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What Bass Guitar Did Cliff Burton Use

Cliff Burton, the renowned bassist of Metallica, primarily played a Rickenbacker 4001 bass. He also notably used an Aria Pro II and a Gibson Grabber.

Known for his highly influential style and aggressive playing techniques, Cliff Burton left an indelible mark on the world of heavy metal before his tragic passing in 1986. His choice of bass guitars became almost as iconic as his music, with the Rickenbacker 4001 featuring heavily on Metallica’s earlier albums.

This bass provided the distinctive growl and powerful low end that fans associate with classics like “For Whom the Bell Tolls. ” Aspiring bassists and fans continue to emulate Cliff Burton’s tone, often seeking out the instruments he favored to recreate the magic he brought to Metallica’s sound. His legacy endures not only through his contributions to music but also through the instruments that amplified his talent.

What Bass Guitar Did Cliff Burton Use


Introduction To Cliff Burton And His Impact On Bass Playing

Introduction to Cliff Burton and His Impact on Bass Playing

Music enthusiasts often recount the profound influence certain musicians have had on their respective genres. Among the pantheon of legends, Cliff Burton stands out as a revolutionary force in the realm of heavy metal bass playing. Known for his aggressive style and technical prowess, Burton didn’t just play the instrument; he defined a new way for the bass guitar to be heard in metal music. As the backbone of Metallica’s early sound, his extraordinary techniques and performances have inspired countless bassists around the globe, forever changing the landscape of heavy metal bass playing.

A Brief Biography Of Cliff Burton

The late, great Clifford Lee Burton was born on February 10, 1962, in Castro Valley, California. With a rich musical environment at home, Burton’s interest in music blossomed early. He studied piano before moving on to bass during his teenage years. It wasn’t long before he began making waves in the local music scene with his heavy, melodic bass lines and his fearless approach to the instrument.

  • Born: February 10, 1962, Castro Valley, CA
  • Early Music Education: Piano studies, self-taught bassist
  • Joined Metallica: 1982
  • Notable Albums: “Kill ‘Em All,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Master of Puppets”
  • Passing: September 27, 1986, in a tragic bus accident in Sweden

Quickly becoming a local standout, Burton’s reputation as a skilled bassist led him to join Metallica in 1982, transforming the band’s sound with his unique approach, combining elements of classical music with the raw power of thrash metal.

Cliff Burton’s Legacy In Metal Music

Even after his untimely death at the age of 24, Cliff Burton‘s influence on metal music persists. His pioneering bass techniques carved out a distinct sound that remains vital in heavy metal. Burton’s approach to playing was characterized by his use of distortion, aggressive picking, and his hallmark “lead bass” style. His legacy is encapsulated in the classic Metallica albums he contributed to, leaving an indelible mark on the genre.

Noteworthy for his contribution to Metallica’s early work, Burton’s creativity shines brightly on tracks like “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth,” a hallmark of his solo bass compositions that showcase his virtuosity. His legacy is fortified by the generations of bassists who cite him as a critical influence and by the many awards and accolades honoring his contributions, including his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica in 2009.

Young bassists continue to study Burton’s playing, deciphering his complex arrangements and implementing his techniques into their own music. He empowered the bass guitar with lead capabilities, encouraging players to explore the instrument’s full potential. His approach has become a benchmark in metal music, making him a revered figure and a source of inspiration for both established musicians and those picking up the bass for the first time.

The Iconic Bass Guitars Of Cliff Burton

The Iconic Bass Guitars of Cliff Burton

Cliff Burton, revered for his complex harmonies and groundbreaking bass techniques, left an indelible mark on heavy metal with his choice of bass guitars. His instruments were not just tools but extensions of his fierce musicality. Let’s delve into the basses that accompanied Burton on his journey to become a legend of metal.

