Which combination of variables yields the “right” sound?
By Jon Liebman
Week of June 3, 2019
This week, we published a very special interview with Mike Inez, longtime bassist with Seattle’s Alice in Chains. This one was especially cool because as I conducted the interview, we were sitting in the band’s top-secret hideout rehearsal spot “somewhere in Southern California” (that’s all I’m allowed to say), smack dab in the middle of AiC’s worldwide tour, just before they took off for Auckland, New Zealand.
After the customary banter about Mike’s musical upbringing (a great story, by the way!), as well as gear choices, technique, etc., I asked him what advice he might have for anyone who wants to become a better bass player, and if there were any areas where he’d noticed a void. After giving it some thought, he stressed the importance of finding one’s voice on the bass, an area where many bassists seem to have trouble.
But what exactly does “finding your voice” mean?
He then proceeded to expound upon the multitude of sounds that emerge from the instrument each time any one of the variables is modified, whether it be your bass, amp, effects, strings, etc. Moreover, your tone will be different whether you play with your fingers or use a pick, and whether you pluck the strings close to the neck or right next to the bridge.
Of course, the circumstances of the gig are a major consideration too. Are you playing a jazz gig? A Broadway show? A wedding or club date? Mike compared his current gig to the time he was with Heart, citing the different tones – i.e., voices – required for “Dreamboat Annie” versus, say, “Barracuda.”
For those of you familiar with my bass books, as well as FBPO’s online bass instruction series, this is nothing new. Still, it never hurts to be reminded of what’s important when you’re charged with the responsibility of being the bass player. In nearly every case, it all comes down to finding that balance between giving the music just what it needs while finding a way to inject some of your own personality into the music, where appropriate.
Have a thought about finding your voice as a bass player? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think.
In the meantime, check out my interview with Mike here.