The 12 Best Tool Bass Lines (Including Fear Inoculum)

bassist with bass tab for schism by tool layed on top of him

If there is one thing I will never stop being impressed by, it`s Tool basslines.

Justin Chancellor has a knack for writing riffs that fit with well the unique sound of this band. At the same time, he always manages to do something new and creative with his grooves.

To showcase why I think he is such an amazing bassist, I thus decided to make this list of the 12 best Tool bass lines.

The list going to feature both some old classics, as well as some of his lines off Fear Inoculum. This way, you will get to hear how versatile and consistent he has been for more than two decades.

I`ve also added tabs for all of the songs if you get inspired to cover any of them. Chancellor mainly plays in Drop D tuning, so remember to tune down before you give it a try though. Okay, here we go.

12. The Patient

  • Album: Lateralus
  • Year: 2001

“The Patient” showcases Justin Chancellors’ versatility by featuring both melodic leads and heavy low-end riffs.

The bassline starts off with a tapped intro in 5/4 time. There is a lot of flanger and delay to it, making for a unique and spacey tone. This gives the bassline a mind-bending quality and makes it a fitting way to introduce the song.

Another major highlight comes at 4:29. Here the song abruptly switches from the full band playing a heavy riff, to Chancellor playing a bass interlude.

It consists of delayed artificial harmonics and has a celestial quality to it. Due to how suddenly the interlude is introduced, it immediately grabs your attention and makes it a highlight in an already great bassline.


  • Album: 10,000 Days
  • Year: 2006

“Vicarious” is a great example of how natural a 5/4 time signature can sound in the right hands.

During the heavy instrumental part at 0:46, Chancellor makes great use of intermittent power chords in the bassline. Together with the drums, this helps accent the groove at unexpected spots and helps lead the song into the following verse.

Then there is the breakdown at 3:26. While only played on the open D string, it is one of the catchiest breakdowns you will ever hear and a major highlight of the song.

As if that wasn`t enough, Chancellor follows it up with a bass solo at 3:47. With a guitar-like tone, he plays a series of fast 16th note triplets, creating an immense amount of buildup towards the following part of the song.

10. Jambi

  • Album: 10,000 Days
  • Year: 2006

On “Jambi”, we get to hear Chancellor take on a 9/8 time signature.

The song starts off with a guitar riff which the bass doubles. While the guitar repeats this pattern during the verse, Justin switches to playing dotted notes. This works great as the dotted notes fit perfectly into a single bar in 9/8 time.

It doesn`t take long though before the bassline switches to a beautiful delayed riff at 1:03. A major highlight of the song is when the band enters for the second verse and Justin continues to hold this groove down. As an added bonus, this riff continues to work as the main theme for the song going forward.

At 3:57 we get another patented Tool breakdown. During it, Chancellor makes it punchier by using chords to help accent notes together with the drums and the guitar. Thus, this song showcases the best of both his melodic and heavy side.

9. Pneuma

  • Album: Fear Inoculum
  • Year: 2019

After a 13-year break since Tool`s last album release, the first single of the band’s 2019 album “Fear Inoculum” showed that they`ve still got.

On it, Chancellor plays a delayed and echoing staccato bass chord progression. In addition to sounding beautiful and atmospheric, it serves as a fitting main theme for the song. It also constantly shifts between 5/8, 6/8, and 8/8 time, which works well with the floating vibe of the song.

When the song shifts to its heavier instrumental part, the bassline plays a melodic line that shifts between deep and high notes.

It consists of a melodic lick, followed by Chancellor playing a sustained low D, which gives creates a lot of breathing room for the drums. Towards the latter part of the song, he also plays a fast 16th note groove, which adds just the perfect amount of variety to the 11-minute track.

8. The Grudge

  • Album: Lateralus
  • Year: 2001

Despite being 8 and a half minutes long, “The Grudge” has a bassline that just keeps impressing throughout it.

It starts off on a melodic 5/8 time riff. It uses a good bit of delay, which does wonders for the atmosphere of the song. Then at 0:20, Chancellor turns the delay off and switches to playing a heavier version of the riff. Thus, the overall feeling of the song is kept intact, while it simultaneously progresses and builds towards the verse.

At 1:20 we get yet another melodic riff. It is slower than the first and consists solely of 8th notes. It thus serves as a fitting break from the heavy instrumental part that preceded it, while also leading naturally to the deep-end groove that comes after.

The highlight of the song comes at 3:53. Here, Justin plays an insanely groovy low-end line, which is introduced by a full-band crescendo.

What makes it better is how he has alluded to this riff in previous parts of the song. This makes it all the better when he finally starts playing it, as we get to hear the riff at its full effect without even realizing that he had previously teased it.

7. Invincible

  • Album: Fear Inoculum
  • Year: 2019

It takes a while for the bassline on “Invincible” to take off. Once it does though, it goes from 0 to 100 real fast.

The bass first enters the song at 2:14, with a fairly simple 7/8 time staccato line. However, by using significant amounts of delay and playing occasional chords, Chancellor keeps the bassline atmospheric and interesting.

At 7:02 we get a bass solo with a tone that you will never hear anywhere else. It is riddled with various effects but blended together in a way that fits the mood and feeling of the song perfectly.

