A little music and neuroscience for your Saturday, courtesy of Josh Jones at Open Culture:
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In most popular music, bass players don’t get nearly enough credit—even when the bass provides a song’s essential hook. As Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones joked at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1995, “thank you to my friends for remembering my phone number.” And yet, writes Tom Barnes at Mic, “there’s scientific proof that bassists are actually one of the most vital members of any band…. It’s time we started treating bassists with the respect they deserve.” Research into the critical importance of low frequency sound explains why bass instruments mostly play rhythm parts and leave the fancy melodic noodling to instruments in the upper range. The phenomenon is not specific to rock, funk, jazz, dance, or hip hop. “Music in diverse cultures is composed this way,” says psychologist Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster University Institute for Music and the Mind, “from classical East Indian music to Gamelan music of Java and Bali, suggesting an innate origin.”
Trainor and her colleagues have recently published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that perceptions of time are much more acute at lower registers, while our ability to distinguish changes in pitch gets much better in the upper ranges, which is why, writes Nature, “saxophonists and lead guitarists often have solos at a squealing register,” and why bassists tend to play fewer notes.