The Rickenbacker 4001: Cliff’s Early Days

Burton’s musical journey roared to life with the Rickenbacker 4001. This classic instrument had a staple presence in rock music for its punchy lows and distinctive treble. The 4001’s unique tonal characteristics come from its neck-through-body design and dual pick-ups, offering a range of sounds that Burton expertly manipulated to forge Metallica’s early sonic explosiveness.

  • Body Type: Neck-through
  • Pickups: Dual single-coil
  • Sound Features: Treble punch with resonance

The Aria Pro Ii Sb-1000: A Distinctive Choice

In search of deeper, more compelling tones, Burton embraced the Aria Pro II SB-1000. With its signature active electronics and a sleek, carved body, this bass guitar created the rich harmonics and warm low-end that underscored Burton’s innovative bass lines. The Aria Pro II was a backbone in crafting iconic tracks like “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” where Burton’s signature style elevated the music to new heights.

  • Electronics: MB-1E Double-Coil
  • Features: Active circuitry for tonal versatility
  • Impact: Distinctive sound with rich texture

The Alembic Spoiler: Crafting The Metallica Sound

The Alembic Spoiler played a crucial role in Metallica’s evolution, with its meticulous craftsmanship and sophisticated electronics shaping the band’s sound. This exquisitely made bass offered an unparalleled spectrum of tones that Burton adeptly used to contribute to Metallica’s complex rhythms and melodies. The Spoiler’s clear, full-bodied sustain became a staple in Burton’s later performances, solidifying his legacy in the pantheon of rock history.

  • Construction: Through-neck for stability
  • Pickups: Alembic active pickups for clear output
  • Notable Contributions: Sophisticated sound, full-bodied sustain

Analyzing Cliff Burton’s Bass Guitar Technique And Equipment

Cliff Burton, revered bassist for the legendary thrash metal band Metallica, left a monumental legacy before his untimely passing. A master of his craft, Burton’s approach to the bass guitar was innovative both in technique and the equipment he wielded. His stylistic choices revolutionized how the bass guitar was perceived within the heavy metal genre. Let’s delve into the particulars of Cliff Burton’s bass technique and the gear that became an extension of his expressive capabilities.

Burton’s Use Of Distortion And Wah-wah Pedals

Cliff Burton’s distinctive sound was partly defined by his pioneering use of effects pedals, which were not widely used by bass players at the time. Burton’s aggressive yet melodic playing carved out a new role for bass in heavy music.

  • Distortion: Employing a combination of overdrive and distortion pedals, such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer and the Big Muff Pi, Burton added a growling, gritty texture that complemented Metallica’s guitar riffs seamlessly.
  • Wah-Wah Pedal: The Morley Power Wah Fuzz pedal was groundbreaking in Cliff’s setup. It enabled him to articulate solos with a nuanced voice-like quality, bringing the bass to the forefront of Metallica’s sound.

These effect pedals allowed Burton to create a soundscape that was both haunting and beautiful, expanding the sonic possibilities of the bass guitar.

The Role Of Bass In Metallica’s Musical Arrangements

Burton’s role as a bassist transcended the traditional rhythm section duties. He brought a novel, harmonic complexity to Metallica’s arrangements, often playing intricate melodies and counter-melodies that interwove with the lead guitar.

The use of harmonics, finger tapping, and his classical music influence are evident throughout Metallica’s early albums. Songs like “(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth” showcase Burton’s unparalleled ability to use the bass as a lead instrument, fundamentally shifting the role of the bass in metal music.

How Cliff Burton’s Bass Guitar Choices Influenced Future Bassists

Cliff Burton’s bass guitars were as iconic as his playing style. The Aria Pro II SB-1000CB and the Rickenbacker 4001 were among his primary instruments, chosen for their robust sound and reliability.

  • Aria Pro II SB-1000CB: Known for its punch and clarity, it was Burton’s bass of choice for studio recordings and live performances. Its neck-through construction and active electronics gave it a distinct tone that became synonymous with Burton’s sound.
  • Rickenbacker 4001: This classic bass offered a trebly, driven sound that complemented his aggressive playing technique, especially evident in live performances.

