I have a weakness for bassists. I admit it freely. Tell me a guy plays a guitar with four strings, and I'm liable to start looking at him in a whole new light--and from the results of a few Google searches on the subject, I'm not alone. It's certainly not a universal thing; there are plenty of bass players in the world who don't do much of anything for me, and most of the men on my "sexiest" list are still singers. But the HBP (or Hunky Bassist Phenomenon) does occur, and often enough to make me ask of myself: Just what is it about bassists that makes them any different from other musicians? I've given the subject a certain amount of thought, and while I'm still not sure that I have a complete explanation, it does seem to be related to their effect on the deeper instincts.
Let's start by looking at the instrument itself. Electric guitars in general have acquired a certain mystique over the years--like swords, wielding one requires a level of skill that only a minority of people possess, and so they seem very romantic to the rest of us. The quality of sound produced by a bass, however, also affects people on a different level than what comes out of a standard six-string; human beings seem to be hardwired to react differently to low-pitched sound than high-pitched, probably because we tend to communicate different emotions with each. We raise our voices--in pitch as well as volume--when we're excited or agitated, and lower them when we wish to convey something private or intimate. So while the howl of a six-string can certainly stir the emotions, it does so in a very different way than the low throb of a bass.
The instrument, then, has a sort of inherent sensuality and seductiveness about it, but in the end, it's only an inanimate object. So the question remains, what of the player? What is it about him that appeals to those deeper instincts that I spoke of?
Well, first of all, bassists have rhythm. They've got to; the bass does have a melodic element to it, but at heart it's a rhythm instrument, and it's the bass player's job, along with the drummer, to keep the rest of the band in time and on-beat. And rhythm is one of those things that speaks to our primal natures, as it's been with us a very, very long time. I'm hardly an expert on the subject, but it seems logical enough that the first music humans ever made was probably based on rhythm and our own voices--in fact, such music might have been with us before we were even truly human, as it doesn't take a great deal of technological sophistication to create simple percussive instruments. Thus, even in the modern day we react on a deep level to the rhythms of music--and, by extension, to the musicians who create those rhythms.
Furthermore, while bassists come in all shapes and sizes, they all seem to have lovely, strong, well-shaped hands, as it takes quite a bit of muscle to hold a chord on strings that thick. The combination of strength and dexterity--which, naturally, one needs to play most any instrument, and stringed instruments in particular--is another thing that seems to hit women right in the gut. I don't have any "scientific" evidence to support the idea, but I do know an awful lot of women who really like a guy with good hands, enough to make me think it must be a feature that we react to out of instinct. (And on a related note: It doesn't apply so much to pick-players, but I almost literally can't watch a guy finger-playing a bass and not have thoughts about, shall we say, other applications of the same movement...)
There is another factor beyond simple physical details, however. It seems to take a distinctive mindset to occupy a particular position within the context of a contemporary rock band--singers, guitarists, drummers, etc. tend to be "types," each with their own characteristic attitude. And within this framework, a lot of bassists are the "quiet ones," the still waters that run deep. Naturally there are exceptions to the rule, but most of them do seem to lack the mania of drummers or the exuberance of lead guitarists; they're more inclined to hang out in their place by the drum kit and just do their thing rather than go bounding around the stage.
Despite this relative aplomb, however, they also seem, almost without exception, to be very passionate people. Take Sting, for example; he's passionate about environmental and humanitarian issues, as demonstrated by his involvement with the Rainforest Foundation and Amnesty International. Kip Winger is passionate about music itself. I'm not sure what Benjamin Orr's passion might have been--finding that kind of detailed information about him has been difficult--but any man with eyes like that has to have been passionate about something. And Rudy Sarzo... well, let's just say that I challenge anyone to watch him in Whitesnake's "Still Of The Night" video and claim that there's no inner fire there!
And, in the end, I think it may be that juxtaposition of reserve and passion which is the elusive "it" about bass players. Unlike the extrovert guitarist who shouts his heart and mind to the world, the bassist is an enigma, a puzzle that demands to be solved, or a mystery that begs to be unravelled. You know that a raging fire lurks somewhere under that cool exterior, and it is the challenge of finding--and perhaps unleashing--that fire that truly sets the female pulse racing.
So--those are my thoughts. If you'd care to share your own, then by all means, email me. And if you agree with my thinking, feel free to snag a copy of the button below, made by yours truly, for display on your own site or in a signature. (However, please download it to your own computer, rather than hot-linking it from this page. Thank you!)