40 Best Bass-Heavy Songs (Updated 2023)

The bass guitar can often be underappreciated, especially considering how much of an impact it has on a song. Roles can range from helping out on the production side by providing that low-end rumble and giving a song its power, energy, and richness, to taking the lead with memorable grooves and riffs that become the defining part of a song, completely overshadowing the lead guitars.

Needless to say, the bass deserves some recognition for everything it adds to our favorite songs. Which is why we’ve prepared a list of the best songs that heavily feature the bass for you to learn and enjoy. We’ve also included both tabs and video lessons for each song!

Money by Pink Floyd

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Bassist Roger Waters really knocked this one out of the park, providing that stable and consistent train-like bassline that drives and pushes the song forward, while simultaneously handling all the odd bar measures the song throws at him. Roger’s basslines in this song have been described by some as the most memorable classic bass riffs ever recorded, and this is a perfect place to start if you’re looking to learn some stellar bass lines.

As mentioned, this song does contain quite a few odd measures (bars that are not simply 4/4), but this is a great opportunity to test and develop your rhythm. There’s also a small section in triplet timing right before the famous guitar solo kicks in.


Give It Away by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Bassist Flea is well-known for providing aggressive and high-energy bass parts to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ funk-influenced style, and no song showcases this style better than Give it Away. It was the main promotional single for their album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik and won the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocals.

Emulating Flea’s iconic style is no small feat. He plays quite aggressively and puts a tremendous amount of energy into his playing. Fortunately, this song uses only 1 main riff throughout the majority, so there’s not too much to learn. The thing to focus on is the big slide up the neck and the small rhythmic mutes in between the notes, which really bring the section to life.


Billie Jean by Michael Jackson

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This is a perfect example of how a wonderfully-written bassline with a great tone, played by a great player (Louis Johnson is a true gem) can bring a song to new heights and even steal the show from the other instruments (even the vocalist). The bassline in this song acts as something like an ostinato, repeating the same phrase as the other instruments provide movement and follow the chord progression around it.

Played in F sharp pentatonic minor, you’ll just need to have your hand planted on the second fret and you never need to leave that familiar pentatonic box shape. This makes this incredibly-catchy bassline very comfortable to play. Once you have this pattern down, it repeats for most of the song so you’ll already be most of the way there!


Hysteria by Muse

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While not a band that always pushes bass to the forefront, one thing Muse does incredibly well is experiment. What this song proves is that when they want to, they can come up with some gripping basslines that really make a song shine. This is a single from their third studio album titled Absolution and has become both a fan favorite and a staple of their live shows since its release.

The opening bassline essentially ‘pedals’ off of single note, as melody notes are picked higher up. It’s all in straight 16th notes, so you’ll never get a break. Get ready! But as relentless as it is, one thing that makes it comfortable to play is that each ‘pedal tone’ is on an open note of the neck. This means you don’t need to constantly hold down the root note.


Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

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It takes a very special bassist such as John Deacon to turn a 2-note bassline into a legendary, iconic riff that is a true must-learn for every new bass guitarist. This is one of Queen’s biggest singles, going 2x platinum in both the US and the UK, and becoming an important part of their live setlist.

The opening riff just uses the A and D strings, which repeats for essentially the entire song. Although it follows the chords as they change, it still uses the same fundamental rhythm and motif just changing position as the chords move. It’s a great lesson on how a catchy rhythm can sometimes surpass using a lot of notes and business.


Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed

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An absolute classic from Lou Reed’s second album titled Transformer, released in 1972. It became somewhat of an unexpected cultural phenomenon and was ranked in Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The bass part is performed by a double bass, which is then double-tracked with Herbie Flowers’ fretless bass, which Herbie was happy to do since he got paid double for recording both instruments!

You don’t need a fretless bass to play this, though. It sounds perfectly fine on a fretted bass. But try your best to emulate the slides by controlling the speed at which you perform them, matching that of the original recording. It’s played at a very comfortable 97bpm which gives you plenty of time to focus on the phrasing and accuracy.


Another One Bites the Dust by Queen

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If it wasn’t enough that John Deacon created a once-in-a-lifetime iconic bassline with Under Pressure, he went and did it again to an even greater extent! The opening bass riff to this song is the very thing that makes it so memorable. It won a Grammy Award and sold over 7 million copies, with his bassline in particular being sampled/covered/remixed by a staggering number of prolific artists looking to add some of his iconic bass-guitar goodness to their own music.

Keeping with John’s style, the bass-guitar part is not designed to be technical from a speed point of view. It really lives off of its rhythm and the pauses between the notes. That’s the single most important thing to focus on emulating correctly as you learn this song. Fortunately, everything is very comfortable in the hands and the BPM is pretty slow at 107, making it perfectly accessible to beginners.


