Photo of Zander Zon, the man who defines piccolo bass for us.
Q: I am a high school musician in a relativly serious band with my friends, and we are about to make the transition into college. Unfortunately, our fantastic lead guitarist is going away for college, so rather than find a new lead guitarist, our frontman asked me if I would be willing to play lead guitar, since he’s seen my proficiency on bass. I can play guitar, but I am far more comfortable and talented on bass. So my question is this: to fill the spot, should I seek to improve my guitar playing skills, or is it a reasonable idea to replace lead guitar with lead piccolo bass?
A: That’s a wild idea, and one I like!
I say it’s worth a shot. But in reality, it all depends on the sound of the band and how far you guys are willing to drift from that. A piccolo bass will definitely sound different, but it could wind up being very cool, interesting, or at least, it might lead the band in an unexpected direction (good or bad… you won’t know until you know). You would likely need to experiment with effects and tone to fulfill the role of “lead” piccolo bassist.
I think it’s a totally reasonable experiment, but unless you guys are willing to change the aural aesthetic of the group, it may not ultimately fly. It requires that you all approach it with an open mind and ditch any preconceptions, because it will alter your band’s sound.
I’m wondering, would you then acquire a new bassist? The piccolo is only likely to work if someone is still holding down the low end.
What’s your take?
This is one I especially want to open up to the readers. Has anybody tried this? What genre? It certainly worked for Stanely Clarke but he’s in a jazz or jazz/funk context (anything goes). If you have experience with this, or other thoughts on the subject, please share in the comments.
A quick search on Youtube yielded a ton of solo piccolo performances, but not many full bands with lead piccolo bass. I did come across a video with a pretty great “lead” sound around the :45 second mark. It’s also full of a good crunchy guitar tone and, as far as I know, it’s all piccolo bass: