If Your Bass Amp Might Not Electrocute You, You're Doing Sludge Metal Wrong: A Guide

So, you want to be in a band, right? The thing is, you have little to no ability or skill with a guitar. Me too! There is, however, one easy way to go about this that doesn't really require learning to actually play your instrument properly. All you have to do is check a few boxes up front, and then the whole actual music thing falls into place.

First, buy a bass guitar. Any bass guitar, it doesn't really matter which one. It can be as cheap as you like, as long as it has four strings (five string basses are for psychopaths), frets (fretless basses are for people with serious talent), and a kind-of-working output. Tune your bass to drop D, and leave it there. Do not attempt to tune the lowest string back up to E. Ever.

See also: The Top Five Notes on My Bass Guitar

Then -- and this is the important part -- locate a really shit bass amp. You see, the thing is, the shortcut to being in a band with no ability is to play bass in a sludge metal band. Due to the nature of said metal (and I say this as a bassist in a sludge metal band), it's all about tone. Every single part of this music is tone. It is barely about what notes you play. If you play a note that isn't D, you're going to have at least a full thirty seconds while the D you're already playing rings out to locate said note on the fretboard. You could almost bring a cheat sheet.

You'll get a lot of people saying that, to get the right sludge tone, you need a bunch of pedals and a shiny amp. Those people are charlatans, who are either trying to take your money or who have been brainwashed by someone who took their money already. You need to go on Craigslist (eBay is too reputable for this task) and search the cheap bass amps. Locate a really old amplifier around the $100 sweet spot. Ideally you'll want roughly 100 watts for $100, as $1 to 1 watt is the ideal ratio. More watts for less money, and your bass amp is unlikely to work, let's be honest. We need something that will still make a loud noise. More money for less watts, and you risk buying an amplifier that works too well. What you need, ideally, is something about twenty years old that has had the shit battered out of it. I'm talking dials falling off and glued back on, a gain dial that only works intermittently, a volume dial that doesn't seem to actually stop turning, and most of all it must leave you scared of electrocution at all times. This is how you channel the fear and depression necessary to play sludge metal. I have an ancient 80 watt Crate amp which was awful to start with, and then was played every week for 20 years in church by some guy who presumably didn't like God enough to look after his bass amp. I cannot overstate enough that it must be in terrible condition. We're not after clean tones that represent what you're actually playing. We need to mask your inability to play bass.

Upon obtaining said amp, hit it several times with a blunt object, just to finally loosen any stubborn wires. "Accidentally" hitting it into a doorframe works just as well. Turn all the treble dials down to zero, turn all the bass and mid up to full, turn the gain up to whatever part of the dial it actually works on, as high as possible to eliminate any aspect of "clean", and plug in your bass, which should still be tuned to drop D. Then, simply hit the lowest string as hard as possible. If you've done this right, the resulting noise should be like an earth-shaking sound phaser, the sort of thing that people literally cannot have in the same room as them. It should be able to shatter teeth at 100 paces. Once this sound is achieved, remove all the dials for safe-keeping, and hit your bass amp into a door again for good measure.

Find a band (the guitarist and drummer need to actually have talent), ???, profit. You, sir, are a musician. Play a D forever. Switch to an A for choruses. If in doubt of said chorus, go back to a D. Just remember - functioning bass guitar, godawful amp, drop D. It's the holy trinity of sludge.

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Gavin Cleaver
Contact: Gavin Cleaver