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The Top Ten Female Bass Guitar Players

CJ Baker is a published writer who recently started the podcast "Ongoing History of Protest Music."

Paz Lenchantin currently plays bass with the Pixies. She previously played bass for a number of other acts including A Perfect Circle and Zwan.

Paz Lenchantin currently plays bass with the Pixies. She previously played bass for a number of other acts including A Perfect Circle and Zwan.

Top 10 Female Bass Players

I've got a confession. I have a thing for female bass players. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing sexier than a female playing the bass. Along with the hotness factor, a female bassist just adds a certain aesthetic to a band.

There are a number of bands that seem to gravitate towards female bassists. For example, the Smashing Pumpkins have had four different bass players, and they have all been female. When Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins formed his side project Zwan, it also had a female bassist, Paz Lenchantin (formerly of A Perfect Circle), who subsequently played bass for the Pixies. The Pixies have had three bass players, and they have all been female. Their original bass player, Kim Deal, joined the band after responding to an advertisement specifically looking for a female bassist.

In these examples, having a female bassist has been no accident. To celebrate my love for female bass players I am going to countdown my top 10 list of female bassists.

#10: Paz Lenchantin

Paz Lenchatin is currently the bassist for the Pixies. Prior to that her most notable gig was playing bass and providing backing vocals for A Perfect Circle. She was also the bassist for Billy Corgan's side project Zwan and the stoner rock outfit The Entrance Band (formerly known as Entrance).

Along with playing bass, she is an accomplished violinist and has contributed string arrangements for a wide range of musical artists including Jenny Lewis, Melissa Auf der Maur and Queens of The Stone Age.

#9: Este Haim

Este Haim is the bassist for Haim (rhymes with lime), a band made up of a trio of sisters. A relative newcomer, Haim was my favorite musical discovery of 2013. The sisters strike just the right balance between retro and relevance

Along with her considerable musical talents, Este almost deserves a spot on this list sorely based on her hilarious facial contortions while playing the bass. She may have the most epic bass face in all of music.

Este Haim of Haim playing bass and drums.

Este Haim of Haim playing bass and drums.

#8: Meshell Ndegeocello

After slugging it out for a few years with a number of independent bands, Meshell Ndegeocello made her solo debut with the 1993 album Plantation Lullabies. Ndegeocello is known for her eclectic blend of soul, r&b, jazz, rock and hip hop. She is also considered an influential figure in the development of the neo soul movement.

Her biggest hit was a 1994 cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night", which was a duet with John Mellencamp, where she both sang and played bass. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard hot 100 chart.

#7: Carol Kaye

Carol Kaye is not only a pioneering female bass player, but she holds the distinction of being the most prolific session bassist (that includes male and female) in the history of recorded music. She has played an estimated 10,000 recording sessions over a more than 5 decade long career.

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Artists that she has recorded sessions with include The Beach Boys, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Count Basie, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles along with many others. She went on to release a number of how to play bass instruction books and videos.

#6: Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding has the distinction of being the only jazz musician to win the best new artists Grammy, when she won the award at the 2011 ceremony. It was considered a shocker because she had a lower profile than the other nominees which included Justin Bieber, Drake, Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machine. That being said, what she lacked in mainstream exposure, she more than makes up for in musical chops. I also really dig how she rocks the Afro. She just has a really cool vibe.

#5: Melissa Auf der Maur

Melissa got her start in 1993 as the bass player for the short lived Canadian alternative rock band Tinker. They released a few singles and opened for The Smashing Pumpkins during a Montreal show. In 1994 Tinker disbanded when Melissa Auf der Maur joined Hole, replacing Kristen Pfaff who tragically died from a drug overdose at the age of 27.

With Hole she appeared on their 1998 album Celebrity Skin. Afterwards she left Hole and ended up joining The Smashing Pumpkins for a brief stint, replacing original Pumpkin bassist D'arcy Wretzky. Courtney Love of Hole and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins are both known as notoriously difficult people to deal with. That alone should earn Auf der Maur some credit.

After leaving the Pumpkins she has released two solo albums 2004's Auf der Maur and 2010s Out of Our Minds.

#4: Tina Weymouth

As the bass player for the Talking Heads she became a key figure in the development of punk and new wave. She was one of the first and most successful modern rock female bass players. This was not only an influence to other females to pick up the bass, but it also encouraged rock bands to consider adding female bass players because of the aesthetic.

Along with her contribution to the Talking Heads she is also known for her work with Tom Tom Club, which she formed with her husband and fellow Talking Heads member Chris Frantz. The Tom Tom Club 1981 hit "Genius of Love" became a frequently sampled tune within the hip hop genre.

Tina Weymouth, bass player of the Talking Heads during a May 13th, 1978 performance at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern.

Tina Weymouth, bass player of the Talking Heads during a May 13th, 1978 performance at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern.

#3: Kim Deal

As the bass player and occasional lead singer of the Pixies, Deal went on to play an integral role in the development of the grunge and alternative rock scene which ended up exploding in the 90s. Even though at times she had to take an artistic backseat to the band's leader Black Francis, she did make some key contributions to the band's sound, including writing a few of their songs.

While still with the Pixies, Kim Deal formed The Breeders as an outlet for more creative control. After the Pixies initial break up, she received her commercial break through with the Breeders 1993 album (their 2nd full length) Last Splash. With the Breeders, Kim Deal abandoned the bass, and was the band's lead singer, guitarist, and chief songwriter.

She ended up joining the reunited Pixies back in 2004. She left the Pixies in 2013. She also has the distinction of being involved with two albums that made Kurt Cobain's Top 50 album list, the Pixies 1988 album Surfer Rosa and The Breeders 1990 debut album Pod.

#2: Suzi Quatro

Suzi Quatro is widely considered to be the first female bassist to become a mainstream rock star. She was definitely a trailblazer when it came to kicking down doors for other female bass players (and musicians in general).

Back in the 60s she started in the all female garage rock band the Pleasure Seekers, which ended up changing their name to Cradle. They released a couple of singles and Quatro received enough attention that she ended up being signed to the successful UK record label RAK Records. She released her self-titled debut in 1973 which featured the #1 UK hit "Can the Can". She went on to have a successful solo career where she has sold over 50 million albums. She continues to regularly tour and her latest album is 2011's In The Spotlight.

A number of female musicians have cited Quatro has a formidable influence. For example, Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads learned to play bass by listening to Quatro's albums.

Suzi Quatro appearing with her backing band during a December 7th, 1973 appearance on the Dutch TV show TopPop.

Suzi Quatro appearing with her backing band during a December 7th, 1973 appearance on the Dutch TV show TopPop.

#1: Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon is the bassist and one of the founding members of influential noise rock band Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth influenced a number of successful grunge and alternate rock acts of the 90s. Most notable was their influence on Nirvana. Sonic Youth are one of the most important rock bands of all time.

Kim Gordon ended up being a key figure in the development of the riot grrrl movement of the 90s. In many ways Gordon became the mother of alternative and underground rock. It would be hard to overstate her considerable influence.

Along with Sonic Youth, Gordon has been involved with a number of other projects, including the all female supergroup Free Kitten and her most recent project Body/Head.

Indie rock bass goddess of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, is playing with her side project Body/Head.

Indie rock bass goddess of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, is playing with her side project Body/Head.

The following list of ten was just a small sampling. There are a number of other female bassists who do their thing. Here is a list of a few more that just barely missed the cut for this list.

More Excellent Female Bassists

NameNotable Band(s)Notes

Laura Ballance


Co-founder of successful indie label Merge Records

Gina Birch


Raincoats was one of Kurt Cobain's favorite bands

Jill Emery

Super Heroines, Hole, Mazzy Star

Played bass on Hole's 1991 debut album, Pretty on the Inside

Jennifer Finch


Nicole Fiorentino

The Smahing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt

Kathy Foster

The Thermals

Also plays drums for the All Girl Summer Fun Band

Jackie Fox

The Runaways

Now a successful attorney and has competed on the game shows The Chase and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?

Debbie Googe

My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream

Sara Lee

Gang of Four, B-52s

Also was part of Robert Fripp's backing band, The League of Gentlemen

Patricia Morrison

Bags, The Gun Club, Sisters of Mercy, The Damned

Michie Nakatani

Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife's 1983 album Burning Farm was listed as one of Kurt Cobain's top 50 albums

Kira Roessler

Black Flag, Dos

Kim Shattuck

The Pandoras, The Muffs, Pixies

Michael Steele

The Runaways, The Bangles

Known as Micki Steele during her brief stint with the Runaways

Josephine Wiggs

The Breeders

Tal Wilkenfeld

Jeff Beck, Solo

Tracy Wormworth

The Waitresses, The B-52s

D'arcy Wretzky

The Smashing Pumpkins

Sean Yseult

White Zombie, The Cramps

Female Bassist Poll

The Smashing Pumpkins Bass Player Poll

Pixies Bassist Poll

Female Bass Player Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Suzi Quatro appeared in a few episodes as musician Leather Tuscadero in what popular TV show?
    • M*A*S*H
    • Happy Days
    • The Brady Bunch
    • The Partridge Family
  2. Kim Gordon produced which of the following albums?
    • Nirvana - Nevermind
    • The Breeders - Last Splash
    • Hole - Pretty on the Inside
    • The Smashing Pumkins - Gish
  3. Kim Gordon co-directed which of the following music videos with Spike Jonze?
    • Sonic Youth - 100%
    • Beastie Boys - Sabotage
    • The Breeders - Cannonball
    • Kanye West - Flashing Lights
  4. Este Haim, along with her sister Danielle were members of which 2000s all girl group?
    • Valli Girls
    • Scarlet Fever
    • 2NE1
    • No Salt
  5. For the Pixies first couple of albums, Kim Deal was credited in the liner notes under which name?
    • Kelly Deal
    • Little Miss Sunshine
    • Mrs. John Murphy
    • Joan Lennon
  6. Tina Weymouth contributed backing vocals and percussion for which UK alternative rock band?
    • Gorillaz
    • Blur
    • Oasis
    • The Smiths
  7. In 2002 Melissa Auf der Maur provided lead vocals for an all female band Hand of Doom, a cover band of which rock band?
    • The Cars
    • Mötley Crüe
    • Iron Maiden
    • Black Sabbath
  8. Hand of Doom also featured which female bass player?
    • Paz Lenchantin
    • Este Haim
    • Suzi Quatro
    • Carol Kaye
  9. Which female bassist played bass on the 1997 Rolling Stone song "Saint of Me"?
    • Carol Kaye
    • Esperanza Spalding
    • Tina Weymouth
    • Meshell Ndegeocello
  10. Esperanza Spalding was personally selected to perform at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize concert by whom?
    • Stevie Wonder
    • Barack Obama
    • Stephen Hawking
    • Pope Francis

Answer Key

  1. Happy Days
  2. Hole - Pretty on the Inside
  3. The Breeders - Cannonball
  4. Valli Girls
  5. Mrs. John Murphy
  6. Gorillaz
  7. Black Sabbath
  8. Paz Lenchantin
  9. Meshell Ndegeocello
  10. Barack Obama

© 2014 CJ Baker

Who is your favorite female bass player? Feel free to leave any other comments.

L Caulum on August 24, 2020:

Where is Marta Altesa's name? Best technical skills I've ever heard/seen. Check her out on YouTube. Incredibly precise. Some can play the notes, she plays the heart.

Rob Marr on April 09, 2020:

Carol Kaye paved the road for all ladies laying down the bottom in the last 40 yrs. She also is a killer Jazz guitarist too. 10000 studio sessions. the Queen of the wrecking crew and a motown studio bassist. A true giant and still playing and teaching at 85 yrs old. And as Quincy Jones says can out read anyone in the business !

Christopher Nowak on December 17, 2019:

What about one of the best jazz bassists from Canada: JODI PROZNICK??!!!

Christopher Nowak on November 24, 2019:

ERIC SMITH: You are wrong. It is not BOHIMI DEY.

MITEL CHAKMA: You are right. It is MOHINI DEY

Mitel Chakma on October 26, 2019:

Maybe the author has no idea about Mohini Dey from India. She is able to beat all of your mentioned female top ten bassists in the post.

I would like to pay your kind attention to more studies on Mohini Dey further that might help you to get a crystal clear idea about Mohini Dey.

Christopher Nowak on October 16, 2019:

Jean Millington from FANNY?!

Anyone who can sing the way she did (the lyrics must have taken a long time to remember in some songs) and play bass at the same time must be good.

She was one hot chick in the 1970s.

It is too bad that she let herself go.

x on September 28, 2019:

What about Jeanie Sagan

Brian Morrissey on June 05, 2019:

Cant believe no Tai.. U mentioned her but she is by far the Best female bassist now... Amazing you are Tai.. Even the great bassist Scott Spray thinks that and for him to say that it has alot of backing.. Tai Tai Taiiiii...

...The crowd is chanting

Eric Smith on May 17, 2019:

Bohimi Dey is the best in the world and you don't even have her listed ... What a bogus list dude.

Joel Tatelman on January 26, 2019:

I'd like to add to your list Laura Lee, bassist for the trio Khruangbin. Managed to see them in concert a few times since 2015. Highly recommended!

Don on August 06, 2018:

How can you forget Tomomi Ogawa from the JRock band, Scandal!!?

Bob Slade on March 07, 2018:

I can’t believe a female bass player list without Janice Marie Johnson from A Taste Of Honey

Vlad Shishkin on February 12, 2018:

And what about Sveta Nagaeva from Messer Chups ?!

Todd on February 03, 2018:

F Chopper KOGA (Gacharic Spin, DOLL$BOXX) needs to be mentioned somewhere in this article, one of the best.

Jean Hunte on December 24, 2017:

Rhonda Smith, Tracy Wormworth, and Tal, these women are masters of their instruments, what else can I say but listen to them

djrich on June 03, 2017:

You missed out Alex Gehring!

