John Myung

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This article is about the American musician. For the American poker player, see John Myung (poker player).
John Myung
John Myung - 01.jpg
John Myung with Dream Theater in Madrid 2012
Background information
Birth name John Ro Myung
Born (1967-01-24) January 24, 1967 (age 48)
Origin Chicago, Illinois, US
Genres progressive metal, hard rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Bass guitar, Chapman Stick
Years active 1985–present
Associated acts Dream Theater, Platypus, The Jelly Jam, Explorers Club, Gordian Knot, Nightmare Cinema, Nicky Lemmons and the Migrane Brothers
Notable instruments
Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo
Yamaha RBX6JM
Tung Wingbass II

John Ro Myung (/ˈm.əŋ/; born January 24, 1967 ) is an American bassist and a founding member of the progressive metal/rock group Dream Theater. He is one of the two longest-serving members of Dream Theater along with John Petrucci. In a poll conducted by MusicRadar in August through September 2010, he was voted the greatest bassist of all time.[1]


Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Korean parents, Myung grew up in Kings Park, Long Island, New York. He played the violin from the age of five until he was asked to play electric bass in a local band when he was fifteen. He accepted. After graduating from high school he and his high school friend John Petrucci enrolled at the Berklee College of Music, where they met future bandmate Mike Portnoy. The three of them formed the band Majesty with another friend from high school, keyboardist Kevin Moore and vocalist Chris Collins. The band would later change its name to Dream Theater.

Though Dream Theater is his primary focus musically, he has appeared in a number of other projects through his career. His first non-Dream Theater venture was in the pop-prog band Platypus with Rod Morgenstein, Ty Tabor and ex-Dream Theater bandmate Derek Sherinian. He is also a member of The Jelly Jam, which consists of the same line-up as Platypus, but without Sherinian. Apart from his membership in these bands, he has appeared as a guest on numerous records. He also played keyboards in the spoof band Nightmare Cinema.

Myung is a fan of The Beatles, Black Sabbath, The Who, Iron Maiden, Rush, Yes, Jethro Tull and Genesis which were also his early influences.[2][3] He cites Geezer Butler, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Steve Harris, Geddy Lee and Jaco Pastorius as main influences on his playing style.[2][4]

Myung is married to Lisa Martens Pace, the bass player in the defunct all-female heavy metal band Meanstreak. Two other members of the band, Rena Sands and Marlene Apuzzo are married to current and former Dream Theater members: John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy, respectively.

Until Mike Mangini joined Dream Theater in 2010, Myung had the distinction of being the only member of the band to have never performed vocals.


Myung has a reputation as the "mysterious" member of Dream Theater, as he is very quiet and seldom draws attention to himself in videos or concerts. This has led some fans to joke that no one has ever heard him speak. However, he does speak in DVD commentaries and on his instructional video, as well as to fans he meets at live shows. His mysterious personality was emphasized when, at a show in Germany, he tackled Dream Theater singer James LaBrie, much to the confusion and amazement of both the audience and the rest of the band; this move later became known as the "Myung Tackle". It would later be revealed in the band's biography Lifting Shadows that he was dared to do it with "a couple hundred dollars and nobody thought that he would do it."[5]

Myung is also famous for his practicing principles. Both Kevin Shirley (on the Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York DVD) as well as former keyboardist Derek Sherinian (on his website[6]) have said that Myung is the only musician they know who "warms down" after a show. He also has been seen to practice just minutes before the band goes on stage. In a forum post, John Petrucci said that, when he and Myung were at Berklee, the two had an agreement to practice at least six hours every day.[7]


Dream Theater has long been known for its group writing process, so it is sometimes difficult to identify which member of the band authored a particular song or song section (although, on some DVD commentaries, the band members have identified certain parts as, e.g., "a John Myung riff"). With respect to lyrics, Myung wrote the lyrics to one song per album from Images and Words to Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory; after this Myung did not contribute any lyrics until A Dramatic Turn of Events. Mike Portnoy once commented in a chat session that this is probably because Myung's lyrics usually needed some work by the rest of the band to fit to the song. As a result, the band eventually imposed an unwritten lyric rule that required lyrics to be "properly formed, phrased, constructed, etc. to go with the melodies," and, "since then, John has kind of backed off."[8]

Myung at Mitsubishi Electric Hall Düsseldorf in 2014.


Myung's first bass was a "Memphis" brand copy of a Fender Precision Bass, but he quickly upgraded to a salmon-colored four-string Fender Jazz Bass. He began to develop a style of playing high on the neck, adding counterpoint lines and melodies to the band's material, a rarity in rock music. He was also a heavy user of effects not typically heard on the bass guitar to better bring out his distinctive style.

