Billy Sheehan: Tips To Rock The Rhythm Section
Bass Player, Drum Lover. I’ve been a drummer groupie from day one, I’ve always been into drums. When I see a band, they’re who I watch first. When I was very young, the guy who started me playing bass, I used to watch his band practice. One day I went in and it was just him and the drummer, and I said, “Where’s the rest of the band?” He goes, “We’re practicing without them. I want to make sure that I know that every time the drummer hits his bass drum, I play a bass note along with him.” And he showed me how it works. So before I even owned a bass, that was my basic understanding of what bass did: it’s a foundation you make with the drums.
Where’s 1? It’s important to have the ability to make your moves, do your fills, do what you want, and still keep a sense of time underneath that, and always coming back in on 1, or some subdivision that makes rhythmic sense.
Stay In Control. I like to push myself to the point where things are completely out of control, and I can grab the bass neck at one point, and my finger happens to land on the correct note at the right time — and saves the day. That, to me, is the most thrilling thing. It’s like throwing a pass and having a guy in the end zone leap, and just barely catch it by his fingernails. It’s right on the edge of being out of control, but in the end is completely in control.
Keep It Simple. When musicians are jamming, it often turns into a contest of one-upsmanship, rather than play together or off each other. The point isn’t to stump the band and create a train wreck. The point is to try and make some kind of music. I do enjoy taking it out, but … all within balance. Everything, in its time.
Billy Sheehan has played bass with a host of legendary artists, including UFO, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, and Niacin, and has produced a number of solo albums.