Why Can’t We Be Friends?
Why can''t guitar players and bass players exist in perfect harmony? And why each should pay attention to the other''s gear.
I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to
Premier Guitar for over a year now. And I, like
you, love flipping page after page like a child
thumbing a toy catalog at Christmastime. I
read it from cover to cover each month (yes,
even the months when my columns don’t
run). As I turn each page I see guitar gear.
Lots and lots of guitar gear. It is, in fact, a
guitar magazine, and it’s published by some
of the coolest people in this business. People
who get little sleep around deadlines, and
who are constantly on the lookout to bring
you the old, the new, and all things exciting
in “the relentless pursuit of tone.”
I was recently perusing an issue in which a reader had a problem with the bass features and products in the magazine. As soon as I read this, I called my editor and asked if I could write this column. He told me no, and I did it anyway. That letter struck a chord (pun intended) in this bass player’s heart, and I was hoping to clear up a couple of things regarding what sounded like a Hatfield-McCoy feud brewing between bass players and our six-string-playing brothers and sisters.
Of Sir Paul and Bugs Bunny
I imagine that, sometime in the early ’50s, the electric bass was handed to the second-best guitar player in the band. From that point on, it seems we bass players have had a bad rep. We’re always the overweight, balding, not-ascool cliché. And for years we tried to break out of the mold (and from the back of the stage). Of course, you, guitar players screwed up when you made a guitar player switch to bass in The Quarrymen. Then, almost magically, our time had come.
If Sir Paul hadn’t come along, our world—your world, the music world, and the world as a whole—would be completely different. How many future guitar players watched Ed Sullivan when the Beatles debuted and said, “I want to do THAT!”? Millions? McCartney is a rock star, and well, he’s a bass player. Mold broken.
But all this talk of “we” and “they,” besides reminding me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, is ridiculous. We are musicians. And as musicians, we grow, learn, create, and move forward. We listen, we educate ourselves, and we pull from other places to hone our personalized sound, our individuality. We should pull from as many resources as possible to try and quench our never-ending thirst for more musical knowledge. And as you may have found, there is a lot of knowledge in this magazine.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
I understand that, as a PG reader, you may want to just read about the one thing you are excited about: the guitar. Why, indeed, would they put bass products in here? The easy explanation is that many guitar players own a bass and play it at least occasionally. In this new age of recording, an awful lot of you are playing bass parts on your demos (shame!). But it’s OK. I play guitar on my demos. But when I’m ready to record master tracks, I call my best friend—a guitar player.
When tracking an original song, I’ll have a certain kind of tone in mind as a starting point. But if I have no idea what words to use to express that, how on earth am I supposed to relay what I’m thinking to him? Am I supposed to rely on him to bring a suitable sound to my creation? Well, of course I do, because he’s a badass. But if I need a Tele through a Harvard and he brings his 7-string through a Triple Rectifier, then we have a problem. If I didn’t learn through web clips and publications (like this one), then how would I know the difference? How would I learn terms like “Tele” and “Triple Rectifier”? In this case, ignorance is not bliss.
Likewise, as a guitar player, at some point you are probably going to play with a bass player. How do you expect to communicate effectively if you don’t know where he’s coming from, and vice versa? If you want to walk around with blinders on (or, in this, case earmuffs), then go ahead. But your craft will suffer.
Beyond Blinders and Earmuffs
And let’s take it to another level—just general knowledge. When I’m touring, one of our activities is to hit pawnshops, hoping to see that vintage Strat hanging behind the counter for $200. I don’t know everything about all guitars, but I do know what to look for, and it certainly makes for a much better afternoon. I’d rather talk about guitar mods or quirky pedals than about another crappy catered lunch any day.
But I digress. Let’s bring it back to the magazine, the focus of which is guitar. Again, it is a guitar magazine, so why on earth was there an ad for drum recording software recently? (Software that I promptly sought out, demoed, and purchased from my local store.) That one is simple: It’s a product you may be able to use. Why are there bass products featured and reviewed? I’m pretty sure that, in every specialized magazine, there are articles for complementary products. And PG is no different. I’ll start my own debate here with the question, “Then why not drum and keyboard articles, too?” Because it’s Premier Guitar. And, the last time I looked, the bass and guitar were pretty closely related. If you want to take the debate even further, then email me and we’ll talk about it.
Whereas some may look at an occasional bass review as unnecessary, plenty of readers out there appreciate what this magazine offers to all players, of all levels. And remember, this magazine is passed around a lot of busses and a lot of vans, so why not keep it interesting for everyone? Except the drummers—they can’t read.
Premier Guitar will not walk around with blinders (or earmuffs) on. It will continue to bring the best gear to our attention, and present it in a way that’s of direct or complimentary interest to readers. At least that’s my take. But what do I know? I’m just a….
Steve Cook is currently fortifying himself in the back of a tour bus, awaiting the low-end revolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org until the coast is clear.