Study Says Bass Guitarist Is Most Important Band Member

Well, well, well.

A win for the bass players with this one. A new study dove deep into determining the importance of low-frequency information on music listeners. According to Guitar World, the study, conducted at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, had some revealing results which were published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study notes that music contains streams of tones throughout the auditory spectrum and is polyphonic, or multi-voiced. And you don’t need this study to tell you (but it does) that the most important melodic information is carried by the highest voice, such as the lead singer or lead guitar, and the most vital rhythmic information by the lowest voice, i.e. the bass.

In the study, participants were played high- and low-pitched tones simultaneously, with the tones sometimes shifted in time: either the high-pitched tone was off the rhythm or the low-pitched was.

The study found that listeners could more easily detect when low-pitched tones were out of rhythm, “indicating better timing encoding for lower-pitched compared with higher-pitch tones.”
“The low-voice superiority effect for encoding timing explains the widespread musical practice of carrying rhythm in bass-ranged instruments,” the study’s authors state, “and complements previously established high-voice superiority effects for pitch and melody.”

What does all this mean? It means that if you play rhythmic music like rock, metal, blues, jazz or what have you, listeners are more likely to start grooving to the bass than they are to the guitarist’s slick fretwork.

Send this one to all the folks slappin’ the bass.

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