Heavy metal bass is the use of the bass guitar (also called "electric bass") in the rock music genres of heavy metal and hard rock. The bassist is part of the rhythm section in a heavy metal band, along with the drummer, rhythm guitarist and, in some bands, a keyboard player. The prominent role of the bass is key to the metal sound, and the interplay of bass and distorted electric guitar is a central element of metal. The bass guitar provides the low-end sound crucial to making the music "heavy".The bass plays a "... more important role in heavy metal than in any other genre of rock."
The bass guitar is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric or an acoustic guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and typically four to six strings or courses.
Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.
Metal bassists play many different types of basslines, depending on the subgenre they are playing in and their personal playing style. Metal bass lines vary in complexity, from holding down a low pedal point as a foundation for the band's sound to doubling complex riffs and licks along with the lead guitar and/or rhythm guitars. Some bands feature the bass as a lead instrument, an approach popularized by Metallica's Cliff Burton with his emphasis on bass guitar solos and use of chords while playing bass in the early 1980s.Some metal bassists sing lead vocals while they play bass, such as Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead and Tom Araya of Slayer. Some metal bassists sing backup vocals while they play bass.
A bassline is the term used in many styles of music, such as jazz, blues, funk, dub and electronic, traditional music, or classical music for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, cello, tuba or keyboard. In unaccompanied solo performance, basslines may simply be played in the lower register of any instrument such as guitar or piano while melody and/or further accompaniment is provided in the middle or upper register. In solo music for piano and pipe organ, these instruments have an excellent lower register that can be used to play a deep bassline. On organs, the bass line is typically played using the pedal keyboard and massive 16' and 32' bass pipes.
In music, a pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign, i.e., dissonant harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing tones. However, the pedal point is unique among non-chord tones, "in that it begins on a consonance, sustains through another chord as a dissonance until the harmony", not the non-chord tone, "resolves back to a consonance."
In popular music genres such as blues, jazz or rock music, a lick is "a stock pattern or phrase" consisting of a short series of notes used in solos and melodic lines and accompaniment. Licks in rock and roll are often used through a formula, and variations technique in which variants of simple, stock ideas are blended and developed during the solo.
Most metal bassists play by plucking the strings with their fingers or by picking with a plectrum, often known as a pick. Using a pick can enable bassists to play rapid repeated notes and fast basslines, although some bassists, such as Steve Harris and Steve DiGiorgio, play such basslines without the use of a plectrum. While the types of bass lines vary in different metal subgenres, the bassist usually fulfills a similar role: anchoring the harmonic framework with bass notes that emphasize the roots of the chords and, along with the drums and rhythm guitar, establishing the beat. The bass is also used a solo instrument in some metal styles. While four-string basses (tuned E, A, D, G from lowest string to highest string) are the most common, since the 1990s, some metal bassists have used five-string basses for added lower range—a low "B". Five string basses are used in nu metal, as well as death metal, progressive metal and other heavy metal subgenres, to complement the downtuned guitars use by the guitarists. The five string bass is not an essential part to these genres, as some bands in these genres use standard tuned guitars or downtuned four string basses. Some bassists, such as John Myung from the progressive metal band Dream Theater, utilize a six string bass, which usually adds an additional high "C" above the "G" string of a five string bass. Most metal bassists play with fretted instruments, which have metal frets on the fingerboard. However, there are a few bassists such as Steve DiGiorgio and Jeroen Paul Thesseling who use fretless basses.
A guitar pick is a plectrum used for guitars. Picks are generally made of one uniform material—such as some kind of plastic, rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, wood, metal, glass, tagua, or stone. They are often shaped in an acute isosceles triangle with the two equal corners rounded and the third corner less rounded. They are used to strum chords or to sound individual notes on a guitar.
A plectrum is a small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument. For hand-held instruments such as guitars and mandolins, the plectrum is often called a pick and is a separate tool held in the player's hand. In harpsichords, the plectra are attached to the jack mechanism.
Stephen Percy Harris is an English musician, songwriter, bassist, occasional keyboardist, backing vocalist, primary songwriter and founder of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. He has been the band's only constant member since their inception in 1975 and one of only two to have appeared on all of their albums, the other being guitarist Dave Murray.
