Video: A Metal Bass Clinic with Anthrax's Frank Bello and Megadeth's David Ellefson

Megadeth's David Ellefson and Anthrax's Frank Bello have been brothers in bass for years. After touring together with their respective bands (along with Slayer and Metallica for the Big Four tour), they gave a series of bass clinics for Hartke amps.

They also formed their own band together, Altitudes & Attitude, whose debut album, Get It Out, was released earlier this year.

They recently joined us in the Reverb studio to treat us to a metal bass clinic of our own, covering topics like songwriting, recording, and really learning how to really listen to everything else your bandmates are playing around you.

One of the first points Ellefson made was the importance of taking cues from genres outside of metal when coming up with riffs, bringing in the groove and swing of soul and R&B. "It's cool that in metal we get to do these things and have things that go into some other facets, besides just always the staccato machine gun," Ellefson says.

Of course, there's no use coming up with a bass part if no one can hear it on stage amid the drums and loud guitars, so they also talk about how they carve out frequency ranges. Ellefson has to find a sweet spot well below Dave Mustaine's midrange-hogging Marshalls, while Bello is able to claim more mid-range real estate.

"My tone is through my fingers, because you can control what you need and how to [cut] through it," Bello says. "You get a set-up tone, but if I need to cut a little more, I'll just put a little more pressure in the actual playing, and somehow it works."

This leads to a fingers vs. pick discussion, with the advantages of both. Ellefson's use of a pick plays a crucial role in the phrasing of his parts, especially in allowing him to palm mute the strings. While Bello is usually anti-pick, he has, on occasion, picked one up when the song in question needs it.

For more playing and recording techniques learned in a lifetime of metal, watch the full video above. Then, head over to Reverb LP, where Ellefson and Bello discuss their formative records. To learn more about Altitudes & Attitude, visit the group's website here.

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