Ben Reed

Session bassist

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17 Reviews
Ben Reed on SoundBetter

Session and/or live bass work for Frank Ocean, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Bullion, Sampha, Orlando Weeks (Maccabees), Hayden Thorpe (Wild Beasts), Laura Groves, Vegyn, Westerman, Nilufer Yanya and many others. I was the bass player on Frank Ocean's 'Blond' and 'Endless' albums, and I play in his live band.

I'm a London based session bassist. I've had the pleasure to work with Frank Ocean, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Sampha, Richard Russell's Everything is Recorded, Laura Groves, Hayden Thorpe, Orlando Weeks, Ibeyi, Green Gartside, Jai Paul/ Paul Institute, Romy Madley Croft, MT Hadley, Joviale, Lola Young, Aeris Roves, Hannah Peel, Dave Okumu, Westerman, Vegyn, Eska, Shabaka Hutchings, Bullion, Pete Brown, Eddie Kramer, Anoushka Lucas, Patrick Campbell Lyons (Nirvana UK), and many others. There's nothing more exciting to me than the challenge of a new song to play on! Whatever it is, I'm always very happy to have a go at it. I'm (I've been told!) a very sensitive, imaginitive, melodic player, and I have a lovely selection of beautiful vintage basses here to choose from, depending on what a song requires. I have a good set up here at home, for remote session recording - so I'm here, ready to go. I'm not at all flaky, and I'll always give a tune my absolute best. I'm as co-operative as they come! My basic sound is very much a classic/ vintage one. I use a pick by default, but I'm happy to play fingerstyle when asked (I'm equally adept at both approaches). I get asked to do allsorts: simple grooves, off centre melodic lines, busy funky weaving patterns, crazy solo stuff. I'm up for anything! Get in touch. I'd love to help out.

Send me an email through 'Contact' button above and I'll get back to you asap.

17 Reviews

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  1. Review by Duncan A.
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    Ben's knowledge of musical harmony and range of playing styles is unsurpassed (as is his vinyl collection!). He will bring commitment, technical know-how, gorgeous playing and innovation to your project. Do not hesitate in working with this talented and rare musician.

  2. Review by Tuca Milan
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    I've been working with Ben a long time and it is always a good vibe! Great talented musician!

  3. Review by Richard Russell
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    ben is a gifted, subtle musician and a joy to be around. he has made records and shows we’ve worked on both more musical and more fun. he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and a great sense of humour. i wish he was prime minister.

  4. Review by Jamie L
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    Ben is an exceptional musician - I have always found him to be a true professional and a pleasure to work with. He has a natural musicality that always shines through, as well as extensive knowledge of different playing styles and techniques - I would highly recommend him!

  5. Review by Joviale Tshabola
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    Ben is just a wonderful, gentle and musical giant. He is the go-to. If I could give 100000000 stars I would. Both live and studio presence is unmatched. The most professional cuddly being.

  6. Review by Nathan J (Bullion)
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    Ben’s a master and is the first person I ask in to play when I’m starting a new project. He’s a total pleasure to work with, but make sure he’s well fed and watered - rooibos tea and a Caramac.

  7. Review by patrick campbell-lyons
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    I first heard Ben playing in the the church band at mass in St Patricks (Soho square) London W1) 15 years ago... I think he also played drums sometimes, I could never see them as they were above in the organ loft. I connected and we became friends. Ben is a very solid guy with a delicate musical finesse. Herbie Flowers session bassist on Lou Reeds Walk on the Wild Side, played on most of the early songs/recordings of my band Nirvana (the Original) he has always been my "bench mark"...... Ben's playing and sound is up there or if you prefer, back there with Herbie's.....the real deal.

  8. Review by William.
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    Ben is a spectacular player, and wonderfully versatile. He's a joy to play with both live and while recording, bringing both an esoteric humour and a laudably punctual and organised presence to any situation he is placed in. I always look forward to working with him.

  9. Review by Ed
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    Ben is a true musical soul- plays the right amount, never too much, never too little and always with impeccable feel and taste. He is a walking library of popular music and thus can adapt to any style you throw at him. He is professional and lovely to work with.

  10. Review by JÁNA
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    I had the pleasure of working with Ben for the first time this year and was completely amazed of his work. He gave me lots of different versions to choose from with an explanation to each version, info about the base he used and so on.
    He had taken on the song in such a creative way and added a whole new dimension to it.I feel honored to have him play on my songs. Looking forward to work more with Ben in the future! Recommend 100/10

  11. Review by Terl Bryant
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    I love working with Ben, his creativity, style, tone and musicality are tops. He is committed to the best result possible. You'll love having him on your tracks.

  12. Review by Dan See
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    Ben is one of the best bass players in the UK and a lovely chap to boot. As a drummer he’s definitely one of my favourite bass players to play with. Any track he plays on he improves! Hire him!

