“Randy’s bass playing is that growly, Nebraska, R&B-oriented bass feel to the country stuff.”

Glenn Frey from The Guardian ~ “Eagles: ‘We were too busy trying to find a good restaurant’ – a classic interview from the vaults”, by David Rensin, Sept. 24, 2015

Randy’s Style Of Bass Playing

“Meisner is the kind of player that excels at functionality and musicality, perfectly at home supporting the song and holding out for the right moment to execute a low-end melody. Many of his bass lines are derivative of traditional blues and country bass playing, where the approach favors playing just the root, the arpeggio, or the root and fifth. The bass parts on the songs such as ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling,’ ‘Train Leaves Here This Morning,’ and ‘Take It Easy,’ adopt this classic country style, perhaps establishing a next generation of the Bakersfield Sound lineage. Though most of his lines are harmonically simple and make use of diatonic voice leading, he gracefully sits in the groove with the drummer, provides the necessary accompaniment, and allows the song to shine through.”
No Treble ~ “Bass Players To Know: Randy Meisner”, by Ryan Madora, Sept. 7, 2018

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” ~ In Concert (BBC) ~ March 20, 1973


“Train Leaves Here This Morning” ~ In Concert (BBC) ~ March 20, 1973


“Take It Easy” ~ Wollman Rink, Central Park ~ New York ~ Aug. 23, 1973


“As a groove player, Meisner’s attention to note duration is quite unique. He often plays shorter, punchier notes with rests in between them; this assertive rhythmic approach helps to define the feel of the song as well as his personal style. This attention to note duration, and particularly in keeping his notes short and precise, is evident in songs such as ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Life in the Fast Lane.’
No Treble ~ “Bass Players To Know: Randy Meisner”, by Ryan Madora, Sept. 7, 2018


(Isolated bass) ~ “Life In The Fast Lane”


(Isolated bass) ~ “Hotel California” ~ Capital Centre ~ Largo, Maryland ~ March 21, 1977

“On ‘Hotel California’ (Don) Felder designed that bass part and I played it and boy it was a rough one to sing and play at the same time because there are some counter parts on there. (Sings ‘Welcome to the Hotel California…’) You gotta do some counter parts on the bass. That took a while to learn and sing at the same time. But when you’re younger it’s easier in a way.”

Discoveries Magazine ~ “Randy Meisner Takes It To The Limit One More Time,” by Ken Sharp ~ Sept. 2006

Don Felder described the “Hotel California” bass part, which he wrote, as complicated.
Heaven and Hell, My Life In The Eagles (1974-2001) © 2008, Page 173


“Already Gone” (Eagles ~ On The Border ~ 1974)
“This classic hit features Meisner’s prominent bass part as the driving force. He plays well-articulated notes with precise duration throughout the verses, alluding to the traditional country “tic-tac” style playing. Going into the choruses, he adopts a bluesier approach by walking through the chord changes, hinting at the minor-to-major third, and playing with greater intensity as the song progresses.”
No Treble ~ “Bass Players To Know: Randy Meisner”, by Ryan Madora, Sept 7, 2018

“Meisner’s jaunty bass powers the up-tempo grooves of this song.”
“Randy Meisner Made The Eagles Great”, by Brian Scott MacKenzie, March 8, 2016

“Already Gone” ~ Houston ~ Nov. 6, 1976


“Calico Lady” (Poco ~ Pickin’ Up the Pieces ~ 1969)
“Meisner digs into a super funky long-lost groove to start the song and support the verses. Accenting the various hits and chord changes, he takes on the role of counter-point in the choruses, mimicking the phrasing of the vocals and hitting strong ‘beat twos’ alongside the drummer. Transitioning into the bridge, he plays a hyperactive yet appropriate part to provide contrast to the high, floating vocal harmonies.”
No Treble ~ “Bass Players To Know: Randy Meisner”, by Ryan Madora, Sept. 7, 2018

“Calico Lady”


“Easy to Be Free” (Rick Nelson & TSCB ~ Rick Nelson, In Concert: The Troubadour, 1969 ~ 1970)
“Highlights of this song are…Meisner’s sliding bass runs at 1:40.”
“Why Rick Nelson, In Concert: The Troubadour, 1969 Is The Greatest Live Album You’ve Never Heard”, by Jill Valentino, May 15, 2019

“Easy to Be Free”


“Midnight Flyer” (Eagles ~ On the Border ~ 1974)
“Meisner’s walking bass drives the relentless cut-time groove for most of the song, but at 2:35, his instrument declares independence, too. Leaving the timekeeping to Henley’s drums and Bernie Leadon’s banjo, Meisner busts out a brief bass solo to kick off a 4/4 coda featuring his 4-string trading licks with the guitarists.”
“Randy Meisner Made The Eagles Great”, by Brian Scott MacKenzie, March 8, 2016

