Who rocks out on the bass?
February 22, 2010 9:52 PM   Subscribe

Beginner bass player looking for musicians to aspire to and music to be inspired by. Name me your favorite songs with a wicked bass solo, and bands driven by a heavy melodic bass line. I'm especially interested to hear about female singers accompanied by only her bass as well. Thank you!
posted by angermanagement to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (74 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Meshell Ndegeocello?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I know they're not a real band, but Crucial Taunt in Wayne's World were fronted by Tia Carrere playing bass.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:44 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

...bands driven by a heavy melodic bass line...

NoMeansNoRob Wright.
posted by ultrogonic at 11:01 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ben Folds Five (band)
All songs.
posted by bam at 11:14 PM on February 22, 2010

Look to any number of 80's post-punk bands in terms of very simple bass lines way up front in the mix, driving the song--Joy Division, Gang of Four, The Fall, the first Psychedelic Furs record, etc...They were all beginners, too.
posted by halcyon_daze at 11:40 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


not quite what you are looking for but -- Charles Mingus is pretty inspirational
posted by sundri at 11:41 PM on February 22, 2010

You might look to ska as a means of finding wicked solos. The bass player for Less Than Jake is amazing, as is pretty much any ska-bassist. Non-ska that I'd love to learn, you should check out John Entwhistle of the Who. You also might look into the bass player for Living Colour, I believe he had a solo-album as well.

Kind of the other side of the world, but you might check out Go!Go!7188, their bass player is awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:42 PM on February 22, 2010

Gigantic - The Pixies
posted by hellojed at 11:42 PM on February 22, 2010

Muse's songs have wicked bass lines. Don't let the pop/rock thing put you off - their bassist really is excellent.
posted by Xany at 11:45 PM on February 22, 2010

New Order New Order New Order. I see Peter Hook as part of Joy Division was mentioned above, but he really shines as part of New Order. See: As It Is When It Was, Ceremony, Sunrise, Age of Consent.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 11:50 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

The first three Sunny Day Real Estate albums.
posted by The World Famous at 11:52 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden. Steve Harris is a god of melodic bass guitar.
posted by rodgerd at 11:59 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Victor Wooten, primarily of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones fame.

Here's my favorite sample of his work (which incidentally inspired me to pick up the bass a few years ago). It's his rendition of (among other things) Amazing Grace from the Flecktones' Live at the Quick show, which is available on CD and DVD and is a phenomenal display of the artists' musicianship (everyone in the band is fantastic, but I digress).

He has some solo albums, but most of my favorite stuff is when he's with the Flecktones. One of their most famous tracks is Sinister Minister (YouTube part 1, part 2, featuring an insane Vic solo), but I love so many of their songs, it's hard to pick.

Anyway, if you want more of this, let me know.
posted by stufflebean at 12:35 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kim Gordon.
posted by philip-random at 12:43 AM on February 23, 2010

Mike Watt and his wife Kira - example

Morphine (two string slide bass and Mark Sandman) - example

"B is for Boyracer" era Boyracer - example (the initial melody is the bass guitar)

Ned's Atomic Dustbin, a 2 bass (plus guitar and drums) band from the early 90's - example

Jackie Wilson, "Higher and Higher"

Spencer Davis Group, "Gimme Some Lovin'

Charles Mingus

"Graceland" era Paul Simon (played with a number of wonderful bass players)

seconding Ben Folds Five - check out "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" or "Song for the Dumped"

Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"

Cliff Burton (of Metallica, back in the day) - "Anestesia (Pulling Teeth)"
posted by radiosilents at 1:09 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

oh! and the Four Tops, "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" (my favorite part is when the whole band stops for the breakdown and the bass player can't be fucked to stop because he's just too awesome)
posted by radiosilents at 1:13 AM on February 23, 2010

OP, what kind of inspirational are you looking for? Stuff you can play or stuff you want to be able to play eventually? I've been listening to a lot of Silversun Pickups lately, they have some relatively simple and repetitive bass lines that help keep me motivated.

As another beginner bass player and long-time fan of Muse, I find that even their stuff's way too hard to try and play right off the bat (eg, Hysteria bass intro is not difficult, just very fast) - and being able to play some Iron Maiden, Dream Theater and Rush is purely aspirational for at least the medium term now. FWIW, though, friends of mine who are bassists love up Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Tool. Personally, I like Muse's older stuff better (and highly recommend Absolution and Origin of Symmetry) if you're looking purely at basslines because lately they've moved into sounding more like Queen.
posted by selvaria at 1:15 AM on February 23, 2010

Sloan, "Money City Maniacs"
posted by radiosilents at 1:23 AM on February 23, 2010

2nding Meshell Ndegeocello.
posted by cali59 at 1:25 AM on February 23, 2010

Esperanza Spalding is a jazz musician, but she'll have your jaw on the floor.
posted by gnutron at 1:33 AM on February 23, 2010

nthing Les Claypool, and not just with Primus.

