The Bass-ment

Cool Bass Lines

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So Im not a Bass player, But at times I wish I was when I hear some killer Bass lines in a song. I think the Bass could be up front and center and be a lead instrument in most cases...If its done right .

Heres a Favorite song of mine, an "Oldie But a Goodie" that has a really cool bass line.

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"Badge"......but Jack Bruce in general.

Tommy Caldwell, with too many to name.

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Much more than a bass line.... this is just insanely good.

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One of my favorite bass players is Tiny Weymouth.

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The superb Bernard Edwards..

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Two of my favorite bass lines.

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Wailers' bassist Family Man Barrett is holding it down for this one from Barbara Paige:

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Chuck Rainey is da man for this classic:

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Francis "Rocco" Prestia answers the question -- his bassline is What Is Hip!

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Any list of cool bass lines gots to have something from Jack Casady:

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Josef Zawinul's synth bass and Jaco Pastorius' melodic fretless bass are a perfect counterpoint:

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To quote Proteus on the subject of a pre-eminent bassist in pop/rock history - "Well, I'm enough of a Paulophile. I hope it doesn't take a thing away from his prodigious melodic and compositional gifts, as well as his instrumental versatility and singular gift of a voice, to note that his harmonically rich, diverse, clever, and distinctive basslines were often constructed after the songs were recorded, then overdubbed. There was still creative brilliance in coming up with them, for sure - but at least they no longer seem like the magic work of a god among us.".

That last disclaimer aside, it's clear that McCartney did not undervalue the importance of adding a strong bassline to an already-strong song. That's my point. But if the only reason for a dominant bassline is to shore up an otherwise forgettable piece of music whose only claim to fame is that it's "hip" (often a synonym for "crap") then it deserves to die. In cases where a song is memorable enough to "stand on its own feet" merely complemented by an unobtrusive bassline then it should do so. Here's an instance:

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Melvin Lee Davis, Shaka Khan's 7 string bassist.

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A piece of music that's strong in every way may be preferable to one whose deficiencies are redeemed by one particularly strong element.

But less fulsome and compleat confections can also be infectious. Bass players have often made that difference. It's a trivial example, but what would "The Beat Goes On" have been without Carol Kaye's bassline? My guess is, either never released or a flop.

In the 60s, a lot of basslines were dominant hooks - helping pave the way for the riff rock of the next decade. Daytripper, Windy, Valleri, 1984 - all classic bass licks. Not counterpoint, but THE point.

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Josef Zawinul's synth bass and Jaco Pastorius' melodic fretless bass are a perfect counterpoint:

– Parabar

Thanks Parabar; I was waiting for something from Jaco.

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There are obviously countless later McCartney bass lines that would qualify, but I'll go with an early one - "Twist and Shout." Everything about that song is great, but his driving bass absolutely brings it home.

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Sneer if you must, but only if you can cut that bass track as well as THAT guy did...

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I'm glad you mentioned Stanley Clark Suprdave, he is an amazing bassist! He came under my radar many years ago, because he was one of the main influence of the fellow who helped me cross over to the bass.

John Paul Jones is one of my favorite bassist, in just about any Led Zeppelin song. I'm particularly fond of the bass lines in The Lemon Song, What Is and What Should Never Be, and Ramble On. JPJ's parts were always up front, and in your face.

I was very fortunate to have been coached by a very proficient jazz bassist that I mentioned above. He was instrumental in helping me to cross over to the bass, when I was about 22 years old. Up until then, I had viewed the bass as a big fat lead guitar, boy was I ever wrong. We met in an Army recreation center, during my early Army years, and we became fast friends. My buddy told me "The bass is not a guitar, it's a completely different instrument, so first off, THROW THAT PICK AWAY". He went on to explain "The bass takes a great deal of strength and finesse, imagine how 300 lbs basketball players do a sort of ballet, gliding up and down the court. They are powerful men in complete control, seldom even touching one another". I didn't get what he meant right at first, but I soon caught on to his simile. As we all know, having a great bass and drummer team (or not) can make or break a band.

I prefer the simplicity of the Fender P bass, one split coil HB pickup, one volume and one tone pot. For me, anything more than this, is superfluous. These three things, combined with fingering techniques, afford a tremendous amount of tonal variation.


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