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Top Bass Guitars Played by Top Bass Players
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fender Steve Harris Precision BassÂ®, Royal Blue Metallic, Maple FretboardCHECK PRICE
Fender Blacktop Precision BassÂ®, Black, Rosewood FretboardCHECK PRICE
Fender Standard Precision BassÂ®, 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.
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 HagstrÃ¶m 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.
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
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.
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 BassÂ® Closet Classic, Arctic WhiteCHECK PRICE
Fender '70s Jazz BassÂ®, 3 Tone Sunburst, Rosewood FretboardCHECK PRICE
Fender Blacktop Jazz BassÂ®, 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.