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Top Bass Guitars Played by Top Bass Players

Updated on August 17, 2014

Because best bass players know exactly which bass guitars are the best

While it would be relatively easy to make a list of top bassists and top basses separately, writing about both at the same time is a bit more interesting. Best bassists should know the best basses, right? With that logic, combining objectivity and personal preferences with substantial research, I give you an article celebrating some of the most prominent names among these musicians and the tools of their musicianship - the very best instruments they picked for themselves and/or customized.

So...

Ever wondered who are those maestros playing those subtle notes, but at the same time keeping up with the wildest and the best guitar virtuoso? Ever wondered, perhaps, which instruments are they using?

Each and every one of us who plays the bass can tell you about their own favorite bassist and their favorite bass, but we have to wonder which exact instruments our favorite bassists chose for themselves. Perhaps if we are playing similar styles, we might find the instrument they use perfect for our own needs as well. We will want to know all specifics about their choice of bass guitars either way, because they inspire us.

But to say that this or that guitar is the best would be a bit too subjective, because every bass player has to find an instrument that works for him or her. A perfect bass is an individual thing. However, when we are looking for a suitable instrument for ourselves, we have to wonder about certain things before we decide.

In this article we will present to you our top bass players and their respective instruments.

Photo Credit: Image taken from Amazon.com

Bass in General

Bass guitar is the most under-appreciated instrument in rock music and music in general, but yet it is the instrument without which the whole band would make your ears bleed (and not in a good way). Bass is very similar in looks to the electric guitar (and it also uses almost the same techniques).

The instrument itself, in its modern form, was developed by Paul Tarmac in the 1930s, but it was actually Leo Fender who popularized it in 1950s with his Fender Precision bass.

Bass guitars come in various shapes and sizes (just like the electric guitars). It can have 4 strings (standard issue), 5 strings, 6 strings and sometimes even 12 strings.

Standard basses come with 4 strings and have the same tuning as the double bass (E, A, D, G). Bass guitar is a transposing instrument - which means that it has different pitch than the music it is playing.

Now, enough of the blabbering, here are our favorite bass players (without any particular order) and their respective instruments.

John Myung

The Man

Out of the ashes of heavy metal and progressive rock in the late 80s and early 90s came a band which will define progressive metal as a genre. Dream Theater today represents the powerhouse of progressive metal. With their intricate, long songs filled with time changes and neck breaking speeds and passages which will make any rock musician throw their instruments into the lava pit, Dream Theater has had magnificent worldwide success.

Trough all of this there was one person who kept silent on the sidelines. His name is John Myung.

Myung started playing at the age of fifteen, switching from violin. After high school he enrolled to Berklee College of Music together with his high school friend John Petrucci. The duo met Mike Portnoy there and Majesty (later renamed to Dream Theater) was born.

John Myung has a distinctive playing technique which was influenced by some of the best bass players, like Steve Harris, Cliff Burton and Geddy Lee. He has perfected his technique so much that he is able to follow John Petrucci immaculately. And that is a notable feat. Just ask any guitar player that you know if they are able to play what Petrucci plays.

Myung has a reputation for being mysterious and silent, even though he does speak in interviews and in his instructional videos. He is just there on the sidelines doing his job and not drawing attention to himself.

His first instrument was a copy of Precision bass. He recorded the first two albums with four string basses and then switched to six string basses on the Awake album. He made his custom signature bass in cooperation with Yamaha in 1997 called RBX6JM. Later he released the updated version of the same bass called RBX-JM2. Even though he later switched to Music Man this is the instrument that we are going to talk about.

The Bass

Yamaha RBXJM2 is a solid and fast bolt-on constructed, and very sleek looking. It has a two octave maple neck. Active electronics with preamps amplify the sound caught by the Seymour Duncan SMB-6a pickup. It has six strings and comes in two different colours: Inca Silver and Plum Pearl. Scale is 34 inches long and the fingerboard is made from rosewood. It has three knob controls and 24 frets in total.

Below we present to you some excellent basses from the RBX series which were revamped thanks to John Myung's input. Unfortunately, RBXJM2 and RBX6JM were discontinued by Yamaha, but you can probably find an used one elsewhere.

Photo Credit: John Myung | Image taken from Amazon.com

Yamaha RBX375 5 String Electric Bass Guitar, Flat SilverCHECK PRICE

Yamaha RBX375 5 String Electric Bass Guitar, BlackCHECK PRICE

Yamaha RBX374 4 String Electric Bass Guitar, BlackCHECK PRICE


Here you can see an example of John Myung using this bass. I'm sure you will be impressed.

Steve Harris

The Man

Iron Maiden is the best heavy metal band of all times. And they have the sales to confirm that. It is also one of the most influential bands in the world. Maiden captivates fans of all ages all over the world. And to think that all of this would not be possible without one single individual...

