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What is the most important instrument in a band? Science has the answer!

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Who is the most important musician in a band? Is it the lead guitarist, the bass guitarist, or the drummer? A Canadian study has responded to this intriguing question!

The study was carried out by a team of scientists in McMaster University in Hamilton (Canada), and the results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February 2014. Although it was not very widely reported in the media, this study contends that bass frequencies are better perceived by humans than other frequencies, which is why the bass is deemed the most important instrument in a music group.

The Canadian scientists conducted an experiment on volunteers who listened to piano notes while they underwent encephelograms. Electroencephelography (EEG) is a brain scanning technique which measures electrical activity in the brain, using electrodes placed on the scalp. According to the results of the study, it is easier for the human brain to recognise and identify a rhythm if it is played in deeper tones, which is the speciality of the bass guitar!

The study also provided evidence that the participants preferred to dance, tap their feet or at least react in rhythm to a song when the bass was central to the piece. Furthermore, music with higher tones, such as with the drums or lead guitar, led to less of an impulse to follow along in time with the music.

These conclusions can be linked with the results of a second study also carried out in 2014. Researchers in Northwestern University (United States) showed that a strong bass presence in a piece of music provided the listener with a feeling of power and increased self confidence.

Numerous examples exist, but our selection of choice is Mellowship Slinky In B Major by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991):

Sources: Les InrocksVirgin RadioLive Arena