Do Punk Bands Need a Bassist?

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Punk Rock has been one of the most relevant genres in music history since the ‘70s. 

It showed that anyone could play music despite their abilities and skills. 

Learn some barre chords, play fast, and you are all set. 

As with many rock bands, a punk group consists of a drummer, one to two guitarists, a singer, and a bassist. 

Now, regarding the last one, is it really necessary?

Nothing prevents a band from playing punk without a bassist. However, the bass guitar is an important feature and can drastically improve the sound of the band. After all, most punk groups have a bassist. 

With this in mind, I encourage you to read the full article. 

Maybe you come out with brand new conclusions and fresh ideas for your music.

Why is bass important in a band?

Bass players tend to be belittled by non-musicians. 

Truth is, the bass guitar provides a lot to a band. 

First of all, it establishes rhythm along with the drums. 

The bass accentuates the notes for the groove-based on the beat of the song. 

Second, bass guitars are in charge of filling the low-frequencies notes. 

What this does is designate the higher notes the guitar generates. 

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Chords
Chords

In other words, by listening to a full chord or set of notes, the lowest pitch will be the one that resonates the most. 

Providing a harmonic foundation is important for the feeling of the song. 

What is more, accentuating root notes makes for an overall richer and fuller sound that, otherwise, could be felt rather empty. 

Lastly, the bass functions as a bridge between the drums and the guitar

This is related to everything said before: bass drives the rhythm and the harmony simultaneously. 

With all that being said, it is no wonder why bass is considered to be a “hidden leader”, and such an important part of a band.  

Do you need a bass player to play punk?

Oddly enough, bass guitars are not exactly a necessity for punk music. 

The thing is, the biggest names in the punk rock scene have bass guitar: The Misfits, Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, Rancid, Green Day

In fact, in some of those bands, bass guitar plays a relevant role in the majority of their songs.

Listen to anything from London Calling by The Clash, or Dookie by Green Day, to understand what I mean. 

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What I’m trying to say is that, if it worked for them, why change it? If it’s not broken, then why fix it? 

Now, there are (almost) no rules in music. 

Do you think you can make a memorable punk band without bass guitar? 

Go and do it! It could turn out to be something cool and worth listening to.   

Do all punk bands have bass players?

Most punk bands do have bassists. 

It has been a constant since the mid-’70s, and breaking such a long tradition would take years. 

However, there are a couple of punk bands that play without bass guitars. 

You’ll find them below. 

Are there punk bands without a bassist?

There are plenty of huge rock bands that don’t have bassists. 

Some of the bands within the list are The Doors, The Black Keys, and The White Stripes

But what about Punk, more specifically? 

We have a few. 

No Age is a noise/punk rock band from California which consists merely of guitars and drums. They started in 2005 and have a fair amount of albums.  

The Cramps, too, can be on this list. They started in 1976 and played punk and psychobilly. 

However, from their beginning until their dissolution in 2009, they had plenty of changes in their lineups. 

Their timeline shows that they did have some bass players a couple of years, and even recorded studio albums with them. 

Still, I believe they deserve to be mentioned since their lack of bassist is a memorable feature most fans remember about them, most prominent in their first albums.  

Is it easy for a guitar player to play punk bass?

Let’s suppose you have two guitarists in a band. 

After a thorough meditation, you realize one of the two should move to bass. 

What would happen if the guitarist never played bass before? 

Most probably, he or she wouldn’t find any problems at all. 

Of course, transitioning from guitar to bass requires adapting to a new way of playing. 

The feel is not the same, the techniques may vary quite a bit, and chords become little to non-existent. 

However, for a punk group, it could not become an issue. 

I highlighted how some punk bands have talented bassists who don’t stick to what the guitar’s playing (check anything by Rancid and listen for yourself). 

But if you think about it, punk is a genre in which playing simple is enough. 

The ex-guitarist can stick to the root notes and accentuate the guitar’s chords. 

Adding more is not necessarily compulsory. 

What to do if you can’t find a bass player for your punk band?

Sometimes, finding a new member is a tough task. 

Not all bassists are available, and if they are, they may not fit in the band for different reasons. 

Here are some alternatives to filling in the bass place:

A guitarist switching to bass

This one has already been discussed. 

The guitarist is already familiar with string instruments, and although bass and guitar are not the same, they do have similarities. 

Many famous musicians have moved from guitar to bass successfully. 

You should not be afraid of trying it. 

Create a backing bass track

Maybe you know how to play bass but still prefer sticking with another instrument. 

In that case, you can record a bass track at home or a studio, and then use it as a backing track on live performances. 

There are a lot of tools that can help you with this. 

Make it without a bass!

Few punk bands have no bassist. 

Who says yours shouldn’t be one of them? 

It is not impossible. 

You can toy with pedals, effects, and settings, and find a guitar sound that is not weak, and that can “hide” the lack of bass (just like No Age does). 

Set one guitar so it sounds like a bass

Having two guitars is rather resourceful. 

One of them could function as a bass. 

It can resemble its sound with the proper settings and some pedal effects. 

It is not the same, but it can get pretty close. 

Get a keyboard

This one may be the least realistic of them all. 

You didn’t find a bassist but managed to get a keyboardist? 

Well, who knows? 

It could happen, and the keyboard could play the bass parts (similar to what Ray Manzarek did with The Doors). 

I know that a punk group with keyboards doesn’t seem appalling, but I do believe it could be an interesting project. 

Conclusion 

Music is one of the least rigid paths towards self-expression. 

It sure has some rules to follow, but they can be broken as well. 

A punk group without bass is not a common thing, and this is something good. 

First, because the bass is an important instrument that makes punk a more vivid genre. 

Second, because if there is none, then it makes the band more memorable, just because they become a kind of a rarity. 

Use your imagination. Find a way to make punk music without a bassist (in case you want it). 

It could be the best decision you ever take.