Cliff Burton VS Steve Harris
Nov 4th 2009 Patrick Saad Miscellaneous What do you think?

Share on Facebook10Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

The latest poll on resulted in a tie between bassists Cliff Burton and Steve Harris. Therefore this article will be an overview on both musicians and their important roles in the Metal universe.

  • Who’s your favorite Metal Bassist?

* Cliff Burton (Metallica) (20.0%, 27 Votes)
* Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) (20.0%, 27 Votes)
* Steve DiGorgio (Death / Testament / Iced Earth, etc) (14.0%, 19 Votes)
* Thomas Miller (Symphony X) (11.0%, 15 Votes)
* John Myung (Dream Theater) (8.0%, 11 Votes)
* Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) (6.0%, 8 Votes)
* Stefan Fimmers (Necrophagist) (6.0%, 8 Votes)
* Lars Norberg (Spiral Architect) (5.0%, 6 Votes)
* Tony Choy (Atheist / Cynic / Pestilence, etc) (5.0%, 6 Votes)
* Sean Malone (Cynic / Gordian Knot) (4.0%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 132

  • Steve Harris (1956-present)

Steve Harris is the (self-taught) bassist and founding member of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden. He used to work as an architectural draftsman before forming Iron Maiden during the mid 70s while he was a youth team footballer for West Ham United (his other passion aside from music). He also plays keyboards, sings backing vocals and is the main composer/lyricist of the band. His earlier projects included”Influence/Gypsy’s Kiss” and “Smiler” which he quit to form a band who could play his composed songs. Harris plays a 4-stringed bass guitar with his fingers (NEVER played a pick/NEVER warmed up before a show).


Additional information on Steve Harris can be found here.

  • Accomplishments / Legacy / Styles

– Music production/mixing (since “Fear of The Dark”).

– Music video (and live videos) directing/editing.

Steve’s legacy can be summed up in 3 words, “Galloping Bass Lines”, his trademark playing style which can be found on nearly all Iron Maiden songs along with the use of Power Chords (relatively unheard of on bass). He has experimented with a bass synth on many albums of the band and played most of the band’s keyboard parts, sometimes aided by his bass technician. In addition, Fender honored the man with the Fender Steve Harris Signature Precision Bass:

“It’s always been Fender Precision Bass guitars for me, whether recording or playing live, I only endorse things I use, so it makes sense to have my own signature model!” – Steve Harris


For you bass guitarists, Steve doesn’t use active bass pickups:

“No, they’re Seymour Duncan pickups. In fact I got a Seymour to make them pretty much the same as the Fender ones actually. I don’t use active electronics or anything like that. I don’t really use them because I find that the very simple. basic sound is better for me.” – Steve Harris

Harris’ musical influences were sharpened by progressive and hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and bassist Geddy Lee. His playing style is aggressive, with the ‘bomber’ Harris charge around the stage along with the infamous foot on the monitor stance, playing the bass as if it’s a rhythm guitar with the power chords approach alongwith a special sound of his (close to a “slapping” sound). Another accomplishment was him being ranked “best bassist ever” in Classic Rock magazine, January 2000!

Overall, Steve has got great composing/playing skills which alongside his energetic performance brought a highly respectable reputation of “The world’s most influential heavy metal bassist”.

  • Cliff Burton (1962-1986)

Cliff Burton was the bassist of heavy/thrash metal band Metallica. He used to play Little League baseball for the Castro Valley Auto House team and used to work at an equipment rental yard called Castro Valley Rentals. Cliff was introduced by his father to classical music which got him into piano lessons at an early age. His earlier projects were: EZ Street, Agents of Misfortune and Trauma. He later joined Metallica after being spotted at a live show by Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield who immediately wanted Burton to replace their bassist Ron McGoveny. After 3 albums with Metallica, Cliff passed away on September 27th 1986 when the tour bus skidded off the road as he was killed during the accident.


  • Accomplishments / Legacy / Styles

Cliff’s major attribute was Spirit; add musical knowledge and passion to that and you’ll have one of the greatest metal bassists of all time. He experimented with pedals in many songs, mainly in his masterpiece “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” and other tracks such as “The Call of Ktulu”, “Damage Inc.” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. He contributed in songwriting especially in both “Ride The Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” albums and he also contributed in the lyrics with his known H.P Lovecraft addiction. His style consisted of a headbanging red-headed attack with a performance which will never be matched, as his pure dedication and skills created the legend himself.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica on April 4th 2009.


