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Female Rockers Play Bass

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"Our songs are unique, but let's face it: without a mysterious-looking girl in our rhythm section, we have zero hope of any real exposure."
The Hard Times, "All-Male Band Just Waiting to Meet the Right Girl Bassist"
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In the popular imagination, the bass guitar is the feminine rock band instrument. Odds are, if there's an "alternative", rocker chick character, she'll play the bass. And since rock bands can have at most one female member, she'll be the bassist.

This goes hand in hand with other musician stereotypes. Since drummers stereotypically require strength and physicality and the lead guitarist gets all the girls, men gravitate to those roles, leaving the less-competitive bass player positions open for women to gain a foothold. It also often goes along with Nobody Loves the Bassist: the position is typically seen as the "least essential" member of a band, so being a girl is often seen as the female bassist's main contribution. Compounding this with the phallic imagery associated with guitars — including bass guitars — her job is to add sex appeal or otherwise pander to the audience.

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There are, however, other reasons the bass can be seen as the feminine instrument. As the rhythm and core of the sound, the bass can be considered The Heart among the instruments, lending itself to female musicians who might be more willing to play a support role.

This stereotype can be considered tokenizing, with the implication that female bassists aren't "real musicians". However, some of the most famous real-life examples, like Suzi Quatro, Tina Weymouth, or Kim Gordon, were Lead Bassists and defined their bands' sounds. More broadly, female bassists can be seen as trailblazers in the male-dominated rock genre and inspiration to generations of female musicians.

Compare Male Band, Female Singer and Five-Man Band, which put the Token Girl in a different role. Remember that Aversions are not notable and Real Life examples cannot be Played With.

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Formerly known as the Suzi Quatro Principle.


Examples

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    Real Life Musicians 
  • The Hardcore Punk band Black Flag had a female bass player, Kira Roessler, from 1983-1985. This was the only time they had a woman in the group.
  • Jo Bench served as the bassist of Death Metal/Grindcore band Bolt Thrower for 29 years out of the band's 30-year run, playing on all the band's albums and serving as one of the earliest examples of women in extreme metal.
  • 1960s session bassist Carol Kaye was often the only female instrumentalist in studio backing bands in which she played.
  • Johnette Napolitano was the only female member of Concrete Blonde, an Alternative Rock band. She also sang lead vocals and participated as a songwriter.
  • Korean Skate Punk Rock Trio Drinking Boys and Girls Choir has Meena Bae as their bassist and only female member.
  • Brenda Sauter was the bassist for The Feelies (an Indie Rock group) during much of their run and its only female member.
  • Fucked Up bassist Sandy Miranda is the only woman in their regular lineup. Damien Abraham, Mike Haliechuk, and Jonah Falco are the main minds behind the band's songwriting.
  • Bass player Rhett Crowe was the sole female member of the Jangle Pop band Guadalcanal Diary.
  • Melvins, while mostly all-male, briefly had a female bassist in Lori Black.
  • Argentinean band El Otro Yo has Maria Fernanda Aldana, bassist and part-time vocalist and songwriter (alongside her brother, guitarist and lead of the band Cristian Aldana). Most of the time it's Cristian the main singer and songwriter while she does the chorus and also sings occasionally, depending on the song.
  • Argentinean rock band Las Pelotas has bassist and back-vocalist Gabriela Martínez, the only female member of the group.
  • Alt-Rockers The Pixies had bass player Kim Deal as a member for several years. After she left to join The Breedersnote , they replaced her with another female bassist.
  • Throughout various lineup changes, Smashing Pumpkins have always had a female bassist, who was the only female member prior to the 2000s reunion. D'Arcy Wretzky, their original bassist, gets hit with the Nobody Loves the Bassist aspect the most — fans commonly speculate that Billy Corgan only chose her for her looks, and he ended up re-recording a lot of her parts on later albums. Melissa Auf Der Mar, being well regarded as a musician in her own right, didn't get this accusation as much. Corgan's short-lived side project Zwan also had a female bassist in Paz Lenchantin.
  • Suzi Quatro is one of the earliest examples but avoids the negative aspects - female and a bass player, yes, but it was always clear she headlined and the guys behind her were pretty much anonymous.
  • Bassist Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth was the only female member for their lineup history. She was essential a Lead Bassist with important contributions to vocals and sound. She switched to guitar later on in the band's career.
  • The Real Life Trope Codifier is Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads and its dance music spinoff group Tom Tom Club. She was the only woman in both bands— although she did have female company as backing vocalists on tour with Talking Heads— and her funk-influenced basslines were seen as an essential core of the band's material.
  • Metalcore revival group Year Of The Knife has bassist Madison Watkins as its only female member.
  • Sean Yseult was the bassist of White Zombie and the only constant member aside from Rob Zombie.
  • Gail Ann Dorsey played with mostly male ensembles from 1996 on as David Bowie's touring bassist, also playing on his albums Earthling and The Next Day.
  • Victoria De Angelis of Måneskin is the only female member of the band and plays bass.
  • Coal Chamber has consistently had female bassists since its founding, the first being Rayna Foss, followed by Nadja Peulen and Chela Rhea Harper.
  • A Perfect Circle also had Paz Lenchantin as the sole woman in the band for their first few tours.

