Video: How to Sound Like Carol Kaye

Carol Kaye is one of the most prolific musicians of all time. Even those who don’t immediately recognize her name surely have heard her playing – she has played on an estimated jaw-dropping 10,000 recordings over the course of her career as a studio musician.

And these recordings are far from the obscure. In fact, she’s played on some of the most time-tested and popular tracks from the past 60 years. In 1957, Carol had been playing bebop jazz guitar at nightclubs around Los Angeles when she (“accidentally,” as she insists) stumbled into studio work.

A few years later, though, is when a session bassist didn’t show up to the studio, and she was tossed a Fender and asked to fill in. This was the beginning of Carol Kaye’s move from session guitarist to bass legend.

Carol Kaye became a part of The Wrecking Crew (or, as Carol calls them, The Clique) – a group of studio musicians based in LA who backed countless acts and played on a variety of hit records throughout the 1960s. Though you can sometimes find their credits in these records’ liner notes, they often played as uncredited ghost bands.

Notably, they worked on records by Sonny & Cher, The Mamas & The Papas, Nancy and Frank Sinatra, The Monkees, and Traffic, though this is by no means a complete list. Carol Kaye also played on a variety of The Beach Boys’ records, developing the vast majority of those famous basslines. The Beach Boys’ 1966 record Pet Sounds is the release that she is most noted for.

Carol Kaye’s career has spanned several decades and has been filled with incredible innovation and staggering behind-the-scenes success. She has written a variety of books on playing bass guitar in which she shares her techniques with aspiring players. She’s also spent time conducting bass lessons largely via Skype, teaching her students the jazz fundamentals that are integral to her playing.

Check out the video above to learn some of Carol Kaye’s bass guitar tricks with Reverb's Jeremy Kay, who was fortunate to learn from Kaye duing a short session. We were also fortunate enough to interview Carol Kaye a few months ago, so give that a read if you’re looking for more information about her directly from the source.

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