10 Amazing Underrated Bass Lines (With Sound)

gibson thunderbird bass played on stage

With the amount of great bass lines out there a lot of them are bound to get underrated.

This is unfortunate for the bass players who have gotten less credit than they deserve. However, as a bass enthusiast, I love that there are so many amazing lees-known basslines out there.

This is because you will never know when you stumble upon a great groove when listening to new music, which makes it so much more special when you do.

Therefore, I decided to share some of the underrated bass lines I`ve found over the years with you.

To me, all of these lines could have gone down in the history books as classic lines. Thus, while I can`t change the fact that they didn`t, I hope to give them a small part of the praise they deserve by sharing this list.

10. Nomeansno – Rag N` Bones

  • Album: The People`s Choice
  • Year: 2004
  • Genre: Punk
  • Bassist: Rob Wright

To me, “Rag N` Bones” is one of the best punk bass songs out there. Yet, it never reached the same popularity as some of Nomeansno`s biggest hits such as “It`s Catching Up” and “Now”.

On it, Rob Wright`s fuzzy bass tone makes the line stand out and it adds a lot of drive to the song as a whole.

The main groove is both melodic and catchy. It also makes great use of the chromatic scale to fit with the chaotic vibe of the song. Thus, the bassline does not only sound iconic on its own, but it also sets the mood for the song as a whole.

9. Cream – Outside Woman Blues

  • Album: Disraeli Gears
  • Year: 1967
  • Genre: Rock
  • Bassist: Jack Bruce

Cream had some major hits, such as “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “White Room”. If we look deeper into their catalog though, it`s packed with great Jack Bruce basslines.

One of these can be hard on “Outside Woman Blues”. The main groove consists of a fast descending 16th note line. What really makes it shine is how well it works together with Eric Clapton`s guitar riff. Despite playing vastly different parts, the two instruments still feel like two versions of the same motif.

The song also constantly shifts between riffs during its 2 and a half minute duration. Yet, Jack Bruce`s bassline always makes these transitions feel cohesive and natural. As a result, this bassline is short and sweet, as well as catchy and dynamic.

8. Lucky Thompson – Tricotism

  • Album: Tricotism
  • Year: 1993
  • Genre: Jazz
  • Bassist: Oscar Pettiford

Jazz might the genre with the biggest amount of underrated bass lines. One of these lines can be found on Lucky Thompson`s “Tricotism”.

On the track, Oscar Pettiford plays a dynamic double bass line. In the beginning, it moves together with the saxophone which adds buildup and suspense Then, it changes to playing a walking bass line, underneath the sax which adds a nice bit of variation.

As the saxophone solo ends, Pettiford switches to playing a bass solo, which perfectly transitions back into the walking bass solo as the saxophone re-enters. Thus, this is a bass line that adapts to what the other instruments are doing at every part of the song while being a highlight in its own right.

7. Mudvayne – Prod

  • Album: L.D. 50
  • Year: 2000
  • Genre: Metal
  • Bassist: Ryan Martinie

Ryan Martinie is without a question one of the greatest metal bassists of all time. He is known for combing different techniques, and he often plays with his fingers, taps, and slaps the bass in a single song.

While all his basslines are impressive, many of them have also flown under the radar. One of these can be found on “Prod” of the band’s debut album “L.D. 50”.

The bassline is a great display of Martinie`s ability to combine heavy metal riffs, with beautiful and groovy melodies. He starts the verse by playing a deep groove that makes use of the octave to add some funk to it. As he is tuned to Drop B tuning, this makes for a rumbly and hard-hitting line.

It doesn`t take long before he switches things up, by playing the root and third of a high A# minor chord. This part has the same rhythm as the previous riff and thus retains the feeling of the song while adding a new melodic element to it.

As the song progresses, he also incorporates chords, bends, and slides into the line. This showcases Martinie`s versatility and makes the bassline sound dynamic as we move towards the crescendo of the song.

6. Minutemen – Retreat

  • Album: Double Nickels On The Dime
  • Year: 1984
  • Genre: Punk Rock
  • Bassist: Mike Watt

Mike Watt is one of the best punk bass players of all time. A result of playing in various groups for more than 40 years is that some of his best work is less-known. Thus, while he is regarded as a great bassist, he has also written a ton of underrated basslines.

Among these is his line on “Retreat” by Minutemen. The main groove consists of a unique rhythm, with a fast deep groove followed by a single sustained note. As a result, this part of the bassline is difficult to get out of your head once you’ve given it a listen.

Another highlight is when the whole band enters and we get a guitar solo, which happens multiple times during the song. During it, Watt plays a melodic groove, which works as the perfect backdrop for the guitar, while also sounding interesting and groovy on its own.