    Fictional Examples 
Anime and Manga
  • In FLCL, Haruko is a sexually aggressive rocker chick whose Weapon (and instrument) of Choice is a bass guitar. In one episode she gives Naota, a preteen boy whose burgeoning male sexuality is the focus of the story, the ability to use similar instrument-based attacks, and he gets a 6-string electric guitar (specifically, a Flying V).
  • My Hero Academia: Kyoka Jiro, the most 'alternative' of the Class 1-A girls (she's a snarky and aloof rocker with short hair, in contrast to the other girls who are preppier or straightforwardly feminine) and is the class's most preeminent musician; during the School Festival, she spearheads their school festival with her Beautiful Singing Voice and skill at the bass guitar.
  • Macross 7: among the Fire Bomber band, Mylene is the girliest of the group, and her role is the bassist and secondary vocalist. Ironically, the other woman in the band, Veffidas, is the drummer.

Fan Works

  • A.A. Pessimal's take on the Discworld sees young witch Rebecka Smith-Rhodes drawn to music. Her first instructor, wanting a partner and supporting musician for her Minstrel act, teaches Bekki to pick out simple repetitive themes on the lower bass strings of guitars and mandolins, which she can then build her lead instrumentation around. After returning to Ankh-Morpork, her this-man-is-not-my-boyfriend-OK?, a musician, shows her how to do the same on an upright bass. Finally her musician and inventive-genius little sister devises the first true bass guitar on the Disc. And gives it to Bekki. Who realises. In the band of Life, she is fated to be the bass player.
  • Luz Clawthorne has skills in playing guitar and upon finding and using an Acoustic Bass she accidentally brings to life, she falls into this category.

Film

  • In Wayne's World, Cassandra (pictured atop this page) is the bassist and only woman in her band. While her sex appeal (schwing!) is a big part of why people are interested in the band, she's also the frontman and vocalist and genuinely serious about her music. The sequel reveals that she's the only one in the band with any talent.
  • American Satan features Lily, the bassist and sole female member of the main character's band The Relentless. The members even hesitate to allow her to join the band out of fear that a woman with her good looks would be a distraction to them.
  • In School of Rock, Katie, the bassist, is the only female in the band who plays an instrument, while the other girls are backup singers or take behind-the-scenes positions.
  • In Metal Lords, Emily is brought to fit in the rhythm section of the Rock Trio, through with an erudite version of the bass, namely the electric cello.

Live-Action TV

  • In Community, Vaughn's band, which has the classic five-person rock band composition of lead singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist, has a female bassist as the only girl. She doesn't get any lines and is in the periphery of most shots.
  • Hospital Playlist: Song-hwa is the only woman in the main cast of five doctor friends, who have their own band and who play rock songs to unwind from the pressures of hospital work. Naturally, she is the bassist. (And occasionally lead singer, at her own insistence despite being terrible.)
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Early in the series when Ted describes his ideal woman, one of the qualities she has is "plays the bass." Many seasons later, we meet the mother and she does, in fact, play the bass in a band and is the only female member, where she's pushed around by the lead singer (and complete Jerkass) Derek, despite her having seniority.
    • During the series there is a Girl of the Week named Stacey Gusar who is the bass player in a reggae band. While the makeup of her band is unknown, what is known is that she spends the entirety of the episode being subject to the manipulations of Ted and Barney regarding a bet.
  • In the first season of Drake & Josh, the bassist for Drake's band was also the sole female member.
  • In California Dreams; Tiffani Smith is the band's bassist and one of only two members (drummer Tony Wicks being the other) with the band through the entire series.

Music

  • Referenced in the song "She Plays Bass" by beabadoobee (a female guitarist), which is about being inspired by and seeking to emulate a female bassist in an older band.
    It hurts my brain
    This chick who plays bass
  • Stella, the bassist and only female in the Fake Band (and the fake Fake Band) The Crescendolls in the Daft Punk movie Interstella 5555: The 5tory Of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.

Podcasts

Video Games

  • LEGO Rock Band: The bassist in the player characters' band is a female character by default, and given a feminine vocalization. They are the only member of the band to be depicted this way.
  • In Night in the Woods, Mae was the bassist in her friend Gregg's (songwriter and lead guitarist) band along with Casey (drums) and Angus (vocals), playing the trope straight originally. After returning from college, she's found that Casey's disappeared, and the role of Drummer and Bassist has been taken over by he former best friend Bea's computer. Accordingly, when she rejoins she's rusty and doesn't know most of the songs (represented to the player by a minigame they have little chance of succeeding at first time), which corresponds to the way her friend group's moved on in her absence (even though she's still been missed).

Web Animation

  • Homestar Runner:
    • The short "Record Store Day b/w B-est of B-sides" includes a montage of cover art from the (fictional) low-fi Alternative Rock band Sloshy. One of those covers is an album or EP titled because girl bassist, that's why. (Oddly, the "girl" in the cover photo appears to be the band members' mother instead.) The rest of Sloshy are male.
    • Lampshaded in the Strong Bad Email "Best Thing" during "Limozeen: But They're in Space!" when Teeg Dougland tells the band that an alternative metal group is currently at the top of the charts.
      Perry: But their bassist is a girl!
      Mary: And the drummer's got short hair!
      Larry: And the lead singer wears glasses!

Web Comics

  • Sweet Home: Downplayed; Jisu is the bassist in her and her boyfriend's music group, but it's never clarified if it's just the two of them or if they're part of a larger band.

Web Original

Western Animation


 
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