The Cliche Female Bassist That A Lot Of Bands Seem To Have

How come when bands have a female member she's always the bassist? Is it because it's the easiest instrument to play? What are the drawbacks and perks? I will attempt to answer these questions with plenty of rambling in between.

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As a naive fifteen year old girl who, up until several years ago had only heard of Hayley Williams as far as female band members go, I was pretty sure that rock and alternative music was male-dominated.

I think I knew one or two Paramore songs, yet Hayley Williams was my hero. She had awesome hair, and a great voice, and she was in a band with four other guys. How cool was that? Pretty cool to a thirteen year old girl.

I had a life-changing revelation one day that rock music on the radio was pretty much unheard of, and the pop crap they were feeding to the masses wasn't even worth listening to. With this in mind, I Googled many rock abnds that I had heard of but never heard. Nirvana, The White Stripes, The Strokes, and The Hives, just to name a few. One of them happened to be The Smashing Pumpkins. Why? Because I had simply heard of them, and they were cool in the world of rock music. Maybe even iconic. I felt like I should familiarize myself with them.

I started with the album 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,' remembering that I had seen it impressively high on a list of 1995's greatest albums. I was impressed right away, with both the lyrics and music. Then, like the total nerd I was, I found their Wikipedia page and read it in full.

I was absolutely fascinated to discover that they had a female bassist. I had always thought that girls could only be vocalists in bands. I wasn't completely ignorant; I knew that girls played instruments. I myself played piano, guitar and bass at that point, the latter two being self-taught, so I was aware that girls were capable of playing instruments.

I knew there were famous female singers who also played guitar, such as Taylor Swift, Jewel, and Sheryl Crow. But girls playing rock music in bands? That idea was completely foreign to me.

Darcy Wretzky, bassist of the Smashing Pumpkins, became my new hero. I knew she wasn't the ideal role model. In fact, she caused a lot of drama in the band, bad break-ups, drug use, what have you. Nope. I didn't care. She was amazing in my eyes. She still is. So why is it that when bands have a female member, it's safe to assume that she's the bassist? Just off the top of my head, some other bands with female bassists include Mindless Self Indulgence, Silversun Pickups, Hole, My Bloody Valentine, All that Remains, Black Flag, even Jeff Beck had a female bassist for a while. So yes, it is undeniable that many bands have female bassists.

Could this be because it is perhaps one of the easier instruments in the band? Maybe. First of all, what makes bass easier than guitar? The fretboard is huge, the strings are thick and hard to press down, and the instrument itself is heavy. What's easy about it? Well, there are no chords. Often, notes are played repetitively, maybe eight or sixteen times in a row. It's usually used as the spine of a song, sometimes not even audible in studio recordings. This annoys me to no end. Bass is an amazing instrument and should be used properly.

But maybe girls are in this mindset: Hey, if I mess up, no one's even gonna hear my mistake. It's a breeze. No pressure. Nice and easy.

What with all the male rock stars out there, they're probably a little discouraged and afraid to take challenges. That could be one reason.

But keep in mind, there are all-girl rock bands such as The Like and Plastisinces. That obviously means that they have female drummers and guitarists. Skillet has a female drummer and guitarist. Neon Trees and The Whits Stripes have a female drummer also. So, really, not all female band members are necessarily the bassists.

It could be cool to have a female bassist in your band, or a female anything for that matter. You'll follow in the footsteps of a lot of iconic artists, and it tends to fascinate people when bands have female members. Therefore, you'll be more interesting and a little more memorable.

Attention female bassists: make your band's music worth listening to. Don't always just follow your rhythm guitarist for the easy way out. Make people say, hey, she's really got talent. Take some lessons, learn some Muse songs. You're the coolest band member, take my word for it.

