Reader Spotlight: Ethan Sobotta

Ethan SobottaMeet Ethan Sobotta, an extraordinarily diverse bassist living in Seattle who makes his living the way it should be: playing bass.

Among the musical genres he lists are “Punk rock sea shanties and Appalachian death polka,” somehow performed by a single band.

Ethan is our player in the spotlight for November 15, 2011.



I studied bass at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and spent equal time playing in the orchestra, jazz ensembles and my own groups on the side.

After teaching and freelancing in the Minneapolis area for five years, I moved to Tucson for a stab at grad school and finally settled in Seattle in 2007.

Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in horn bands, orchestras, jazz groups – both big and and combo – and about any other type of setting you can name. My primary teachers have been James Clute, Peter Lloyd, Patrick Neher, Barry Lieberman and Scott Pingel.

I am currently the bassist with Seattle-area bands The Wages of Sin, The Pornadoes and Zizzy Zi Zixxy. I tour occasionally with Brooklyn-based band Izzy and the Catastrophics. I am also principal bass of the Lake Union Civic Orchestra and section bass in the Olympia Symphony.


Seattle, WA

Day gig:

Fortunate enough to be a full-time working bassist right now. Former careers as a middle and high school orchestra teacher and with Apple Inc.

Years experience:

18 years

Bands & Gigs:

  • The Wages of Sin: Punk rock sea shanties and Appalachian death polka.
  • The Pornadoes – Original country/surf/jazz. Think Chet Atkins playing Dick Dale and Charles Mingus.
  • Zizzy Zi Zixxy – Quirky blues/jazz quartet with harmonica, guitar, bass, and flute+crazy percussion like washboard, brushes on suitcase, etc.
  • Izzy and the Catastrophics – Original band I occasionally tour with, performing 20’s/30’s swing/50’s rock & roll/Latin/blues.
  • Principal bass of the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, section bass in the Olympia Symphony Orchestra.


  • Kolstein 7/8 double bass w/ Pirastro Passiones
  • Chadwick Folding Bass w/ Velvet Animas
  • Lakland Skyline 44-60 w/ Chi Sonics
  • Fender Highway One Precision Bass
  • Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Precision Bass w/ Fralin split-coil pickup
  • Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass Fretless w/ Fender Custom Shop 60’s pickups & Audere preamp
  • Ampeg Portaflex PF-500/PF-115HE
  • GK MB150 combo

Why I play the bass:

I played trombone in school and picked up guitar my sophomore year of high school. The summer before I started college, a friend’s band needed a bass player.

Plus, I read an interview with Milla Jovovich in which she stated she liked bass players best. Figured that was as a good a sign as any…

My bass superpower/claim to fame

Being able to walk into virtually any situation and nail the right feel and pocket. In the past two weeks, I’ve played Sinatra tribute, 20’s/30’s swing, 50’s rock and roll, country and orchestral gigs.

My influences

Edgar Meyer, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Paul Turner, Bill Black, Geezer Butler, James Jamerson, Eric Avery, Derek Smalls, Larry Graham, Christian McBride, François Rabbath, Jimmy Blanton, Willie Dixon, Joe Fick, Chris Wood, George Porter, Jr., Jaco, Rocco Prestia

More on the web:

Want to be featured in an upcoming Reader Spotlight? Just fill out the interview questionnaire.

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts