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The Top Ten Female Bass Guitar Players

Updated on November 21, 2016

Top 10 Female Bass Players

I 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.

Concerning the aesthetic that it adds 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. Speaking of Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, when he formed his side project Zwan, it also had a female bassist. That female bassist Paz Lenchantin (formerly of A Perfect Circle) currently plays bass for the Pixies. Concerning the Pixies they have had three bass players, and they have all been female. Concerning Pixies original bass player Kim Deal, she joined the band after responding to an advertisement specifically looking for a female bassist. In these instances, 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.

Paz Lenchantin

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. | Source

Female Bassist Poll

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#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.

Paz Lenchantin (The Entrance Band) - Temptation (Video)

Este Haim

Este Haim of Haim playing bass and drums.
Este Haim of Haim playing bass and drums. | Source

#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.

Haim - Reading + Leeds Festival 2013 Set (Video)

#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.

Meshell Ndegeocello - Dead End (Video)

#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.

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.

Carol Kaye - Better Days (Video)

Esperanza Spalding

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Esperanza Spalding quite often alternates between upright bass and bass guitar.
Esperanza Spalding quite often alternates between upright bass and bass guitar.
Esperanza Spalding quite often alternates between upright bass and bass guitar. | Source
Source

#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.

Esperanza Spalding - I Know You Know (Live Nobel Peace Prize Concert) (Video)

#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.

Melissa Auf der Maur - Follow the Waves (Video)

The Smashing Pumpkins Bass Player Poll

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#4: Tina Weymouth

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. | Source

#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.

Talking Heads - Psycho Killer (Video)

#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.

Pixies - Gigantic (Video)

Pixies Bassist Poll

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Suzi Quatro

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. | Source

#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 - Can The Can (Video)

Kim Gordon

Indie rock bass goddess of Sonic Youth is playing with her side project Body/Head.
Indie rock bass goddess of Sonic Youth is playing with her side project Body/Head. | Source

#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.

The Riot Grrrl Movement

The riort grrrl movement was a 90s underground feminist punk movement. Their music quite often addressed important female related social issues such as rape, domestic abuse and gender equality. Important riot grrrl bands included L7, Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy and Sleater-Kinney.

Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot (live) (Video)

Even More Female Bass Players

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.

Some More Female Bassists

Name
Notable Band(s)
Notes
Laura Ballance
Superchunk
Co-founder of successful indie label Merge Records
Gina Birch
Raincoats
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
L7
 
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 Bass Player Quiz


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© 2014 CJ Baker

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

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    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 3 years ago from The Garden State

      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!

    • spartucusjones profile image
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      CJ Baker 3 years ago from Parts Unknown

      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!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      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.

    • spartucusjones profile image
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      CJ Baker 3 years ago from Parts Unknown

      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.

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      MingusTheCat 3 years ago

      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?

      Cheers...

    • spartucusjones profile image
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      CJ Baker 3 years ago from Parts Unknown

      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!

    • profile image

      MingusTheCat 3 years ago

      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.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 3 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      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!

    • spartucusjones profile image
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      CJ Baker 3 years ago from Parts Unknown

      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.

    • bensen32 profile image

      Thomas Bensen 2 years ago from Round Lake Park

      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.

    • spartucusjones profile image
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      CJ Baker 2 years ago from Parts Unknown

      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.

    • profile image

      Jamie 2 years ago

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

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      XontheP 2 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      MickV 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Mick V 2 years ago

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

    • John Albu profile image

      John Albu 2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102

      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!

    • spartucusjones profile image
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      CJ Baker 2 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Hey John,

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

    • profile image

      dave 23 months ago

      Tal Wilkenfeld fan here! Talented and sexy!

    • profile image

      SanAntonio501 15 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Dan 11 months ago

      Tal Wilkenfeld

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      timmayeh 10 months ago

      GAIL ANN DORSEY!!!!

    • profile image

      So 9 months ago

      Do you know Mademoiselle K ?!

    • profile image

      djrich 7 weeks ago

      You missed out Alex Gehring!

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