7 Reasons Cliff Burton ROCKS plus Bass Lesson Tips

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How did Cliff Burton become a metal bass hero? Here’s my take on Metallica’s legendary former bassist, plus tips to level up your own playing.

Sheet music + bass tab for all the Cliff riffs I played -

0:00 - “Do You All Know Cliff Burton?”
0:40 - #1: Shredder
1:47 - Cliff’s Guitar Tricks
4:33 - #2: Next Level Metal
7:25 - #3: Baroque Fiend
10:48 - #4: Creative
12:27 - #5: Evolving Tone (+tone comparisons)
15:00 - #6: Speed Demon
16:38 - #7: Massive Legacy

What really freaked me out when I first heard Cliff was when he’d shred his bass like a lead guitar - so first we’ll break down part of his solo on “Orion”. I’ll show you 3 guitarist-style tricks Cliff uses to make that solo shred hard.

Then we’ll talk influences, metal legends like Steve Harris, Geezer Butler, and Lemmy Kilmister had a big impact on Cliff, and you can see that influence directly in the bass line examples we’ll check out.

Cliff was also majorly influenced by listening to Johann Sebastian Bach and other baroque composers. I’ll break down exactly how that influence showed up in his playing - and how it didn’t. (nobody ever talks about this!)

As any fan knows, Cliff wrote super creative bass lines that transcending the plodding root note style of other rock and metal bands. We’ll look at his line on “Jump In The Fire,” compared to Rob McGovney’s original bass line, to see this in action.

Cliff’s bass tone kept evolving through the three Metallica albums he played on - I’ll show you how Cliff’s tone compared to other metal bassists of the same era by playing back to back isolated bass lines from Steve Harris, Tom Araya, David Ellefson, and Frank Bello. (these are so cool to hear)

How do you keep up with James Hetfield’s legendary downpicking speed? Cliff had a trick up his sleeve that made it doable - you’ll probably be surprised how simple it is, and how well it works in a full band mix.

Cliff Burton played with Metallica from 1983 to 1986 - just under three years - and we’re still feeling the impact of his legacy over 30 years later.

His life ended abruptly on September 27, 1986 in a tragic tour bus accident. It was a huge loss to his family, friends, and fans.

But the music lives on, and I have a feeling we’ll be talking about Cliff for many more years. So thanks Cliff, we love you, and rest in peace!

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-Josh Fossgreen

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