What’s Important To You When Choosing A Bass?

How vital is the overall “look” of a bass player?

By Jon Liebman
Week of July 8, 2019

In this week’s interview, I sat down with King’s X bassist, the one and only dUg Pinnick. During our conversation, dUg told me about a bass he’d found that he absolutely fell in love with, even though he doubted it would have any significant mass appeal. According to dUg, the look of the bass was “not really rock & roll” enough for most people. This bass, along with dUg’s rig, pedals, etc., gives him the signature sound he likes. It just lacks “the KISS kind of vibe,” he says.

So how important is the “look” of a musician?


Not at all?

Somewhere in between?

The role of the bass player is, stereotypically, that of the loyal, humble servant, relegated to the back of the stage, hired to do a job – in the background – and stay out of everyone’s way.

Oh yeah?!

Tell that to Mike Watt. Or Thundercat. Or MonoNeon. Or Gene Simmons. Surely all would take issue with that cliché description.

What it really comes down to is the role you aspire to fill, the act you aim to be a part of, and, oh yeah, doing your job as the bass player in the band.

I mean, you wouldn’t show up to a Metallica audition in a tuxedo (would you?!). On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for the ever-revered Ron Carter to walk in to a studio session donning an impeccably pressed suit and tie.

In some circles, strapping on the bass player’s version of stonewashed, ripped-up blue jeans is considered fashionable and hip (thank you, Jaco!).

I remember, during my Florida years, a buddy of mine went to a Miami Vice “extras” call and got an on-camera spot on the show solely because he showed up with a green bass.

In other situations, you’re just plain expected to show up with a Fender P-bass, maybe with flatwound strings, depending on the type of gig, show, session, etc.

I touch on this topic in some of my bass books, namely, Funk Bass and Rock Bass, in each book’s appendix on equipment and effects. I’ve also got an overview of Jaco’s setup in Play Like Jaco Pastorius.

You can explore different types of basses, strings, amps, speakers, and effects all day long. Bottom line: Get what you need, get what you like and get what you want. Maybe the look matters; maybe it doesn’t.

In the bass lessons and courses on this site, I just focus on playing bass, covering technique, grooving, soloing, etc. I’ve yet to mention in any of my lessons what you should look like or what color your bass should be. (Hmm…?)

Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think.

In the meantime, check out my latest interview with dUg here.

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Comments on What’s Important To You When Choosing A Bass?

  1. Eli Bennett says:

    The best “what bass to buy?” advice I ever heard was: “Get the bass that MAKES YOU WANT TO PLAY IT.” That will most likely cover the “appearance” aspect discussed in this blog.

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