Victor Whooton is mind blowingly awesome.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:52 AM on February 23, 2010

Ozric Tentacles have had a selection of awesome bass players.
Jah Wobble is good for melodic dubby stuff.
Stuart Zander from Jamiroquai
posted by mukade at 2:24 AM on February 23, 2010

Michael Manring Thunder Tactics. Ignore the horrid audio quality and the default Wyndam Hill soprano sax. This is only one bass track - I've seen him do it live - he plays like Stanley Jordan.

Compare also Monkey Businessman.

And when you're comfortable with that, try some Stu Hamm.
posted by plinth at 3:02 AM on February 23, 2010

Operation Ivy! (assuming ska is OK, but even if it's not, you have to love that bass)
posted by puckupdate at 3:17 AM on February 23, 2010

No technical fireworks here, but Donald "Duck" Dunn.
posted by bricoleur at 3:57 AM on February 23, 2010

Nthing Victor Wooten.

Google Squarepusher.
posted by phrontist at 4:12 AM on February 23, 2010

Older Tool songs tend to be very bass-driven. No ladies involved, I'm afraid.
posted by transporter accident amy at 4:35 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

John Entwistle on "My Generation". Before you say "I've heard that a million times", listen to it again, as a bassplayer now. It's ridiculous.
posted by poppo at 4:40 AM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding Mike Watt.
posted by princelyfox at 4:49 AM on February 23, 2010

Victor Wooten and Phil Lesh. done.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:09 AM on February 23, 2010

I'm especially interested to hear about female singers accompanied by only her bass as well.

Lydia Kaboesj (of YouTube fame) has a pretty impressive slap technique. And a great voice.
posted by The Mouthchew at 5:10 AM on February 23, 2010

How the hell has nobody mentioned the late, great Jaco Pastorius??
posted by mattholomew at 5:26 AM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding Charles Mingus, so he doesn't get lost in the crowd. Powerful, lyrical, melodic, driving.
posted by availablelight at 5:33 AM on February 23, 2010

Just listen to anything James Jamerson plays on. Nthing Wooten.
posted by synecdoche at 5:35 AM on February 23, 2010

Tool. Check out "Schism" from the " Lateralus" disc. Also see "My Friend of Misery" from Metallica's Black Album.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:42 AM on February 23, 2010

Christian McBride, especially his work with Diana Krall on "Love Stories"
posted by hardcode at 5:48 AM on February 23, 2010

The Jackson 5. Yes, I'm being serious. . Some of the greatest bass parts ever recorded were on their albums. Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about.

BTW - no, it wasn't Jermaine Jackson on the albums. The bass on the first song I linked was Wilton Felder, and the second was the legendary James Jamerson.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:51 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lopsy Lu by Stanley Clarke (and most of the "Stanley Clarke" album), no singing though, but Stanley can make the bass sing.

Seconding the incomparable Jaco Pastorius.

Mick Karn.

And I definitely agree about John Entwistle, the man had the funk.
posted by biscotti at 5:56 AM on February 23, 2010

Here Comes Your Man by the Pixies
Come as You Are by Nirvana
Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine

These are the first three songs I learned to play on the bass. All of them have bass-lines that are instantly recognizable and tremendously satisfying to play, but still within reach for a beginner.

Here Comes Your Man works very well as a bass and vocals solo, incidentally,
posted by 256 at 6:04 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

NNthing Entwistle - "My Generation" by The Who is INSANE. It makes my fingers bleed just listening.
posted by Hugobaron at 6:05 AM on February 23, 2010

In the same vein as OpIvy from above, Rancid tends to use their bass lines for melody. Moreso in the early years, but still definitely worth checking out.
posted by ASoze at 6:09 AM on February 23, 2010

James Jamerson, the oft-uncredited genius behind pretty much all of Motown's biggest hits.

There's a great documentary about him and the Motown studio musicians called "Standing in the Shadows of Motown"

There are also an absolute ton of youtube videos of people playing along with his basslines so you can hear them more clearly.

Darling Dear
I was Made to Love Her

I Heard it Through the Grapevine

What's Going On
posted by ghharr at 6:20 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely listen to Jaco Pastorius. A good place to start if you're interested in female vocals accompanied by bass is Joni Mitchell's Dry Cleaner from Des Moines, which has Jaco going crazy on the bass behind the vocal.
posted by jalexc at 7:37 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

'Cause there still is not enough Jaco in here, also check out Black Crow. Make sure you choose 480p in the video player, you'll get stereo.