Steve Harris started Iron Maiden as his band because his other bands would not play the songs he wrote. So he decided that he was going to make his own band where he could play them. Little did he know that he would change the history of music.

It is funny that Steve at first wanted to play drums, but since he was living with his grandmother in a small apartment he had no space for the drums. So he switched to the bass. His first instrument was a copy of Fender Precision bass and later on in career he stuck to the Fender Precision basses.

Steve Harris has a unique style of playing. He is completely self-taught and he uses the floating thumb technique. The floating thumb technique is a technique that makes the thumb of the plucking hand float rather than resting it on the pickups. His famous "galloping" style of playing (which became a trademark of Iron Maiden) has given nightmares to beginner bassists for over 40 years. He is considered to be one of the most influential and one of the best bass players.

In 2009 Fender released Steve Harris signature Fender Precision bass. This is the instrument we are going to discuss, because it was made to correspond to changes Harris made to the original Fender Precision. This is as close as a commercial bass guitar comes to the bass that he is actually playing live.

The Bass

Steve Harris Precision Bass has alder body, fingerboard made of maple with 20 medium jumbo frets with scale length of 34 inches. The guitar has Leo Quan Badass II bridge and uses split single coil Seymour Duncan SPB-1 pickups. It has two knobs for volume and tone and comes in Royal Blue metallic colour with chromed mirror pickguard. Also notable is the signature by Steve Harris on the back and his signature Rotosound strings that come with it.

Photo Credit: Steve Harris | Image taken from Amazon.com

Fender Steve Harris Precision Bass®, Royal Blue Metallic, Maple FretboardCHECK PRICE

Fender Blacktop Precision Bass®, Black, Rosewood FretboardCHECK PRICE

Fender Standard Precision Bass®, Lake Placid Blue, Maple FretboardCHECK PRICE


Here is Steve Harris with Iron Maiden plowing at his bass live. Yep, definitely a nightmare for those who are just learning to play.

Billy Sheehan

The Man

This guy is insane. He really is. He plays his bass as though it is an electric guitar. He smashes, bends, hits, kicks his way through notes playing them at insane speeds. And he does all of this with his fingers. He rarely uses picks.

Billy Sheehan is notable for playing with David Lee Roth band, Mr. Big and later joining Steve Vai (with whom he played in the David Lee Roth band) in his solo efforts.

Now, Billy Sheehan is able to follow and even outshine Steve Vai in some instances. And that is saying a lot considering Steve Vai is allegedly one of the best guitar virtuosos in the world.

Sheehan uses a vast array of skills including two handed tapping, three finger picking, chording and controlling of the feedback (to get those screams you usually hear on the guitar). And he is fast. Like a hurricane. Did I mention that he is insane?

Sheehan's first instrument was Hagström FB. He later bought a Fender Precision and he combined and modified both of these basses to make a bass which he fondly calls "The Wife". This instrument is retired, unfortunately. Sheehan's Yamaha signature is based on "The Wife" and has a lot of distinct features.

Sheehan started working with Yamaha in 1986 on his signature Attitude Limited. The newer version is Yamaha Attitude Limited III and we are going to discuss this one.

The Bass

Yamaha ATTLTDIII is Billy Sheehan's signature bass. It is made from selected alder and features maple fretboard with 21 fret and 34 inch scale. The guitar features DiMarzio Woofer and DiMarzio P-Style pickups with controls that include woofer pickup volume and P-pickup volume with stereo/mono switcher.

You change the functionality of knobs by pushing them. The guitar also features Hip Shot D Tuner which can change the tuning of your E string to D in an instant. The neck is scalloped at the upper frets of D and G strings so that you can produce those wiggles, bends and screams that only guitarists boast of.

Photo Credit: Billy Sheehan | Image taken from Amazon.com

Yamaha ATT LTD3 Billy Sheehan Attitude III Bass Guitar with Hardshell Case (Black)CHECK PRICE

Yamaha ATT LTD3 Billy Sheehan Attitude III Bass Guitar + Hardshell Case (Sonic Blue)CHECK PRICE

Yamaha BB714BS Billy Sheehan Electric Bass Guitar, Lava RedCHECK PRICE


Here is Billy Sheehan abusing his bass in a duel with Steve Vai. And I literally mean just that - abusing!

Michael "Flea" Balzary

The Man

Red Hot Chili Peppers are an award winning band whose albums in recent years almost always managed to top album charts worldwide. From their punky-funk beginnings to the worldwide fame one thing has been constant - the bass playing ability of Flea. This man is the power-driver for the entire band carrying most of the rhythm and melodies with nothing but his four string ax.

Even though he started with the trumpet (he is also an avid trumpet player) he took on the bass when a friend (later a bandmate from RHCP) asked him to play this instrument for his band. He is now considered one of the best and most influential bass players.

