Megadeth’s David Ellefson: Why I Play Bass With a Pick, Even If People Give Me ‘Sh-t’ For It
There's a number of different techniques when it comes to playing — fingers, slap and even the divisive pick/plectrum. The running joke basically equates bass players who use a pick to not being a "real" bass player (whatever that means), but none of the chatter bothers Megadeth's David Ellefson, who defended his decision to use a pick even if certain people give him "shit" for it.
Speaking with Metal Asylum, Ellefson remained nonplussed when asked if he ever "got crap" from other bassists about his pick-oriented technique. Ultimately, he didn't put much stock into the issue, placing emphasis on performance and composition over being a "bass snob."
"Weekend-warrior and, in my opinion, not professional bass players give me shit about it all the time," Ellefson revealed, "And I say that because if you were a professional player, you would realize that, while you don't maybe always have to use the plectrum, it is a desired tone, especially in the studio."
Citing iconic bassists who all play with a pick, the Megadeth icon continued, "Sting, Phil Lynott, Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons… What I find is most of those bass players, like myself, also play guitar, and they probably write most of their things on guitar and they move 'em over to bass so they can easily go back and forth between bass and guitar. I'm the same way."
"At that point, I stop thinking about, 'Oh, I've gotta be this bass player.' Fuck that," he added. "You're just being a musician playing the parts to write the tune — you're a composer. So you just grab anything and you write the part. So, for me, I'm way less of a bass snob. And I'm really not into that whole thing, quite honestly — the bass snob thing. I'm really more of a composer, a player and a performer."
Ellefson also took special note of the recording process in relation to his style of playing and the tone he's able to achieve. He recollected, "I've been in the studio many times, and even recently, I was playing with my fingers, and the engineer looks over and goes, 'What'd you change?' And I said, 'I'm playing with my fingers.' He goes, 'Don't do that. Get the pick. It sounds better.' I mean, like that. It's noticeable."
Earlier this year, Ellefson dove further into his history as a bassist in an episode of Loudwire's ongoing video series, Gear Factor, in which the Megadeth member played some of his favorite riffs ranging from the ones that inspired him initially as a musician to his most cherished Megadeth parts. Watch the full episode here.
David Ellefson Speaks With Metal Asylum
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