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How To Write Songs With A 20-Sided Die with Lake Street Dive’s Bridget Kearney

How To Write Songs With A 20-Sided Die with Lake Street Dive’s Bridget Kearney

The veteran upright and electric bassist joins Dipped In Tone to talk outside-the-box songwriting strategies, melody versus theory, and how Irish fiddle music helped her learn electric bass.


Rhett and Zach are back with special guest Bridget Kearney, who plays upright bass in the experimental Brooklyn-based indie-folk-soul band Lake Street Dive. The band, formed 20 years ago in Boston, was looking for ways to keep their songwriting fresh when their mutual love of Dungeons and Dragons presented a unique challenge: Could they write a song using a D20 die, with different elements of the tune assigned to the sides? You have to hear Kearney explain it to believe it. The exercise was a helpful kickstart: “My creative self is lazy, and so I need to sort of get them out of bed,” laughs Kearney.

Kearney shares her thoughts on the intersections of theory and melody in a bassist’s skillset, with an affectionate plug for Paul McCartney’s simple, effective melodic constructions. But playing upright bass is no walk in the park. Kearney details her top tour horror stories brought on by the sizeable instrument, including a time in Shanghai that ended with a shattered windshield, and a brutal stairway fall that ended with stitches in her head. Does the new era of fold-up uprights solve the danger? Somewhat, as Kearney explains.

It wasn’t til later that Kearney gave the electric bass its fair shake, and she preaches the importance of having a “playground” of sorts on which to learn and hone your skills on a new instrument, while keeping things fun. Tune in to learn how, for Kearney, that meant listening to and learning Irish fiddle tunes on the bass.

On her new record with her trio, Molly Miller executes a live-feeling work of structural harmony that mirrors her busy life.

Photo by Anna Azarov

The accomplished guitarist and teacher’s new record, like her lifestyle, is taut and exciting—no more, and certainly no less, than is needed.

Molly Miller, a self-described “high-energy person,” is fully charged by the crack of dawn. When Ischeduled our interview, she opted for the very first slot available—8:30 a.m.—just before her 10 a.m. tennis match!

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On this season finale episode, the actor and musician leads a Prine-inspired songwriting session about how few tools we have in our collective toolbox.

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Featuring enhanced amp models, a built-in creative looper, AI-powered tone exploration, and smart jam features.

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Donner andThird Man Hardware’s $99, three-in-one analog distortion, phaser, and delay honors Jack White’s budget gear roots.

Compact. Light. Fun. Dirt cheap. Many cool sounds that make this pedal a viable option for traveling pros.

Phaser level control not much use below 1 o’clock. Repeats are bright for an analog delay. Greater range of low-gain sounds would be nice.

$99

Donner X Third Man Triple Threat
thirdmanrecords.com

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A huge part of the early White Stripes mystique, sound, ethos, and identity was tied to guitars and amps that, at the time, you could luck into for cheap at a garage sale. These days, it’s harder to score a Crestwood Astral II, or Silvertone Twin Twelve with a part-time job in the ice cream shop. Back in the late ’90s, though, they were a source of raw, nasty sounds for less than a new, more generic guitar or amp.

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