What are you, really?

Someone recently asked me a question, one I’ve been asked quite often, and it always confuses me. This person (who may even be reading this blog), having witnessed me perform on guitar as well as bass, asked me if I was a guitarist or bassist. I replied that I consider myself proficient on both, and he asked “but which are you, really?”.

First, I expect that Diana Krall isn’t asked “Which are you  really, a singer or a pianist?”, or Steven Wilson: “Are you a guitarist or a composer or a singer? Which are you really?”. It’s accepted that someone can be a singer and an instrumentalist, and those are very different skills. So why can’t someone be a guitarist and a bassist, especially considering that since both are string instruments there is a lot of overlap in technique between the two?

And I doubt if as baker was also a saxophonist if they would get asked “which one are they really?” Or an accountant who is also a golfer. So why is it that bass and guitar are considered mutually exclusive?

Also, I tend to get this question from bassists and guitarists. Other instrumentalists and non-musicians tend to be more tolerant of the idea that a person can do more than one thing. Is it that guitarists and bassists are more fragile and feel more threatened at the idea of someone doing their job and another one besides?


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