Whichever time period or music genre you dwell into, you will always find a couple of songs with amazing bass intros.
While most songs don`t start out with just the bass, those that do often start on a high note. Bass intros have thus given many great bass players a chance to shine and thye have elevated songs to heights that they couldn`t have reached without them.
Therefore, I decided to make a list of what I consider to be the 12 best bass intros of all time.
The list is versatile, and is going to span many different genres and epochs of music. Thus, I hope to show how powerful and attention-grabbing bass intros can be, regardless of what context they are played in.
12. Pearl Jam – Jeremy
- Album: Ten
- Year: 1991
- Bassist: Jeff Ament
Jeff Ament`s bass intro on “Jermey” has a lot of unique things going for it.
First of all, it`s played on a 12-string bass. It also combines a deep groove with high celestial harmonics. Not only does this make the intro sound unique, but the duality of it does well to summarize the theme of the lyrics.
By coming in between the 3rd and 4th beat of the bar, the bassline has a lot of grooviness to it. The line also perfectly transitions into the verse with the whole band building it up. By repeating the last G note of the intro in an 8th note pattern, the intro thus works great on its own, in addition to it feeling like a cohesive part of the song.
11. Brocas Helm – Cry Of The Banshee
- Album: Defender Of The Crow
- Year: 2004
- Bassist: James Schumacher
“Cry Of The Banshee” by Brocas Helm has one of the hardest bass tabs on this list.
The song starts off with a fast bass intro. On it, James Schumacher taps a melodic line of 16th notes at 160 BPM. I don`t know about you, but my fingers hurt just from writing that out.
Thus, the intro is technically impressive, but also sounds beautiful. As the guitar enters and echos the bassline, they build up the song together until the whole band enters. With that, it`s fair to say that there are few bass intros out there that manage to impress like this one while perfectly introducing a song.
10. A Tribe Called Quest – Excursions
- Album: The Low End Theory
- Year: 1991
- Bassist: Sampled from “A Chant For Bu” by Art Blakey
The entirety of “The Low End Theory” is full of some of the Greatest hip-hop basslines you will ever hear.
“Excursions” starts off with a bass intro that is sampled of Art Blakey`s song “A Chant For Bu”. When listening to the original, it is hard to understand how A Tribe Called Quest thought to use the sample in this way. This is because the bassline is used in vastly different context on this track, yet fits it perfectly.
The song starts off with just the bass, which proceeds to work as a funky backdrop for Q-Tip’s following verse. Together, his vocals and the bassline continue to build the song up, until the drums enter. Thus, this bassline is both cleverly sampled, and a great example of how a bass intro can create buildup and suspense.
9. Motörhead – Ace Of Spades
- Album: Ace Of Spades
- Year: 1980
- Bassist: Lemmy
Lemmy`s distorted bass tone combined with his fast picking makes the intro to “Ace Of Spades” beyond iconic.
The line makes it immediately clear that things are about to get loud. As the tone of the bass is so distorted, it is also commonly mistaken for a guitar. However, as Lemmy slides up the neck of his bass and Eddie Clark busts out a guitar riff, it becomes more apparent that this is in fact the sound of a bass.
By that time though, the intro has done its job and kicked off this classic on a high note. He has also proved yet again why Motörhead is deserving of being called the loudest band in the world.
8. Primus – Jerry Was A Racecar Driver
- Album: Sailing The Seas Of Cheese
- Year: 1991
- Bassist: Les Claypool
While there are countless great Primus basslines to choose from, this is by far the one with the most attention-grabbing bass intro.
On “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver” Les Claypool kicks the song off by tapping a quirky, chord-bassed line high up on the fretboard. Not only is it impressive because of its difficulty. It`s another example of Claypool doing something completely new while retaining his unique style.
While the intro is impressive in its own right, what`s more, impressive is that Claypool continues to play the same riff as he sings the verse. Thus, he both proves that it`s both possible to tap a fretless bass, and to sing over the most complicated of bass riffs.
7. The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
- Album: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5
- Year: 1969
- Bassist: Wilton Felder
More than 50 years after the song’s release, “I Want You Back” still has one of the most well-known soul basslines of all time.
On it, Wilton Felder plays an intro groove that most people have heard at some point. It`s quite long, spanning 4-bars at 102 BPM. Yet, it manages to immediately grab our attention and doesn`t let it go.
