Flea: “Basslines take on a different type of melody with a pick”

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Nissan Stadium on August 12, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(Image credit: Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

In the history of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the terms “funky Flea bass” and “guitar pick” have rarely been used in the same sentence. In fact, put a bass in Flea’s hands, and more likely than not, he’ll whip out some trademark slapped octaves or a funky fingerstyle groove. His slap-heavy style first got him noticed when the Chili Peppers lit up the L.A. music scene in the 80s, and it’s a technique that has set him apart ever since.

“Flea was my first influence on the instrument,” says Vulfpeck’s Joe Dart. "His commitment to playing every note as if it were his last, to truly dedicating his whole body and soul to the groove, and to holding it down in what is essentially a three-piece band – he inspired me as a kid and still does today.”

Flea toned things down for 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which included the landmark bassline on Give It Away. Of all his skills, however, it’s his mastery of the pick that has escaped the most attention. "I always want to play melodically, but basslines take on a different type of melody with a pick," he says. "I'm more likely to strum chords or play with double stops when I play with a pick."

In this demo video, which showcases Flea’s own brand of bass guitar, Flea substitutes his usual Dunlop Tortex .60mm for a quarter.

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.