2019 Bassist of the Year judge Stu Hamm: “I’m looking for someone who understands the bass guitar’s role to unite rhythm and harmony and drive the band”

Bassist of the Year 2019 judges Joe Dart, Stu Hamm and Mark King

The 2019 Bassist of the Year competition is in full swing and entry videos are flooding in. If you’re an amateur bass guitar talent who wants to expose your playing to a huge global audience and be judged by a brace of guitar experts and star judges, then this is the competition for you.

Bassist of the Year 2019

But that's not all; finalists will battle it out at the UK Guitar Show in London this September for a brace of fantastic bass guitar prizes.

Entering is easy. All you need to do is film yourself playing, upload the video to YouTube and submit the link using the form below. Don’t forget to read our rules for entering whilst you’re down there.

If your video is shortlisted, it will be sent to our star line-up of judges, which includes Metallica’s bass behemoth Robert Trujillo, Level 42 jazz-funk master Mark King, prog/fusion bass icon Stu Hamm and Vulfpeck’s Joe Dart, who was recently named in our list of the best bass players in the world right now.

To help with your entry, we asked the judges exactly what they’re looking for. Have a read of this interview and you may just give yourself the leading edge. Good luck!

What qualities will you be looking for from Bassist of the Year entries?
Mark King:
“Originality. Clones are ok, but having your own ’thing’ is what will make you stand out and is a fundamental in your future success.”

Joe Dart: “Groove, time and the expression of your own unique voice.”

Stu Hamm: “Tone, musicality, originality… and personally I will be looking for a bass player; someone who understands the bass guitar’s role to unite the rhythm and harmony and drive the band. Soloing is great, but if you can’t hold down a phat groove… let’s just say that if you send a video of a solo bass multi-part cover of a pop tune on a seven-string bass you won’t get my vote. Check out 'Bubby' Lewis; the groove and the soloing ideas and chords! He’d win every year.”

What tips can you offer players looking to enter?
“Just be yourself. And self-penned music would be a bonus.”

JD: “I'll echo some advice that one of my heroes, Flea, once gave to me: remember that bass is a supportive instrument. You're there to support the other players, and most importantly to support the song. Except, of course, when you take the lead!”

SH: “Be confident. Be yourself. Do what you do best.”

Clones are ok, but having your own ’thing’ is what will make you stand out

Mark King, Level 42

How important is sound and video quality compared to a good performance, creativity and originality?
“Your talent will shine through even if it is simply filmed and recorded. Remember we are looking for good players, not good directors!”

JD: “We're lucky to live in a time when phone cameras and mics are so good. I hope being able to simply plug in your axe and hit record on your phone will open up this kind of thing to anyone and everyone.”

SH: “The quality has to be good enough to decipher what you are playing, but I personally will not be influenced by slick production if you can play and sound good.”

What advice do you have for guitarists who might be nervous or reluctant to put their playing out in the public domain?
“Don’t be shy. We all started by showing what we could do, and we all improved by doing so. Self belief is also fundamental to future success.”

JD: “When I was younger I used to use a little looper pedal, or my four-track tape recorder, and later my phone, to record myself and just listen back - not even to share. It made me a better player to be able to listen back to myself with a little distance. And then I worked up the courage to throw that stuff up on YouTube, just to get an outside perspective. I think it can be really important, and I find the online bass community to be particularly supportive, kind and helpful to anyone who wishes to get a little feedback.”

SH: “What do you have to lose? You are submitting what you love doing, to people who love bass! You have won as soon as you send in your entry. Maybe someone will see it, like what you do and reach out for a musical project even if you don’t win!”

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(Image credit: Stu Hamm)

Stu Hamm's top 5 tips for bassists

Did you ever enter any guitar competitions or battle of the bands when you were younger, and if so, how did you do?
“I don’t think guitar competitions were around when I began in 1980! But I did enter a TV talent show with a friend who played guitar – I played drums – in the early ‘70s. We came second to an all-girl dance group, so never made the show. It never put me off though…”

JD: “My high school band had a lot of fun and learned a lot from entering both our school talent show and a couple of local Battle Of The Bands. After winning the talent show, we got to play a late night slot at our local summer music festival! That was an immensely fun and educational experience.”

SH: “I have seen ‘drum battles’ and ‘guitar wars’, but bassists just aren’t that egotistical or competitive… with a few notable exceptions. But don’t worry about winning or losing, just share what you have to offer with the bass community!”

What does playing bass mean to you?
“Everything. It has given me everything too, so I’m eternally grateful for the gift. A wasted talent is such a shame, so again don’t be shy people and show us what you’ve got!”

JD: “There's something that the great Victor Wooten once said which really resonates with me: ‘The bass is like the foundation of a house. One doesn't necessarily notice it when it's there, but they surely do when it isn't’."

SH: “Well, after playing bass for 46 years I feel that I’m getting the hang of it, improving and getting better in so many ways… so I’m gonna stick with it and see what happens when I grow up!”

What guitar projects do you have on the horizon?
“We [Level 42] have a full diary of festivals for this year, which I’m very much looking forward to, and playing with the band makes me very happy indeed.”

JD: “I'm always trying to become a better bass player by listening to as much music as possible, and by always trying to play with musicians who challenge me and whose level of groove, musicality and expression are something that I can try to rise to myself.”

SH: “I’m writing a prog rock CD in honour of Chris Squire and touring with few different bands. I’ll also be getting ready for the 2020 tour of my solo CD and touring with Greg Howe, plus various bass camps, schools and masterclasses; just keeping busy!”

Enter Bassist of the Year here!

8 tips for Bassist of the Year success

1. We need to see you play! No promo-style band videos or miming please.
2. Keep it musical. We’re all for fretboard madness and next-level sonics but not at the price of trusty musicality and genuine mastery of multiple techniques. This competition is open to all types of player.
3. Keep it tight and get to the point fast. Our experts are begging to be impressed, so 15 minutes of noodling won’t make the grade.
4. Make it impressive. Go for it. We want to see the full breadth of your skills in as tight a playing package as possible.
5. Just your best video please! Our experts are busy. Don’t make us wade through multiple entries where one would do.
6. Make it sound and look good! Smartphone audio can work fine, but remember to point the camera at yourself, not at the dog.
7. Want to enter all four categories? ‘Guitarist’, ‘Young Guitarist’, ‘Acoustic Guitarist’ and ‘Bassist’ of the Year? Go for it!
8. The Guitarist of the Year team and judges also want to know about the person behind the playing; use the ‘tell us about yourself box to explain what drew you to the guitar, what styles you favour, the gear you use, and anything else that could make you stand out.


1. All entries must be via videos uploaded to YouTube and submitted through the entry form above. No other emails or points of contact will be accepted.
2. Entries must be received by 23.59 (BST) on 3 July 2019.
3. Young Guitarist of the Year entrants must be 16 or under on 21 September 2019.
4. Don’t call us - we’ll call you if we like what you’re doing.
5. You need to be okay with us sharing your video to our wider online audience, appearing in Future Publishing magazines and playing live on stage at the UK Guitar Show in London on 21 or 22 September. Live performances will be filmed, photographed and live streamed.
6. You need to be available to travel to London for the live final and must cover all your own travel and accommodation costs for the event.
7. As ever, the judge’s decision – picking our finalists and our eventual winner – is final.

MusicRadar Team

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