  • His influences were, according to him

“Well, first off, with bass playing it would be Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler, Stanley Clarke. Lemmy [of Motorheadalso had an influence in the way he uses distortion.” – Cliff Burton

Other influences were classical music (he loved Bach), jazz, southern rock and blues.

His most famous bass guitar is a Rickenbacker 4001; he also used a Mesa Boogie 4″x12″ cabinets amp (see here) and a Chrome Tel-Ray Morley Power Wah Fuzz (among others).

Overall, Cliff had a spirit unmatched by the bassists of his era alongside some ultra-fast bass lines and creative classical-influenced composing. He has influenced so many bassists that his legacy will never cease to exist.


This was an overview of two important bassists that graced the musical world with their contribution to Metal music.

Share on Facebook10Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
  • Rami Rouhana

    Steve Harris ! I give him one more vote … so he wins .. Please delete the cliff burton section ! No need for it ! 😛

  • ma7fouz

    well i diddnt know that Harris also plays keyboads 😛 but i do know that he is a foot ball fanatic !
    as for cliff : lars and james were passing by a place where they heard amazing soloing , they thought at first that it was a guitar but turned out it was cliff on bass.

  • Khaled

    Di3anoun lars, sean and tony yetla3o bl ekhir:(

  • Jad Jawhari

    Great article patrick. Both of them are pioneers and they are extremely important!!

  • roy naufal

    nice article
    i do find cliff burton a bit overrated though
    u wanna check a good bassist, see steve digiorgio – he’s the only/first metal bassist to play with a fretless

  • SerJ Panossian

    cliff is one of my fav ^^ … steve ma bou shi 😛 … as a gd bassist ?! check john (dream theater) .. uff

  • Roy Naufal

    john myung is good & fast & all
    but he’s not overly creative…i dont find anything much special about his playing

  • Patrick

    Khaled … I agree with you, but you already know that those bassists are underrated, especially when few people are into the ‘uncommercial’ style that they play …
    Roy, I also love Digiorgio’s creative playing and use of the fretless! He may one of those few players who use fretless bass in metal music and he had his own jazz band for God’s sake!
    As for Cliff, I don’t believe he’s overrated, because his composing is classical influenced, which along metal music created many many epic songs back in the old Metallica days!

  • Roy Naufal

    true true, but i think there’s alot of more important bassists that deserve more credit, but cliff was slungshot because of the fact he was in metallica

  • stephan

    well roy i have 2 disagree with u .. cliff burton didn’t become famous because he joined metallica …he was a solo bassist and used 2 be in numerous bands before and he was famous back then as well …

    and as for steve harris he has amazing techniques and also an amazing player

    but as for my vote i would go for cliff burton ^^

  • Roy Naufal

    cliff’s current popularity is mainly because he was metallica’s bassist, and not the previous bands

  • fadi tabet

    Steve Harris ! I give him one more vote … so he wins .. Please delete the cliff burton section ! No need for it ! 😛

  • Rami Rouhana

    Thx for the support Fadi !

  • Elie Da32our

    nice article:D
    both gr8 bassists!

  • Patrick Saad

    Yup I mean sometimes it depends on how you rate musicians; you can rate them purely on techniques or on creativity or on passion/performance. In the end, the point of this article is to honor Steve and Cliff, and I believe that the others will have their way in the future. (Y)

  • Jason

    Amazing article Patrick, but i agree with Roy. Cliff is overrated but no one can deny his masterpieces and his creativity. But NO ONE can put STEVE HARRIS with Cliff Burton, enno way Steve is wayyy better honestly, technically talking (never warmed-up .. never used a pick .. own techniques !! ) I’m sorry to say Steve Harris is the winner b kel souhoulee ..And again, Cliff is NOTHING without Metallica !! but surely he’s great he’s respected may he RIP .. but do not overrate him that much