“Midnight Flyer” ~ Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert ~ Aired April 13, 1974


“On the Border” (Eagles ~ On the Border ~ 1974)
“Meisner’s four-string lays down a syncopated minimalist groove that lures the band into funk territory.”
“Randy Meisner Made The Eagles Great”, by Brian Scott MacKenzie, March 8, 1976

“On the Border”


“One of These Nights” (Eagles ~ One of These Nights ~ 1975)
“Kicking off with an iconic bass riff, Meisner takes full advantage of the range of the instrument. He jumps between the lower root notes that define the chord progression and a simple yet memorable motif in the higher range. As the verse kicks in, he plays a groove based on a three-note phrase that adheres to the diatonic harmony of the song. Going from the minor tonality of the verses to the relative major chorus, Meisner plays a rhythm-and-blues inspired bass line that moves from the four chord to the one. He alternates the rhythm of the line to create contrast with the melody and playful substitutes notes in the major pentatonic scale throughout the extended outro.”
No Treble ~ “Bass Players To Know: Randy Meisner”, by Ryan Madora, Sept. 7, 2018

“One of These Nights” ~ Seattle ~ Aug. 8, 1976


“Outlaw Man” (Eagles ~ Desperado ~ 1973)
“Two-and-a-half minutes into this song, Meisner throws down a menacing undertow of blistering bass lines to accent the song’s climax.”
“Randy Meisner Made The Eagles Great”, by Brian Scott MacKenzie, March 8, 2016

“Outlaw Man” ~ Popgala ~ Voorburg, Netherlands ~ March 9, 1973


“Save The Last Dance For Me” (Randy Meisner ~ Randy Meisner ~ 1978)
Meisner only played bass on one song on his first solo album, a cover of The Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for Me”. (He said that he switched to rhythm guitar for his solo career because it’s easier to sing and play guitar than sing and play bass. It gave him more freedom. He played a Martin 12 string D-42 Drednought, and a Martin D-17M during his solo career.)

“Save the Last Dance for Me” ~ Randy Meisner ~ 1978


“The Best of My Love” (Eagles ~ On the Border ~ 1974)
This song wouldn’t be half as good without that beautiful bass line.

“The Best of My Love” ~ Capital Centre ~ Largo, Maryland ~ March 21, 1977


“Try and Love Again” (Eagles ~ Hotel California ~ 1976)
Randy explained that the kick drum and the bass should be the same instrument. Here is an example of that along with his vocals.

(Isolated Bass, Drums and Vocal) “Try and Love Again”


“Tryin'” (Eagles ~ Eagles ~ 1972)
The complete video needs to be viewed to appreciate Randy’s bass expertise on this song.

“(Keep On) Tryin'” ~ Popgala ~ Voorburg, Netherlands ~ March 9, 1973


The Fender Precision

Photo: “The Helen Reddy Show” ~ Aired July 12, 1973

“The Fender Precision has the widest neck of all basses and is the most difficult one to master.”

Suzi Quatro Unzipped, by Suzi Quatro © Copyright 2007

Pick (aka Plectrum) Or No Pick

“We listened to The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield a lot. I was in awe of Chris Hillman’s bass playing, still am. He played some great bass parts although he played with a pick and real direct. A way different style than me but man, I was just amazed at his playing.” Read the full article here.

Discoveries Magazine ~ “Randy Meisner Takes It To The Limit One More Time,” by Ken Sharp, Sept. 2006
Apollo Stadium ~ Adelaide, South Australia ~ Jan. 27, 1976
Photo by Terry O Twang

As Randy stated above, he played without a pick.

“The tone with the fingers is much softer, and he is so good at it.”
Steve Cassells, Randy’s former Drivin’ Dynamics bandmate


Arrowhead Stadium ~ Kansas City, Missouri ~ June 5, 1975

However, a photo (above) and a video (below) were found, where it seems Randy was using a pick.

“Good Day In Hell” ~ Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert ~ Aired April 13, 1974


The Bass And Drums

The bass and drums are the engine that drives the car.

“While the drummer brings the rhythm, the bassist brings the groove. A bridge between rhythm and melody, the role of the bass player is to connect the drums with the rest of the band, laying down the music feel and giving harmonic context to the rhythm. The bass is the link between harmony and rhythm.”
groovewiz.com

“Hotel California Interview”
Excerpt from a 2008 Japanese documentary


Among Randy’s basses of choice were the Fender Precision and the Rickenbacker 4001. See the other basses he used here.


The Best Rock Bass Players In The ’70s
Coming In At #8
Randy Meisner (Eagles)

“He played bass on some of the unforgettable tunes from the Eagles and his musicality is flat-out amazing. His basslines aren’t overly complicated and perhaps that’s where the beauty lies – in its sheer simplicity.” Read the complete article here.
“The Best Rock Bass Players In The ’70s”, Society Rock
(Unfortunately, the only video blocked in the article is the one under Randy’s name. His bass style deserves to be viewed and compared to the other nine bassists voted as the best rock bass players of the ’70s.)


