I never felt like I had a particular “style” of playing or a specific tone. Maybe I do and cannot hear it. But, I always looked for little things in other players that would be useful in the way that I play and add them to my toolbox. Everything became another color to paint with, whenever I needed it. I generally use whatever the given song needs. But, I try to combine things together in unusual ways, if possible.
I prefer ground wound strings over the more commonly used roundwounds. They’re easier on my fingers and have a smoother tone, almost like flatwounds… but, a little brighter. If I use distortion or any effects I am more likely to use a pick. I prefer 1mm recycled copper/nylon picks. If I use my fingers, it is usually to get more subtle tones from the actual strings. I typically play with three fingers (ring, middle, index) instead of two. It makes triplets and odd-meter pieces easier to play. I sorta wanna learn to play a bit more like country guitarist Danny Gatton, who had a banjo-like fingerpicking style using four or five fingers on the guitar.
Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine);
Lemmy Kilmister played guitar in the psychedelic band Sam Gopal and, for a while, roadied for Jimi Hendrix. “I’ve never come across a better guitarist than Jimi. Within a couple of years, I’d seen all the tricks but I wasn’t good enough,” he admitted. “That’s why I gave up the guitar and picked up the bass.”
Hawkwind‘s rhythm section of Dave Anderson and Terry Ollis was replaced by Lemmy and Simon King, both of whose style differed notably from their predecessors. This changed the band’s overall musical direction. Lemmy was a self-confessed inept guitarist who used volume and stagecraft to cover his lack of ability. He became a bassist by accident after joining the band, thinking he was replacing Huw Lloyd Langton. Lemmy said
“ I knew the guitarist because he took eight tabs of acid and then we never saw him for five years. ”
However, Dave Brock decided to play lead and continue without a second guitarist. Hawkwind’s bass guitarist failed to turn up and Lemmy was available. He said:
“ I learned to play bass onstage with Hawkwind… I go out onstage with this bass around my neck, and it was a Rickenbacker, too. The bass player, like an idiot, left his bass in the truck. So I’m learning. Nik Turner says to make some noises in E. “This one’s called You Shouldn’t Do That.” Then he walks away. ”
This led to Lemmy’s very unorthodox technique. Lemmy stated:
“ I just don’t play like a bass player. There are complaints about me from time to time. It’s not like having a bass player; it’s like having a deep guitarist.”
“You don’t tweak Lemmy’s bass sound,” producer Tony Platt noted from the get-go. “There’s a story that goes with that actually.”
He went on to explain how Lemmy’s Marshall amp blew up during one of the recording sessions. It was Friday and the boys needed the machine back on Monday. Seemingly lucky, the guitar tech managed to find someone who can get the job done in super-short notice.
“So off he went and we came in on the Monday and I said, ‘Did you get the amp fixed?’, and he said, ‘Yes, absolutely no problem.’ I said, ‘What was wrong?’ and he said, ‘Oh, it was just a couple of things that had burnt out. But while he was in there, this guy had all the original circuits and there were a few bits in there that were strange so he’s kind of put those right.’
“I said, ‘He’s done what?!’ The guitar tech said, ‘Yeah, there were bits of the circuit that weren’t the way they should be and he’s put them back to where they should be.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, no. Lemmy’s amp has been modified by a series of guitar techs over the years to sound like Lemmy’s amp. You don’t put it back to a normal Marshall. You leave all this stuff in there.'”
He continued, “Of course we plugged it in and it sounded limp and it just wasn’t the right thing. Fortunately this guy could remember what it was he changed to get it sound like it did. It was one of those moments of, ‘Oh, my god. No. This is terrible.'”
Greg Ginn’s guitar tone evolved from the fact that Panic / Black Flag had no consistent bass players. So, the guitar needed to fill up the lower frequencies better.
With a modified lucite Dan Armstrong guitar plugged into an old Peavey PA, he would overdrive the shit out of it, making it sound more like a very deep guitar amplifier.
Ginn’s guitar sound is distinctive, often recognizable within a few notes. His guitar tone is typically characterized by a lack of highs and a high amount of mids, which creates a muffled sound. Black Flag singer Henry Rollins has repeatedly compared Ginn’s playing not to any other guitarists, but to free jazz saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. These may initially appear unlikely comparisons, but a closer examination reveals some similarities: Like both saxophonists, Ginn tends towards highly emotive playing and has a thorough grasp of musical harmony, though often choosing to play notes that are technically “incorrect” but which frequently carry a greater visceral impact than “proper” playing. Ginn is an avid jazz fan, stating he generally prefers music by saxophone or piano players.
He and bassist Kira Roessler gradually moved to using solid state preamps, notably early models made by Roland.
Dee Dee Ramone / CJ Ramone (The Ramones);
Bootsy Collins has an interesting setup. Each pickup signal is dedicated to a separate effects chain and amplifier. So, he is able to use a wide combination of elements to get different sounds when he needs them.
Likewise, Chris Squire (Yes) separated the bridge pickup from the neck’s signal, splitting them into stereo, using both bass and lead guitar amps. This gave his sound some overdrive without muddying up the low end.
Geddy Lee (Rush) abandoned live amplifiers altogether. Since 1996, Lee no longer uses traditional bass amplifiers on stage, opting to have the bass guitar signals input directly to the touring front-of-house console, to improve control and balance of sound reinforcement. Faced with the dilemma of what to do with the empty space left behind by the lack of large amplifier cabinets, Lee chose to decorate his side of the stage with unusual items.
I kinda added this concept to the Chris Squire / Bootsy Collins practice of using multiple amplifiers. So, one line goes from a DI, straight to the mixer.
I don’t slap nearly as much as some bassists. But, I still like using some of these techniques when I need them.
Norwood Fisher (Fishbone);
Larry Graham, originator of the slapping technique.
One thing I like about Jaco Pastorius is that, although he is highly regarded as a great bassist, he never slapped…at all.
I also love me some groovy effects as much as the next guy.
Juan Alderete + Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta);
There is another post about my supposed “sound” and “look”: