all treble, no bass 1


Our culture is more and more all treble, no bass.
Rob Bell

I heard this quote in a podcast conversation recently and I have been mulling it over.

What is treble?

It is the high-pitched sound of the higher registers.

Music that is the only treble can be sharp, grating, irritating, and tiring on the ears.

Bass, however, is the lower, deeper notes, the notes that you can feel reverberate through the floor.

In pure science terms, treble is high frequency; the sound waves are moving fast. And the bass is low frequency; the sound waves are moving slow.

A life of ‘all treble, no bass’ is characterised by the surface, by keeping up appearances, by never going deep, by image, and short sharp interactions that never allow anyone to get close enough to know you. It is fast and it is distracted.

It needs to be balanced by the depth and structure of the bass notes, the bass line. It is crafting a life that is more than just appearances. It keeps us grounded.

A life where you invest in the bass is a life that does not flit from topic to topic in a world of distraction, FOMO and a constant search for the next new thing. It is a slower life that gives us space to think, space to breathe, space to be silent, space to pray, space to be.

For me the contrast between treble and bass looks like this:
Treble is social media; bass is poetry.
Treble is scrolling; bass is reading.
Treble is text; bass is a conversation.
Treble is screens; bass is eye contact.
Treble is constant noise; bass is silence.
Treble is Netflix; bass is writing.
Treble is quick snacks; bass is whole foods.
Treble is being ‘on’ all the time; bass is taking a Sabbath.
Treble is the constant churn of the media cycle; bass is praying.

My musician husband talks about the importance of investing in a sound system that handles bass well. But there is no point investing in the bass, if you don’t turn it on.

So I can have a house full of poetry books, and all the writing implements in the world, but if I don’t actually use them, I can still find myself living a life that is characterised only by treble. And then I wonder why I feel like life is scattered and distracted?

And that is not to say that you shouldn’t have treble in your life. Treble gives lightness, and bass gives you a solid foundation to explore the joy of treble. Together they make a beautifully balanced melody.

Here’s to a life that is more balanced, with both treble and bass,


About Jodie McCarthy

Jodie is a writer, speaker, poet and mother. An unashamed words girl who writes to process the myriad of experiences of life. In her writing and on her blog she investigates the journey of life: the beautiful; the painful; the everyday; and the mundane. She has a heart for encouraging women on their life journey, particularly when that journey traverses the harder places of grief and pain. On the days when she is not writing you will find her in her kitchen, usually licking the beaters from a chocolate cake. You can find her books and follow her journey at

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