Top 10 Best Bassists of All Time

Bass players are the backbone of any band, laying down the groove and holding everything together. And even though they don't always get the spotlight, there are many bass legends who have changed the game with their amazing chops, original styles, and huge impact on music history. In this top ten list, we will be honoring the best bass players ever, from the trailblazers who defined the sound of whole genres to the modern bassists who keep expanding the horizons of what you can do on four strings. So get ready, crank up the bass, and let's pay tribute to the low end heroes.
The Top Ten
1 Cliff Burton Clifford Lee "Cliff" Burton (February 10th 1962 - September 27th 1986) was an American musician, best known as the second bass guitarist for the American thrash metal band Metallica, recording three studio albums... read more

This list has its problems, but it's the first one to have the right person on top (although my vote tied Jimi as the #1 guitarist, so hopefully, he'll also be #1 soon). I grew up as a headbanging, mosh-pit addicted metalhead, but my musical taste has matured immeasurably. However, there never was, nor with the downward path music is taking, will there ever be a bassist in the league of Burton.

It was said best on an independent biographical show: Burton was wearing bell-bottoms and listening to REM when it wasn't cool. All of the mature harmonies on "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" were all Cliff, despite the megalomaniacal attempts of Lars to control everything. The guy was a fan of Bach and other classical music, so musically diverse, so talented, so incredible. Cliff, RIP, you were the man! Claypool rules too, and I think Cliff would be pissed to see Mike Mills (REM) isn't on here.

2 Geddy Lee Gary Lee Weinrib, known professionally as Geddy Lee, is a Canadian musician, singer and songwriter best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group Rush.

While Geddy certainly isn't my favorite bassist or someone who influenced me to the extent of John Paul Jones and Steve Harris, he IS the greatest rock bassist of all time and has been for over 30 years (even if his tone isn't my cup of tea). Most musicians stop progressing on their instruments once they achieve some level of fame, but Geddy just gets better and better as he incorporates new techniques (like his flamenco-style plucking) while maintaining the old ones.

I just saw him a few months ago, and while his voice is shot, his bass playing is better than ever (and he was pretty damned good 30 years ago)! He played "YYZ" with such efficiency and accuracy that I actually laughed out loud in amazement. Again, he's far from my favorite. However, objectively speaking, he's the best there is or was, combining jaw-dropping technique with outstanding note selection like the boss he is.

3 John Entwistle John Alec Entwistle, was an English singer, songwriter, composer, musician, film and music producer. He is mostly known as the lead bassist for the rock band The Who.

Rating anything #1 is usually a very hard thing to do, but in this case, it is quite effortless. Also, being ranked the best bassist in the world by Rolling Stone Magazine and voted the Bassist of the Millennium, I fail to comprehend how another bassist is seen as better. It is simply impossible.

What is truly amazing is that he can play the most amazing solos without seeming to put in any effort. No bassist can replicate him, let alone come up with the solos he came up with. When it comes to sheer contribution to the instrument, John also ranks #1. He taught himself how to play an instrument that was relatively new at the time, better than anyone can play it today.

4 Flea Michael Peter Balzary (born October 16, 1962), better known by his stage name Flea, is an Australian-born American musician, best known as the bassist, a co-founding member, and one of the composers of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers with whom he was inducted in 2012 into the Rock and Roll Hall... read more

Hey Metallica fans, playing with speed is something anyone can do with practice. I mean, look at how many metal guitarists there are who just shred. The real talent comes when a person can create a feeling and atmosphere with their ability.

Flea projects life, beauty, and rhythm with his incredibly talented playing. You want fast? Check out "Nobody Weird Like Me" or "Stone Cold Bush." Basically, any song off Mother's Milk is quick by Flea, but look at the stuff he does on Californication. That's actual talent. He's got a feel and rhythm in his playing that will never be matched or replicated. SexFunk forever. Flea will never die.

5 John Paul Jones John Baldwin, better known by his stage name John Paul Jones, is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, arranger and record producer. He is best known as the bassist for the English rock band Led Zeppelin... read more

First of all, his licks were tastefully done to complement the song he was playing on. Virtuosity, among other things, was a major bonus with John Paul Jones. How many other bassists could achieve his virtuosity? Not to mention being well-versed on the keyboards, mandolin, acoustic guitar - basically, in a band where every song they ever made was great or creative, every player must be great.

