10 killer bass solos
Bassists! Know your place! Your job is to hold down the groove, to keep the rhythm going, to thicken up the low end. The bass guitar is not a lead instrument…
That said, why should guitarists and keyboard players have all the fun? Sure, the humble bass guitar isn't exactly renowned as a soloing instrument but that just makes it all the more impressive when the masters manage to pull off some blistering, gut-busting riffage.
So let's flick through some videos of 10 of MusicRadar's favourites. Thumbs at the ready people…
First up: Les Claypool
Les Claypool (Primus) - Tommy The Cat
Primus bassist Les Claypool auditioned to join Metallica following the death of Cliff Burton, but was supposedly rejected for being too good.
The bassline to Primus' 1991 hit Tommy The Cat is pretty much one long bass solo, but with an extra proper solo thrown in towards the end just for good measure. Basstastic.
Nick Oliveri (Queens Of The Stone Age) - No One Knows
A solo that certainly doesn't overstay its welcome, this one only just makes it into the realm of being a solo rather than just a quick refrain.
Either way, Nick Oliveri's killer bass work on this monster Queens Of The Stone Age hit certainly deserves a place in our list. When Oliveri starts working his way up the fretboard for that mid section, and starts duelling with Josh Homme's lead guitar, it's almost impossible to resist the urge to rock out.
John Myung (Dream Theater) - The Dance Of Eternity
When we asked you lot to vote for the greatest bass player of all time, Dream Theater's John Myung emerged as a clear winner. So obviously you don't need us to tell you about his technical proficiency.
His bass solo in The Dance Of Eternity, from the band's 1999 concept album Metropolis Pt.2, is often heralded as one of the musical highlights of his career by Dream Theater fans.
Squarepusher - Solo Electric Bass 1
Squarepusher, aka Tom Jenkinson, is best known for his releases on Warp Records as an electronic musician. He is also, however, more than handy with a bass guitar.
Solo Electric Bass 1 is more than just a bass solo - it's an entire album of nothing but bass solo. At 40 minutes in length the record, which was recorded live in Paris in 2007, is maybe a bit much (there's only a certain amount of bass anyone can take!) But there's no denying it proves that Jenkinson is a master of the instrument.
Check out the video above, taken from an interview for The Culture Show around the time of the album's release. Not only does it feature Jenkinson showing off his skills (skip to 5 minutes in) but he gets shout outs from Thom Yorke and Andre 3000 - and that's undeniably cool.
Cliff Burton (Metallica) - Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)
Before his tragic death in a tour bus crash in 1986 Cliff Burton was heralded as a pioneer of heavy metal bass playing.
Burton's distinctive style of 'lead' bass parts helped to define Metallica's sound across their first three albums, making them the critical and commercial success they are today. This bass instrumental from the band's debut record, Kill 'Em All, is certainly one of his finest moments.
It would be impossible to talk about great bass playing without mentioning at least one of the great jazz players.
Charles Mingus was an undeniable master of the upright bass, a real pioneer in terms of playing style and double bass technique. He earned himself the nickname 'the angry man of jazz' due to his refusal to compromise his musical integrity, just check out the bass solo above for an idea of how great a player Mingus really was.
Geddy Lee (Rush) - YYZ
We could celebrate great bass solos without having something from Geddy Lee included. For one thing, a good number of the other bassist that have made our list have cited his playing as an inspiration at some point.
He's popular with you lot too, voting him into second in our greatest bassist poll. And on the evidence of Rush classic YYZ, it's easy to see why.
Matt Freeman (Rancid) - Maxwell Murder
Rancid bassist Matt Freeman plays in his own distinctive style that sets him apart from the rest of the bass players on our list.
Rather than playing slap or fingered style bass like many iconic bass players, Freeman is know for his ultra-fast playing using a heavy pick while working his way around a scale.
This solo, from Rancid's 1995 album …And Out Come The Wolves is always a highlight of the band's live sets, and really shows off Freeman's bass prowess.
Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) - All Around The World
There's no shortage of impressive bass work in the Red Hot Chili Pepper's back catalogue. It would be difficult to deny that Flea is one of the most charismatic, inspirational and talented bass players in the world today.
A personal favourite of ours, however, has to be the short, sharp blistering bass assault that opens the band's 1999 album Californication. Lovely stuff.
John Entwistle (The Who) - My Generation
A real classic bass guitar moment. Not only does John Entwistle's bass solo in My Generation show off some impressive fret work, but it's a great piece of songwriting too.
The call and response of Entwistle's bass licks and Pete Townshend's guitar perfectly mirrors the back and forth of the song's vocal hook. Plus, it's a great excuse for us to post this infamous, classic video in which Keith Moon's overdid the pyrotechnics in his bass drum making for an *ahem* explosive ending to this TV performance.
Liked this? Now read:The 25 greatest bassists of all time
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter