Female bass players are often overlooked and underrated. However, there are many incredibly talented female bassists who have made significant contributions to various music genres. In this list, we will highlight some of the best female bass players who have made their mark in the industry.
1. Esperanza Emily Spalding
Esperanza Emily Spalding is an American jazz bassist known for her singing, songwriting, and composing. Her career has consisted of both solo projects and collaborations with musicians such as Patti Austin and Joe Lovano.
Spalding’s signature bass playing stands out for its melodic sound, which brings a light and optimistic drive to her music. Her contribution to jazz brought her a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, and the influence of bass is evident in her subsequent critically acclaimed albums such as Emily’s D+Evolution.
2. Carol Kaye
Carol Kaye is an American musician who is regarded as one of the most prolific recorded bass guitarists. She worked on numerous hits and soundtracks, including recorded sessions with The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher, Neil Young, and Frank Zappa.
Her pioneering career has spanned over five decades and ventured into many musical styles, including funk, rock, acoustic, pop, and salsa. Her notable bass style includes her melodic and syncopated sounds, as well as her techniques such as enhancing the sound of the bass by placing a piece of felt between the strings.
3. Suzi Quatro
Suzi Quatro is an American singer, lyricist, and actress. She is notable for her contribution of bass playing to rock music. Her career started with the garage rock band The Pleasure Seekers, later renamed to Cradle, with songs such as ‘’Never Thought You’d Leave Me’’ opening with a bass solo.
Her success continued, and she went on to have a successful solo career while also contributing with artists such as Chris Normal. One of Suzi’s signature styles includes her extended bass guitar solos during her performances.
4. Kim Gordon
Kim Gordon is an American singer and songwriter who has also worked in record producing, fashion, and acting. She is best known for her work in Sonic Youth, Free Kitten, Body/Head, and Glitterbust, as well her collaborations with Jim O’Rourke and Harry Crews.
Her bass playing was often accompanied by grunge, underground rock, and alternative rock music. Her notable style includes her meaty and punk bass lines that were heavily influential in the growing grunge era of the 1980s.
5. Tal Wilkenfeld
Tal WIlkenfeld is an Australian singer, lyricist, and musician who gained popularity as a solo artist and her collaborations with numerous artists including Prince, Mick Jagger, Ryan Adams, Keith Urban, and Jeff Beck. Although Wilkenfeld’s career started as an instrumentalist, she gradually evolved into a singer and songwriter.
Wilkenfeld’s music includes genres such as rock, folk, funk, and jazz. Her innovative bass playing techniques are evident on alternative/indie tracks such as ‘’Haunted Love’’ from her vocal debut album Love Remains, where she uses flatwound strings to create warm and harmonious sounds.
6. Kim Deal
Kim Deal is an American musician who is best known for being a member of Pixies, The Breeders, and The Amps, as well as her collaborations with Courtney Barnett.
Her bass playing technique involves using solid-bodied bass and melodic alt-rock hooks. Her non-standard approach of using old bass strings resulted in the iconic sound of Pixies, which can best be described as a mix of punk, rock, and pop.
Deal’s most recognizable bass solos are included in songs such as “Gigantic” and “Debaser.” Her bass lines, although straightforward, contained creative styles that contributed immensely to the alternative rock, noise pop, and grunge genres during the 1990s.
7. Rhonda Smith
Rhonda Smith is a bassist from Canada who has contributed to the jazz, funk, and rock music genre. She released two solo albums—Intellipop and RS2, formed her band Rhonda Smith and Karma Deuce, and is a part of the group C.O.E.D. (Chronicles of Every Diva).
Smith is notably known for her collaborations and tours with Prince. She has also worked with Chaka Khan, Beyonce, and Jeff Beck.
Her bass playing involves smooth and groovy lines and has influences from bassists like Victor Wooten. The reason Smith’s bass playing stands out, however, is due to the soulful and funky twists that she adds to her sounds.
8. Tina Weymouth
Tina Weymouth is an American singer, lyricist, and author. Her most notable acts include her participation in the bands Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. Weymouth’s bass playing contributed to the new wave, punk, pop, and funk genres of music.
Besides her work in bands, she has also worked with Happy Mondays, Gorillaz, and Chicks on Speeds.
Her bass playing styles include powerful, groovy, and loud lines that became definitive of her bands’ sound. Hit songs such as “Genius of Love” contain her signature joyful funk sound and were instrumental in promoting the success of modern female bass players.
9. Melissa Auf der Maur
Melissa Auf der Maur is a Canadian singer, lyricist, photographer, and actress. Her bass playing has mainly contributed to the alternative rock genre.
She is known for forming the band Tinker, being a member of the bands Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, and projects such as The Chelsea and Hand of Doom. She has also collaborated with artists such as Ric Ocasek, Indochine, and Fountains of Wayne.
After Maur’s work with Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, she focused on solo work that included metallic and pop influences from the bands as well as new elements of progressive and punk rock. Her bass playing throughout her career stands out due to the creativity and style that can carry the whole song forward.
10. Abby Travis
Abby Travis is an American lyricist, singer, and actor who attributes her bass influences to the likes of Geezer Butler, Verdine White, and Paul McCartney. She has worked with a variety of artists, including touring with Cher and Beck David Hansen. Her notable acts include her work with The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, Eagles of Death Metal, Sumo Princess, and Elastica. Besides collaborations, she has also released four solo albums.
Travis’s collaborations with various artists have resulted in her having a versatile style of bass playing. From genres including progressive rock, funk, jazz, and electro-pop, she has always been a dedicated bass player for artists, showcasing solid bass lines.
The talent of female bass players has led to many great contributions to songs. The rhythm, feel, and tempo of a song can all change based on the bass. The different techniques used such as slaps and pops, muting, and fretting make it even more interesting.
We hope you have enjoyed this list and find some great new songs to listen to as a result of it!