Tone Talk with Suzi Quatro

Suzi Quatro
Photo by SPV/Steamhammer
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Legendary bassist Suzi Quatro fills us in on bass tone, gear, and advice for aspiring artists.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

For me, a bass is a bass. I am a purist. Don’t like gimmicks, don’t like playing bass with a pick. Like it natural. In the old days until acoustic amps which had the reflex speaker that threw the sound out, the bass was always hard to amplify on stage. Also, there is a compromise between what you hear on the stage and what works in front of the house. This is learned through many years; for me, 55years now as a professional bass player

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

As I said above, I don’t use any gimmicks. Years ago, I was sponsored by B.C. Rich. They made me a special guitar with equalizers, graphs, all sorts of things. I never used anything other than tone and volume. I use Orange Amps and have come back home to Fender basses where I began. I use a Jazz onstage, slightly smaller at the end of the neck so when I do my bass/drum solo, it’s just a little easier. I have small but strong hands. In the studio, I use the reissue Fender Precision. It’s the only bass you can plug straight into the board and get a great sound.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

I use the reissue Fender Precision in the studio, and I do always like to sit on a tall stool with a music stand. Works for me! Sometimes if I am doing a bass part without doing a scratch vocal at the same time, I play differently. Then when I go to relearn the song for the stage, I get a shock. My style and singing lead are interlocked. Sometimes it’s great fun to play!

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

By continually adjusting according to the heaviness or lightness of the songs and how the others are playing. Tone-wise, once the sound is set, it should stay set.

What does your practice consist of?

I practice all the time — alternating with brushing up on the show, playing with live CDs, or jamming. My favorites are ‘60s Motown which I was weaned on — Otis Redding, Santana. With the latter two, I find I play nearly identical bass lines without thinking about it. Bass and drums. Bass and drums are the engines that drive the band.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

If you are going to do it, do it right. If you play an instrument, play it properly. Be professional always. Focus. Give, give, give to the audience. Be prepared to let go of normal life —it is a full-time job.


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