On it, Justin starts off with a slow melodic lead and then blasts us with fast 32nd notes. He ends the solo with a short melodic lick that leads into a sustained chord, giving us ample time to try and take in what we just heard.

6. Ænima

  • Album: Ænima
  • Year: 1996

While most Tool basslines can be hard to grasp at first, “Ænima” has a groove that is next to impossible to get out of your head.

When the verse starts at 0:22, the bass plays a deep and catchy line, while mostly using just two notes. Together with the tom-heavy drums, this makes for an active rhythm section, which despite the contrast works incredibly well with Maynard`s calm vocals.

“So It`s kind of open and then tightens up, but basically a basic three on four beat”

Justin Chancellor on the verse in “Ænima” – 2017 interview with Bassiste Magazine

What`s interesting is that the bassline changes things up for the second verse. While still roughly based on the same rhythmic idea, it now also makes use of an octave. Together with the change in the drum beat, the bass thus adds a lot of variety and dynamic to the song while still sounding cohesive.

At 1:41 we get a short and chorus-heavy bass interlude that leads into the second chorus. It comes out of the blue and is another example of Chancellor doing unexpected things to elevate songs at the perfect spots.

5. 10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)

  • Album: 10,000 Days
  • Year: 2006

Featuring a melodic bass intro over the sound of thunder, I like to think Chancellor made Cliff Burton proud with his bassline on “Wings Pt 2”.

This is a song that gradually builds in intensity and atmosphere. This is made possible by the unorthodox bassline, which consists of fast chords and a repeated open A string groove.

Chancellor lets both the A string and chords ring out, which means they take up a lot of space in the mix. However, the guitar and drum parts are kept simple which makes it possible for the bass to do so without sounding intrusive.

After playing an intense crescendo, the bass switches to playing a mind-bending 9/4 time riff at 5:39. I call it mind-bending because it sounds like it can be divided into two equal parts. However, as it is played in 9/4, it cannot. Thus, it will make you nod along to it, but it will take a minute before you know what pulse you are nodding along at.

4.Forty Six & 2

  • Album: Ænima
  • Year: 1996

“Forty Six & 2” is a great display of how well the Phrygian dominant mode can work in a metal song when it`s used right. This song is also a major reason Justin Chancellor was one of the most noteworthy bass players of the 90s.

With a spacey and chorus-heavy tone Chancellor kicks the song off with a melodic bass riff. On it, he keeps repeating the minor second, which gives it the same exotic feel as the intro to Metallica`s “Wherever I May Roam”.

Towards the end of the riff, he also incorporates a major third. This creates a one-and-a-half-note interval between the second and third steps of the scale.

Related Reading: 9 Essential Metal Scales

This is commonly done by “Nile”, which is a death metal band that is heavily centered around Egyptian melodies and themes. It comes as no surprise then, that this bassline sounds exotic and unique as a result.

3. Disposition

  • Album: Lateralus
  • Year: 2001

The bass intro on “Disposition” is one of the single most beautiful things I`ve heard in my life.

By perfectly combining harmonics with a deep groove, Chancellor sets the mood for one of Tool`s most meditative and calming tracks. As Danny Carry plays percussion, and Adam Jones sticks to sustained lead notes, the bass continues to define the mood of the track as it progresses.

This makes for a tranquil song without any of Tool`s heavy signature metal breaks.

Towards the middle parts of it, the bass plays a high melody, straying away from harmonics and deep notes. While different, it keeps the feeling of the song intact and sounds beautiful.

In addition to being an amazing piece of music, “Disposition” is also a display of Justin Chancellors’ versatility as a musician.

2. The Pot

  • Album: 10,000 Days
  • Year: 2006

With its booming low-end grooves and growly bass tone, there is a lot to love about the bassline on “The Pot”.

The bassline starts off with Justin fretting a high melody while grooving on the high D string. It`s played in 4/4, but the unconventional rhythm of it makes it feel like it`s played in an odd time signature.

The same can be said of the deep groove that follows at 0:47. Here we get a heavy groove that makes use of the low D string, while occasionally accenting the octave. Chancellors accents the last 16th note of the first bar of this riff.

This can make the riff hard to follow at first, which makes the song all the more satisfying to listen to once you get to settle into it.

1. Schism

  • Album: Lateralus
  • Year: 2001

Few bands can boast that the main riff of their most streamed song is played in alternating 5/8 and 7/8 time. However, Tool is not like most bands.

The song starts with Justin playing a short and sweet chord progression. After letting it fade out, he starts playing one of the most unique and catchy basslines of all time.

While it switches time signatures every bar, it is kept rhythmically grounded by a fast repeating triplet. This makes the bassline cohesive in face of its unorthodox rhythm.

For the instrumental break following the verse, it switches from 7/8 and 5/8 time to 7/8 and 6/8 time. While this pulse can be hard to grasp, the same triplet is still played at the end of each bar, which helps the bassline remain catchy.

Towards the later parts of the song, he builds upon the riff by repeating the triplet several times in each bar, when the melody allows for it. This works well for creating a crescendo towards the end, while still sounding like he is building on the riff he introduced at the very beginning. To me, this makes “Schism” the best tool bass line of all time.

Ian Partanen

BassOx Founder. Passionate bassist for 15+ years across a vast selection of genres, currently into indie-rock and hip-hop. Bachelor's degree in Musicology from the University of Oslo.

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