So on October 08, 2016:

Do you know Mademoiselle K ?!

timmayeh on September 11, 2016:


Dan on August 24, 2016:

Tal Wilkenfeld

SanAntonio501 on April 29, 2016:

I was expecting to see Emma Anzai from sick puppies. She's a very talented hard rock bassist :)

dave on August 24, 2015:

Tal Wilkenfeld fan here! Talented and sexy!

CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on April 19, 2015:

Hey John,

I agree! Lenchatin stage presence is total magic! Thanks for the read and comment!

John Albu from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102 on April 19, 2015:

A lady with a bass is such a beautiful sight to see in most cases! Especially Lenchantin's stage presence is totally otherworldly, left alone her technical playing ability!

Mick V on March 06, 2015:

I think that someone has forgotten Gail Ann Dorsey!...

MickV on March 05, 2015:

I remember Sophia Burn from The Veils. I saw them live in Lisbon and i was hypnotized by her... so cut and cool!

XontheP on January 24, 2015:

Not to take anything away from Carol Kaye's accomplishments and contributions, Robert Shakespeare of "Sly and Robbie" fame is probably the king of session bassists. Per Wikipedia: "Sly and Robbie are estimated to have played on or produced 200,000 recordings..."

And Tal Wilkenfeld as a sidenote? I understand music appreciation is subjective, but really?

Jamie on September 09, 2014:

Check out Jenny Lee Lindberg of Warpaint. She's perfect.

CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on September 08, 2014:

Thanks for the read and the comment! Glad that we share the Kim Gordon and Tina Weymouth love! Thanks for sharing one of your own personal favorite female bassist pick.

Thomas Bensen from Wisconsin on September 08, 2014:

Great article with some real talent mentioned Kim Gordon and Tina Weymouth among my favorites but one that you didn't list that I would have put up there is Emma Anzai of the Sick Puppies.

CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on May 21, 2014:

Jeannieinabottle, thanks for the read and the comment. I agree with you about the Bangles. Even though they had a decent amount of commercial success they were unappreciated in other ways.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on May 21, 2014:

I am happy to see Michael Steele listed, even if she did not make the Top 10 list. I always felt like the Bangles was a much more talented band than people thought. I think most people felt they were "girl pop" but they actually wrote most of their own songs and played all their own instruments. Their best rock songs were typically not played on the radio. Such a shame!

MingusTheCat on May 07, 2014:

Being a bass player myself I tend to gravitate towards those technical players... always with the thought that I can learn something from them, and in fact Tal, MeShell and Esperanza have all done things that have made me pick up my bass and try certain things after listening to them. They're inspiring. I get where you're coming from with vibe and aesthetics though. Some of the players on your top 10 might not be as technical, but they are certainly entertaining.

CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on May 07, 2014:

Thanks for the read and the comment MingusTheCat! I agree with you about Spalding, she just has a certain irresistible vibe about her. I did had Wilkenfeld on my honorable mention list. She was left off partly because I wasn't as familiar with her as some of the other ladies, but in terms of pure technical chops she probably deserves a spot (even though this list was also based on things like vibe and contribution to the band's aesthetics). Also you got to love the bass face!

MingusTheCat on May 07, 2014:

Interesting list of musicians. I was glad to see you have MeShell Ndegeocello on the list (I was hoping you would before I perused the list). One of my favorite musicians/bass players (male or female)... And I think I want to have Esperanza Spalding's love child. And I'm a guy. And I would carry it to term and give birth to it myself. I myself would have probably put Tal Wilkenfeld somewhere in the top 10... Someone who plays with a style and capability seemingly beyond her years, and it seems she keeps getting better. Definitely a force to be reckoned with.

I think Esta Haim and Pat Metheny should have a "faceoff"... Which one has the more intense "game face" during a performance d'ya suppose?


CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on March 15, 2014:

Thanks Teaches! I am glad that you were able to learn something and that my hub served as an introduction to some truly talented female bass players.

Dianna Mendez on March 15, 2014:

Well, I learned much from your post. I have not heard any of these talented artists, but I admire their talent and creative art style.

CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on March 03, 2014:

Thanks for the read and comment, FatFreddysCat! I did have Sean Yseault in my some more female bassists list at the end of the article and I was seriously considering her for my list of 10. Thanks for mentioning Jo Bench, since I'm not overly familiar with the death/grind scene I will have to check it out!

Keith Abt from The Garden State on March 03, 2014:

Neat list, Spartucus. I can think of two other female bass players that didn't make your list: Sean Yseault of White Zombie) and Jo Bench of the U.K. based grind/death metal band Bolt Thrower. Jo's a particularly unique presence because there aren't many ladies in the death/grind scene!

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