Throughout the evolution of contemporary music, 5 string bassists were an integral part in establishing concepts, as well as exploring uncharted sonic territory. From gospel to prog rock, jazz to metal, a wide range of genres benefited from the extra low B string that 5 string bass guitars could offer.
Since Fender introduced the Fender Bass V in 1965, music has never been the same. Just like Leo Fender, throngs of bass guitarists were equally hungry for innovation and the 5 string bass has given them a new avenue to pursue more creative ideas.
For about half a century, the music industry has produced some of the most kick-ass 5 string bass players in the world and here are some of them:
Alex Webster came into prominence as death metal band Cannibal Corpse’s low-end enforcer. His grinding 5-string assault is a perfect complement to the intense brutal sound that made the legendary 90s group one of the most influential extreme metal acts of all time.
Aside from inflicting damage on Cannibal Corpse fans’ eardrums, Alex Webster can also be heard utilizing his diverse technical chops with progressive instrumental metal supergroups Blotted Science and Conquering Dystopia. At 52 years of age, Webster shows no signs of slowing down as he ventures deeper into a more technically-challenging metal domain.
Very few bass players can match the prolific resume of Nathan East, a well-known session musician who has about 2,000 recorded songs under his belt. The well-rounded pop, r&b and jazz bassist has shared his groove-making skills with the likes of Anita Baker, The Bee Gees, Chick Corea, Daft Punk, Herbie Hancock, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Toto to name a few. Moreover, East also dazzles as a part of the highly-successful smooth jazz quartet Fourplay.
Nathan East’s flawless bass playing style is tremendously in-demand in the music industry, making his signature 5-string Yamaha BBNE2 one of the most heard basses in the world.
Whenever you think of 5 string bassists, Roscoe Beck is one of the names that immediately comes to mind. A part of this can be attributed to his iconic 1996 Fender Roscoe Beck V signature bass, one of the most unique bass designs in the guitar giant’s expansive catalog.
Roscoe Beck is well-known for his solid “in the pocket” bass playing that made him one of the most sought-after session bassists. Guitarists Eric Johnson, Robben Ford and Stevie Ray Vaughan, country music group The Dixie Chicks, as well as Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, could all attest to the superb bass skills of Roscoe Beck.
Together with speed guitar demon/frontman Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson formed the band Megadeth in 1983 and became one of the cornerstones of the thrash metal movement. Dubbed the “Big Four” along with Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer, Megadeth filled countless stadiums with their distinct brand of fast-paced, politically-charged metal.
For decades, David Ellefson provided Megadeth the slickest basslines that you won’t hear anywhere in metal. Utilizing his favorite 5-string Jackson basses including his signature models, Ellefson was definitely a powerful silent force that helped propel Megadeth to metal stardom.
During the peak of the nu metal movement of the 2000s, one band stood above the rest in terms of challenging the norms. Groups such as Korn, Limp Bizkit and Sevendust have already established their sound, while everyone else is trying their best to avoid being labeled as cliched and unoriginal.
Fueled by 5 string bassist Ryan Martinie’s aggressive slapping techniques and complex rhythmic patterns, Mudvayne made heads turn with their fresh take on a genre that has already been pouring into mainstream consciousness for the past couple of years. With the help of Martinie’s bass playing style which combines elements of fusion jazz and mathcore, Mudvayne came and conquered a heavily-crowded nu metal scene that was at its absolute peak.
Although not a purely 5 string bassist, Jeff Berlin deserves to be on the list of any bass category, since the man is one of the best in the low-end business. Whether as a solo artist or as a side musician, Jeff Berlin has cemented himself as one of the premier jazz fusion bassists of all time.
Along with eleven albums on his solo discography, Berlin has also recorded and performed with acclaimed artists such as fusion guitar god Allan Holdworth, R&B/jazz singer Patti Austin, and progressive drummer Bill Bruford.
Crab-walking, hulking bass player Robert Trujillo, is an easily-recognizable figure in all of rock music, especially when he joined metal juggernauts Metallica. But his excellent bass work goes way back to the 80s when he was a member of crossover thrash group Suicidal Tendencies, a band which played a significant role in sharpening Trujillo’s bass abilities.
After his 6-year stint with Suicidal Tendencies, Trujillo went on to perform with Black Label Society, Jerry Cantrell and Ozzy Osbourne before joining Metallica. Throughout his career, the muscular rock and roll hall of famer favored using 5-string basses for the majority of his recordings and live performances.
Last but not the least, we got Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu of Korn, who is hands down, the most unusual bass player in the rock arena. Far from the typical bass style, Fieldy employed a very percussive approach to the instrument while making use of deep sub-bass tones similar to what you’ll usually hear in dub, hip hop and electronic music.
Korn will always be credited for creating the spark that gave rise to the nu metal movement and for changing the landscape of modern rock forever. However, this evolutionary process in metal wouldn’t be possible without 5 string bassist Fieldy’s inspiring presence.