  13. Review by Vegyn
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    Ben Reed is one of the most talented bass players I have ever had the pleasure of working with! Ben has a beautifully natural approach to the way he plays. Every time I invite him to collaborate on something his playing adds an additional layer of depth and sophistication I could never have foresaw. I would highly recommend working with him :)

  14. Review by Hannah Peel
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    Ben’s playing is phenomenal and his artistic ear is something else entirely. I look forward to working with him again

  15. Review by Alexis Constantinou
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    Ben is an excellent musician I have previously worked with him on many occasions
    very personable and a recommended player

  16. Review by Yusuf A.
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    Ben Reed is one of the most musical and professional people i have had the pleasure of working with. Fast and clear communication. Great service, beautiful bassist.

  17. Review by Michael A B Watts
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    I will be definitely ask Ben to work with me again soon! And BTW he was brilliant and super fast when playing on my electronic minimalist style works - as well as in previous sessions we've done together, which were more like pop ballads.

Interview with Ben Reed

  1. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  2. A: The two Frank albums, unsurprisingly. Just an overwhelmingly exciting body of music to be involved in, and the way it was made was so unorthodox and bizarre (for me, anyway). I played bass, and some acoustic guitar as well. Those, and Laura Groves' stuff. Such flawless songwriting. Plus a couple of things that haven't come out yet which I can't talk about!

  3. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  4. A: Ha, I shouldn't say what I was working on this week. What I can say is that I have been working on my own music! It's at the mixing stage now. I was doing some instrumental stuff with Terl last week. This is a slightly silly question, because in a month it will be totally out of date and irrelevant!

  5. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  6. A: I only just got on here, so I haven't had a chance to look. But Terl Bryant, the drummer, alerted me to the site. he is a phenomenal player. I love him.

  7. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  8. A: Analogue forever! My biggest musical thrills as a player are always in a room with other musicians, playing together at the same time. And most of my favourite music was made that way as well. Digital is convenient, I suppose. But I do wish I could spend every day recording onto a 16 track in a live room, going through a valve desk.

  9. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  10. A: My promise is that I will always do my best. A half-arsed attempt is pointless. And on the rare occasions where I feel like I am not the right person to play on a song, I will say so (but this has not happened yet).

  11. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  12. A: Music is the main love of my life, as a listener. So to have been blessed with the ability to make it as well is great. Handy, because I am rubbish at everything else.

  13. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  14. A: "When can you have it done by?". "As soon as possible", is my reply. I don't procrastinate. I get on with the work as soon as I am able. As I say, most of the other queries are to do with stuff like file sizes and bar numbers.

  15. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  16. A: Hmm, I am not aware of one, really. Occasionally I work for someone who might be almost apologetic about their material, and it's as if they think I might really hate their music, even though I have said nothing. But even if a piece of music isn't my cup of tea, I will still enjoy playing on it. Making music is never boring for me.

  17. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  18. A: I normally don't need to ask many questions. People tend to give a clear idea of what they want. Questions I tend to ask are largely technical and dull. Of course, I always check the client is happy, and ask if all the parts have travelled over successfully.

  19. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  20. A: Don't be shy. I don't bite. I am up for anything, so get in touch!

  21. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  22. A: Eeek. Horrible question. I'd take my 1969 Gibson EB3 (the first bass I fell in love with, when I saw Trevor Bolder use one in the Ziggy Stardust film). The spanish acoustic guitar my Mum bought in Spain around 1961; it's my main writing and noodling instrument, and I take it on a lot of sessions, actually. I'd take my six string Burns bass so I can carry on learning to play the Bach cello suites on it. I'd take a GK combo. Lastly, I would take my Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum and the Buddy Rich rudiments book, so I could finally learn them all!

  23. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  24. A: I started on drums and bass, both in my pre-teens, and played whenever an opportunity came along. I said yes to anything and everything. I am glad I did. Went through the typical high school band journey. Then, after a period of hibernation, and intense musical study at home, I did a music degree at Middlessex and got a 1st. There has been an element of luck, and being in the right place at the right time. In 2013, through a producer friend, and my girlfriend, I met an A&R guy who fell in love with my bass playing, and quickly became a sort of evangelist for me. Since then, my career has continued via two strands which sometimes overlap. One strand is all the contacts and connections I have made myself over the twenty or so years of slogging through pub gigs and functions (I enjoy it all!), and the other is word of mouth which was kind of kickstarted by my A&R chum. Playing on the Frank Ocean stuff has obviously helped as well. Now there are a handful of stables, or families, of musicians and artists, centring around different labels, and scenes, and these people call me up pretty regularly. Really nice communities of people who are mutually supportive, and keen to hear what everyone else has been up to.

  25. Q: How would you describe your style?

  26. A: Arghhh. Sympathetic, non-aggressive, melodic, warm and friendly, subtly funky, chunky, English, pretty much just like me! I hate the word 'retro', so I won't include it. But I use flatwounds on all my basses, so if somebody wants a very impressively technical, chops-y player, with low B strings and lots of slapping, and a bright roundwound sound, I am not the best guy for that. I admire those chaps, but that has never really been my way.