That would be Led Zeppelin, always changing styles, being a frontrunner in creativity. It's not all about speed. Jimi Hendrix wasn't really that fast, but everybody thinks he is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. It's about the melody in coordination with the song, not the speed. So John Paul Jones always played just what was needed, not a penny more or less. That's what bass playing is about: accommodating the song. Now, if you're talking about bass solos, that's a whole different story that has nothing to do with this conversation.

6 Steve Harris Stephen Percy "Steve" Harris is an English musician and songwriter, known as the bassist, occasional keyboardist, backing vocalist, primary songwriter and founder of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden.

He is surely the best bassist. Just listen to how his melodies blend in with the guitar in the Powerslave solo. Unlike other bassists, you can actually hear him, and he's not super fuzzy. Not to mention, he is an excellent songwriter for Britain's most beloved heavy metal band, and his presence is very commanding.

He can play as fast as a picked bassist and adds almost as much treble as a slap bassist. His high notes resonate beautifully, and his low notes have a characteristic galloping theme. He commands the band through his musicianship. He is the most capable bassist and surely deserves to be number one. I hope you vote for Steve Harris, songwriter and bassist for Britain's most beloved heavy metal band, Iron Maiden.

7 Les Claypool Leslie Edward "Les" Claypool is an American musician, singer, songwriter, composer, author and actor best known as the bassist and lead vocalist of the band Primus.

You cannot rate a musician when they are all prolific players of their chosen instrument. Because, let's face it, once you become as good as the players on this list, all are as good as each other.

But why I rate this man as the best is that only Claypool can produce a sound that is way different from any other bass player on the planet. I describe Claypool as the Pluto of bass (most out there), and this is why he is number one in my opinion.

Cliff Burton is only number one on this list because he played bass for Metallica. It's like saying Ringo Starr is the world's greatest drummer because he drummed for the Beatles.

8 Geezer Butler Terence Michael Joseph "Geezer" Butler is an English musician and songwriter. Butler is best known as the bassist and primary lyricist of heavy metal band Black Sabbath.

A legendary figure in the scene for over 40 years. The best. No question. No discussion. He was and still is the teacher for all, including me.

Under the umbrella of the well-known and deeply respected musical style of Black Sabbath, he incorporated different approaches and techniques in his arsenal. Generations of musicians were influenced by him. Several tried to copy him, but no one can really beat him.

Geezer's not in the top 5? Or top 10? WHAT!? Why?

Ok, first of all, he is the best finger-picking bassist of all time. I'm not counting slap bassists who pick during some segments. He has so much influence on the sound of Black Sabbath and draws his influences from jazz while playing in a metal band, which is really unique for any bass player. Also, he and Bill Ward as a duo are probably the best bass-and-drum duo of all time.

9 Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. With John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, he gained worldwide fame with the rock band the Beatles, one of the most popular and influential groups in the history of pop and rock... read more

What is funny is that people are quick to call the Beatles the greatest band ever, but no one will say that any of them are the best in their fields. John seems to get the most recognition, with Rolling Stone ranking him in the top 10 of all-time best singers (Paul is at 11 - I know, it's so wrong). He's ranked on the Best Guitarist list too.

George is only listed as the 11th best guitarist ever - a total rip-off. What's worse is that Ringo doesn't rank on anyone's list of best drummers, and that really is a shame. The Beatles, as individuals, deserve recognition because if they didn't have prodigious and top-tier skills on their own, how could they be the greatest band ever?

10 Roger Waters George Roger Waters is an English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He is mostly known for being the secondary lead vocalist and bassist of Pink Floyd.

He is like the best bassist in my rock world. I mean, we are talking about Money, Comfortably Numb, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, Wish You Were Here, Hey You, Young Lust, Time, Us + Them, Breathe, Brain Damage, Eclipse, Pigs (Three Different Ones), Dogs, One of These Days, Echoes, Run Like Hell, Waiting for the Worms, Happiest Days of Our Lives, Have a Cigar, Welcome to the Machine, and Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V.

