Arming the Artists

Bring the bassist forward

Posted: 15 October 2019

Updated: 18 August 2022

Bassists often don’t get the credit they deserve. They’re rarely ever the frontman/ woman however they are the lifeblood of the band and are responsible for setting and keeping the groove. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best bass-centric bands and artists to inspire you.

Read time: 5 mins


Arguably one of the most influential and iconic bass players of a generation Flea, from Red Hot Chili Peppers, has continuously demonstrated a range of different techniques throughout the years, ranging from his initial use of slapping and popping to more traditional methods. When asked, Flea has often stated that Louis Armstrong has been one of his biggest influences throughout his musical career. Before RHCP Flea’s technique, style and techniques were focused and styled around the punk-rock genre with gritty bass tones; however, after joining the band his style changed up and began to incorporate a ‘slap’ bass style that drew influence from Bootsy Collins.

carol kaye

Carol Kaye is widely recognised as one of the most prolific recorded bass guitarists in rock and pop music, playing on an estimated 10,000 recordings in a career spanning over 50 years. Her music career started when she was just 13 years old and her mother gifted her a steel string guitar, only a year after receiving this guitar she began to tutor other people and soon found herself performing regularly on the LA jazz and big band circuit. Kaye had been learning and playing the guitar but quickly switched to bass after a bassist failed to turn up to a session at Gold Star Studios in 1963. She quickly made a name for herself as one of the most in-demand session players of the 1960s, playing on numerous hits as well as soundtracks.

lee rocker

Lee Rocker (whose real name is  Leon Drucker) began playing the electric bass at age 12 but quickly discovered that his passion laid within the double bass. He has always credited Willie Dixon as being his favourite bass player and one of his biggest inspirations when he began to play the instrument. Along with two of his school friends, James McDonnell and Brian Setzer, Rocker formed the band Stray Cats in 1979 where he gave himself the stage name of Lee Rocker. Whilst with Stray Cats, Rocker went on to sell nearly 10 million albums and garnered twenty three gold and platinum certified records worldwide and made them a mainstay on MTV.

Royal Blood

We wouldn’t be able to do an article like this without mentioning Royal Blood. The 2-piece rock band from Brighton have made a name for themselves in the past couple of years and have done so with just a bassist and a drummer, quite a rare feat! Anyone who has heard Royal Blood would agree that they combine the sound of a bass guitar and a normal guitar all from the same instrument.

This is all because of a very clever rig set up; the bass guitar is channeled through a set up of bass AND guitar amps in order to produce the heavy but unique sound. Mike, the vocalist and bassist, uses one tube bass amp, a tube bass emulator and a guitar combo. The bass amps were chosen to produce the overdriven, distorted sound that couldn’t be achieved using just pedals and the guitar combo helps bring out the body of the sound. Of course, it’s not just amps that create this sound, but Mike is very secretive of his pedal setup. Some things are best left a mystery.

Miles Mosley

Miles Mosley isn’t your traditional bassist. L.A. born Miles is an upright bass player, known for recording, producing and touring with some of the biggest stars past and present such as Mos Def, Kendrick Lamar, Terrance Howard, and even Avenged Sevenfold. Commonly referred to as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the upright bass.’ Watch any number of his live performances and be prepared to be blown away by his incredible skill and showmanship.

Miles plugs his upright bass into an amp and a pedal board setup which only goes to further improve his performance. The pedalboard features a huge array of effects such as two MXR boost line drivers (one constantly on and the other just for solo’s), two octavers, a Moog MF drive, a wah pedal, Echo-puss delay and much more. If you want to hear a full break down, watch the man himself explain his set up here.  He is also a founding member and player of the acclaimed Los Angeles based group West Coast Get Down which features other popular jazz and bass acts such as Thundercat.


John entwistle

Where do we even begin? John Entwistle, if you don’t know already, was the bass player for the legendary The Who and is responsible for some of the most iconic basslines ever. Performing alongside greats like Pete Townshend and Keith Moon could make it hard to stand out, especially in an era where the basslines were more focused on just keeping a groove. Not for John, his infectious playing and unique techniques allowed his bass riffs to cut through. Voted as the ‘best bassist of all time’ by Rolling Stone magazine, it’s no surprise to see why. John’s melodic riffs sometimes became more of a focal point than Pete’s guitar playing. Take ‘The Seeker’ for instance. John’s rather complicated melody is complimented by Pete’s playing of relatively simple chords. Let’s not forget that his solo in ‘My Generation’ is probably one of the most famous bass solos in all of rock history.

Larry Graham

Larry Graham is best known for his involvement with psychedelic soul/funk band Sly & the Family Stone, as well as supposedly creating the infamous slap bass technique. Destined to work in music from a very young age, Larry started to learn piano at 5 and drums soon after. Next up was guitar at age 11 with Larry releasing his first record at thirteen. At 15, he joined his mother's band ‘The Dell Graham Trio’, and it was when the drummer left that Larry found that he was missing the percussive groove that came with the drums so the slapping technique was invented.

Joining Sly & the Family Stone, Larry’s bass playing was performed to the masses. It was the first time many people had seen the bass being played in his unique way. Whilst with the band, they released classics such as ‘Dance to the Music' and ‘Everybody is a Star.’ In 1993 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Sly & the Family Stone.

Check out the video here in which he explains the origins of the slapping technique in more detail.

Victor Wooten

One of five brothers, Victor is often referred to as the greatest bass player alive at this moment. Having started learning music at the age of 2, it wasn’t long until he was performing with his family band at age 5, even opening shows for Curtis Mayfield at age 6!

Having been on the scene since 1990 as a founding member of Bela Fleck, Victor is showing no signs of slowing down and is now a multi grammy winning artist. He has released solo albums featuring nothing but his 4-string bass and himself, something relatively rare however these albums were met with open arms and critical acclaim, with his first studio album referred to as the ‘most important bass record of all time.’

With a talent like Victors, it’s no surprise that fans and fellow bass players from around the world were dying to learn his techniques, following him to music shop seminars and talks around the world. It was off the back of these that his acclaimed Victor Wooten’s Centre for Music and Nature was formed, which has now taught thousands of students from all walks of life.

The bass is such a versatile instrument and it should not be underestimated. The examples we’ve shown you go to prove that a bass can contribute equally to a song’s rhythm and melody, and is equally as adept at taking centre stage as any other instrument. Keep grooving! 

If you're looking for some more examples check out our very own 'Cut Through Bassists' playlist below.