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Legendary Bassists and Their Gear

Masters of the Low End and their Equipment

Bassists are often the unsung heroes of popular music, often staying in the background and “holding down the 8th.” But there are several masters of this instrument who have stood out on their own and created innovative lines that support some of the best songs ever made. This article reviews several prominent bassists and their guitars and accessories of choice.

Paul McCartney

It is impossible to overstate Paul McCartney’s importance to music. As a member of The Beatles and Wings and as a solo artist, his music is recognized and loved by millions. What is often overlooked in light of his songwriting and his distinct voice is just how innovative and influential his bass lines were, particularly during his stint with the Fab Four.  

He is most famous for playing a Hofner violin-style bass, which he chose because of its light weight and playability. He also uses Rickenbacker basses on occasion. He uses Voxbass amps and also uses an Ashdown bass amp on occasion.

Jaco Pastorius

Bassists of all genres speak of the late Jaco Pastorius in reverential tones. A listen to any of his recorded work will reveal the reason. He was one of the most innovative bassists of his era (primarily the 1970s and 1980s), and played with Weather Report and Joni Mitchell, among others. He also released a critically-acclaimed series of solo albums. Despite his all-too-brief life and tragic death, the work he left behind was vital.

He was known for using a Fender Jazz Bass with the frets removed, which he nicknamed the Bass of Doom. He used roundwound strings, and used the Variamp controls on his Acoustic bass amp to accentuate his growling tone.

Roger Waters

This founding member of Pink Floyd (who left the band in the mid-1980s) was never revered for his bass playing so much as for his songwriting, helming the blockbusters DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE and THE WALL among others. But a listen to the opening bass line of 1973’s hit “Money” indicates that he was quite capable of adding complexity to bass lines to support the song.

He is best known for using a black Fender Precision Bass, which is currently available to consumers as an artist model. He has used a number of different amps over his career, but currently uses and endorses Ampeg amps. He uses delay, tremolo, chorus, stereo panning, and phaser effects in his playing.

Les Claypool

Undoubtedly one of the most unique and gifted players of modern times, Les Claypool has fronted the eclectic rock band Primus since its formation in 1984. His virtuosic style of playing is as hard to define as his band’s music is to pigeonhole, but the bands’ fans know what they like when they hear it.

He uses several Carl Thompson basses among many others, and Mesa Boogie and Ampeg amps.


These are but just a few of the many standout bassists who have helped define the bass guitar’s role in music.

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