  27. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  28. A: I have so many musical heroes, I wouldn't know how to begin answering that. I have already been lucky to work with a couple. But I don't really get starstruck. Some of the best songwriters I have ever heard are younger than me, and barely known. But, I mean, who wouldn't want to work with Stevie Wonder? McCartney, of course, but then as a bass player, he wouldn't need me! I think my dream gig would be to play in Bacharach's live band. Such luscious songs.

  29. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  30. A: I am far more a player than a 'producer' (and that term means so many things these days!). But if you mean with regards to recording bass specifically, I'd say get as good a sound as you can without any EQ or compression. The cliche is true, your sound is mainly coming from your hands, your personal touch on the instrument. Don't let gear and gadgets distort that sound too much. Present something that is sonically truthful, and then when it gets mangled beyond recognition, you can just sigh and go and make some cheese on toast.

  31. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  32. A: More recently, it tends to be poppy stuff. I've been in a heavy rock band, pit bands, gospel groups, jazz combos, free jazz projects, a trad jazz band, soul bands, function bands, I've backed loads of singer songwriters. My approach is essentially the same with all of them - have Big Ears. Listen and respond, do what the music requires.

  33. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  34. A: I think I have a good ear. I never sit and bite my nails, wondering how to approach a song. Generally speaking, I will 'roll tape', and just play, and trust my instincts. Also, I don't have an ego problem. I am eager to please. I want the musicians around me to be happy with what I do! So, it's important to be a sympathetic, supportive, sensitive player. I am not a thousand notes a minute virtuoso. Saying that, I love getting my teeth into complex, challenging material. Most of all, I just love to play. I'll play anything, if I'm asked nicely!

  35. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  36. A: All my experience! I have been addicted to music, absorbing it like a sponge, since I was a baby. All the music I hear influences me somehow. Not to mention all the music I have played. I like to think I have a unique perspective, a sound of my own. No two players are exactly alike. I have never been a fan of carbon copying anybody. My style is the result of all the years of listening and playing, and how that has all been squished together in my brain, and then, in turn, how that then gets translated through to my fingers!

  37. Q: What's your typical work process?

  38. A: When somebody sends me a song for a remote session, first thing I do is listen to it a couple of times, naturally. I get a feel for the song, think about which instrument might suit it best. If there are email instructions or guidelines, I will re-read those. Most of the time, I will whip out some manuscript paper and write out a full chart for the song. Then I normally record between five to fifteen takes (on average). Most people I have recorded for remotely like me to give them options. So, I do a couple of very simple passes, then some more melodic ones, more rhythmic ones, more flowing, a bit off the wall... different perspectives, basically. The idea is that the artist/ producer will then go away and either use their favourite take in its entirety, or comp one, using their favourite bits. I notice that quite often people I send stuff to will go with a relatively simple take, and then use a busier one towards the end of a song. Once all the parts are sent off (usually via We Transfer), I normally check to make sure the artist/ producer is happy, and I'm more than willing to re-do something, or tweak, if asked. That rarely ever happens though.

  39. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  40. A: It's pretty simple. I use Logic X with a Focusrite Clarett 4 Pre. I have my collection of basses to hand at all times. I've got three or four different Gallien Krueger bass amps, and two old amps - a WEM HR30, and FAL Phase 50, any of which can be mic'ed up, but most people ask for me to record DI'ed. Van Damme cable, Thomastik strings, Jim Dunlop Stubby pick, PG Tips tea (decaf).

  41. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  42. A: I am a complete music addict. Music is my life, so answering a question like that is very painful, ha! I have a massive record collection, and whenever I am not playing music, I am listening to it. So, if I narrow that question down to the bass players who have most inspired me, I'd say Carol Kaye, Chris Squire, Steve Swallow, Herbie Flowers, Lee Sklar, Tony Levin, Joe Osborn, Dave Richmond, Charles Mingus, Anthony Jackson, and Paul McCartney. My favourite songwriters are Lennon & McCartney, Jimmy Webb, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Burt Bacharach, Chris Dedrick, Brian Wilson, Pete Townshend... Thousands more, of course.

  43. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  44. A: Well, other than saying 'playing the bass', no two jobs are exactly alike! Of course, recently, most of my sessions have been done remotely, which is fine. I really enjoy doing stuff here at home with my set-up. I've played in many different genres over the years, from music hall to free improvisation, but I guess most of the stuff I get asked to do would be classed as pop music, towards the indie end especially, these days.

Terms Of Service

Turnaround is normally between 2 days and a week, depending on my schedule.

GenresSounds Like
  • Carol Kaye
  • Paul McCartney
  • Chris Squire
Gear Highlights
  • Gibson EB3 (1963
  • 1969
  • 1973)
  • Gibson EBO fretless (1967 defret)
  • Gibson Les Paul Triumph (1972)
  • Gibson EBO (1970)
  • Burns 6 String Bass (1963)
  • amps: Gallien Krueger combos (Microbass
  • MB212)
  • WEM HR30
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