5. Ornette Coleman – Focus on Sanity

  • Album: The Shape Of Jazz To Come
  • Year: 1959
  • Genre: Jazz
  • Bassist: Charlie Haden

For a less-known example of how the double bass can completely make a song, listen to “Focus On Sanity”.

The track starts off with a high-intensity saxophone and drum intro. It`s however quickly followed up by a mellow and calming bassline played by Charlie Haden. When the drums enter back again, they work together with the bass to make a smooth groove that leads well into the rest of the song.

Related reading: 5 Essential Jazz Bass Scales

The bassline itself is more of a solo during the first parts of the song, often switching between rhythmic and melodic themes. Even when the saxophone renters and the bass takes on a backing role, it remains dynamic and keeps doing small variations.

To me, this is a masterclass in how to keep a groove interesting and varied while still serving the song. As I`ve never heard anyone talk of it as such, I also find it to be a severely underrated bass line.

4. Obscura – The Anticosmic Overload

  • Album: Cosmogenesis
  • Year: 2009
  • Genre: Technical Death Metal
  • Bassist: Jeroen Paul Thesseling

Technical Death Metal is not a genre that was ever meant to appeal to large audiences. Thus, while this genre is packed with impressive basslines, it also comes as no surprise that they are also often overlooked.

A great example of how crazy tech-death basslines can get is “The Anticosmic Overload” by Obscura.

On the track, Jeroen Paul Thesseling uses a range of unorthodox techniques. In addition to plucking fast melodic lines with his fingers, he also makes great use of sliding chords and also shows that it is possible to tap a fretless bass.

It`s also worth mentioning how good control he has over the rhythm of his plucking.

The song is played at 224 BPM, and he starts by holding down an 8th note groove. He also mixes in triplets, 16th notes, and galloping rhythms into the mix. On top of that, the song also switches to 3/4 and 5/4 time, without him ever toning down on the complexity of the line.

3. Four Tops – 7-Rooms Of Gloom

  • Album: Reach Out
  • Year: 1967
  • Genre: Soul
  • Bassist: James Jamerson

Among bass players, James Jamerson is regarded as one of the best to ever do it. Yet, it was common for Motown session musicians to not be credited for their work to the same degree as session musicians are today. With that, a lot of his work has gotten far from the praise that it deserves.

One of his great, yet lesser-known basslines can be heard on “7 Rooms Of Gloom” by Four Tops.

This is a line with a lot of melodic and rhythmic variety. On it, Jamerson constantly moves around on the fretboard and always plays in a register that fits the current part of the song.

He also switches between a fast melodic lick and a basic deep groove. This keeps the bassline dynamic, and given the song’s short duration, it easily catches your attention for the entirety of it.

2. Rush – Malignant Narcissism

  • Album: Snakes & Arrows
  • Year: 2007
  • Genre: Progressive Rock
  • Bassist: Geddy Lee

Instrumental songs usually don`t become as popular as songs with vocals. Despite this, Rush`s “YYZ” is an instrumental track that partly managed to defy this trend. However, some of their other great instrumental tracks did not manage to reach the same heights.

This is a shame, as the bassline on “Malignant Narcissism” has one of the greatest basslines I`ve heard in my life.

On it, Geddy Lee`s bass tone and aggressive plucking make the bassline sound punchy and groovy at the same time.

By grooving on the open A string, Lee plays a catchy melody on top of it higher up on the neck. It`s also fast, with the main groove consisting of 16th notes played at 118 BPM.

Towards the end of the track, we also get some short-and-sweet bass interludes as the rest of the band stops. While the rest of the bassline was already impressive enough, this part makes the end of the song a major highlight.

1. Jamiroquai – Runaway

  • Album: High Times: Singles 1992–2006
  • Year: 2006
  • Genre: Funk
  • Bassist: Paul Turner

There are a ton of great basslines to choose from in Jamiroquai`s discography. Thus, it`s to be expected that not all of them have gotten the recognition they deserve.

While this song was released as a single, I consider the most underrated line of theirs to be on “Runaway”. This to me, is not only Jamiroquai`s best bassline but one of the best basslines of all time.

On it, Paul Turner shows just how much a bass guitar can do in the span of 2 bars. He starts with a deep C note, followed by a high melodic lick. Then he moves down to play a short deep groove, before playing an A# and a D# with their octave, which perfectly leads back to the low C again.

This part alone should land this song a spot on every top list of basslines out there. However, it rarely makes the cut. With that, I find this to be one of the most underrated bass lines 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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