A couple of other favs are Abe Laboriel and Pino Palladino (on too many things to mention, but love his playing on D'Angelo's Voodoo album).
posted by SNACKeR at 8:09 AM on February 23, 2010

You need to experience the rolling thunder of Big Business and also the amazing grace of Om.
posted by The Straightener at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2010

Seconding I Want You Back, and raising it one Jason Falkner, a multi-instrumentalist with a Paul McCartney-like feel for melodic bass. He was the bass player on Jellyfish's Bellybutton; check out That Is Why and his work on The King Is Half-Undressed. His most melodic work on that disc is probably Bedspring Kiss. He'll also occasionally make the bass his lead instrument, as in the song NYC off his album I'm OK, You're OK, just released a week ago in the U.S.
posted by troywestfield at 8:25 AM on February 23, 2010

The Talking Heads bassist is female and her name is Tina Weymouth. Her basslines are sometimes repetitive, but complex enough and can carry the song in lieu of melody.

Get Joni Mitchell's album called Don Juan's Reckless Daughter - it has Jaco Pastorius doing the bass for the whole shebang and the bass is pretty prominent.

Also check out Carol Kaye. Her wikipedia entry lists some popular songs and records she played on (she was a session player, an amazing session player).

Slappa da bass, mon!
posted by WeekendJen at 8:44 AM on February 23, 2010

Oh, I can't believe I didn't think of this at first, but John Paul Jones' part on the Lemon Song was what inspired me to pick up the bass in the first place.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:16 AM on February 23, 2010

Mike Dirnt's exquisite bass work on Green Day's Dookie is what makes that album good. A lot of the band's dramatic drop-off in musical interestingness ever since has, I think, a lot to do with the bass parts getting simpler and simpler. Sad, that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on February 23, 2010

Sooo many to suggest...

But I'll echo the recommendation to check out Mike Watt. He plays melodically but has a lot of roughness in his tone and approach to the bass that is really unique.

Anything by Minutemen or fIREHOSE or Dos will be good (especially Dos if you like unique bass records), but my favorite is his solo record Ball Hog Or Tug Boat, which has a giant cast of all the hippest early 90s alt-rockers and covers a good deal of stylistic ground.
posted by quarterframer at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2010

Death from Above 1979?
posted by tmcw at 9:39 AM on February 23, 2010

One of the hottest bass players right now is a woman named Tal Wilkenfeld, a 23 year old from Australia. She kills it on stage with Jeff Beck at Crossroads music fest. She's got some videos on youtube but also check out her myspace, etc.

Also look into Galactic, a New Orleans funk outfit with bassit Rob Mercurio.

Stu Hamm
Stanley Clarke
Victor Wooten
Les Claypool (and the Flying Frog Brigade or Bucket of Bernie Brains.)
posted by premortem at 9:59 AM on February 23, 2010

Oh, forgot to mention a great video that I recently picked up: Rising Low. Its a tribute to Gov't Mule's bassist, Allen Woody who passed away in 2000. They get a bunch of great bass players together (like Entwhistle, Claypool, Flea, Jack Bruce, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Jack Cassady, Phil Lesh and Willie Weeks) and play a memorial concert for Woody with each bassist sitting in on a different song. Gov't Mule's Thorazine Shuffle has a great driving bass line.

Flea is a great bass player as well for all things funk. Here's a video where River Phoenix interviews him followed by Flea and Chad Smith getting down.
posted by premortem at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2010

Jamiroquai and The Smiths both have fantastic bass lines in most all of their respective songs.
posted by gatsby died at 10:11 AM on February 23, 2010

Can I very gingerly put in a vote for Herbie Flowers on Sky's version of "Skylark"?
And if we can have Mingus, what about Ray Brown and Ron Carter?
posted by Logophiliac at 10:31 AM on February 23, 2010

Seconding Esperanza Spaulding, though she's a jazz player and plays upright bass. Go on YouTube and watch her performance on Letterman from a year or two ago - that was a good moment in television.

Another female bass player/singer is Marie-Pierre Arthur. She's French-Canadian, all of her stuff is in French. Not really rock, but it's good music and she's got a great voice. She has some live performances on YouTube also where she plays the bass.

