I started playing bass when I joined Asking Alexandria in 2008,” reveals Sam Bettley, who had played guitar for years. “The opportunity came to broaden my horizons, so I picked up the bass and threw myself in the deep end.” Bettley’s challenge was to get his bass chops up to speed with the U.K. metalcore outfit’s energetic approach, and he drew hard-hitting inspiration from the likes of Lemmy, Cliff Burton, Steve Harris, and Slipknot’s Paul Grey. Bettley is a pickstyle player, and he dug in hard to produce his aggressive tone on Asking Alexandria’s new CD, From Death to Destiny.
How do you get ready for a gig or a session?
I start with a few simple wrist and finger stretches before following along with James [Cassells, drums], as he warms up with some rudiments on his practice pad. After about ten minutes, I’ll sit down on my own and run chromatic walks from the 12th fret up and down the neck to a click a few times, systematically increasing the tempo. It hurts after a while, but it stretches out all the muscles and tendons in the fretting hand.
Do you favor certain regions of the neck?
I’m most comfortable in the middle. I will skip to the next string instead of moving up a particular string in order to make fast riff flow more easily, but I’ll do the opposite on a chorus. I love the warmer tone of the lower strings, and I slide my fretting hand all the way up and down the fingerboard if needed. I try to utilize all of my fingers. I’ve seen bassists who tend to forget they have four digits, and they get tripped up trying to do too much with too few fingers. After I play a series of chromatic walks, my hand kills because I work my entire hand, stretching it out as far as I can in an effort to make my playing as liquid as possible.
What picking techniques have you developed for playing fast?
When I play something really fast and constant, I don’t use my wrist at all. I use my thumb and index finger, and my hand barely moves. It looks weird—almost like I’m scribbling something with a pen. I use a 1mm Dunlop Tortex Triangle pick; it doesn’t make playing fast any easier, but if the pick slips in the grip of my sweaty hand, I can quickly flip it to one of the identical corners.
Do you have any advice for players working on getting their picking up to speed?
Slightly slice the strings with your pick, using some of the flat side instead of hitting the string directly with the pick’s point. Once you get that down, over time you can slowly start turning your pick to a right angle. That’s what I did, and it worked great.
Asking Alexandria, From Death to Destiny [Sumerian, 2013]
Basses Custom prototype Schecter Sam Bettley Signature
Strings Ernie Ball Nickel Wound custom gauge (.060, .080, .095, .125) tuned BF#BE
Rig Two Peavey Tour 700 heads, Peavey VB-810 8x10 cabinet, Tech 21 SansAmp RBI
Effects Maxon DS830 Distortion Master, Dunlop 105Q Bass Wah
Insight “My secret weapon is the SansAmp RBI rackmount—it boosts my signal and gives me the attack required for AA’s style of music.”