Roundabout by Yes isolated bass track

There are a few bass lines that earn the distinction of being legendary, and the line Chris Squire plays in Roundabout by Yes is one of them.

Most people are shocked when they learn Roundabout was released in 1972. Many believe the song to be from the late ’70s or the early ’80s, but no, it is an early ’70s song, appearing on the scene right around the time when the hippie era in the United States was ending (which adds even more mystique to the song because it’s not “acid rock” nor “hippie rock” at all).

Where bass tone is concerned, the most immediately noticeable thing is what you don’t hear. Bass frequencies. There’s really not much bass in this bass line mix. Tons of midrange and high-end, but the lows have been rolled off (or “out”, as it were) significantly. But even with the lows off, you can hear everything Chris does in this song loud and clear.

How to get this sound?

The answer is not simply “Get a Rickenbacker”, especially if you don’t like Rickenbacker basses. You need a pickup that has some serious punch to it. The big poles on certain Delano pickups will work. Bright Tone (meaning more high end) pickups from Bartolini will also work very well here.

Isolated track

Original studio mix

Geddy plays Roundabout? Indeed, he does.

15 thoughts on “Roundabout by Yes isolated bass track

  1. Can anyone confirm? There’s what I’m sure is a bass fill – happens twice – after the whole band first comes and before the lyrics, at 0:50 and 0:58. It’s not on the isolated track, so is it an overdub?….

    • Could be bass. Whatever it is it sounds like it’s panned right while the bass sits squarely in the center. Falls under the fingers on guitar pretty easily so I’d say it’s probably a guitar overdub and maybe played by the same guitar that’s doing the volume swell that precededs the run. The sound is also a little reminiscent of electric piano or clavinet (but there doesn’t appear to be anything like that used elsewhere in the track).

      Also noticed what could be a bass guitar overdub of one note towards the end, just before the ‘acapella’ part. Either it’s an overdub or they pan the bass right for that one note.

  2. If you need a fill-in for the late Chris Squire I guess you couldn’t ask for a much more capable guy!

    • If you can find one, like mic modeling preamps, I would imagine using a pickup modeling or bass modeling preset , pedal, rack and even software exists to get that whatever sound you want, studio or live these days . . . a standard J bass would not give you that sound he’s getting . just speculating on the possibilities .

  3. The story of Jeff Berlin filling in for an ill Chris Squire is an amazing tale! Seek it out. I love Geddy too.

  4. These guys sound grrrreat !
    Even after all these year, incredible energy & musicianship. Even the vocalist sounded as fresh & lively as day the record was released. My comment is about the hearing band. But the isolated track was great as well.

  5. interesting too that the action on the bass must have been set pretty low. a fair amount of string buzz comes through. it’s style-appropriate, but wouldn’t work so well in some other genres. like the Sans-Amp preamp. it has a sound that screams 1980s…

  6. In one interview, I heard Chris say that he actually had doubled the bass line on an acoustic guitar. So I’m guessin’ not all the tone on the song comes strictly from the Rick.
    But, having no idea whether the iso track includes both the bass and acoustic sources, I don’t want to say that’s where the panned bits come from. They may well be overdubs.

    While listening to the iso track of Steve Howe’s guitar part for “Roundabout”, I noticed even he seemed to be doubling certain parts that Chris was playing.

    I think part of the problem with parsing who done what is that both parts (Steve’s, especially, due to using various guitars for different sections of music) were basically stitched, overdubbed, and taped together (literally, back in the days of reel to reel recording, Scotch Tape held a lot of tracks together, pre-mastering) to create the finished product.

    All I know is, “Roundabout” is a favorite of mine, I listen to it often, and it’s a buncha fun to play on the bass.

  7. It is fascinating to read how many people seem to dislike the Bass sound on Roundabout and the sound of a Rickenbacker Bass. Baffling to me. I’ve always loved it, right from the start when I was a young teen and trying to learn how to play it. I purchased my first Rickenbacker 4001 in 1978, later sold it, and I have owned a 4003 model since 2009 or so. I vastly prefer the 4003 with it’s deeper, richer tone. I have an Ampeg SVP Preamp and Ampeg Poweramp rack system, along with an Ampeg 410HLF. The Ric 4003 through that system can be EQ’d to produce almost the exact tone Chris was using. I like to add a Darkglass Omega pedal for a tiny bit of distortion / overdrive and a little reverb from a TC Electronic pedal, to my ear it is dead on. Great fun, big, nasty, bitting Bass, yet his notes are always spot on; just a vicious sound and so sure of himself, right out front in the mix. Of course you must have Rotosound Swing Bass 66’s. In many interviews Chris talked of overdubbing the bass line with an old Gibson Acoustic Bass. God knows what that was but that’s what he said. You can certainly hear it in a few places in the piece. Still one of the greatest Rock bass lines every composed.

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