While two guitarists are common, seeing two bassists in a band is rare. This makes sense, as bassists play in a deeper range where having too much noise will sound muddy. Still, several musical acts have actually tried having multiple bass players. Thus, I went ahead and found a definitive answer to the question: can you have 2 bassists?
It’s possible to have two bassists in a band. Most bands elect to just have one bass player as this is sufficient to play music in all contemporary genres. Having two bassists generally requires writing two distinct bass parts, which leads to an unconventional sound.
In other words, it is possible to have two bass players. However, for the majority of bands, it is unnecessary.
Having two bassists is not redundant though. Rather, it defines how a band has to write music. Thus, having 2 bassists both opens doors and creates restrictions.
Some musical acts have made it work incredibly well, while others have not. With that said, there are some incredible bands out there that have two bass players. Keep reading to learn more about them.
What bands have 2 bass players?
There are two main ways to make bands with multiple bassists work:
- Have a small band that is centered around the bass players.
- Have a full-scale band where the two bass players are part of a complex composition.
Below are four examples that showcase examples of both. All these bands also play different genres of music, which gives you a broader idea of how two bassists can work in the same band.
Dianogah – Indie Rock – Two bassists and a drummer
Dianogah solves the challenge of having two bass players in the purest way possible.
By only having a drummer and two bass players, the bassists can fill the role a guitarist or piano player would in most modern music. They do not have to worry about the bass lines clashing with other instruments, as there are none. This also gives them a unique and distinguishable sound and a lot of flexibility in how they can approach songwriting.
Dumpstaphunk – Funk – Full band including brass section.
“Double the bass, double the funk”.
There is a lot going on in Dumpstaphunk’s music, so much so that you might not notice the two basses at first. One of the ways that this band makes it work with 2 basses is by having one play a deep groove and the other a percussive slap line. This way the basses fulfill different roles and play in different ranges so that they blend well with each other and the rest of the band.
The Omnific – Progressive – Two bassists and a drummer
While The Omnific has a similar lineup to Dianogah, their music sounds vastly different.
This band plays some incredibly complex music and utilizes two 5-string basses to their full capacity. The bass lines switch between the role of bridge, rhythm, and solo instrument often and do so seamlessly. This is a great example of what a small band with 2 bassists is capable of when taken to the extreme.
Related reading: Are 5-string basses necessary for metal?
Godspeed you! Black Emperor – Experimental Rock – Full band including string players.
Godspeed is more of a musical experience than a band.
This band is known for complex arrangements, concept albums, and lengthy songs. Still, they manage to incorporate two basses into the mix. It can be hard to make sense of it due to the many layers in their music, but here one bass is playing a typical bass line and the other is used as a lead instrument.
Songs with 2 bass guitars
While bands with two bassists are rare, songs with two bass lines are more common than you think.
The studio allows for vastly different uses of the bass than a live setting. Thus, many famous artists have used multiple bass tracks in the recording process, and have made this work well on their master recordings,
Few bands attempt to recreate this effect perfectly when playing live and chose to play with 1 bass player instead. This is a natural choice, as playing live music does not allow for the same type of effects and blending of instruments that a studio recording does.
This type of practice is more common than many think and has been around for decades. Here are just some songs that have at least two noticeable bass tracks on them:
|Pink Floyd||One of these days|
|The Beatles||Think for yourself|
|The Who||Trick of the light|
|Peter Gabriel||That voice again|
|Marvin Gaye||Inner City Blues|
|Rolling Stones||Flight 505|
|Lou Reed||Take a walk on the wild side|
|Red hot chili Peppers||Go robot|
|Chaka Khan||I feel for you|
|Spinal Tap||Fat bottom|
|The Temptations||Shaky ground|
The idea of two bassists is an old one, and it has been tried out in many different ways, some more successful than others.
Can there be two bassists in a band? Absolutely, but this will require one of two things. The entire sound of the band has to be centered around the two bass players. Or, it will require highly proficient songwriting to make the basses work well with each other as well as several other instruments.
The reason I wrote this article is that I have had this talk with many musicians throughout the years. The answers are usually “That’s a good idea on paper, but..” or they consider it a gimmick.
Well, it certainly sounds like a gimmick when done poorly. You’re also not going to recreate the typical sound of bands in your genre while having two bass players.
Still, the bands and songs I have showcased above prove that it can be, and has been done.
Not all bands out there should have two bass players, but it’s great that we have a couple that does.