Many great female bass players have left their mark across genres and decades. From rock to funk to jazz, these ladies have proven that they can hold their own against any man on the bass! Unfortunately, their names often go unnoticed.
To celebrate them, in this article, we’re going to take a look at the lives and careers of 20 of the greatest and most famous female bass players you should know about.
1. Esperanza Spalding
Jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding was the first and only jazz artist to win a Grammy award as Best New Artist.
She was a child prodigy, already performing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon at only five years old as a violinist. She is so talented in music, teaching herself to play the guitar and bass all on her own, that she earned multiple scholarships for prestigious universities.
Years down the line, Esperanza made a name for herself as a world-class musician and one of the best jazz bass players of her generation.
Her signature bass playing is notable for its harmonious tone, which gives her songs a bright and joyful feel. With complex harmonies, melodic bass, and rich vocals, she has made one gem after another.
2. Tina Weymouth
Martina Michèle Weymouth, better known as Tina Weymouth, is the bass player for the rock band Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.
She started her career early at age 12, being part of the music group Potomac English Hand Bell Ringers. She is a self-taught musician, learning to play the guitar at 14, and is now one of the most successful bassists in modern rock.
She uses articulation, space, and a keen sense of note length to assist the rhythm of her music. Her style has a distinct edgy vibe and is marked by syncopated notes, which add boldness.
3. Kim Gordon
The bassist and a founding member of the prominent punk-rock band Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon was an artist first before eventually becoming a musician.
When she moved to New York City after her college graduation in the hopes of establishing an art career, she discovered no-wave bands, a kind of Avante Garde music that was popular in the art scene in the 1970s.
Since then, Gordon has made an indelible mark on the alternative-rock genre with her rock-solid low end and rhythmic bass lines. Her meaty and punk bass lines, which were quite influential in the rising grunge era of the 1980s, are one of her most striking styles.
Aside from her work with Sonic Youth, Gordon is also the founding member of another alternative-rock band, Free Kitten.
4. Carol Kaye
One of the most prolific bassists in all history, Carol Kaye is known to have played around 10,000 recordings in her long career beginning in the late 1950s.
The interesting thing about Kaye was that she didn’t intend to be a bass guitarist when she began her career. While doing session work at Gold Star Studios, the bassist didn’t show up, prompting Kaye to fill in their place.
Since then, Kaye has become a music legend. Looking over her record will give you a sense of how diverse she is. She’s done it all: funk, rock, acoustic, pop, and salsa.
Her bass style includes melodic and rhythmic sounds, besides those techniques like inserting a piece of felt between the strings to enhance the sound of the bass.
5. Tal Wilkenfeld
Australian bass guitarist Tal Wilkenfeld is more than just an instrument player. She is also a singer and songwriter who has her own mark in the music industry as a solo artist.
She gained fame after sharing the stage with some of the most well-known names in rock and jazz music, including Herbie Hancock and Jeff Beck.
Wilkenfeld’s music covers a variety of genres, including rock, folk, funk, and jazz. On alternative/indie tunes, her creative bass playing techniques are clear; she uses flat-wound strings to generate warm and harmonious sounds.
She is also a multi-awarded artist, being voted as “The Year’s Most Exciting New Player” in 2008 and winning Bass Player Magazine‘s “Young Gun Award” five years later.
6. Kim Deal
Best known as the Pixies bassist and occasional lead singer, Kim Deal is a multi-instrumentalist musician who also played a key role in the growth of grunge.
Deal’s breathy vocals, powerful bass lines, and memorable hooks raised the Pixies to a new level. Pixies’ signature sound may best be defined as a blend of punk, rock, and pop, thanks to her unique strategy of using old bass strings.
After the Pixies hiatus in the late 1980s, Deal formed the alternative rock band the Breeders. She was also part of the Amps, a short-lived band during the mid-1990s.
Throughout her career, she has adopted several stage names, more particularly Mrs. John Murphy during her stint with the Pixies and Tammy Ampersand with the Amps.
7. Aimee Mann
The bassist and lead singer for a Boston-based new wave band Til Tuesday, Aimee Mann is a two-time Grammy-awarded musician. NPR Music even included her in the Top 10 Greatest Living Songwriters list in 2006.
In fact, she was the songwriter behind Til Tuesday’s hit single “Voices Carry.” Her bass playing, like her songwriting, has a minimalist refinement to it. With simple yet well-thought-out phrases, she has an extraordinary skill for creating enigmatic songs.