His style changed progressively through the years. First he used slap technique with aggression to make it sound more punk (because he was into punk) and then later moved on to more melodic style of playing with his fingers. This style that he obtained by mixing funk technique slapping and popping with punk and hard rock is a completely unique style and has been copied time over time.

Flea cites various musicians as his influence, from Jaco Pastorius to Billy Idol.

Prior to Californication Flea did not believe that bass as an instrument held any significance. He owns a 1961 Fender Jazz Bass.

In 2009 Flea started his own instrument company naming it Fleabass. He wants to provide young people with high quality basses for affordable prices. He sells three types of basses in different colors: Touring Bass, Junior Bass and Street Bass. In this article we will review the Touring Bass.

The Bass

Fleabass Touring Bass is practically a copy of Fender Jazz Bass that Flea uses. It comes in four colors: Sunny (orange/yellow), Water (blue/orange), Punk (green/pink) and The Wild One (black/white). It has got a solid maple neck with rosewood fingerboard.

The scale is 34 inches long with 20 frets and a passive dual coil Humbacker pickup with Alnico magnet metal core which makes 'low sounds very flat and high tones sweet and glossy'. It has got two metal knobs for volume and tone.

Unfortunately you cannot find Fleabass on Amazon or eBay, but you can go to the Fleabass official site and can check it out. And for your convenience we have found some Fender Jazz Basses that are similar to the one Flea owns.

Photo Credit: Image taken from Amazon.com

1961 Jazz Bass® Closet Classic, Arctic WhiteCHECK PRICE

Fender '70s Jazz Bass®, 3 Tone Sunburst, Rosewood FretboardCHECK PRICE

Fender Blacktop Jazz Bass®, Black, Rosewood FretboardCHECK PRICE


However, just in case you need a demonstration - here is Flea with his fellow drummer Chad Smith laying down the know-how of punk/funk bass.

Leave a comment - With suggestions, of course, because we plan to add more bassists and more basses - so suggest a player or an instrument!

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    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Is it just bass guitars? Or can I mention Richard Davis, double bass player on many great recordings including Van Morrison's Astral Weeks?

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @JohnTannahill: Definitely. I plan to add an honorable mentions module in this lens that will include information about all bassists you suggested in the comments.

    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 4 years ago

      Nice guitars

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @kabbalah lm: Thanks, I wish they were all mine. :)

    • MikeRobbers LM profile image

      MikeRobbers LM 4 years ago

      Steve Harris and Billy Sheehan are definitely the best bass guitar players ever! great selection of guitars and fab lens, thumbs up!

    • NedD profile image

      NedD 4 years ago

      Loved the '62 Fender P-Bass "Funk Machine" played by Jaco Pastorius. RIP

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 4 years ago

      Iron Maiden rocks :0

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @Fcuk Hub: It does indeed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My friend makes guitars as a hobby, he has a large collection now, nice lens.

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @anonymous: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @NedD: Then it will definitely be mentioned in the update. Thank you!

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @MikeRobbers LM: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it and I agree with you completely!

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @Jason Sositko: Thanks for the input, I really appreciate it. I will definitely mention both Carter and LaFaro. John Entwistle is already on the list.

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Eda, great lens, but you simply MUST add Rush's bass player - Geddy Lee to your list! (My personal favorite!) I play guitar and would love to play bass. Your lens is a good study and review of the best of out there!

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @MBurgess: Will do! I am working on A LOT of content for this list and I have taken notes with suggestions from all the people who commented. I am definitely adding Geddy Lee to the list as well, and he will have his spot in this lens! Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated!

    • ryokomayuka profile image

      ryokomayuka 4 years ago from USA

      Interesting. I've never heard of some of them. It's great learning new things.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Top bass players? Clearly, I'm not as diverse in my music experiences as I thought I was. Here I was thinking Sting, Paul McCartney, Jermaine Jackson. Now I'm not even sure these guys play bass. O_o Shared this lens on Pinterest Movies and Music board.

    • Rick Wyble profile image

      Rick Wyble 4 years ago

      Great lens I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. A buddy of mine had an old Ammpeg bass with the scrolled head. Unfortunately someone stole it before I had a chance to. (Chortle Chortle)

    • ulfgar profile image

      ulfgar 4 years ago

      I've always been a James Jamerson fan myself - not too flashy but you can't miss him (well I do actually, cos he's dead)

    • teelover profile image

      teelover 3 years ago

      Good selection, but where is Jako and his legendary Bass of Doom?

    • John Albu profile image

      John Albu 2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102

      This hub would be so much better if Lemmy of Motorhead got his well deserved mention! ;-)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVEH9HwEyRg

    • profile image

      Mike 11 months ago

      The fleabass is not a copy of a 61 jazz, it is a buget passive music man copy... Maybe you meant it is a cheap beginner version of the modulus funk unlimited bass (previously the fleabass, but renamed the f u bass after they parted ways)

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