Lamb of God Bassist Explains Why He Plays With a Pick and Not His Fingers, Talks What Would Be ’Insanely Difficult’ With Fingers

Recently, Lamb of God bassist John Campbell appeared on the For Bass Players Only podcast to discuss his work with the legendary metal band and all things bass-related. Among other things, they touched upon the issue of playing bass guitar with a plectrum rather than just using the fingers of the picking hand.

The issue gets somewhat controversial if a bass player is known for playing with a pick all the time, as is the case with Campbell. When asked whether he originally played with his fingers before switching to a pick, he replied (transcript via Blabbermouth):

“In Richmond [Virginia], when we first started, one of my early influences, just an amazing bass player that was here in town, was playing in a band called Kepone and singing, a guy named Mike Bishop. He had been in GWAR; he actually now is back in GWAR as the lead singer.”

“This guy’s fingers were insane; his technique is incredible. I wanted to be able to do that. But at one point I broke my hand and there was somebody coming to check us out at our practice place while I had a broken hand.”

“So I was, like, ‘I guess I’m gonna tape a pick in my hand and see if I can make it work.’ It didn’t work [laughs], but I continued [playing] with a pick.”

But despite the usual negative stance towards playing with a pick rather than using fingers, John is still sticking to his old ways. After all, for him, it’s about sounding good. And he sounds the best while playing with a pick. John continued:

“At this point, I feel like I do better with a pick than I ever could have done with my fingers, just because of the exacting precision. I play really hard, with a lot of attack, that I guess I could also do with my fingers.”

Lamb of God's Mark Morton & John Campbell | Download Festival | Jackson Guitars

Obviously, getting the kind of tone that he’s aiming for is unnecessarily difficult if you’re fingerpicking and not using a plectrum. And things get even harder when you add the speed to the equation. He concluded by adding:

“But the speed that I can get with the pick, it would be insanely difficult with your fingers… I can still play with my fingers. I just can’t play as fast as punchy, and it would take me some while to make sure that I had the fingers to get through an entire set.”

Of course, John Campbell is far from the only bassist in metal or rock music who potentially faced backlash for his approach to playing. For instance, we have ex-Metallica’s Jason Newsted as another example.

Rig Rundown - Lamb of God's Mark Morton, Willie Adler, and John Campbell

In an interview from a few years ago, Newsted reflected on being ridiculed for playing bass guitar with a pick. He touched upon the issue while discussing his work with Flotsam and Jetsam, as well as some of his influences. Jason offered:

“I became more tunnel-visioned in the influences I took on to create the music, and the attitude that we were really after. Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. Rush was always there, and Ted Nugent early on, that prominent bass that just keeps going no matter what the guitar player does.”

“Motörhead is the linchpin that put me over. Lemmy played bass with a pick, and I played bass with a pick. And I got made fun of for playing bass with a pick.”

Jason Newsted Bass Solo + "Orion"

“Back in the day, I wish I had the answers now when somebody talked shit like that. The most successful bassist of all time plays left-handed, and his name is Paul McCartney. He’s the only billionaire bassist that ever lived. He played with a pick.”

“Gene Simmons is pushing a beat; 840 million. He plays with a pick. Metallica, 100 million records sold. ‘The Black Album’ is one out of four all-time that’s been on the Billboard charts 500 weeks or more. So this guy played with a pick, too.”

Even David Ellefson revealed that he got some flak over the years for preferring a pick over his fingers. Then still a member of Megadeth, Ellefson discussed the matter in a 2020 interview by saying:

“Weekend-warrior and, in my opinion, not professional bass players give me shit about it all the time.”

Megadeth's David Ellefson - Top 5 Megadeth Bass Riffs

“And I say that because if you were a professional player you would realize that – while you don’t maybe always have to use the plectrum, it is the desired tone, especially in the studio.”

“Sting, Phil Lynott, Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons… What I find is most of those bass players – like myself – also play guitar, and they probably write most of their things on guitar and they move ’em over to bass so they can easily go back and forth between bass and guitar.”

“I’m the same way. At that point, I stop thinking about, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta be this bass player.’ Fuck that – you’re just being a musician playing the parts to write the tune, you’re a composer.”

David Ellefson: Riffs from "Hook In Mouth" | Behind The Riff | Jackson Guitars

“So you just grab anything and you write the part. For me, I’m way less of a bass snob. And I’m really not into that whole thing, quite honestly – the bass snob thing – I’m really more of a composer, a player, and a performer.”

“I’ve been in the studio many times, and even recently, I was playing with my fingers, and the engineer looks over and goes, ‘What’d you change?’ And I said, ‘I’m playing with my fingers.'”

“He goes, ‘Don’t do that. Get the pick. It sounds better.’ I mean – like that, it’s noticeable.”

Lamb of God & Kreator - "State of Unrest" (Official Lyric Video)

Picking technique preferences aside, Lamb of God is currently on the road with Kreator in Europe. The tour that was originally scheduled for 2020 is now finally happening in 2023 with the final date planned for March 19. Dubber “State of Unrest,” this tour sees Lamb of God supporting their 2020 album “Omens.”

Photo: Stefan Brending (2015 RiP Lamb of God – John Campbell by 2eight – DSC5317)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.