After Til Tuesday disbanded in 1990, she pursued her solo career, further cementing her fame. Her songs didn’t meet that much commercial success, but her songs “I Should’ve Known,” “That’s Just What You Are,” and “Going Through The Motions” are well-loved by fans.
8. Suzi Quatro
Susan Kay Quatro, more known by her stage name Suzi Quatro, began her career with the garage rock band The Pleasure Seekers, which was renamed Cradle.
Quatro was the first female bassist to break into the mainstream of rock music. One of Suzi’s distinctive techniques is her lengthy bass guitar solos during her performances, as well as her impressive singing talent and distinctive stylish leather jumpsuits.
Among her biggest achievements were winning a record six Bravo Ottos, an award for music, film, and television excellence in Germany. Aside from being a talented musician, Quatro is also radio broadcaster, who remains active in that field until today.
9. Sean Yseult
Born Shauna Reynolds, Sean Yseult is a multi-talented woman who is a photographer, a novelist, and a heavy metal bassist.
In her youth, she also studied piano, violin, and ballet. As such, she has worked in various media and had a strong interest in the visual arts.
Sean is best known for her stint as the bassist for the heavy metal band White Zombie. She later formed another band, Famous Monsters, after White Zombie ceased to play music in 1998.
Currently, she is pursuing a photography and design career, launching one exhibit to another. She and her musician husband, Chris Lee of Supagroup, also founded a dive bar for musicians and artists.
10. Gail Ann Dorsey
Best known as a member of David Bowie’s band, Gail Ann Dorsey is not just a bass guitarist but also a vocalist, songwriter, and screenplay writer.
She was gifted a bass guitar on her 14th birthday but didn’t really take to heart that she would become a bass guitarist until six years later. Her main background, however, wasn’t in music but in film, becoming a writer for screenplays during her earlier days.
When she was 22, she pursued a music career in London, eventually landing a part in David Bowie’s band. She was with his band for a great length of time, from 1995 to 2016.
On the live version of the iconic 1980s song “Under Pressure,” Dorsey sang the parts for Freddie Mercury while also generating the song’s legendary basslines.
In addition to her work with David Bowie, she was collaborate with several other notable singers such as Lenny Kravitz and Gwen Stefani, to name a few, and has released three solo albums.
11. Melissa Auf Der Maur
Canadian singer, songwriter, photographer, and actress Melissa Auf Der Maur is best known for forming Tinker, an indie rock band in the early 1990s.
Her bass playing has influenced mainly alternative-rock music. She was a master at customizing the sound and attitude of the song, with a dose of originality and creativity that could carry the whole song forward.
Aside from her work with Tinker, she was also the bassist for the rock band Hole. She also had a brief stint with alternative-rock band The Smashing Pumpkins, as well as projects like The Chelsea and Hand of Doom.
She also led a solo music career, releasing two studio albums and two extended plays (EPs). Her single “Followed The Waves” topped the US and UK charts, including two other songs from her debut album.
12. Kathy Valentine
Born Kathryn Valentine, Kathi Valentine is a singer-songwriter, record producer, and author, best known as the bassist of pop-punk band The Go-Go.
The unique thing about The Go-Go is that it’s the first and only all-female band to have a #1 album in the US, and Valentine’s superb bass-guitar skills are one of the many reasons for their popularity.
The band sounded like no one else had ever sounded before. They had a dynamic effervescence, with a shimmering, spangled pulse. Valentine’s bass style is very tasteful and distinct that in 2021, she was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
More than a musician, Valentine is also a published author and has a degree in both English and Fine Arts. She is also the producer of the rock band Motorbaby’s album Rise.
13. Paz Lenchantin
Argentine-American musician Paz Lenchantin is one of the most skilled bass players in modern history. Besides playing bass, she is also an accomplished violinist, pianist, and vocalist.
She is best known as part of the alternative-rock band Pixies after founding member and original bassist Kim Deal left the group. She has also worked with other rock bands such as Silver Jews and Zwan, just to name a few, either playing strings or bass.
Her technique is a delicate mix of bringing a distinct flavor to the song with her bass lines while not overshadowing the song itself.
She also explored a solo career in the early 2000s, releasing two albums, but didn’t meet that much commercial success.
14. Kristen Pfaff
Nineties rock icon Kristen Pfaff was most known for her work with the alternative rock band Hole as their bassist.
As a child, she studied the piano and cello, and she learned to play the bass guitar on her own. In her short career, she was most notably a skilled bassist and a gifted songwriter.
Prior to joining Hole, she was one of the founding members rock band Janitor Joe, playing as their bassist and their vocalist. She eventually left the band to join Hole, which proved to be a good move for her career.
Sadly, her blooming career was prematurely cut short after she died of a heroin overdose in 1994. She was only 27 years old, making her part of the urban legend 27 Club.
15. D’arcy Wretzky
D’arcy Elizabeth Wretzky-Brown, sometimes known mononymously as D’arcy, was the Smashing Pumpkins’s original bass player.
She knew from a young age that her dream was to be a musician. She has set her sights on this dream since she was 10 years old. However, a few years into her stint with Smashing Pumpkins, she left the group to pursue an acting career.
Wretzky wasn’t a perfect bassist by any means, but she was bold. Her powerful stage presence, ever-changing aesthetic, and bright lipstick helped define the ’90s music scene’s grunge style.
16. Meshell Ndegeocello
Michelle Lynn Johnson, more known by her stage name Meshell Ndegeocello, is a multi-talented singer-songwriter, rapper, and one of the best female bass players of all time.
She is even considered an influential figure in the neo-soul genre. Her unique style is a beautiful mix of soul, jazz, reggae, funk, hip hop, and rock.
She’s best known as the only bassist on this list who has played with iconic rock band The Rolling Stones. She is also associated with other famous acts, such as Madonna, Benson Taylor, and Chaka Khan.
Aside from being a musician, she is an activist for many causes, most notably with LGBTQ+ project It Gets Better, being a bisexual herself.
17. Mohini Dey
Bengali Indian musician Mohini Dey is one of the world’s — and India’s — most promising electric bass players. And no doubt, as she is the daughter of another bass guitarist, Sujoy Dey.
Her soulful talent and incredible connection with her instrument are an addition to her performance. Many well-known musicians have referred to Mohini as a prodigy.
She has become an in-demand session musician, performing live and in the studio for a variety of musicians in India and around the world.
Some of her most notable collaborations are with Jordan Rudess of the metal band Dream Theater, German musician Marco Minnemann, and Indian record producer A. R. Rahman
18. Rhonda Smith
Canadian bass guitarist Rhonda Smith is best known for her tours and collaborations with the iconic Prince, setting the bar high on many levels of bass playing excellence.
She has a very discerning taste for great basslines, which goes beyond her clear raw talent.
Aside from her decade-long stint with Prince, she has also performed with other notable musicians such as Beyoncé, Chaka Khan, and Erykah Badu.
In 2000, she explored a solo career and released her first album, Intellipop. She is still touring and releasing new music as a solo artist and in collaboration with others until today.
19. Tracy Wormworth
American bass guitarist Tracy Wormworth is a world-class musician, best known as the bassist for new wave band B-52s.
She comes from a musical family, the daughter of Jimmy Wormworth who is a jazz drummer, the brother of James Wormworth who is also a drummer like his dad, and the sister of Mary Wormworth who is a vocalist.
In spite of her two-decade stint with B-52, she has also worked with several popular artists, such as Cyndi Lauper, Sting, Little Richard, and Joan Osborne.
Wormworth has worked in the music and television industries in the US for more than three decades.
20. Divinity Roxx
Also known as MC Divinity and D. Walker, Divinity Roxx is a bass guitarist, composer, and rapper. She is known for her wide range of music, from R&B, rock, soul, to funk.
Although she rose to fame after touring with Beyoncé for five years, she had made a name for herself with her ability to combine tongue-twisting yet forceful rapping with strong, unparalleled bass guitar solos.
With her unique talent, she has explored a solo career beginning in 2003, releasing three albums thus far. She has also worked with other notable artists such as Black Eyed Peas’s will.i.am, South Korean girl group 2NE1, and fellow bassist Victor Wooten, just to name a few.
Rounding Up Our List Of Popular Female Bass Guitarists
With new emerging talents, every field gets brighter, more vivid, and more creative, and each of the above-listed bass players has brought their own creative touch to the iconic instrument.
Be sure to look up some of these great bass players on YouTube and listen to their remarkable performances!