Burton’s seminal choices in bass guitars and his experimental approach with effects inspired an entire generation of bassists. His legacy is visible in the work of modern metal bass players who continue to push the boundaries of the instrument.

What Bass Guitar Did Cliff Burton Use


Cliff Burton’s Bass Guitar Legacy

The late Cliff Burton, renowned bassist for the iconic metal band Metallica, left an indelible mark on the world of music. With his aggressive playing style and unique use of distortion and effects, Burton redefined the role of the bass guitar in heavy metal. Known for his ferocious speed and technical proficiency, he wielded a range of bass guitars that contributed to the seismic sound of Metallica’s early albums.

Tributes And Recreations Of Burton’s Bass Guitars

Fans and fellow musicians around the world have paid homage to Cliff Burton by recreating his iconic bass guitars. Meticulous replicas of Burton’s instruments serve as vivid reminders of his musical prowess. These tributes include:

  • The Aria Pro II Black ‘n Gold I: This was the bass that Burton famously used during his tenure with Metallica, identifiable by its distinct shape and the signature riffs it unleashed.
  • The Rickenbacker 4001: Known for its bright and punchy sound, this bass guitar holds a hallowed place among Burton fans, as it was often played by the legend himself.

High-quality craftsmanship goes into these recreations, each of which captures the essence of Burton’s fiery performances.

Continued Influence On Modern Metal Bassists

Cliff Burton’s innovative techniques and sound continue to resonate with modern metal bassists. Echoes of his influence can be heard in the complex riffs and rhythmic patterns of contemporary metal music. The following points highlight his enduring impact:

  1. Pioneering the use of distortion and wah pedals to craft a distinct bass tone.
  2. Utilizing lead-style bass solos in songs, showcasing the instrument’s potential beyond traditional rhythm roles.
  3. Inspiring modern bassists to explore the depths of their creativity and technical skills.

Modern metal acts attribute their experimental sounds and intricate harmonies to Burton’s groundbreaking work, cementing his place as a luminary in the genre.

Preservation Of Burton’s Instruments And Memorabilia

The legacy of Cliff Burton goes beyond the music; the preservation of his instruments and memorabilia plays a crucial role in keeping his spirit alive. Collectors and museums alike treasure the following items:

Item Significance
Morpheus ‘Power Fuzz Wah’ Pedal This pedal was a key component in shaping Burton’s signature sound.
Bass Guitars Some of Burton’s personal basses are displayed for public viewing, symbolizing his impact on music.

Through these preserved items, new generations of fans and musicians can connect with Burton’s historic contributions to metal music and the art of bass guitar.

What Bass Guitar Did Cliff Burton Use


Frequently Asked Questions Of What Bass Guitar Did Cliff Burton Use

What Kind Of Basses Did Cliff Burton Play?

Cliff Burton, Metallica’s famed bassist, primarily played Rickenbacker 4001 and Aria Pro II bass guitars. His distinctive sound contributed to Metallica’s early albums.

Did Cliff Burton Play A Rickenbacker Bass?

Cliff Burton, the late Metallica bassist, did use a Rickenbacker 4001 bass early in his career before primarily switching to an Aria Pro II. His iconic sound partially stemmed from his use of the Rickenbacker during his initial years with the band.

What Bass Guitar Does Cliff Williams Use?

Cliff Williams, the bassist for AC/DC, primarily plays a Fender Precision Bass. His preference for this model contributes to the band’s signature rock sound.

What Kind Of Bass Did Jason Newsted Play?

Jason Newsted primarily played Sadowsky, Alembic, and Wal bass guitars during his tenure with Metallica.


Cliff Burton’s iconic bass prowess left an indelible mark on music history. His Rickenbacker 4001 and Aria Pro II SB-1000 basses were pivotal in his legendary sound. Remembering Burton’s choice in instruments inspires countless bassists to find their unique voice.

Explore your sound journey with a nod to Burton’s legacy. Keep vibrating the strings of innovation and homage.

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