drums which provide a solid rhythmic foundation so it is no surprise that this research article supports the importance of the bass in music”

In addition Radical Rob Aster indicated that “to rhythm, the bass also adds movement in chord changes, that provide a bit of a sneak preview to where a song may go melodically”.

Mr Aster also had the honor studying with two of the greatest bassists of all time, Dr. Lucas Drew (classical) on upright bass, and Jaco Pastorius (Jazz/Rock) on bass guitar, so he joked that he might be a little biased.

So, while the lead vocalists and guitarists might get all the fame, the bassists of the world may finally be able to put to rest that they are the foundation that , that fame and glory are built on.

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