Early Dream Theater gear[edit]

For Dream Theater's debut album When Dream and Day Unite, Myung played a heavily modified Ernie Ball/MusicMan Stingray four-string bass, as well as his four-string Fender Jazz Bass, with the Stingray seeing the vast majority of local New York City-area live performances in this period (1988–1992). The Ernie Ball/MusicMan Stingray four-string was customized with an added front pickup sending a traditional clean bass sound to a clean amp, while the bridge signal was sent to a full-time "effected" amplifier, much like his influences Chris Squire and Geddy Lee and similar to "The Wife", a modified Fender Precision Bass used by Billy Sheehan.

Myung used a 4-string Spector NS-2[9] for most of the recording of Images and Words in 1992.

Switch to six-string basses[edit]

Myung began using six-string basses for Dream Theater's subsequent tours of America, Europe, and Japan, using several high-end Tobias "Basic"-model basses. At least two, a Cherry Sunburst (seen on the "Live in Tokyo" VHS/DVD release) and "Transparent Red" (seen in the "Take The Time" video) Maple body-and-neck with Rosewood fretboard can be seen and heard on various Dream Theater music videos and on the Live at the Marquee EP released in 1993. Myung continued to use Tobias basses throughout the "Images and Tour" and "Music in Progress Tour from 1992 to late 1993. He has primarily used six-string basses ever since.

Tung endorsement[edit]

For Dream Theater's Awake album, Myung became the primary endorser of Tung basses, which were produced by a small company formed by ex-Tobias luthier Nicholas Tung. Myung owned at least three of the only 100 instruments constructed, two "Wingbass II Bolt-on" six-strings (one Natural and one Sunburst, both with Figured Maple tops, Ash bodies and Maple necks with Rosewood fretboards), and one "Wingbass II Hybrid (a "half neck-through") with Spalted Maple top, Ash body, and Maple neck with Birdseye Maple fretboard. The natural-finish Wingbass II bolt-on became his main live instrument for the "Waking Up the World Tour" and "A Change of Seasons Tour", although he used the other two in his "Progressive Bass Concepts" instructional video. During this period, Myung also used a Hamer acoustic bass for "unplugged" radio shows and live performances. For amplification, he was using Mesa Boogie Strategy 400 power amps, a Mesa Boogie Bass 400+, and a modified Mesa Boogie Triaxis guitar preamp with several transistors swapped out for ones that would support the lower range of a bass guitar.

Switch to Yamaha[edit]

After the Tung company ceased production, Myung began endorsing Yamaha instruments, using its TRB and John Patitucci six-string fretted and fretless basses live for Dream Theater's The Fix for '96 and An Evening of New Music while working with Yamaha's Artist Custom Shop on what would become his signature instrument. Based on the more "rock"-oriented RBX body style, prototypes of the RBX6JM along with his TRB basses were used for the recording of 1997's Falling into Infinity. A bolt-on bass with alder body with flame-maple top available in either "Ruby Red" or "Turquoise Blue" with a maple neck, ebony fretboard, gold hardware, 35" scale, and "Infinity" dot inlay on the fretboard, various Red and Blue RBX6JM models were his main studio and live instruments along with his TRB fretless from 1997–1998's Touring into Infinity, 1998's Once in a LIVEtime double-disc live CD and 5 Years in a LIVEtime video, 1999's Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, following tour and 2001's Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York DVD and Live Scenes From New York three CD live set. Myung's amplification and speaker endorsement changed at this time to SWR Sound Corporation, as can be seen on the Metropolis 2000 DVD. However, Internet-released "Webisodes" of the making of 2002's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence double album showed an expansion of Myung's studio gear with the use of a Hamer 8-string bass, as well as a Music Man Stingray 5 five-string bass. The usage of this bass on the entirety of disc 2 of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence would lead to changes to his Yamaha signature bass.