  • roy naufal

    it’s true, cliff was very creative and innovative, mainly in usage of effects…but that’s about it for him…he can be well marked for that, but i wouldnt rate him as a ‘top bassist’ because of that, but he is good

    as for steve, not using a pick is lack of technique, not a plus 😛
    bes i definitely put him on a higher league
    but there still are much better bassists that are very underrated
    these guys are mainly backed by popular bands

  • Patrick Saad

    I agree with Roy that these guys are backed by popular bands, hence talented people such as Cynic, Spiral Architect and Atheist’s bassists got so little votes by the local Lebanese metalheads.
    BUT, I hate the idea that if someone belongs to a band that has a huge fanbase, then the people in this band become suddenly underrated by music fans. Cliff was a great bassist and if you can’t see that by the way he composed songs, filled the actual songs with basslines that few other bassist would do with such elegance, then I’m afraid you’re betraying some part of you that loves bass guitar. As for Jason my friend, I know you’re a Maiden fan above all, and this article has members of probably the two leading heavy metal bands in the world; Still, if you prefer Harris, I advise you to really listen to what Cliff played, and I assure you, as a bassist myself, that his stuff can’t be copied by anyone out there.

  • rassi

    patrick khayabtelle amaleh… Burton’s greatest influence is the MISFITS, as apparent from the Misfits tee he always wears (the one he is wearing bl soura above for instance) and his misfits tattoo on his arm.

  • Patrick Saad

    I don’t believe he was influenced by their musical composing, he just liked the bands and supported them as a friend also by wearing their shirts, etc.
    We are talking about pure musical influences, and I believe his playing wasn’t influenced by Misfits.

  • roy naufal

    i didnt say he wasnt he a good bassist,
    he just gets a bit more credit than needed for something alot of other bassists are doing as well, they’re just unseen and he has a spotlight
    he’s still my favorite metallica bassist, but i think there are many better
    steve digiorgio for example is in a totally different league for example, and he’s barely known
    as you see, the votes were mostly dominated by popular band names

  • Ric

    Cliff Rules!!

  • sn4x

    wow a lot of people have some wrong information about cliff burton, the way he was discovered by metallica was when metallica was looking for a new bassist to replace ron mcgovney james hetfield was told by his friend brian slagel to check the bassist from a band called trauma, who was cliff burton, james hetfield and lars ulrich pestered cliff for months before recruiting him

    cliff studied musical theory from the age of 9 and started applying it to bass when he was 13 unlike steve harris who was self taught, so as for being technical, cliff gets the point, for those who say that steve invented the gallop, their wrong, he only made it popular, cliff had a very wide array styles, unlike steve who only had one, the only time cliff ever used a pick was to achieve certain tones on recordings, which was still rare

    cliffs influences where geddy lee, geezer butler, stanley clarke, lemmy, thin lizzy, jimi hendrix, ulrich roth, schenker, tony iommi, and bach

    as for people who are saying that cliff was only famous because of metallica, well steve was only famous because of iron maiden

    so +1 for cliff burton

  • Patrick

    Thanks for the opinion !

  • SerJ Panossian

    sn4x, uff man .. respect 🙂

  • Pablo Shultz

    Of course Steve Harris is the best bassist EVER (incredible) but Cliff (RIP) is good too

  • Kyller

    Both Cliff and ‘Arry are the thing! Cliff will never die in our hearts, and Steve is a powerslave of his own greatness, he can’t retire no matter how much he tries! On the other hand it is disturbing that another great bassist was not mentioned: Joey DeMaio. He deserves at least 3rd place, and if you ask me I’d tie him up with this other two virtuosos.

  • Patrick

    Thanks for the comments you guys. Well this was the result of the poll, but indeed more bassists should have been there along these guys!

  • No Hay q Dudas cllif Burton y FUE SERA El Mejor Bajista siendo del Mundo metallica es la Luz kaaaaarajoo

  • metallica es la luz

  • Barry

    I Love Them Both But, Cliff Is Gone & Steve Lives On. I Would Have To Pick Steve.

  • Patrick

    haha but the question remains “What if Cliff is still with us!?”
    Steve hasn’t showed any new techniques since he first started playing, and I really think that if Cliff was here with us today, he would show us more creativity and technicality!