Seriously, this guy is awesome. Just listen to the bass in the songs. It's awesome and cool at the same time. As a matter of fact, I saw him at the Bridgestone Arena in Tennessee for his Us + Them Tour in 2017, and he sang Mother, which he did nowhere else in North America on this tour. He is a bass hero in my book of rock and roll. You all need to listen to Pink Floyd songs. They're awesome.

Another awesome thing is that The Dark Side of the Moon was both a commercial and critical success. It topped the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart for a week and remained on the chart for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988, with an estimated 45 million copies sold. Long live Roger Waters!

The Contenders
11 Chris Squire Christopher Russell Edward Squire was an English musician, singer and songwriter. He was best known as the bassist and founding member of the progressive rock band Yes.

The anchor and musical soul of Yes, with a unique style and concept on how to create exceptional works. My favorite bassist of all time.

Listen to Heart of the Sunrise. It shows how a bassist should be part of a band, not an exhibitionist! (Although he has his moments - watch out for his triple-neck on the video of Awaken). There are parts where the bass is the lead instrument and parts where it adds to the melody and harmony. And what a sound from that Rickenbacker!

Chris's musicianship is illustrated by his syncopation, ability to cut through or blend in as necessary, the notes he chooses, and the way he plays them. Also, check out the bass lines in Siberian Khatru. So much to explore and learn from.

12 John Deacon John Richard Deacon (born 19th of August 1951) is a retired English musician, who is best known as the bassist for the rock band Queen.

Someone wake up the world and knock Paul McCartney off the 8th-place label. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Paul or The Beatles. It's just that John deserves more than 13th place. He deserves 8th, if nothing else.

Most people forget that he was the mastermind behind the most iconic bass lines from "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Under Pressure." Vanilla Ice definitely agrees with my feelings about the fantastic bass line from "Under Pressure."

To shorten my entire essay on the point that John deserves much more recognition and credit into a couple of sentences: his bass lines are very simple yet beautiful. That's the best kind of beautiful. Not only were those two songs mentioned earlier amazing for their bass lines, but all of Queen's songs are as well. I rest my case. John Deacon truly is one of the best bassists the world will ever be lucky enough to hear and delve into a whole other world while listening to John's simple yet beautiful bass lines.

13 Jaco Pastorius John Francis Anthony "Jaco" Pastorius III was an American jazz bassist who was a member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981. He worked with Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and recorded albums as a solo artist and band leader.

Jaco is hands-down the number one most influential. He brought the electric bass out of the box and put it in the forefront. Teen Town and Portrait of Tracy are prime examples of how bass can take over and be the leader if need be. He did for bass what Bach did for all of music: he figured the darn thing out and brought it further than anyone else has. He had incredible amounts of talent and used 100% of it all the time.

Victor Wooten is without a doubt the most innovative bass player and most likely the best living bassist. Victor started playing bass when he was 3 or 4 years old, so he has that skill literally built into his brain. I would say Steven Bailey is up there too, along with Sheehan, Clarke, and Geddy. Also, someone needs to keep an eye on Jaco's son Felix. He might be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

14 Jack Bruce John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce was a Scottish musician, singer and songwriter known primarily for his contributions to the British supergroup Cream, which also included guitarist-singer Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker.

Jack is the master. His incredible playing and groundbreaking sounds have influenced many of the other bass players listed here. His constant growth, change, and adaptation to new ideas are apparent in everything he plays.

His songwriting and collaborations are always unique, powerful, and intriguing. And he's still playing in many different venues and bands. Spectrum Road, his tribute band to Tony Williams, has won the best jazz album of 2012 from many publications. The 'old soul' of the bass.

Why is Jack Bruce not in the top 10? He is an incredible bassist. He was the one who wrote "Sunshine of Your Love," which is arguably Cream's most famous song. His string bends are incredible, and he slurs his notes the way that all blues-rock players should. Being with Clapton and still managing to shine is a very impressive feat.

15 Victor Wooten Victor Lemonte Wooten is an American bass player, composer, author, producer, and recipient of five Grammy Awards.

