Bottom Line on the Bottom End

‘Sup gang? Ger here.

In my quest to grow as a bass player, I have recently taken to YouTube and other funky corners of the Internet to find tips and tricks the pros use in terms of tone and technique. I’m pretty happy with my gear and where I’m at musically, but there’s always better ways of doing things. Certainly, I have much to learn and many ways to improve.

I fell into bass playing in 2006 out of necessity; the band we were forming were lousy with guitar players (shocking, I know), so as I was never much of a lead guitar player, I decided to lop off two strings and pick up the bass.

I’m really glad I did. I enjoy the instrument more than its 6-string cousin and feel that my style and approach to music fits the bass better. So, what did I learn?

  1. I’m wearing my bass wrong?

    "Proper" strap length?

    “Proper” strap length?

    Really? I had no idea there was a “right” way and a “wrong” way. I always had the crazy notion that you should adjust your strap length to something that’s comfortable (most importantly) and that looks cool (less importantly). Apparently, the general consensus among the “pros” is to set your strap length so that the bass sits at the same position on your body as it does when you’re sitting down. Ok, I see the rationale for that; you practice sitting down, therefore your body’s muscle-memory remains when you eventually play the same song standing up. Also, your wrist positions are in line and all that jazz.

    Yeah, but still. I practice sitting down when I’m learning new tunes, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to play a Thunderbird bass up around my nipples. It’s just not going to happen. When Steve Harris and Duff McKagan make the switch to wearing their basses as halter tops, I’ll consider it.

  2. I’m not a real bass player if I play with a pick?

    Photo by Dave Kotinsky

    Photo by Dave Kotinsky

    Tell that to Lemmy or Chris Squire (RIP, you magnificent bastards).

    Alright, listen; yes, I play exclusively with a pick. I never learned proper finger-style or any slap-pop techniques. Obviously, I have nothing against those techniques, so why would anyone turn their nose up at MY technique? Am I any less of a player to someone of equal experience who plays with their fingers? I don’t think so. In my mind, the two styles are equal, but different. They both have their nuances and place in the bass playing world.

    My approach to the instrument is inherently aggressive; I like the attack, I like the clang of the strings. I can dial it back when the song dictates, but for the most part I love to dig in with the pick and fill up the pocket with thunder. Yes, I KNOW you can do the same thing with your fingers (Steve Harris, Robert Trujillo, John Entwistle anyone?); I’m not suggesting you can’t. I’m just saying that I can’t.

  3. I need a scrunchie around my headstock?

    Uh. No.

    Uh. No.

    That’s not gonna happen.

So, that’s a few of the things I gleaned from listening to the pros. You know what? Maybe I’ll just keep on keepin’ on. Practice a bit more, worry about what other people say a bit less. But hey, I’m always open to suggestions, so if you have any, feel free to comment. I may even listen to you…unless you’re the guy from Level 42. That feller can shag right off.