Bass Players who Broke the Mold

220px-LesClaypool Primus frontman Les Claypool at Bonnaroo 2002.

For years, a bass’s traditional role was playing the root note of the chord, holding down the low-end while the guitar sat in the lead but over the years, the bass was taken to a whole new level. The following is just a small sample of amazing bass players that prove you don't need to be a lead guitarist to steal the show!

Victor Wooten

While some bass players stand out due to their novel and creative approach to playing, Wooten made a name for himself for his unbelievable technical chops, mixing complex melodies and insanely intricate arrangements all played with the ease of a true master of his instrument. To say this guy is an amazing bass player is an understatement.

While his style can tread a bit on the funky side he can easily pull out licks ranging from R&B to blues and everything in between. In addition to his duties as the bassist for Béla Fleck and the Flecktones since the group's formation in 1988, Wooten has collaborated with several artists throughout his long career.

Check out Wooten's one-man full rendition of "Amazing Grace" below, complete with solo!

Jaco Pastorius

While he might not be as well-known to the average music fan as someone like John Paul Jones or Flea, Jaco Pastorius is nothing less than a legend on the bass. Like Wooten, Pastorius was a virtuoso whose playing style was known for its highly technical, complex yet lyrical execution that mixed traditional jazz, Latin-influenced 16th-note funk, innovative use of harmonics and expressive soloing.

He's best remembered for his time in the jazz fusion band Weather Report - home to several influential bassists such as Alfonso Johnson and Victor Bailey - which he served as bassist from 1976 to 1981. Although his life was cut short due to brain injuries caused by a fight in 1987, he still remains a prominent figure in the bass community to this day.

Below is just a small sample of Pastorius's masterful technique on the bass.

Les Claypool

Easily one of the most original and eccentric bassists in music, Les Claypool has made a career out of blending his unique personality and playing style into his many projects. As the bassist and frontman of Primus, Claypool’s distinctive mix of tapping, flamenco-like strumming, whammy bar bends, and slapping spearheads the band’s quirky approach to music and performance.

While Claypool’s style is best known for its original and offbeat take on the bass, he’s no slouch as far as pure skill is concerned. Check out the video below to see Claypool do what he does best!

Geddy Lee

Not only is the Rush frontman an amazing bassist, influencing players for decades with his signature high gain lead bass style, but he does so while holding down the vocals and keyboard duties for the band as well! Seeing the Canadian triple-threat in action during a live-performance will easily put most musicians to shame.

But aside from his one-man rhythm section approach to performing, Lee’s style and technique on the bass deserves just as much praise, inspiring numerous bassists including the late Cliff Burton of Metallica and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden – not to mention another guy on our list, Les Claypool.

Check out Geddy Lee in action along with the rest of the band in the video below!

While it might not get as much attention as the electric guitar, these bass players prove that the the bass is far from an instrument meant to hide in the background. Whether it's an amazingly technical approach or a highly unique playing style, the bass is only limited by a player's passion and dedication!

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Your Turn to Sound Off!

There are plenty more bass players out there who pushed the bass into exciting new territories. Which one is your personal favorite? What is it about their style that drew you to their sound?

Sound off in the comment section below!

2 thoughts on “Bass Players who Broke the Mold”

  • Mark Mackey

    Where the hell is John Entwistle of the WHO?
    He was the first bassist to move bass from the sidelines to front of stage!
    Bassist all over the world can thank him for the development of bass guitar strings that could stand the punishment of R&R music due to his collaboration with "Roto"...

    • PAL Adam Stafford
      PAL Adam Stafford June 4, 2015 at 3:23 am

      No doubt we all owe the OX a debt of gratitude for his massive contributions to the world of bass. We highlighted just a few players to get the conversation started and asked you to sound off about your favorites. We totally agree with your choice of bass players who broke the mold. Thanks for contributing.

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