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John Myung

Dream Theater

"A good friend of mine that lived two doors down needed a bass player. At the time, I was playing violin, and it had four strings, so I said okay I should be able to figure it out. One thing led to another, and it just became the best idea." In this episode, Ernie Ball artist John Myung of Dream Theater discusses his influences, his history with playing bass, and his Ernie Ball bass strings.

Transcript

John Myung:
Living out in the suburbs of Long Island, there were a lot of musicians in my neighborhood, John Patricia being one of them, and we all just kind of forming bands. A good friend of mine that lived two doors down needed a bass player. At the time, I was playing violin and it had four strings. So, I said, "Okay, I should be able to figure it out." Then I went to a local flea market and found a bass and started playing it. One thing led to another and it just became the best idea

John Myung:
Live music was really kind of really happening. The club circuit was really happening at the time. It was just a lot of bands playing. And then that became like our elder peers and stuff. That was like the thing to do on the weekends, to go out and check out live acts. Their record collections would sort of spill over into my friend's record collections. And then we'd start hanging out with them on the weekends and getting turned on to all sorts of great music, Rush, Yes, Iron Maiden, ELP and discovering all these amazing bands and it just seemed impossible for something like this to be so good, for it to sound so good.

John Myung:
I don't remember exactly what year I started playing the Cobalts, but when they were brought to my attention and after I tried them, it just seemed like a really comfortable string like I've never played. It felt more connective to my fingers. There was connectivity there that I didn't have with the other strings. The sound is amazing. They sound great. I guess it's sort of that connectivity that it has where it makes a difference now whether or not you play right under the fret or right below it. All of that sort of feels more comfortable to play and I feel like I play better as a result.

John Myung:
When I have an idea when when I'm playing something that sort of moves in the inside, there's this quiet satisfaction of, wow, this could be really, really good. I feel like this is a strong idea and hopefully it will spark a song, but those moments are few and far between in comparison to the amount of the time spent warming up and just playing. Your creative aspect of your mind tends to turn on at these brief moments where all of a sudden, everything is great and when that happens, hit record and try to capture it. It's the best time to record something when it's happening.

John Myung:
Music is defining time with emotions, with notes. Depending on what it is that you want to do musically will determine what you practice. I don't think practice necessarily means studying theory books and all that. Practices is, to me, just time spent with the instrument and however which way you choose to spend it. It depends on what the agenda is. If you have a set of songs that you have to learn and know where the problem areas are and isolate those so that they're in proper playing form, but just practicing it and being in tune with the instrument and having my hands be in tune are just the big part of my daily regimen. Just sort of physically connecting with the instrument because... What's that saying? If you don't use it, you lose it. It's so true. If I don't put the time into kind of getting my hands in the zone and stuff, I can't feel comfortable behind it.

John Myung:
In terms of when do I feel most creative, it can happen anytime during soundcheck, when I'm on the tour bus or when I'm in a hotel room, it can happen anywhere where you're holding your instrument. And the the other side is when you're actually together in a studio or in a rehearsal facility with everyone there and you're playing stuff and experimenting with effects and different tunings and finding ideas. That way too. There are things that happen when you're all together in a room. I don't know. There's a certain energy. There's a certain vibe.

John Myung:
Bass, to me, it's the frequency that I identify with most. I enjoy the challenge it presents. I enjoy the process of what I have to do to prepare my hands to play the way I want to play. And also, I don't know, I guess when I listen to music, it's sort of what I focus on too. I tend to listen to the bassline. 

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