Most impressively, the 4 bars of the bass intro all consist of rhythmically unique parts. Most often, bassists tend to come up with a 1 or 2-bar rhythm. This line, on the other hand, spans twice or four times that, while having a lot of melody to it. It is thus very well-crafted, and it`s a line that couldn`t be written without a deep understanding of both groove and melody.
6. Queen – Another One Bites The Dust
- Album: The Game
- Year: 1980
- Bassist: John Deacon
While John Deacon wrote many amazing basslines, I consider”Another One Bites The Dust” to be the best Queen bass line ever.
It`s a disco groove, which in one sense is unexpected from a rock group. However, Queen was a band never shied away from experimenting with different genres, and this is yet another example of them nailing it.
John Deacon`s playstyle and tone also made this line sit incredibly well in the mix, and it sounds both fat and funky. Given that Deacon wrote this song, it is heavily centered around the bassline. Thus, this bass intro not only introduces the song but also shapes the entire sound of “Another One Bites The Dust”.
5. The Clash – Guns Of Brixton
- Album: London Calling
- Year: 1979
- Bassist: Paul Simonon
There are several reasons why I think “Guns Of Brixton” is one of the best punk songs of all time.
First of all, it does well at embodying why the simplicity of the genre works so well. It constits of a minor triad and a major triad played up and down. Yet, it is played at a rhythm and speed that can make this simple melody sound like the most amazing thing in the world.
Secondly, I can`t think of many songs where the bass tone both fits the groove and sets the feeling of the song as well as on “Guns Of Brixton”. This is because the low-end heavy and smooth tone fits well with the downtrodden lyrics that follow it.
Thus, while he played the guitar while singing this song live, it`s a great showcase of what made Paul Simonon one of the best punk bassists of all time
4. Black Sabbath – N.I.B
- Album: Black Sabbath
- Year: 1970
- Bassist: Geezer Butler
Geezer Butler`s bass into on “N.I.B” singlehandedly makes it one of the best metal songs of all time.
It`s more of a solo than a bassline, and it fluctuates a lot during its 40-seconds. It changes in time signature, tempo, and most noticeably: volume. This makes the bass intro attention-grabbing and unique in addition to being groovy and technically impressive.
When the solo is over, Geezer switches to playing the main riff of the song on his own. This further extends the bass intro, giving it time to introduce the main theme of the song. What`s impressive is that despite the main riff, and the bass solo feeling vastly different, they tie very well into one another. This makes for a cohesive intro, that also sounds completley unique.
3. Pink Floyd – Money
- Album: Dark Side Of The Moon
- Year: 1973
- Bassist: Roger Waters
“Money” By Pink Floyd has one of the most famous basslines of all time.
This is however quite strange, as this song is everything but your typical hit song. It`s more than 6 minutes long, it has a saxophone solo, and it`s played in 7/8 time. If anything, that sounds like a recipe for not having your song come anywhere near being played on the radio.
Yet, I think this speaks to the sheer quality of the bass intro, that a song this progressive could become this big. It’s groovy and leads so well back into itself that it almost feels like it`s played in 4/4 time.
Thus, a large part of the song’s success can be attributed to Roger Waters, as this is one of the best Pink Floyd bass lines of all time.
2. The Beatles – Come Together
- Album: Abbey Road
- Year: 1969
- Bassist: Paul McCartney
When the biggest band of all time has a bass intro on one of their biggest hits, you know it`s going to be good.
What makes the bass intro on “Come Together”` special is how Paul McCartney slides up the fretboard. It starts off with 3 low D notes, with Paul sliding up a perfect fifth right after playing the 3rd of them. The result is a mind-bending and unique line that doesn`t sound like anything else out there.
Overall, the song has a very different feel to it than the rest of The Beatles’ discography. This is in large part due to the bass intro, which instantly makes it clear that “Come Together” is not going to be like most songs.
1. Ben E. King – Stand By Me
- Album: Don`t Play That Song (Originally released as a single)
- Year: 1961
- Bassist: Lloyd Trotman
If there is one bass intro that can be said to have stood the test of time, it`s Lloyd Trotman`s groove on “Stand By Me”.
More than 60 years after its release, this is still a song that almost everyone has heard at least once. Thanks to the musky sound and unique rhythm of the bass intro, it is also not a song that people tend to forget.
The bassline accentuates the 3rd and 6th notes of the bar. This makes for a simple, yet incredibly catchy rhythm that is bound to get stuck in your head. Combine this with the bass fill that leads into it starting at the first beat of the bar, and it`s no wonder that this became a bonafide classic.