Most of the time, metal bass players play basslines which consist of a single note played at a time; that is, without playing multiple notes at the same time to form chords, the way a rhythm guitarist would on an electric guitar. There are, however, a few metal bassists who play chords. Robert Trujillo of Metallica is known for playing "massive chords"and "chord-based harmonics" on the bass. Lemmy of Motörhead often played power chords in his bass lines. When asked about whether he had begun as a rhythm guitarist, he stated:
In music, a guitar chord is a set of notes played on a guitar. A chord's notes are often played simultaneously, but they can be played sequentially in an arpeggio. The implementation of guitar chords depends on the guitar tuning. Most guitars used in popular music have six strings with the "standard" tuning of the Spanish classical guitar, namely E-A-D-G-B-E' ; in standard tuning, the intervals present among adjacent strings are perfect fourths except for the major third (G,B). Standard tuning requires four chord-shapes for the major triads.
In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.
An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.
No, I play a lot of notes, but I also play a lot of chords. And I play a lot of open strings. I just don't play like a bass player. There are complaints about me from time to time. It's not like having a bass player; it's like having a deep guitarist.
While bass guitar solos are much less common in metal than guitar solos for electric guitar, some metal bassists do play solos. Bass guitar solos are structured and performed in a similar fashion as rock guitar solos, often with the musical accompaniment from the verse or chorus sections. Bass solos are performed using a range of different techniques, such as plucking or fingerpicking. A small number of metal bassists do two-handed tapping styles in which they use both hands to play notes on the fretboard by rapidly pressing and holding the string to the fret. Players noted for this soloing technique include Cliff Burton and shred guitar-style bassist Billy Sheehan. Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times", the first song on their first album, contains two brief bass solos, occurring after the song's first and third choruses. Queen's bassist, John Deacon, occasionally played bass solos, such as on the song "Liar". Metallica's 1983 debut Kill Em All includes the song "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth," consisting entirely of a bass solo played by Cliff Burton. Manowar's bassist Joey DeMaio uses special piccolo bass for his extremely fast bass solos like "Sting of the Bumblebee" and "William's Tale".
A guitar solo is a melodic passage, instrumental section, or entire piece of music written for a classical guitar, electric guitar or an acoustic guitar. In the 20th and 21st century traditional music and popular music such as blues, swing, jazz, jazz fusion, rock and metal guitar solos often contain virtuoso techniques and varying degrees of improvisation. Guitar solos on classical guitar, which are typically written in musical notation, are also used in classical music forms such as chamber music and concertos.
Tapping is a guitar playing technique where a string is fretted and set into vibration as part of a single motion of being tapped onto the fretboard, with either hand, as opposed to the standard technique of fretting with one hand and picking with the other.
Clifford Lee Burton was an American musician and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist for the American band Metallica from December 1982 until his death in September 1986.
Heavy metal bass players such as Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), Cliff Burton (Metallica), and Les Claypool (Primus, Blind Illusion) have used chime-like harmonics and rapid plucking techniques in their bass solos. In both published Van Halen concert videos, Michael Anthony performs unique maneuvers and actions during his solos. When playing bass solos, rock and metal bassists sometimes use effects such as fuzz bass or a wah-wah pedal to produce a more pronounced sound. Notably, Cliff Burton of Metallica used both effects. Due to the lower range of the bass, bass guitar solos usually have a much lighter accompaniment than solos for other instruments. In some cases, the bass guitar solo is unaccompanied, or accompanied only by the drums.
Terence Michael Joseph "Geezer" Butler is an English musician and songwriter. Butler is best known as the bassist and primary lyricist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. He has also recorded and performed with Heaven & Hell, GZR, and Ozzy Osbourne. He currently serves as bassist of Deadland Ritual.
Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.
Alex Webster is an American bass player, who is best known as a member of the death metal band Cannibal Corpse. He is one of two current members who were of the original lineup of the band, the other being drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz. He is also the bassist for the band Blotted Science and the supergroup Conquering Dystopia, and before Cannibal Corpse was formed he was part of Beyond Death.
There is much less formal training available in college and university for metal bass, the way there is for bass guitarists learning jazz and the mainstream commercial genres (rock, R&B, etc.). Many metal bass players learn by ear, by copying bass lines from records and CDs, and by playing in a number of bands, which may include cover bands and tribute bands. Metal bassists may be able to take lessons from expert metal players or teachers. They may also be able to adapt techniques from other genres to the metal genre. As well, there are a range of books, playing methods, and, since the 1990s and 2000s, instructional DVDs and YouTube videos on how to play metal bass.
