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Last night, a friend and fellow bass player commented that after having seen me play lead guitar (I usually play bass with Hardrick Rivers, but occasionally fill in on guitar when another bass player is available and wants to sit in), he understood my approach to bass. He classified me more or less as a “lead” bass player, and also made the comment that I was a better guitarist than bass player.

Bear in mind this is a person who thinks I am a damned fine bass player – probably the best of the bunch that plays around town with Hardrick.

I was, I’ll admit, a little taken aback by the guitarist comment. My original instrument (down the long chain of history) was upright bass. I’ve played guitar for about 30 years, but it’s only within the past decade that I’ve ever had the audacity to call myself a “guitarist”. In addition, when you look at my primary bass influences, while they do include Duck Dunn, Jamie Jamerson, Bootsy Collins and Ray Brown, the “heavy hitters” are really Jack Casady, Paul McCartney, Phil Lesh, Chris Squire, Greg Lake, John Entwistle and Jack Bruce. What’s the commonality there? Melody. These are “lead” bass players. After mulling that over, I felt a little better about being that kind of player. Yeah, that’s what I am. Not a “popper” or “slapper” or a “walker” even (although I can walk like a MF). Although getting someone to recognize that I am in the same league as these other lead players? Forget about it (but that is the topic of another conversation altogether).

Most of what I apply to one instrument, I apply to others. It’s the same fretboard for guitar and bass, for the most part. The scales from one are applicable to the other. Why shouldn’t you bend, hammer on, pull off, slide, etc., on both bass and guitar? Melodic and improvisational constructs are melodic and improvisational constructs regardless of the medium.

So am I a guitarist who plays bass, or a bassist who plays guitar? Hell if I know. Do people like Leon Russell, Greg Lake, Dick Taylor or Steven Stills have the same kind of identity crisis?

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