  • salvatella

    Well guys first of all Steve is the mastermind behind heavy metal greatest band of all time. Like it or not Harris is better than Burton. I don’t see nothing special about him, just a regular bassist with some flashy moments. And for the guy who typed in spanisH. Metallica no le llega ni a los tobillos a Maiden!!!!.

  • Piks

    I think they´re both extremely talented but my vote goes to Steve because he´s truthfully the “bass” of the band and without him maiden will be nothing and cliff is great but he did not participate that much on the songwriting and its obvious that the band continued without him after all this years

  • Patrick

    Wow wow … Cliff didn’t participate in the song writing? NO way my friend, look at what happened when Cliff passed away, Metallica lost their ability to write memorable metal songs! It’s obvious!

  • .44

    Yeah, because AJfA didn’t have any memorable songs at all… *sigh*

  • Patrick

    I kinda meant the 90’s onward; AJFA is their most progressive release and I do love it, but I’m sure if Cliff hadn’t passed away, Metallica wouldn’t have died in the 80’s. (you might also admire The Black Album, Load, Reload, etc but my opinion stands and I guess you’ll sigh that as well)

  • SerJ

    Rofl at .44 and Piks

  • .44

    I don’t know how strong you think your opinion stands, because you haven’t explained how Metallica “died in the 80’s” with the passing of Cliff. Given, for example, the fact that Metallica had their greatest and best known gigs in the post-CB era, I’d say your assertion is very easily disputable. Consequently, so is your previous comment about memorable songwriting.

    Message to admin/moderator: This post and my previous one were not for discussion purposes, but only to see if the person in charge of moderating this website was capable of refraining himself from deleting perfectly normal posts. You were finally able to pick one of your liking from a series and publish it to have a discussion, for whatever specific reason or criteria you suddenly had. I don’t find that practical, and certainly not appealing, and that also leads me to question the worth of having a discussion here in the first place. Now that you have read this message, you may ignore this post and choose not to publish it. Have fun.

  • Patrick

    haha no this comment is funny as hell and it should be published 😛 My opinion needs no explanation and I didn’t mention any gigs whatsoever (maybe because I was never there to attend those gigs), I’m talking strictly about studio albums, and I do think they died in the 80’s if we’re talking about that. Now don’t go and tell me that this album sold more copies than that, I simply do not care if Metallica got more commercial throughout after the 90’s, I just prefer their older stuff and neither you or your neat / funny expressive ways can change that my friend 😀
    What’s funnier than me picking this subject to discuss is people like you who think discussing subjects is a matter of proving the other person wrong 😛 Well buddy, that might work in science but music is simply too personal to convince anyone that their likings are misplaced. I’m having fun, stick around 😛

  • .44

    The argument was not about personal “likings” or musical tastes and preferences. I ask you not to try to change the nature of the subject in attempt to dumb down your opponent in debate. Show me at least a smart and decent standard of discussion, because it’s bad enough that you only approve posts that you happen to like.

    The argument was about you stating that Metallica has “died in the 80’s”. You didn’t bother to explain how, so it is reasonable to assume that you meant any or all of the following scenarios:
    1) The band lost its fanbase
    2) The band failed to release new albums
    3) The band failed to make any new live appearances
    4) The band members split-up

    While you had the option to treat the issue objectively with hard figures, instead you chose to follow a purely subjective approach basing your opinion solely on your own preference for their studio albums. Disagree all you want, but without an ounce of credibility, this alone cannot justify your opinion of the band being dead. You want to properly demonstrate the opposite? Enlighten me with statistics that point to the fulfillment of any of the above mentioned and I will consider your opinion to be at least credible. Note that I didn’t include album sales.

    As I said, there are no “likings” involved in this argument, so in turn don’t tell me that I’m trying to convince you with an argument based on personal preference. Clearly you missed the point and took the whole thing out of context. Of course it could be possible that by “died” you simply meant that they became a more commercial, mainstream-friendly band, in which case there could have been an agreement. However, your dubious choice of words and lack of explanations surely did not help you make your point.

    By the way, in science we don’t prove that the other person is wrong, because we don’t take subjects personally. We prove that their theories are flawed and do so in an elaborate, methodic way. If it amuses you, that’s also fine.

