Virtually since mankind first started making sounds for communication the lower frequencies (or as we call it, bass) have always held people’s fascination. There’s something deeply primeval and appealing to low tones in music that has us all hooked. It’s both visceral, powerful and thoroughly addictive.
And it’s not just modern dance music genres such as grime and drum and bass that has kept us in a bass-obsessed rapture. From reggae, to disco, to rock and further back to the huge symphonies of Mahler and even further back to the repetitive bass lines of Bach’s ‘Air on G String’, it’s been the ‘base’ on which most music has been built. We can never underestimate the importance of bass in music. It is, after all, the very first sounds we hear in the womb. Whales and elephants for example, communicate at a frequency level below that of human hearing over huge distances. But why is it that low notes affect us more than those higher up the frequency spectrum?
Bass isn’t just a sound, it’s a vibration. It literally moves us! The lower the note, the more a loudspeaker or headphone driver moves. Some bass is so low it doesn’t even register with us as notes but more of a noise. The lower the notes, the more it travels. Just ask anybody that lives next door to party lovers when they hear in incessant thumping of bass! Bass is essentially rhythm and timing-driven. And this leads us to another important bass factor deep-rooted in mankind: the first ‘music’ was essentially’ beats and rhythm, when people hit rocks with things! And rhythm is inherent in human make-up, it overpowers us and makes us physically move - and you often can’t stop it!
And it has the superb characteristic of being able to create mood like no other part of music. Think of the music from Jaws or The Omen where bass is used to great effect. It creates power, menace, wonder and foreboding – all things that excite us and put us on the edge of our seat.
Think about any music you know (if you can think of any!) without a bass line or bass notes. Music without bass makes us seem like we’re floating. We’re not grounded or stable and we feel like something is distinctly lacking in our lives. And that, dear music lover is why bass should be treated with the upmost respect. Because without it, life simply doesn't feel right!