Mark King's top 5 tips for bassists and other musicians

Words of wisdom from the Level 42 frontman

Mark King
Mark King: "Look after your callouses. The more you play, the better the skin builds­ up on the ends of your fingers, and the easier it is to play."
(Image: © Bead&Shutter)

Mark King's virtuoso bass playing has been entertaining audiences for the best part of 35 years, and he continues to front Level 42, the jazz/funk outfit who crossed over to achieve massive mainstream success in the '80s.

The band are currently touring the UK and the rest of Europe, while three of their albums - Standing In The Light, True Colours and Staring At The Sun - have been remastered and are being reissued for the first time. These editions also include B-sides, rarities and previously unreleased demos.

King is a busy man, then, but he took time out of his schedule to give us his top five tips for bassists and other musicians.

1. Tap out time

"Tap your foot when you play. Time is there, and you are either in time or out, so whenever you play, whether on your own jamming along to your favourite tracks or with other musicians, tap that foot and stay in time."

2. Toughen up your fingers

"Look after your callouses. The more you play, the better the skin builds­ up on the ends of your fingers, and the easier it is to play. Bath water hates callouses, so don't sit in the bath while your fingers 'prune'. If you haven't played for a while and your fingers feel sore, dip them in surgical spirit and they will harden up a lot faster."

3. Be nice

"When you're out on the road, be nice to your crew, and don't keep them up all night on the bus while you and the band party into the wee small hours. They always put in a long day and need their rest. I have been told to say all this by my tour manager..."

"I used to be guilty of wearing musical blinkers, and I missed so much great music. These days, I'm hearing so much more and it's making me a better musician."

4. Open your ears

"Listen to all kinds of music. Give everything a shot and you may surprise yourself! I used to be guilty of wearing musical blinkers, and if a certain band or particular genre of music would come on I'd hit the dial because it didn't fit my narrow view of what 'great music' was. Consequently, I missed so much great music. These days, I'm hearing so much more and it's making me a better musician. Try it."

5. Don't over-think it

"Love your art and follow your heart - don't over-think anything you want to play because it will get bogged down. Initial ideas are invariably the best. How many times have you laid down track after track only to go back to where you started because you'd lost something? Sure, you have to be there to be inspired, but it will be there early on."

Find out more about Level 42 on their website