A random song I really like the bass part of, played by a female (though the singer is male), is "The Call" by ZAZA. Interesting serpentine bassline.
posted by wondermouse at 11:19 AM on February 23, 2010

I'm really shocked that no one has yet mentioned Geddy Lee by name. He is *the* rock bassist to aspire to. In particular, give his solo album ("My Favourite Headache") a listen.
posted by Citrus at 11:30 AM on February 23, 2010

Great thing about Rush is they have such a long timeline that their old stuff is fairly basic and playable. It gets harder as the albums go on, and the musicians get more technical and, well, better. Even though a lot of their bassist's (Geddy Lee) later work is pretty difficult, you can probably play along with a good chunk of their first (self-titled "Rush") album. Play the later albums as you acquire better technique. Learn along with Geddy!

Les Claypool is great if you want some inspiration or validation for using non-standard technique, a-tonal melodies, chords, etc. -- basically how to play the bass "wrong", but make it work oh-so-right. He got me out of the mindset that alternating 2 (and only 2) fingers on the picking hand was the only correct way to play and into the mindset of "if it works, do it!" Early Primus (Frizzle Fry) isn't too hard if you're willing to abandon the 2-finger approach. It helps a lot to watch him play, too, either live or videos.

Victor Wooten is the end game, the extreme of the "if it works, do it!" approach. You will never be this good, but maybe you can learn from him. I see him play and sometimes it's inspiring, and sometimes it makes me want to burn my bass because I will never, ever be that good if I practiced for 16 hours a day for the rest of my life.
posted by LordSludge at 11:48 AM on February 23, 2010

I'm not a bassist and previously hadn't really given much thought to how much bass lines contribute to songs, but learning guitar has given me a new ear for listening.

I really like the bass from The Flaming Lips - Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung.

posted by borkencode at 12:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fellow beginner here, and I'll tell you two songs I'll be teaching myself because they're good bass lines that really aren't going to be so hard to learn: Words by The Monkees and The Groove Line by Heatwave.

I'm not sure if the bassist on Words was Chip Douglas or Larry Taylor, but the bassist for for The Groove Line was Mario Mantese. Poor guy.
posted by droplet at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2010

The acme? This.

When I can play that, I will consider myself a fair bassist.
posted by droplet at 12:17 PM on February 23, 2010

Most of the Stevie Wonder songs I can think of.

Golden Lady has maybe my favorite bass lines of all time.
posted by cmoj at 12:31 PM on February 23, 2010

John Myung of Dream Theater is AWESOME
posted by chalbe at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

(for more context--it's a wicked, short bass solo in a longer instrumental song. Full song here.)
posted by chalbe at 2:17 PM on February 23, 2010

Thanks everyone! Your suggestions will keep me busy for a while!
posted by angermanagement at 9:02 PM on February 23, 2010

Marcus Miller is fabulous. First link is him solo, now add a band.
posted by Wolof at 10:18 PM on February 23, 2010

If you can find a video of the Live 8 show in London, Spinal Tap did Big Bottom Girls with, I believe, 28 bass players, or probably every person playing the show who could play bass. The lineup was absurd, and you could probably find some good inspiration from just about anyone playing, if you look into their own bands and such.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:08 AM on February 24, 2010

Oh, for female over strong bassline: Goldenhorse have a bunch of good stuff; for example Maybe Tomorrow.
posted by rodgerd at 11:34 PM on February 24, 2010

Oh, sheesh! Forgot one: Sebastian Steinberg. He was the (upright) bassist for Soul Coughing and afterward had a Drum 'n' Bass project going with Yuval Gabay (the utterly fantastic drummer, also formerly of Soul Coughing) called UV Ray. He's a session guy now, but just a fantastic bassist. Very funky.

Now here's what I'm talkin' 'bout! (Click the little button to the left of the song title).
posted by droplet at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2010

So, this is the ask that keeps on giving: How could I forget John Deacon of Queen. Killer Queen, Fat Bottomed Girls, Another One Bites the Dust, Don't Stop Me Now, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Under Pressure, Invisible Man, etc.
posted by rodgerd at 10:38 AM on February 27, 2010

Oh yeah! You should totally check out the mid-nineties Canadian no-guitars-just-bass-drums-vocals rock movement, i.e. Hamilton's The Inbreds and Winnipeg's Duotang.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2010

Er, Kingston, not Hamilton. Whatever.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:58 AM on February 27, 2010

Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Geddy Lee (Rush), Marcus Miller, John Entwistle (The Who), Victor Wooten, James Jamerson (lots of old Motown recordings), Paul McCartney, Jaco Pastorius.

Also, on Youtube look up MarloweDK for some great instructional material.
posted by kenliu at 9:07 PM on November 6, 2010

MarloweDK is indeed excellent.
posted by Wolof at 2:27 AM on November 7, 2010

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