I've been a Geddy Lee fan since I was a kid. But when I got older, I started listening to more and more jazz, funk, fusion, and other styles. I saw Victor play live many years ago with Bela Fleck. Since that time, I am convinced there is nobody who comes close to the talent of this man on bass. Victor Wooten should be number one. No question about it.

On slap bass, this guy puts Flea to shame. In just about every category of music, this guy is an absolute monster. The simple fact that he is not number one shows the immaturity of people in society when it comes to music. Don't believe me? Listen to this man play Amazing Grace. Enough said.

16 John Myung John Ro Myung is a Korean-American bassist and a founding member of the progressive metal group Dream Theater. He is one of the two longest-serving members of Dream Theater along with John Petrucci.

It is insane that Myung is not number 1! Not too many people can compete with his technical skills! I would say his closest competition would be from Les Claypool, Geddy Lee, and Ryan Martinie (another one that surprised me for being so low on the list).

I mean, most of the people voting for this don't even understand what goes into playing bass. I have been a bassist for over 25 years, and NOBODY can compare to Myung.

John Myung is probably one of the biggest inspirations to me when it comes to playing bass. He plays with such technical proficiency at high tempos and yet still manages to maintain clarity in each note. His basslines are incredible, and his solos are such amazing feats of bass playing that it really surprises me he is not at the top of this list. Not many come close to his skill.

17 Lemmy Ian Fraser Kilmister, known as Lemmy, was an English musician, singer and songwriter who founded and fronted the rock band Motörhead. He was a bassist and a singer known for his raspy voice. He died in 2015 from cancer and other health problems.

Not only is Lemmy a god, but he is also the most genuine rocker there is. His style is rhythm bass with a punch in the face. He is an integral part of all the songs that Motorhead creates, and to top it off, he has influenced everyone in the metal scene.

This still-living legend needs to be way up there. I mean, come on! Johnny Christ from "Avenged Sevenfold" is number 7! I'm sorry, but he doesn't even belong. It should be Cliff Burton, Geddy Lee, Flea, Steve Harris, John Entwistle, Les Claypool, and Lemmy Kilmister! Speed, sex, whiskey, and rock 'n' roll!

18 Billy Sheehan William "Billy" Sheehan is an American bassist known for his work with Talas, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Niacin, and The Winery Dogs.

This list is crazy. He should at least be in the top 5. It looks like bands that are popular, even though they have good but not virtuoso bass players (Guns N' Roses, Kiss, Cheap Trick, Journey, etc.), seem to be listed high based on people just liking those bands.

Billy, along with John Myung, Mark King, and Stanley Clarke, all deserve to be pushed up to the top ten. Also, I didn't see him on the list, but Stu Hamm should also be at the top. Don't believe me? Do some YouTube searches of some of these guys in action, and you will no doubt change your mind.

19 Duff McKagan Michael Andrew "Duff" McKagan is an American musician, singer, songwriter and author. He is best known for his twelve-year tenure as the bass guitarist of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses, with whom he achieved worldwide success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. McKagan rejoined the band in 2016, following... read more

Maybe it's the perfect bass tune. Not the best technical level, but he definitely has an awesome sense of bass playing and melody in general. He's one of the main factors in Guns N' Roses' commercial and artistic success.

If he's not the best bass player, he's certainly one of the best bassline composers. A bassline often goes unnoticed by a non-musician. Duff is one of the bassists who have captured the attention of all kinds of listeners with his special tone and melodies. You can recognize him. In the first place, he's a musician and then a player.

20 Chris Wolstenholme Christopher Tony "Chris" Wolstenholme is an English musician. He is the bassist and backing vocalist for the alternative rock band Muse.

I really don't disagree but everybody's only mentionning the typical ones (Hysteria, Futurism,...) but City of Delusion, Easily, New Born don't forget about them...and I'll tell you guys a story. Chris Wolstenholme never used a pick to play bass before he someday broke his wrist and had to use a pick for a while. Since then he started to introduce picking in studio's recording. Then Knights of Cydonia happens. You have to have a mammoth right arm to play a palm-mute picking part like that. It's out of this world. Chris Wolstenholme in the top 10 easily for me.