Metal bassists play in groups ranging in size from the power trio (guitar, bass and drums, with one or more of the members singing) to larger bands with multiple guitarists, keyboards, a bassist, a drummer and a vocalist. Some metal bassists sing lead vocals while they play bass, a role that Lemmy Kilminster of Motörhead did, and which Tom Araya of Slayer and Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved continue to do. Some metal bassists sing backup vocals while they play bass. Some metal bassists are also bandleaders or songwriters for their bands examples being Steve Harris and Nikki Sixx. In a few cases, traditional metal group bass players have also played another instrument, such as Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, who played Hammond organ on some songs or the bassists from mainstream metal bands such as Styx and the Scorpions who use a pedal keyboard, which is played with the feet.
Professional metal bassists may have a bass technician who tunes their basses before and during a performance, sets up the speaker cabinets, amplifiers and effects units, and performs routine maintenance on the instruments and equipment (e.g., changing strings, replacing speakers, replacing amplifier tubes, etc.).
In relation to the gender composition of heavy metal bands, it has been said that "[h]eavy metal performers are almost exclusively male""... [a]t least until the mid-1980s" apart from "... exceptions such as Girlschool." However, "... now [in the 2010s] maybe more than ever–strong metal women have put up their dukes and got down to it", "carv[ing] out a considerable place for [them]selves." Given that most heavy metal musicians are male, most metal bassists are male. Almost all of the most well-known metal bassists are male.
Women have less roles in rock music genres like metal because the "... rebellion of rock music was largely a male rebellion." Philip Auslander says that "Although there were many women in rock by the late 1960s, most performed only as singers, a traditionally feminine position in popular music". Though some women played instruments in American all-female garage rock bands, none of these bands achieved more than regional success. So they "did not provide viable templates for women's on-going participation in rock". 2–3 When the female bassist and singer Suzi Quatro emerged in 1973, "no other prominent female musician worked in rock simultaneously as a singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader". :2 She was "kicking down the male door in rock and roll and proving that a female musician ... and this is a point I am extremely concerned about ... could play as well if not better than the boys". :3:
Notable women metal bassists include:
Some metal bassists use unusually-shaped instruments, such as Gene Simmons from Kiss, who had an instrument custom made in the shape of an axe, or those who use instruments like ES Guitars' Avenger, which has a jagged design. Many metal bassists use electric basses that are used in other rock genres, such as the Fender Precision bass.
Heavy metal bassists use many different brands of bass amplifiers and speaker cabinets to make the instrument sound loud enough on stage. Bass players also use their amplifier's preamp, gain, overdrive (if present) and tone controls to create their unique personal bass sound. In some genres of music, such as folk and small combo jazz, the other instruments are often acoustic and so bass players in these styles may not need large, powerful bass amps. However, in heavy metal live performances, loudness—an "onslaught of sound," in sociologist Deena Weinstein's description—is considered vital.The need for a loud volume in metal bands is even more paramount in large performance venues, such as stadiums. To get a loud enough bass sound to compete with the loudly amplified electric guitars and the large drum kits used in metal, metal bassists typically use large bass speaker cabinets stacked on top of each other–"bass stacks"–powered by high-wattage amplifiers. Traditional heavy metal bands were early users of "bass stacks". Bassist Alex Webster from the death metal band Cannibal Corpse plays with two 8x10 speaker cabinets (each cabinet contains eight 10" speakers).
One early bass stack was the 300-watt Super Vacuum Tube (SVT) amplifier head, which was intended for large performance venues. The SVT was intended for use with one or two speaker cabinets containing eight 10" speakers. Some metal bassists use vacuum tube amplifiers, which were the dominant active electronic components in bass amplifiers manufactured until the early 1970s. Many bass players believe that tube amplifiers produce a "warmer" or more "natural" sound than solid state amplifiers when lightly or moderately overdriven, and more pleasing distortion characteristics when heavily overdriven.
Some metal bassists play with a fuzz bass tone, which is obtained by overdriving the bass signal. Cliff Burton of Metallica used fuzz bass. Lemmy Kilmister, the bassist for Motörhead, obtains a natural fuzz bass tone by overdriving his twin 100 watt Marshall Bass stacks. Fuzz bass can also be obtained with a bass overdrive pedal or an "overdrive" or distortion effect built into their bass amp. The Peavey Century 200 has an onboard "distortion" effect on the second channel. The Peavey VB-2 also has built-in overdrive. Aguilar Amplification's AG 500 bass head is a two-channel amplifier, one of which offers a "saturation" control for overdrive. Metal bassists may also use other effects to alter their bass sound, such as a wah pedal (e.g., Cliff Burton) or an audio compressor to smooth out the sound.
