Who says that lows are not important or not heard? In music you have three frequencies that have to be balanced in order to be able to hear a composition the best way possible, there are highs, mids and lows, or treble, mids and bass. In order to achieve this balance every instrument has to play it’s part. In music where there are electronic devices or volume, this has to be a priority, in other genres the force applied determines the volume, and others the quantity will determine the volume.
In other words every instrument has a job and each instrument is essential once every job is assigned. However you may have heard that sometimes a person would say “The bass is not that important, it’s just there” but no matter how simple the bass may be in some ocasions, it’s always essential. Of course you have Jazz and Funk which gives the sound of the bass lots of freedom and space to do flashy things, but it’s not always like this.
The Bass is Rhythm and Harmony
Bass in most musical compositions lay the bases of two essential parts of music, rhythm and harmony. In other words, the bass it’s in the middle of the percussion and melodic instruments in terms of its role in the musical piece.
A lot of the music out there is very well received because of its rhythm, and this is not achieved by percussion alone, mostly because percussion tends to be high frequency sounds, but with the help of a well composed bass, it doesn’t only completes the rhythm, but also works as a bridge from the percussion to other instruments.
In terms of harmonies, the interesting thing is that sometimes people are not even sure of the part the bass is playing in a specific song, but you are hearing a beautiful harmony, and your ear tricks you into believing that strings or air instruments are responsibles, when in fact the bass is allwing these harmonies to happen with its low frequency notes.
The bass plays a powerful role in how we hear harmonies. When we hear several notes played at the same time, we hear them all relative to the lowest sounding pitch — the bass note.
The Science Behind It
According to the PNAS there is a scientific reason as to why the bass is so important in music, and they conducted a studied which verifies the following:
Previous work using electroencephalography (EEG) demonstrated that the auditory cortex encodes pitch more robustly in the higher of two simultaneous tones or melodies, and modeling work indicated that this high-voice superiority for pitch originates in the sensory periphery. Here, we investigated the neural basis of carrying rhythmic timing information in lower-pitched voices. We presented simultaneous high-pitched and low-pitched tones in an isochronous stream and occasionally presented either the higher or the lower tone 50 ms earlier than expected, while leaving the other tone at the expected time. EEG recordings revealed that mismatch negativity responses were larger for timing deviants of the lower tones, indicating better timing encoding for lower-pitched compared with higher-pitch tones at the level of auditory cortex. A behavioral motor task revealed that tapping synchronization was more influenced by the lower-pitched stream. Results from a biologically plausible model of the auditory periphery suggest that nonlinear cochlear dynamics contribute to the observed effect. The low-voice superiority effect for encoding timing explains the widespread musical practice of carrying rhythm in bass-ranged instruments and complements previously established high-voice superiority effects for pitch and melody.
Michael J. Hove, Céline Marie, Ian C. Bruce, and Laurel J. Traino
In other words, our brain’s capability to make sense of music and finding order is a lot easier thanks to the bass and the lower tones, this also aligns with the role of the bass in music.