Come Together by The Beatles

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Obviously, we had to include something from the biggest rock band of all time. Out of all The Beatles classics, this is the one for bassists. Paul McCartney’s iconic bassline has become legendary and is definitely considered a must-learn for any aspiring bassist. This song showcases how to give the bass part personality and life while still serving the song and leaving the other instruments room to breathe.

The 1-bar long bass riff repeats for a huge part of the song. The key here is making sure your timing during the slides is correct, so you hit that final D note and slide out of it at the perfect moment. In addition, Paul shows his musical maturity by stepping back to play more simplistic parts during the chorus to give the vocals their moment to shine.


Good Times by Chic

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Good times, from Chic’s third album Risque, contains an absolute classic bassline that both feels good in the hands to play and ‘turns around’ (re-introduces the 1 count) in an extremely satisfying way. This bassline has also been sampled and covered a tremendous number of times and is very popular amongst rap and hip-hop artists, despite its funk/disco origins.

The bass part itself makes good use of rhythmic pauses between the open notes before climbing up the strings in a very catchy way. This allows it to serve as both the rhythm and the main melody of the song. It really ticks all the boxes, being catchy and fun to play, so be sure to give it a try!


The Chain by Fleetwood Mac

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Sometimes, especially in modern production, the bass guitar is relegated to a behind-the-scenes roll, just complementing the guitar or the synth melody while providing those stable bass frequencies for the overall sound. This song is so good because the bass is right at the front and center. It’s the driving force of the song and is very audible even above the vocals and drums. If any Brits are reading this, you will no doubt know this bass riff from the Formula One theme on BBC Television.

There’s not much phrasing involved when playing this song, so you can focus on making sure the notes pop and are as clear as possible. When you’re playing a lot of the same note in sequence, try to ensure you’re picking with the same strength each time to create good consistency.


Peaches by The Stranglers

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A classic punk song from the UK that has been able to live on through its classic bassline, which has been used on various TV shows and covers throughout the years. Despite needing lyrical edits and re-recordings to make it acceptable for British radio, it peaked at the number 8 position on the UK Charts.

Playing the song itself is not where the real challenge lies, it’s actually in the tone. Jean-Jacques used a wonderfully overdriven tone that still retains a good amount of body to really slice through everything and provide that gritty bass tone we all love. So be sure to turn the gain up a little on your amplifier, or if you have a distortion pedal at hand, it’s time to put it to work.


Longview by Green Day

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Green Day’s first single from their third album Dookie. This song is primarily responsible for them breaking out from their alternative roots and reach a more mainstream audience due to heavy MTV coverage. And it just so happens to be a song where the bass guitar is the primary driving force. Coincidence? I think not!

This has an upbeat and bouncy bassline that really holds the rhythm of the song down, since there is no supporting guitar for the majority of the piece. It also makes great use of pedaling off the open C sharp string while the high F sharp plays the melody. This allows the bass guitar to act as both the bass and melody at the same time. Very creative stuff!


Ramble On by Led Zeppelin

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Although written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, it’s really John Paul Jones’ bass guitar performance that sells the song. It’s the lead melodic instrument, setting the pace of the song and lifting it up. Considered one of the best songs of all time, it was ranked number 5 on Rolling Stone’s 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs. Lyrically, the song was inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books.

This one requires a lot of care and attention to the sustained notes. Ensure you are moving on to the next phrase at the right time to maintain that rhythm. Fortunately, the song is only at 102bpm, which gives you space to focus on letting each note breathe.


Roundabout by Yes

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Providing you don’t immediately associate this bassline with its prevalent use in internet memes, it’s no doubt going to serve as one of the most fun pieces of music you’ll ever play. It carries such great energy and has just the right amount of grit and break-up in the tone that you’ll feel it flowing through you as you play. This single was released to promote their fourth album titled Fragile.

The main thing that will inject the energy and life into this bassline is the heavy use of ‘rhythmic mutes’ or ‘dead notes’. This is where you’ll lay your left hand over the fretboard and pick, creating a percussive pluck sound or ‘dead note’ (marked as X on bass tablature).


Schism by Tool

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Tool are one of the most unique bands around, never shy about interchanging instrument roles between melody, rhythm, lead, and textural. This is why it’s so common to see them have the bass guitar front and center while everything steps back to accommodate it. No song showcases this better than Schism, where the bass motif becomes the entire driving force of the song and sets an unsettling and ominous mood quite unlike anything that came before it.

