A good bass player should be seen and not heard.
Well, that’s the old joke, usually made by people who believe that jokes about musicians are funny (How can you tell if a drummer is at the door? His knocking speeds up).
Now science has completely destroyed your comedy routine, with the news that the bass is the most important part of the song – at least according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study is quite wordy — to explain that people tap their feet more to songs with a prominent rhythm, they write: “A behavioral motor task revealed that tapping synchronization was more influenced by the lower-pitched stream” — but the gist is that people have an easier time identifying the rhythm of a song when it is driven by the bassline, and are more likely to tap (or be rhythmically pleased, to ape the wording in the study).
There’s a lot more to it of course (“The low-voice superiority effect for encoding timing explains the widespread musical practice of carrying rhythm in bass-ranged instruments”) but, long story short – if you want a good band, get a good bass player.
And if you want a cool band, get a female bass player. There aren’t any scientific studies backing up that last point, as yet – unless you include Pixies and Sonic Youth records…
Here’s an example of good bass.