In 2002, Myung and Yamaha unveiled the RBX-JM2, an updated version of his signature bass that echoed the redesign of Yamaha's entire RBX-series of basses. Changes included a modified body shape with more "modern" lines and carvings, finishes in either "Inca Silver" or "Plum Purple" in flat as opposed to glossy paint, slightly tighter string-spacing, a maple neck/rosewood fretboard with "Yin-Yang" inlay at the 12th fret, 34" scale as opposed to the 35" scale that the RBX6JM had, and most importantly a single Seymour Duncan Music Man-type Humbucking pickup, by all accounts an influence from his usage of a Music Man Stingray to record a good portion of Dream Theater's last album as well as the Stingray that was his primary bass on the band's first album. This was used on Dream Theater's Train of Thought and Octavarium albums, the tours supporting them, as well as the vast majority of the World Tourbulence (the prototypes for the second version arrived for him to test early in the tour), the Summer 2002 tour co-headlining with Joe Satriani, the Summer 2003 tour co-headlined with Queensrÿche, and the Gigantour 2005 heavy metal festival Dream Theater co-headlined with Megadeth. Myung did not play the Production model of the RBX JM2 he had a second pickup added between the Music Man Style Pickup (custom made by Seymour Duncan) and the bridge. There were also a few controls added. He stated that also the body shape and the woods were slightly altered for the Bass he was using.

Switch to Music Man[edit]

John Myung in 2012.

During the recording of Systematic Chaos in 2006, Myung was seen using various Music Man basses. Early on the 2007 "Chaos in Motion Tour", he was seen playing a MusicMan Bongo 5 HS in an signature "Inca Silver" (flat gray) finish on stage as opposed to his signature Yamaha instrument. This was the first time since before Images and Words that Myung had toured with Music Man instruments. On July 23, 2007, a posting on the Music Man online forum by company owner Sterling Ball [1] stated with certainty that "I am speaking for both myself and the entire Music Man family in welcoming a wonderfully talented bassist and good guy, John Myung of Dream Theater. John has fallen in love with the prototypes that we made of the Bongo 6 and is now playing them exclusively. He is so in love with them that he wont let me tweak them. He is playing the first proto and has two others from the same batch. This is historic for us to have hit the nail on the head for an artist without any input, visit, or promise." Ball also stated that the Bongo 6 "is not a signature bass", but "part of the regular line." In an with MusicRadar in 2010, Myung stated that he was working with Music Man on a modified Bongo. The finished product was a bass with a 6-string body but with the 6 strings accommodating a 5-string neck, resulting in a tighter string spacing. In a later interview, he said that this will not be considered a signature model, per Music Man's company policy.[2].

Other instruments[edit]

Myung has used a 12 string Grand Chapman Stick, an instrument primarily intended to be played by "tapping" the strings much as a pianist plays a keyboard instead of strumming them or fingerpicking. To date, Myung has only used the Stick on four Dream Theater songs in the studio and live: "New Millennium", "Trial Of Tears", "Take Away My Pain" from Falling Into Infinity, and "Misunderstood" from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (although it has been brought into the studio for every recording session since and was the original instrument that the "Home" bassline was performed on until being switched to bass). He did, however, use the Stick on several tracks on Sean Malone's second album Gordian Knot including "Srikara Tal" and "Redemption's Way." Myung used a fretless bass on the Dream Theater songs "Through Her Eyes", "Far From Heaven", "Hollow Years", "Peruvian Skies" and "The Silent Man".


Currently (as of May 2008) onstage, Myung uses all rackmount units for his sounds. As of the August 2005 issue of Bass Player magazine detailing his on-stage equipment, he used two Demeter HBP-1 preamps, a Demeter VTDB-2B mono tube direct box, Demeter HXC-1 optical compressor, Ashdown ABM RPM-1 EVO II preamp and ABM APM 1000 Evo II power amp, a Pearce BC-1 preamp, Framptone 3-Banger (for switching between preamps and their different settings) and Mesa Big Block 750 amplifier. Myung does not use speaker cabinets onstage. Instead, he uses direct boxes that feed the signal from his instruments into the front-of-house mixing board. Many fans and viewers of their live DVDs complain that his signal is distinctly quieter than the rest of the band's when playing live compared to studio recordings, sometimes causing his solo sections to be almost inaudible.


On the Chaos in Motion Tour he used a Demeter VTDB-2B mono tube direct box, a Demeter HXC-1 Compressor and a Demeter HBP-1 Preamp for his direct signal. He also used two Mesa Bigblock 750 amplifiers and a Mesa Bigblock Titan V12 amplifier connected to a Mesa 2x12 cabinet and a Mesa 4x12 cabinet. All this is controlled by a Mesa high gain amp switcher. Furthermore he used a DBX 166xl compressor as well as some Furman units and a Shure wireless system. The only rackmount effect unit he used was an Eventide DSP 4000. In All this can be seen on a picture which is shown on the Mesa homepage. In addition you can see a MXR Phase 90 and a MXR double shot distortion pedal on his pedalboard. A Framptone AB Box as well as a Korg Racktuner and his Midi Footcontroller which is made by Custom Audio Electronics are also mounted on his pedalboard. Myung used to use a 4x10 Mesa Cabinet and 2x12 Mesa Cabinet. On some pictures you can see two Mesa Roadking heads next right to his cabinets. These might be also used to create his sound.

