Today’s Classic Bass Line is “Roundabout” by Chris Squire from Yes. When I first heard this (many years ago) I was struck by how much treble was coming out of the bass. Distorted treble. How is he getting that sound? Do I need a Rick? WWCSD (What Would Chris Squire Do)?
It turns out that you can get this sound by soloing the bridge pickup of your bass and playing with a pick. Pick very close to the bridge and pick hard. (See below for more info on how to send split stereo outputs if you are a real gear-head).
Squire uses Rotosound Swing 66 strings. You’ll want to put a set of those on your bass if you want to get the extra grit and brightness. (Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorius, Billy Sheehan, and John Paul Jones use Rotosounds as well).
The correct TABS are here. I have included a bio as well as a good description of his bass, amps, and technique. Below that are videos of the original version of the song, the isolated bass line, and a good bass cover. Learn it!
Christopher Russell Edward “Chris” Squire (born 4 March 1948) is an English bass guitarist, singer, guitarist and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist and backing vocalist for the progressive rock group Yes. He is the only original member still in the band, as well as the only member in Yes history to appear on every album.
Squire’s bass playing is noted for being aggressive, dynamic, and melodic. Squire’s main instrument is a 1964 Rickenbacker bass (model RM1999, serial number DC127), which he has owned and played since 1965—the year it was first introduced. In many ways, the Rickenbacker was the polar opposite of the then commonly used Fender bass. (In fact, the electric bass at the time was often referred to as the “Fender.”) The RM1999 was a budget, monophonic version of Rickenbacker’s 4001 stereo bass.
According to his interview in Guitar Player magazine in October 1973, Squire obtained his distinctive tone at the time by rewiring his RM1999 into stereo and sending the bass and treble pick-ups each into a separate amplifier. By splitting the signal from his bass into dual high and low frequency outputs and then sending the low frequency output to a conventional bass amplifier and the high-frequency output to a separate lead guitar amplifier, Squire produced a tonal ‘sandwich’ that added a growling, overdrive edge to the sound while retaining the Rickenbacker’s powerful bass response.
This gave his bass sound bright, growling higher frequencies and clean, solid bass frequencies. This technique allowed Squire to utilise harmonic distortion on his bass while avoiding the flat, fuzzy sound, loss of power and poor bass response that typically occurs when bass guitars are overdriven through an amplifier or put through a fuzz box. During an interview to Bass Player magazine in January 2009, Squire claimed to have rewired his bass to stereo, even before Rickenbacker introduced the Rick-O-Sound feature, so he could send the output of the bass (neck) pick-up through a fuzz box, while keeping the treble (bridge) pick-up clean, because the last sounded “horribly nasal” when used with the fuzz effect.He also plays with a pick which contributes to the sharp attack as well as using fresh Rotosound Swing Bass strings for every show. Squire’s intricate and complex bass playing style has influenced subsequent bassists such as Billy Sheehan, Geddy Lee of Rush, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Les Claypool of Primus, John Myung of Dream Theater, and Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots.