While smooth and funky grooves are great and all, I`ve always had a soft spot for fast and difficult bass lines.
Before I even got my first bass, I was mesmerized by players like Geddy Lee and Victor Wooten. These players pushed the instrument to its limits and were major inspirations for me to become a bassist.
Therefore, I decided to make this list of 13 songs with fast bass lines to showcase these players.
I`ve kept it versatile and included songs from multiple genres and eras of music. It also includes some amazing lesser-known lines, in addition to some mandatory classics. Lastly, while some bassists could have filled up this list on their own, I`ve limited it to one song per bass player.
13. Racer X – Scarified
- Album: Second Heat
- Year: 1987
- Bass Player: Juan Alderete
- Other Fast Songs: Technical Difficulties, Street Lethal
This speed metal song has a relatively fast bass riff with a 137BPM tempo at a 16th-note pulse. What makes it special is that it ends with a triplet and two 8th notes. This gives the riff a sense of revving up that you won`t find in most songs.
Related reading: I have also featured Scarified on my list of the best metal bass lines of all time.
Juan Alderete also throws in a couple of fast and melodic bass licks throughout the track. These make the bass stand out more, and make use of the same technique as described above, this time with quintuplets.
12. Yes – Roundabout
- Album: Fragile
- Year: 1971
- Bass Player: Chris Squire
- Other Fast Songs: Heart Of The Sunrise, America
Despite there being many bands that are more well-known than Yes, Roundabout has one of the most famous bass lines of all time.
On it, Chris Squire shows just how much grooviness muted ghost notes can add to a song. In fact, without the muted notes, this would be a fairly simple line to play.
However, with them, the bass line becomes significantly harder to play, due to the difficulty of keeping the strings muted. This is also what makes the line sound catchy and fast, instead of just groovy.
11. Casiopea – Time Limit
- Album: Casiopea
- Year: 1979
- Bass Player: Tetsuo Sakurai
- Other Fast Songs: Galactic Funk, Space Road
Casiopea is a fusion jazz band that has been around for more than 40 years now. However, to this day my favorite line of theirs comes from the first track of their debut album.
Time Limit has a bass groove that is rapid, dynamic, and smooth all at the same time. Tetsuo Sakurai never shies away from using bass licks to help the song transition to and from different parts.
Due to the ever-changing nature of the song, he does this often. On top of that, the bass lines he plays during certain shreds in their own right while still fitting the song well.
With that, Time Limit shows how a bass line can be fast and difficult, without sounding like it`s showboating.
10. Megadeth – Holy Wars…The Punishment Due
- Album: Rust In Peace
- Year: 1990
- Bass Player: David Ellefson
- Other Fast Songs: Take No Prisoners, Crown Of Worms
From co-founding Megadeth in 1983, til his departure from the band in 2021, David Ellefson showed that he is one of the best metal bassists of all time.
As a Thrash metal bassist, he also played his fair share of fast lines. At the beginning of Holy Wars, he joins in on playing the chromatically descending intro riff, before exploding into the verse riff with the rest of the band.
The verse groove mainly consists of 16th notes played at 168 BPM. It grooves on the open E string while adding in hammer-ons and pull-offs on the A string. Thus, this bass line is not only fast, but it requires an immense amount of control over both the right and left hand to play.
9. Rancid – Radio
- Album: Let`s Go
- Year: 1994
- Bass Player: Matt Freeman
- Other Fast Songs: Maxwell Murder, Fall Back Down
Punk is a genre known for its speed. Thus, it should come as no surprise that one of the best punk bassists ever has played some incredibly fast bass lines in his time.
On Radio Matt Freeman plays a line that mostly consists of 16th notes at 134 BPM. However, the line is a lot groovier than many other entries on this list. This is because he is constantly changing it up with 8th notes and rests to keep it interesting.
He also makes several switches between playing in a low and high register. As a result, the bassline becomes more noticeable in the mix and serves as a major highlight of the song.
8. Primus – DMV
- Album: Pork Soda
- Year: 1993
- Bass Player: Les Claypool
- Other Fast Songs: Tommy The Cat, Jerry Was A Racecar Driver
Les Claypool`s bass line on DMV is so unlike anything else I`ve ever heard that it is hard to know where to even begin with this one.
The main groove consists of descending 16th-note arpeggios at a 126 BPM speed. Claypool also throws some strummed chords into the mix, which results in a very difficult line to play.
This makes DMV one of many Primus bass lines that shows us that you can sound fast and complex, as well as unique and creative.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Get Up And Jump
- Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Year: 1984
- Bass Player: Flea
- Other Fast Songs: Right On Time, Around The World
Flea`s bass lines are known for being both melodic and beautiful, as well as percussive and funky.