Glossary of Terms

Arpeggio is when you play the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of a scale one-by-one.

The Bakersfield Sound is a style of California country music pioneered in the 1950s by Wynn Stewart, Buck Owens, Bonnie Owens, and Merle Haggard. Bakersfield country artists became known for their lean ensembles inspired by honky-tonk and rock ‘n’ roll bands. This distinguished it from what was called the Nashville Sound, which leaned heavily on glossy pop production and string orchestrations.” Read the full article here.
‘The Bakersfield Sound: A Guide to California Country Music’, by the MasterClass Staff, June 24, 2001

Bridge is a section of a song that’s intended to provide contrast to the rest of the composition. A Bridge will follow a chorus section and present something different, such as a chord progression, a new key, or a faster or slower tempo.

Diatonic is a scale of eight tones that is either a major or a minor scale.

Pentatonic is a scale in which the tones are arranged like a major scale with the fourth and seventh tones omitted.

Riff is a short repeated melodic idea. A bass line with one note on every beat, and extra notes that are quite close together.

Root note is the main note on which a chord is built. It is the foundation, or root, of the chord. The notes in a bass line usually match the chords of the song, and they will often use the root note of each chord. For example, these are the notes that make up some basic chords with the root note in bold:
C chord – C, E, G
G chord – G, B, D
Am chord – A, C, E
F chord – F, A, C

Root and Fifth is what Randy is doing when he is hitting the root first (in the key of C, that would be C), and then hitting the G (5th in the scale) and then alternating back to the root while the rest of the band just played C. When the guitarist changed the chord to F, for example, Randy would hit the F (the new root), and then alternate with the C (5 notes above the F). Then if the chord changed to G, he would hit the G (the new root) and alternate with the D (5 notes above the G). With the exception of the bridge in “Already Gone”, he almost always just alternates between the root and the top note – the 5th. As the song transitions to the next chord (the guitarist playing the C chord and then to the G chord, for example) Randy would do some kind of filler (often fancy walk-ups), until he reaches the new root and 5, which is now G-D. The transitional fillers add the spice to the lower end of the sound, and he does some nice ones.
Steve Cassells

Walking Bass Line is generally notes of equal duration and intensity (typically 1/4 notes) that create a feeling of forward motion. It is possible to add rhythmic variations, but in general a walking bassline drives the song forward step-by-step.


Notes

“In popular music, the bass part, which is called the “bassline”, typically provides harmonic and rhythmic support to the band. The bass player is a member of the rhythm section in a band, along with the drummer, rhythm guitarist, and, in some cases, a keyboard instrument player (i.e., piano or Hammond organ).”
studybass.com

“Usually when a bass player plays a solo, it’s no longer a bassline – it’s a melody. During a melodic bass solo, you can toss the Note Choice Pyramid aside. During a bass solo the bass player’s role has shifted from defining the chords to creating a singable melody part with few requirements and expectations.”
studybass.com


Additional References


Music Theory
Bass Terminology


Thanks to Steve Cassells, Randy’s former Drivin’ Dynamics bandmate and friend, for his explanation of the Root and Fifth in the Glossary. I never would have understood it without your explanation, Steve.

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7 comments

  1. Thank you Kathie for another very interesting read. I particularly liked the clips where the bass and/or voice were isolated. I have never seen this before and I thought it illustrated just how important the bass is to the overall sound of a group. By the way, I love the new website and continue to appreciate all your hard work. Kind regards, Judy 🕊🕊

    1. You’re welcome, Judy! I like the isolated bass clips also. Randy’s style of playing can truly be appreciated in those. Thank you for your kind words regarding the new website. Visit again. We like having you here.

  2. Kathie, you continue to blow me away with your amazing articles. I can’t Thank You enough! Bless You!

    1. You’re welcome, Gwen! I always look forward to your comments and “thank you” for them. Randy is lucky to have you as his fan.

  3. I like the interview clip of Randy where he praises Don Henley as a precise drummer and I know that he generally played bass using his fingers, but I always wanted to know whether or not he did use a pick when playing bass at any time, and the photograph and footage provided confirms that he did use a plectrum on bass.

    Here’s some more trivia: Paul McCartney played three basses that Randy also played, the most obvious was the Höfner 500/1 and Rickenbacker 4001S in left-handed versions, but he also played a Fender Jazz Bass.

  4. I love how the bass is isolated in Hotel California. So many times the bass is overwhelmed by the other instruments and voices. The bass keeps the beat. That was awesome.

    1. I like the isolated bass audio of Hotel California also, Maureen. One thing I learned in researching this post is that the role of the bass player is to connect the drums with the rest of the band, and Randy did a good job of it.

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