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Mithaearon
    THis is meant to be nasty but are young people really this naieve about what has come before them in rock? I really enjoyed this article for this aspect and gave a little smile at the mention of the Smashing Pumpkins. Perhaps I can help the auther discover some more heavy rock bands with all (or mostly) female members in: 7 Year Bitch L7 Hole The Smears (UK) Grim Dylan Vice Squad Girlfixer Husbands N Knives Japanese Voyeurs 4 Non Blondes Sleeper The Distillers The Front Nemhain The Breeders Females in rock (especially punk) is more common than you think Remember there is more to music than the mainstream. In the UK we even have a fanzine dedicated to female punk, metal and alt rock musicans called Bitchslap. Good article though.
    hec_exe
    Kittie is a all girl metal band, lenny kravits drummer is a girl, steve vai violinist is a girl too
    Evews333
    Um...I'm pretty sure Jeff Beck's bassist was his daughter...but as soon as I saw this article, I thought Silversun Pickups and you mentioned them, which made me happy.
    heyitsalyssa
    Evews333 wrote: Um...I'm pretty sure Jeff Beck's bassist was his daughter...but as soon as I saw this article, I thought Silversun Pickups and you mentioned them, which made me happy.
    Jeff Beck's bassist was named Tal Wilkenfeld. She might still be his bassist, I'm not totally sure. (:
    heyitsalyssa
    Mithaearon wrote: THis is meant to be nasty but are young people really this naieve about what has come before them in rock? I really enjoyed this article for this aspect and gave a little smile at the mention of the Smashing Pumpkins. Perhaps I can help the auther discover some more heavy rock bands with all (or mostly) female members in: 7 Year Bitch L7 Hole The Smears (UK) Grim Dylan Vice Squad Girlfixer Husbands N Knives Japanese Voyeurs 4 Non Blondes Sleeper The Distillers The Front Nemhain The Breeders Females in rock (especially punk) is more common than you think Remember there is more to music than the mainstream. In the UK we even have a fanzine dedicated to female punk, metal and alt rock musicans called Bitchslap. Good article though.
    Um thanks haha (: And that's a pretty impressive list so thank you for opening my eyes
    toasterjoe70
    dude id give advice to stop making alternative rock bands ladies lol do something new and fresh or something that is worth while!
    xharass_natox
    Maybe I can help with the Alternative/Indie aspect too: Kaki King, Drag (UK), The Dogbones (UK), Dresden Dolls, Amy Ray, The Butchies, The Cliks, Hunter Valentine, Auf der Maur, Horrorpops, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, K's Choice, Skunk Anansie, L.P, Organ, Scarling, Sleater-Kinney, Spinnere tte, Team Dresch, Tegan and Sara, The Donnas, The Runaways, Visqueen, Bratmobile, The Gits, The Slits, 7 Year Bitch, Babes in Toyland, Bangs, Betty Blowtorch, Bikini Kill, Bitch Alert, Chicks On Speed, Devotchkas, Elastica, Erase Errata, Girlschool, Go Betty Go. Please don't ever think women in music doesn't happen, in most countries there is a thriving scene - these bands may never come to the attention of the masses but they are making viable music. In my own city there are at least 4 bands (including my own) that are completely female, many more with female musicians.
    powerfist
    i like your reasoning but if you think girls cant play instruments? look up Orianthi.
    heyitsalyssa
    powerfist wrote: i like your reasoning but if you think girls cant play instruments? look up Orianthi.
    i've seen orianthi in concert! she's awesome
    ravenouscabbage
    Was the same for me. its too bad that rock music is so shit now, not just because of the 'female-fronted' band fad, but just in general. the 80's was great for women in rock. Suzi Quatro is an brilliant female bassist she definitely doesnt follow the guitarists. and the runaways all rocked esp. Sandy West - one of the greatest drummers of all time
    garethfire
    Why did everyone forgot about The Subways? They are playing very high-energy garage rock and they have girl bassist, she does backing vox and looks pretty cool And, she doesn't follow guitarist's part, her lines sound good and are nice to play. Try, 4ex, Shake! Shake! or Oh Yeah! Yeah, the girl is quite talented
    tex.shelters
    Savages is a recent, hard-rocking, all women band. I would like to put in a word for Sara Lee, Gang of Four's bassist for their second and third more funk punk albums from the group. Then she moved to the States and was doing studio work and later played with the B-52s. PTxS
    Shaydee13
    Why wasn't Evanescence listed? Amy Lee might be the only female in the band, but their still a kick-butt band! I enjoy the fact that it's easy to relate to many of their song like "Everybody's Fool".