The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.
Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister, was an English singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the founder, lead singer, bassist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Motörhead.
A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instruments, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Some music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.
A bassist or bass player, is a musician who plays a bass instrument such as a double bass, bass guitar, keyboard bass or a low brass instrument such as a tuba or sousaphone. Different musical genres tend to be associated with one or more of these instruments. Since the 1960s, the electric bass has been the standard bass instrument for funk, R&B, soul music, rock and roll, reggae, jazz fusion, heavy metal, country and pop music. The double bass is the standard bass instrument for classical music, bluegrass, rockabilly, and most genres of jazz. Low brass instruments such as the tuba or sousaphone are the standard bass instrument in Dixieland and New Orleans-style jazz bands.
A power trio is a rock and roll band format having a lineup of electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, leaving out the second rhythm guitar or keyboard instrument that are used in other rock music bands that are quartets and quintets. Larger rock bands use one or more additional rhythm section to fill out the sound with chords and harmony parts.
Jason Curtis Newsted is an American metal musician, known for being the third bass guitarist with the band Metallica from October 1986 until his sudden departure in January 2001.
Robert Trujillo, is an American musician and songwriter. He has been the bassist of the American heavy metal band Metallica since 2003. He was also a member of crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, funk metal supergroup Infectious Grooves, heavy metal band Black Label Society, and has worked with Jerry Cantrell and Ozzy Osbourne.
A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band.
Jazz bass is the use of the double bass or bass guitar to improvise accompaniment ("comping") basslines and solos in a jazz or jazz fusion style. Players began using the double bass in jazz in the 1890s to supply the low-pitched walking basslines that outlined the chord progressions of the songs. From the 1920s and 1930s Swing and big band era, through 1940s Bebop and 1950s Hard Bop, to the 1960s-era "free jazz" movement, the resonant, woody sound of the double bass anchored everything from small jazz combos to large jazz big bands.
A fuzz-wah pedal is a stomp box containing both a fuzzbox and a wah-wah pedal in series allowing the user to distort "wah" and the "fuzz" sounds as an aesthetic effect on an electric guitar or bass. They were developed in order to combine the iconic sounds of the more psychedelic bands of the late 1960s and 1970s.
A bass amplifier or "bass amp" is a musical instrument electronic device that uses electrical power to make lower-pitched instruments such as the bass guitar or double bass loud enough to be heard by the performers and audience. Bass amps typically consist of a preamplifier, tone controls, a power amplifier and one or more loudspeakers ("drivers") in a cabinet.
Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonly used with the electric guitar, but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Guitarists playing electric blues originally obtained an overdriven sound by turning up their vacuum tube-powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes, which caused the signal to distort. While overdriven tube amps are still used to obtain overdrive in the 2010s, especially in genres like blues and rockabilly, a number of other ways to produce distortion have been developed since the 1960s, such as distortion effect pedals. The growling tone of distorted electric guitar is a key part of many genres, including blues and many rock music genres, notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music.
This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.
Fuzz bass, also called "bass overdrive" or "bass distortion", is a style of playing the electric bass or modifying its signal that produces a buzzy, distorted, overdriven sound, which the name implies in an onomatopoetic fashion. Overdriving a bass signal significantly changes the timbre, adds higher overtones (harmonics), increases the sustain, and, if the gain is turned up high enough, creates a "breaking up" sound characterized by a growling, buzzy tone.
Heavy metal guitar is the use of highly-amplified electric guitar in heavy metal. Heavy metal guitar playing is rooted in the guitar playing styles developed in 1960s-era blues rock and psychedelic rock, and it uses a massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos and overall loudness. The electric guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification has historically been the key element in heavy metal. The heavy metal guitar sound comes from a combined use of high volumes and heavy distortion.
A rock band or pop band is a small musical ensemble which performs rock music, pop music or a related genre. The four-piece band is the most common configuration in rock and pop music. Before the development of the electronic keyboard, the configuration was typically two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. Another common formation is a vocalist who does not play an instrument, electric guitarist, bass guitarist, and a drummer. Instrumentally, these bands can be considered as trios.