As bassist and frontman for legendary progressive-rock pioneers Rush, Geddy Lee created some of music’s most iconic basslines. But what makes the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer so great is that he continues to evolve his playing style even though his band has been one of the world’s biggest for several decades.
During a recent conversation with Fender.com, Lee explained the origins behind his right-handed picking technique. It dates back to the early 2000s, when he was on tour with fellow prog-rockers Primus and had time to watch bassist Les Claypool, who is known for incorporating flamenco elements to his approach.
That sparked a lightbulb in Lee’s head.
“He has a sort of funk and a sense of rhythm that I found very appealing, and at the same time there were all these players doing all this slap and pop and all this stuff, which didn’t really feel like my kind of thing either,” Lee said of Claypool. “So in an effort to bring more rhythm into my playing, I just started messing about with my approach to writing bass parts.”
Lee, who joked that he had a “very white Canadian style of playing,” noted that he could hear himself getting funkier during brainstorming sessions with Rush drummer Neil Peart, as he figured out a way to use the edge of his fingernails to emulate a pick.
“I got kind of carried away by it, so now I don’t even realize that I’m doing it,” Lee said. “Whenever I instinctively I feel that the part needs more rhythm, I kind of go into this kind of flamenco approach. It really suits our music, and it’s fun to do. It really just gives me more tools.”
Watch Lee discuss learning to play in more of a flamenco style in the exclusive interview below.