    Have a good one, my honest little objectivity-loving buddy.

  • Hey … 44

    No disrespect but I can pick a line from your last comment and start arguing about it endlessly …
    When you said “Any or All of the scenarios” you neglected other possible scenario… why did you do that ?

  • .44

    To keep things simple. I don’t mind it if you contribute more reasons that can explain why a band dies – as in reach a point where it completely and permanently stops all of its activities. The ones I cited can encompass many other different related scenarios as well, so that should suffice for the scope of this discussion. More reasons you could add:
    -The band cannot financially support itself (= split-up)
    -The band faces legal action and loses (= split-up)
    -The band members face political incarceration
    -The band dies, literally (as in all members die)

    Anyway, I think the whole issue is just the result of a misuse of words.

  • Patrick

    I’m glad we’re buddies! when the band regains the spirit that made it the legendary 80’s band, I’ll come up and tell you that they did not die, but until then, my opinion stands. I was thinking of another example to explain my misuse of words as you mentioned, and that example is Sepultura who in my opinion died a long time ago but they’re now enjoying the fruits of their past and are playing live gigs, etc … but the fans know that their best work has already passed.
    Ultimately my smart buddy, I’m simply a Metallica fan who keeps expecting his band to regain their status as the best metal band, and quite frankly I’m not satisfied with any of their latest albums therefore the present theory that Metallica are the best metal band around is sadly flawed in my opinion: they are simply feeding off their glory days … That may not be wrong, but it’s definitely sad.

  • Chuck Schuldiner forever

    In my opinion Cliff was more like a psychedelic rock or progressive rock bassist than a heavy metal or thrash metal bassist. Because his bass sound style was very different and sometime exotic. The main reasons the metalheads hate cliff burton are these
    1.Cliff Burton is sloppy with his distorted bass sound
    Well, his sound was influenced by Lemmy of the motorhead who use the distortion bass effect. Lemmy makes a solid and heavy bass sound with that. He just played the bass riff not the solo. So it doesnt sound sloppy. But Cliff tried to hit the 3 differentnotes from the arpeggio very fast on the bass. He loved using the arpeggio in his bass solo during the show. The problem is that it is very hard to get the clean tone from distortion when you re playing fast. The similar thing happened to the another musicians. Richie Blackmore who was not a bassist but the guitarist of Deep purple used a lot of distortion and effect like that to do the guitar shred during the live and it sounded like a random cacophonous shit. Actually, Cliff burton cited Richie Blackmore as his influence.
    2.His playing style is just simple
    Well it is true that his playing is just simple. But he never tried to be a crazy bass player like Steve Harris, Steve Digiorgio or even Sean Malone from Cynic.
    These players played an enormous amount of bass riff and notes in a very technical way. But he tried to play less and express more. For example,Look and the intro of the Orion, He is just playing a single note distorted bass line, but that bass line makes us feel as if we were flying in the universe. For the Call of Ktulu, the disturbing distorted bass line gives us the sound similar to the growling of the ktulu the god of the world destruction.
    3.Cliff Burton is overrated because of his death
    Well it is true that his death exaggerated his playing ability but it is undeniable that he tried to bring the elements from the rock genre to the thrash metal sound which can be very straight. And he tried to do so with his bizarre bass playing style which can make him sound sloppy and not technical. He tried to sort of explore the other sound aspect that the metal bass can have.
    And the result was the 3 bassline of the call of ktulu,and the orion,and for whom the bell tolls which sounds totally different from the typical heavy metal power bass player like Steve harris, digiorgio or David Ellefson.
    4.Cliff Burton played a very small role in the band
    Actually James admitted that without Cliff he wouldnt have a composition skill. And Lars admitted that almost nothing could happen without Cliffs agreement when it comes to the composition. So he was a center of the sound of Metallica.

  • SerJ

    Chuck … Respect 🙂

  • brilla

    i agree u all but there is nothing competition between steve n cliff they r talented they got their own awesome style, sounds different but i will go for cliff cz he let me feel new, after all bass soloing is not funny they have capable to do thts the point just which one more like or not is the vote.