Apart from the various preamps that he uses for overdrive and distortion, the only "effect" Myung uses is an Eventide DSP4000 Ultra-Harmonizer for chorus, harmonization, and time-based effects: "I dig the Hyper Quad setting on the Eventide. It makes for a great wide, spatial effect that really brings my bass sound to life, especially live."[10]

In 2011 he was seen in the studio using the Fractal Audio Axe FX as well as his mesa bigblock heads. He now uses the Axe FX as his main piece of live gear.

Equipment over the years[edit]

  • 1998: Custom Build Noisegate, Rocktron Rack interface, Voltage Controlled Amplifier, Steward 4 Channel DI, Mesa Boogie Amp Switcher, modified Mesa Triaxis. Mesa M2000, Mesa Bass 400+, Mesa Abacus, Mesa Strategy 500, Mesa 2x10 wedge monitors, Mesa 1x15+4x10 Cabs, DBX 166, Yamaha spx900
  • 2002: SWR SM900 Heads, Demeter Isocabs, two Pearce BC1 Preamps
  • 2005: Ashdown RPM1 Preamp, Pearce BC1 Preamp, Mesa Bigblock 750, Ashdown PM1000 Poweramp, Eventide DSP4000, Demeter HBP-1 preamps, a Demeter VTDB-2B mono tube direct box, Demeter HXC-1 optical compressor
  • 2007: Two Mesa Bigblock 750, Mesa Bigblock Titan V12, Eventide DSP4000, DBX 166XL, Demeter HBP-1 preamps, a Demeter VTDB-2B mono tube direct box, Demeter HXC-1 optical compressor, Mesa Powerhouse 4x10 and 2x12 Mesa Amp Switcher, Mesa Rectifiers
  • 2010: Smaller setup for the tour with Iron Maiden and in South America. Eventide DSP4000, Demeter HBP-1 Preamp, Mesa Bigblock 750, Mesa M9, DBX 166XL, Mesa Amp Switcher
  • 2011: A simplified rig including a shure wireless, Radial Splitter, Demeter HBP-1j Preamp, Tour Supply Multiselector, Fractal Audio Axe Fx, Demeter VTDB-2B DI, Demeter Tube Poweramp, Radial Jdx and also a Demeter cabinet as a dummy load for the poweramp going into the radial jdx.


Myung mainly uses a two or three finger picking style in his playing. He also uses slapping and popping on some songs and also uses Tapping and Harmonics in his bass playing. His tapping technique is demonstrated most prominently in the bass solo in "Metropolis part 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper". He uses his chorus effect to help the harmonics to ring out in his playing and sometimes plays chords consisting mostly of harmonics. This is heard most prominently in the intro riff of "Lifting Shadows off a Dream". He uses tapping and fingerstyle on his Chapman Stick throughout "New Millennium". He occasionally uses a pick as well, namely on "These Walls" and the closing riff of "The Dark Eternal Night".

Setup and tuning[edit]

Until his switch to Music Man John was using d'Addario XL roundwounds later he switched to the d'Addario Prosteels. He uses gauges .032, .045, .065, .085, .105, .130. Live he likes to set his strings higher to "be more physical". In the Studio he likes the strings to be lower. Most of the songs are in standard 6 string tuning but for some songs he uses different tunings (according to a forum post in John Petrucci's Forum):

Tunings Songs
BEADGC Standard tuning for most songs
CEADGC As I Am, Honor Thy Father, In the Name of God
DEADGC Endless Sacrifice, A Rite of Passage, Never Enough
B♭-E♭-A♭-D♭-G♭-B The Root of All Evil
AEADGC These Walls
BbEACGC Panic Attack (on the album 3rd string was at C only for the intro)




  1. ^ "The 25 greatest bassists of all time | Page 25". September 24, 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  2. ^ a b "John Myung: Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman". March 31, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  3. ^ "Interview with John Myung and Ty Tabor". Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  4. ^ "Exclusive: John Myung Speaks!". June 28, 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  5. ^ Wilson, Rich (2007). Lifting Shadows: Words. London, England: Essential Works. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-9545493-7-4. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Practicing". John Petrucci Forums. March 2002. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  9. ^ NS-2
  10. ^ "John Myung on Revisiting Your Roots". Bass Player. August 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-02. [dead link]

External links[edit]