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Charles Berthoud: “I want my music to appeal to people who don’t know anything about bass. That can be a difficult balancing act”

Charles Berthoud
(Image credit: Courtesy of Charles Berthoud)

A British-born bass player who crossed the Atlantic to take up residence on the east coast of the USA, Charles Berthoud has enjoyed a rapid ascent to YouTube stardom thanks to the wit and skill he displays in his videos – over 200 of them so far. 

His range of playing techniques is astounding, including a very fast command of tap and slap, but those alone wouldn’t be enough to attract the large fanbase that has gathered to see him play. 

What makes Berthoud stand out on the crowded playing field of social media is that his videos are both funny and mesmerizing, whether he’s translating classical music to bass, performing high-speed picking stunts, or engaging in a fake battle with fellow YouTuber Davie504. He’s pushing the role of the bass forward, and for that we salute him.

Congratulations on winning Bass Player’s first-ever Rising Star award, Charles.

“Thank you so much! It’s a really big deal for me, after all the work I’ve put into my YouTube videos over the last few years.”

The point of the award is to underline that great bass playing isn’t just a live activity these days – it has a home online, too.

“It’s great that you guys appreciate that. I do play live occasionally, but I’d say probably 80 percent of my time is spent working on YouTube.”

How does your working day break down?

“Well, I spend a few hours each day recording bass videos, another couple of hours editing the movies, and another couple of hours promoting them on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Not every day is the same – some days I’m just recording, with no editing happening – but basically every day I’m either recording or editing.”

You also do sessions, correct?

“I do, usually on Fiverr.”

Do you have any assistance, or is it just you doing it all?

“It’s almost all me, but my fiancée makes my thumbnails for YouTube. That’s really helpful, because she knows Photoshop. Everything else is just me, but it’s quite a lot of work so I might try and outsource some of the jobs at some point, maybe the video editing.”

Does YouTube, or rather their owners Google, give you any advice on how to make a good video, or does it all come out of your imagination?

“They give you some basic advice. They’ll say, try to make a thumbnail that is eye-catching and gives the viewers an idea of what’s in the video. You can get inspiration by looking at other people’s thumbnails. There’s always trends – a certain sort of thumbnail style that evolves over time. You’ve got to know what is doing well at any given moment, because a thumbnail that would have done well a few years ago might not do well now, for example.”

Your early videos were essentially performance pieces. When did you evolve them into the much more sophisticated pieces they are now?

“I started taking YouTube more seriously overall after Davie504 gave me a shout-out. That’s probably right around the time my thumbnails started looking better, too, because I started taking it all more seriously.”

How did you get started on bass?

“The first instrument I played was piano, when I was seven, but I wanted to learn an instrument that I could play in a band setting, especially as I started getting really into rock when I was about 11 or 12. I was obsessed with Metallica from about the age of 12 to maybe 16 or 17.”

But you grew out of it?

“I did, but I do still like them. It’s just not the obsession that it used to be. Anyway, I wanted to play an instrument in a rock band, and I had a lot of friends who were playing guitar and drums. I wanted to be different, so I played bass, even though I didn’t really know what a bass was. Someone told me that a bass is like a low version of a guitar, and I thought that sounded cool, so I got my first one, a Peavey Milestone that came with a little amp.” 

What gear do you use now?

“My main bass is a Le Fay, and I’ve got quite a few Schecter basses as well. They’ve been really nice with hooking me up with instruments. In terms of what I record into, I’ve got a Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface, a MacBook and a load of Logic plugins. It’s a very lean setup. When I play live, I have an Aguilar head and a Phil Jones Bass cabinet.”

You have over 750,000 subscribers on YouTube. From your perspective, is that a lot? 

“It’s all relative. Three years ago, that amount of subscribers would have seemed crazy, because I think I had 3,000 subscribers back then. I have to remind myself to be really grateful for the position that I’m in, with this number of followers. 

“There are also times where I really don’t care about the numbers, because I just want to make the best music that I can. If I do that, then hopefully the subscribers will follow. That’s not really in my control – the only thing I can control is how good the music I put out is.”

There are also times where I really don’t care about the numbers, because I just want to make the best music that I can

Are people really tuning in to see good music, or are they just looking for jokes while they eat lunch?

“I think different people come for different things. It’s definitely a balancing act. I don’t want my music to only appeal to people who play bass, or who are just really obsessed with bass, although I love those people. I do want them to like it, but I don’t want only them to like it. 

“I want my music to appeal to people who don’t know anything about bass. That can be a difficult balancing act, which why I like to get some humor in there and make it entertaining, beyond just people who know a lot about bass watching me and being impressed.”

That’s a great answer to a mean question. How do you handle unpleasant comments online?

“It’s just one of those things, you know. There’s definitely a lot of negativity towards playing bass as a soloist. A lot of the things people say on social media, they would never say in real life. It’s just one of the one of the downsides of social media, but if what I do on my channel gets more people interested in playing the bass guitar, then that’s a really good thing.”

Precisely why we chose you for this award. Congratulations, Charles – we’re looking forward to seeing what you do next.

“Thank you, and I’m very grateful to the staff and readers of Bass Player for this award. It really means a lot!”

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