A large portion of his fastest and most technical basslines can be found on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ earlier records. On Get Up And Jump from the band’s debut album he slaps a bass line consisting of 16th notes at 131 BPM.
It`s a groovy and difficult line, that lives up to the name of the track. If you enjoy this line, I recommend giving some of the band’s earlier albums a listen. They are full of lines like this with Flea at his most primal.
6. Vulfpeck – Beastly
- Album: Mit Peck
- Year: 2011
- Bass Player: Joe Dart
- Other Fast Songs: Sky Mail, Dean Town
Since forming in 2011, Vulfpeck has had an active career and released a lot of songs with fast basslines.
One of these can be heard on Beastly. While the entirety of the groove is a treat, it has some insane moments where Joe Dart goes crazy on the fretboard while still retaining the smooth feel of the song.
This happens first at 1:23 when he ramps up to and plays a short and sweet bass solo. However, the highlight of the bass line comes at 2:57.
Here, Dart plays another solo consisting of 16th notes with perfectly timed short rests in between them. As the song moves back to the main groove, he continues to add fast fills into the line which ties the solo and main riff together extremely well.
5. Dragonforce – Through The Fire And The Flames
- Album: Inhuman Rampage
- Year: 2006
- Bass Player: Adrian Lambert
- Other Fast Songs: Fury Of The Storm, Heroes Of Our Time
If I was forced to describe Dragonforce in one word, I would have to go with “Fast”. This is in large part due to Through The Fire And The Flames having somewhat of an iconic status as the hardest song in Guitar Hero 3.
The bass line has several insanely fast parts. In particular, the pre-chorus and guitar solo consists of a 16th-note groove at 200 BPM.
In addition to that, the bass line is full of short melodic fills at the same tempo. Thus, while many bassists will be able to play most of this song, very few will be able to play the entirety of the song.
4. Rush – Leave That Thing Alone
- Album: Counterparts
- Year: 1993
- Bass Player: Geddy Lee
- Other Fast Songs: YYZ, Malignant Narcissism
When it comes to rapid and unique Rush bass lines, it`s hard to pick just one.
I`ve showcased other notable songs from the band before, such as the underrated bass lines on Malignant Narcissism. Thus, I went with the equally impressive groove on Leave That Thing Alone for this list.
It`s a catchy line that also sounds punchy and aggressive due to Geddy Lee`s signature tone and playstyle. As the song progresses, Lee switches to playing a heavy riff that threads the line between rock and metal. Thus, the bass line changes quite a bit throughout the song, all while remaining rapid, unique, and impressive.
3. Dream Theater – Panic Attack
- Album: Octavarium
- Year: 2008
- Bass Player: John Myung
- Other Fast Songs: The Glass Prison, The Dance Of Eternity
The Stamina of John Myung`s fingers will never cease to amaze me.
Panic Attack starts off with one of the most iconic bass intros in all of progressive metal. At its core, it’s a very simple melody. However, as Myung continuously plays low 16th notes between the notes of the melody, it is both extremely fast and attention-grabbing.
What`s even more impressive is how he keeps holding this tempo down throughout the 8-minute-long song. How he is able to get through this night after night of live shows full of equally demanding songs is beyond me.
2. Beyond Creation – Theatrical Delirium
- Album: Earthborn Evolution
- Year: 2014
- Bass Player: Dominic “Forest” Lapointe
- Other Fast Songs: Omnipresent Perception, Coexistence
Technical death metal can take some time to get into if you are not familiar with the genre. However, there is no better form of music to look into if you’re after fast bass lines.
On Theatrical Delirium Dominic Lapointe combines 16th note triplets with slow breakdowns. This makes for a dynamic track that showcases his speed without him constantly playing as fast as he could.
Then there is the bass part at 3:27. Here, the tempo changes to 245 BPM, and Lapointe plays a melodic triplet 8th note lead. If you are unfamiliar with tech death, you can expect to be blown away by this part alone.
1. Victor Wooten – Classical Thumb
- Album: A Show Of Hands 15
- Year: 2016 (Original: 2008)
- Bass Player: Victor Wooten
- Other Fast Songs: Extraction, U Can`t Hold No Groove (If You Ain`t Got No Pocket)
Victor Wooten has singlehandedly shown that having small hands won`t limit you as a bass player.
On “Classical Thumb” he shows just how proficient he is at the instrument while sounding great in the process. He achieves this in large part thanks to his use of his signature double thumb technique.
The track starts off with a basic melody, and quickly builds up to a groove consisting of 16th-note triplets at 132 BPM.
Thus, you know you are in for an incredibly fast track early on, and it only gets more impressive from there. For these reasons and more, Classical Thumb also made its way to the top of my list of the best bass solo ever.