21 Robert Trujillo Roberto Agustin Trujillo, better known as Robert Trujillo, is an American musician known for his role as the current bassist of heavy metal band Metallica.

Robert is WAY better than most of the people on this list. In my opinion, only Cliff can beat him. He is the most skilled of all of Metallica's members these days, but no one seems to realize that. (Come on, Lars isn't that good at all. He just gets the job done, but everyone seems to love him.)

Come on, this guy can fingerpick Fight Fire with Fire at LIVE speed! That is something most of the guys on this list can't say. And, come on, Tokio Hotel? Seriously, that's the biggest crap out there, by far. Be smart, people, and if you don't understand anything about music, get out!

22 David Ellefson David Warren "Dave" Ellefson is an American bassist and co-founding member of the American thrash metal band Megadeth from 1983-2002 and again from 2010-2021.

I think he deserves my vote. He is my favorite bass player, the one I listen to most. I'm sure the majority can agree that one particular person is good. However, I cannot agree with that if I don't actually listen to the music. I listen to David, and that is why he deserves my vote. I respect his work.

My favorite bassist ever and very underrated! Steve Harris, Lemmy, Wooten, Squire, McCartney, and everyone else are all amazing as well, but Ellefson is just as creative and talented as any of them.

David Ellefson is one of the best. His bass lines provide the perfect structure for most Megadeth songs, and he also knows how to create great solos. He should be in a much higher place.

23 Jason Newsted Jason Curtis Newsted is an American metal musician, known for being the third bass guitarist with the band Metallica from November 1986 until his departure in January 2001, he was also a part of Voivod and Flotsam and Jetsam.

I was reading this list, just scrolling down, wondering at what position Jason Newsted would be. And... 35, really? Alright, Flea, Cliff Burton, John Entwistle - these are all great players and musicians of immense talent. But Jason Newsted should not be this far down. I feel like this man is overlooked for all his accomplishments, not just in Metallica but in Flotsam and Jetsam, in Voivod, and with his new solo band, who just last year released an amazingly great album.

Jason is a great player. Just listen to the bass on the Black Album, or even Load. There are a bunch of versions of And Justice for All with enhanced bass. Just listen and see the great tone and vibe he gets on the bass. He is also a great live performer.

24 Krist Novoselic Nirvana's bassist for the entirety of their lifespan before the group was disbanded in 1994. Nowadays, Krist is a humanitarian and a human rights activist.

Krist should be higher on the list than he is. I'm not saying number 1, but he deserves more credit than he gets. He had some awesome bass lines that sounded great with Kurt's guitar playing.

Krist keeps great rhythm and throws in some nice fills between lines. He is very talented and is often overlooked, in my opinion. If you don't know much about Nirvana and Krist's bass playing, then listen to Lounge Act, Love Buzz, Stay Away, Lithium, and The Man Who Sold the World.

What can I say? His bass lines were very clear and great, especially in Smells Like Teen Spirit, In Bloom, or Lithium. He's a very good bassist. It is a big pleasure to listen to his work. What else could I say? Just listen to some of Nirvana's songs. People who know Nirvana will know what I'm talking about. Sorry if my English wasn't clear enough.

25 Nikki Sixx Nikki Sixx is an American musician, songwriter, radio host, and photographer, best known as the co-founder, bassist, and primary songwriter of the band Mötley Crüe.

Nikki is the best bass guitarist ever, hands down! And I don't know of anyone who can outplay Nikki on the bass guitar. He's very dedicated, and anyone who can survive what he has and be in two bands that kick ass, plus do everything else he does, deserves to be in the #1 spot.

This man has been giving everything he's got for over 30 years! Come on, people! Nikki deserves much more than to be 39th on this list. Let's help put him in the #1 spot!

On top of his work as an amazing bassist, he's also the main songwriter for Motley Crue. He is the twisted mind of the Crue and should be respected accordingly. For those who turn up their noses at "80s hair bands," please remember this: the most played song of 2008 was "Life is Beautiful" by Sixx:A.M. Now, where do you think they got part of the band's name? That would be from their hair band veteran bassist.

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