How come using guitar picks with bass was so common with classic rock bassists?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Sean775, Dec 26, 2017.

  1. Sean775


    Mar 19, 2015
    New Jersey, USA
    Guys like Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, John Paul Jones, as well as other countless bass players from this era almost exclusively used picks. Was there a reason for it, or is it because most of these guys were originally guitarists who just learned bass for the sake of the band?

    Now it seems pretty uncommon in more modern rock and pop music. Finger style is pretty much all I see now.
    Chrome Dome likes this.
  2. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I think this is the answer.
    McCartney said something like, "The bass player was just some fat guy in the back, nobody wanted to do that!".
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    picks are for sissies :)laugh:)....and also for players who really use them well!

    but: it takes awhile to build durable, dependable calluses, so maybe a pick gets you into 'the action' sooner (especially important if you're a wannabe guitar god to begin with).
  4. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    One of the Big Guys who ain't in the back!
    A.J. was never a guitar player.
    But he does view the bass guitar as an extension of a guitar.

    He regularly uses a pick.
    Amongst other techniques.
  5. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    My guess: amps back in the day tended to sound like muddy crap. A puck allowed the attack to cut through and be heard.
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    A puck? I think that was a Canadian thing... :D
  7. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Guess it might have something to do with the pups of the era and strings. As I recall the bass tones in the 60’s were pretty blobby, big bottom and almost no top.

    The way to improve definition was to use a pick.

    BTW, rock players used picks, RnB were largely finger players converted from upright.
  8. Flooflox


    Aug 25, 2014
    If you use a puck, it gives the bass much more punch.
  9. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    This is a big part of it.
    It wasn't that the amps were "muddy" by nature, they were underpowered and cabs were poorly designed/voiced for bass guitar frequencies.
    mikewalker and Coolhandjjl like this.
  10. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    Just FYI - Carole Kaye is another former guitar player that was asked to sit in on bass that uses a pick.
  11. I am primarily a finger player, but I love the sound of the pick with a rock bass tone. One of my favorites was Pat Badger from Extreme. Nothing really fancy, but it completely fit the sound and technical sharpened needed for those songs. Tom Hamilton as well. Songs like Toys in the attic are best played with a pick to get all the notes to come out.

    I've been playing with one more and more lately, as a project I'm working with really calls out for it.

    I'd be in agreement that the early rock players used them for definition on faster notes. I see it as just another tool to use.
  12. dante360


    Dec 26, 2017
    I think some of those guys were playing with a pick because they also played guitar on some of their songs (John Paul Jones has even played the mandolin and the lap steel), so it would be easier for them to switch from the bass to the guitar
  13. tim gueguen

    tim gueguen

    Sep 19, 2016
    Then in jazz there's Steve Swallow, who was originally an upright bassist before he started playing bass guitar, but has used a pick throughout his career.
  14. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    Because they all started out as guitarists
  15. Max Blasto

    Max Blasto

    Nov 29, 2010
    San Diego
    WRT classic rock, a lot of the British guys used. Pick, a lot of the US guys used fingers. Exceptions abound of course.

    JPJ is a poor example as he, like Entwistle, was comfortable with either technique and switched as the song required.
    Butler did this too.
  16. puffman


    Aug 4, 2013
    Joe Osborn, of L.A./Nashville studio fame, used a pick his whole career and got a great sound, IMO. Other ingredients: 1960 prototype Jazz bass (he says the very first one!), LaBella flatwounds - the older the better, and NEVER use the back pickup on the bass.
  17. baxter_x


    Nov 27, 2013
    I started playing a pick. Then switched to fingers, then went back to pick with my current band. It actually all depends on the style of music I play.
    But I have to say in heavy music genre, pick feels and sounds better to me.
  18. equill


    Nov 25, 2010
    Nah, I think tfer was just typing in a Kiwi accent (a.k.a. a "kayway uccint?") :)
    Beej likes this.
  19. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. In Memoriam

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    I was in my heyday back in the rock arena era. Many of us learned using our fingers. It seemed a lot of the UK and Europeans used picks.

    As far as tone was concerned, the Ampeg SVT's and 810's of that era were anything but muddy. I also remember the Super Bass Showman which was very clean sounding and popular. Maybe most music recorded to tape cassette sounded lousy, but live the music was excellent.

    If I ever need a plucking sound out of my bass, I use my fingernails. Gets the job done.
  20. WaynerBass

    WaynerBass Inactive Suspended

    Jan 12, 2016
    Southwest Florida
    I like the attack and you can adjust your attack for hard or mellow and many times even within a song I alternate between picking with a pick and finger picking.. even while holding a pick, you have 3 loose fingers to pluck strings. Many times too finger picking has a deeper tone too. Both styles cut through the mix differently.