Ida Nielsen: Prince's Funk Princess

IDA NIELSEN’S FUNKY FAIRY TALE traces back to when she was “around 16 years old,” living in the Danish countryside.
By Jimmy Leslie ,

IDA NIELSEN’S FUNKY FAIRY TALE traces back to when she was “around 16 years old,” living in the Danish countryside. “I got my first bass and discovered funk music at about the same time,” she remembers. Nielsen earned a diploma in electric bass from the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1998, and landed her first major gig a couple of years later, subbing with Zap Mama. Her tale took a purple hue in 2010, when she got a call from Prince’s manager. “Prince had seen my MySpace page, and I was invited to Minneapolis to jam,” says Nielsen. “I thought it was a joke, but it was real. The jam was amazing, and I’ve been playing with the New Power Generation ever since.”

What’s your favorite Prince bass line to play and why?

“Alphabet Street.” It’s not very loud in the mix, but the part Prince played on the original recording is the most fantastic bass line ever. It’s a jam in G the whole way through, and it’s right on time. I can’t think of anything as funky. We play the build up and the chorus differently live, so my lines on those parts are different too, but the verse is the same and the whole thing is still super funky.

Do you get solo spot in the Prince show?

We never play the same show, so there’s no set song where I get a solo—it could be any song at any time. But “Let’s Work” is always fun because the track is more or less built on the famous bass line, and there are breakdowns where the bass is featured.

How do you choose which of your basses to play?

I use the Sandberg for funk. The Yamaha’s soft, cool sound is good for melodic stuff. The vintage Fender always sounds great, but I don’t bring it on the road.

What is the mute you use on your 5-string’s fingerboard?

It’s an elastic hair tie [laughs]. That’s a trick I learned from Victor Wooten. I keep it handy behind the nut, and then I put it on either the 1st or 2nd fret depending on how much muting I want. The higher up you put it, the more it mutes the strings. You have to play above the mute, of course. It’s especially useful keeping the low B from sympathetically resonating and rumbling while playing slap solos on the higher strings.

On your website, you announce your new solo album with a disclaimer that says it represents the old you. What’s new?

I missed a lot of American music growing up in Denmark, and I still live in Copenhagen. I’ve learned so much through discovering the Gap Band, Staples Singers, and Willie Weeks. Nothing is bigger for me than actually playing with Prince because I love funk music, and Prince is the funkiest musician ever.

Ida Nielsen, Sometimes a Girl Needs Some Sugar Too [CD Baby, 2011]


Bass Sandberg California VM4 Masterpiece, Yamaha TRB5 1005, ’70s Fender Jazz Bass
Rig TC Electronic RH450 head with RS210 and RS212 cabinets
Effects Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator, Dunlop Crybaby 105Q Bass Wah, Emma Electronic DB-1 Discombobulator envelope filter, Danelectro DD1 Fab Tone distortion
Tech tip “I use one RS210 cabinet as a monitor angled up at my ear in big venues, because the bass goes directly to the PA. I don’t ask for any bass in my wedge monitor, because it gets in the way of my vocals and the rest of the band.”