Megadeth's Dave Ellefson: "Weekend-warrior bass players give me sh*t about playing with a pick"

David Ellefson of Megadeth performs live at Gods of Metal Festival in Milano, Italy, on June 2 2016
(Image credit: Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

To pick or not pick? That is the question… that keeps being asked of Dave Ellefson, apparently.

In a recent interview with Metal Asylum, the Megadeth bassist was asked if he ever "got crap" from other four-stringers for using a plectrum rather than playing more “authentically” with his fingers.

To which Ellefson responded: "Weekend-warrior and, in my opinion, not professional bass players give me shit about it all the time. And I say that because if you were a professional player, you would realize that, while you don't maybe always have to use the plectrum, it is a desired tone, especially in the studio.”

To pick or not pick? That is the question…that keeps being asked of Dave Ellefson, the plectrum route.

"Sting, Phil Lynott, Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons… What I find is most of those bass players, like myself, also play guitar, and they probably write most of their things on guitar and they move 'em over to bass so they can easily go back and forth between bass and guitar. I'm the same way.”

He continued, "At that point, I stop thinking about, 'Oh, I've gotta be this bass player.' Fuck that. You're just being a musician playing the parts to write the tune – you're a composer. So you just grab anything and you write the part.

"So, for me, I'm way less of a bass snob. And I'm really not into that whole thing, quite honestly –  the bass snob thing. I'm really more of a composer, a player and a performer.”

What’s more, Ellefson says that the pick sometimes just flat-out sounds better. 

"I've been in the studio many times, and even recently, I was playing with my fingers, and the engineer looks over and goes, 'What'd you change?' And I said, 'I'm playing with my fingers.' He goes, 'Don't do that. Get the pick. It sounds better.' I mean, like that. It's noticeable."

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.