The song makes heavy use of delay on the breakdown to present that dark mood, and there are many odd bar measures used throughout the song, which will really test your rhythmic ability. An absolute must-learn for anyone passionate about the bass!


Sex Machine by James Brown

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Funk is well known for its prominent and catchy basslines, so of course, we have to mention the granddaddy of funk, Mr. James Brown. This song was released as a 2-part single, instead of as a promotional single for an album. It achieved great commercial success, being ranked at 196 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

William Collins’ bassline plays around a lot with doubling up notes instead of just letting the note ring out for the duration, which really adds a great pace and energy to the track. There are also some key rhythmic mutes and dotted note pauses that add a ton of flavor and flair to the bassline.


Stand by Me by Ben E. King

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An absolute classic and culturally-important song that was featured in the movie Stand by Me. Due to it being covered and re-recorded some many times (there are currently over 400 versions of the song available from various artists), it’s become one of the highest-grossing songs of all time due to artist royalties. It’s estimated that by 2012, the song has garnered over $22.8 million in royalties alone. Not bad for a single!

This song is ideal for a beginner as the notes are played ‘straight’ throughout the entire song. This means there is no phrasing, such as bends/slides/hammer-ons and pull-offs used. You just need to play the notes cleanly and confidently and it will sound fantastic.


Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly and the Family Stone

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A rather unique title that uses sensational spelling to say, ‘thank you for letting me be myself again.’ This was originally intended to be part of a new LP album, which unfortunately was never finished. But the band enjoyed the song so much, it would later be released on their 1969 Greatest Hits album.

This is another one that is catchy, while also being completely accessible for beginners. It has sparing use of notes, so there’s a lot of time for you to mentally prepare for the next bar. And once you have the main 4 bar riff down, it simply repeats for the entirety of the song.


Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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An absolutely monstrous way to open their seventh studio album titled Californication. Flea goes crazy, busting out some pretty intense bass-guitar riffs before returning to his signature popping funk style. This song also has an accompanying music video which is currently sitting at 96 million views on YouTube.

This will offer a great challenge to any bassist, as it starts pretty intense, but doubles up on certain notes which makes it a little easier on the left hand. For the verse when it goes a little more funk on the bass side, there’s a lot of string-skipping involved and quick jumps higher up the fretboard. There are even a few select parts that use the ‘trill’ technique for some extra spice!


Chameleon by Herbie Hancock

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As much as this is a successful jazz/funk song, it’s also become a widely-used jazz standard that many artists have used to compose their own pieces. Of course, Herbie himself is a legend, having a whopping 41 full studio albums to his name, and he’s considered a prolific artist and writer by his peers. 

As this is such a commonly-played standard and uses such an iconic bassline, it’s definitely something every bassist should try their hand at regardless of skill level. It might take a little while to get all the notes sounding clear and the high strings popping correctly, but it shouldn’t take too much practice before you have this whole thing down!


Crossroads by Cream

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This was originally recorded by Robert Johnson in 1936. After Eric Clapton formed the supergroup Cream, he performed his own rendition of Crossroads, which gave the song a massive boost of exposure. Slightly more of a rock ‘n’ roll version, Eric’s rendition has a powerful bassline performed by Jack Bruce that drove the song forward like a freight train. 

There are a few subtle inflections that really make these basslines have their own personality and unique qualities. These primarily come from the use of ‘micro bends’ or ‘quarter-step bends’ which are very common in blues. This is where you bend up to certain notes such as the b5. In addition, there’s also a fair bit of string-skipping and sliding around making the basslines wonderfully colorful.


Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz

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A groovy classic, with pounding and slightly distorted drums along with a catchy bassline that carries the whole song on its back. This is from the virtual band’s iconic and chart-topping album Demon Days. It was a massive commercial success and to date has amassed over 800 million online streams. In addition, it also received Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Music Video.

Probably one of the simplest basslines on the list to play, but what it lacks in technicality and phrasing, it makes up for in droves with attitude and catchiness. The main bass riff is only 4 bars long and repeats for the entire song (aside from some short breaks), so there’s no excuse, everyone should learn this!


For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica

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When we think of Metallica, usually we think of heavy, chunky, aggressive twin-rhythm guitars chugging along while James says ‘Yeah’ a hundred different ways. What makes For Whom the Bell Tolls special is that it’s heavily driven by the bass guitar. The legendary Cliff Burton would use extreme distortion and wah pedal effects to really showcase how good his playing was. Cliff actually wrote that piece before joining Metallica, but it fits the feel of the song so well they ended up using it for the final track.

As mentioned, ideally you need a fair amount of distortion to make these lines cut through. And although Cliff played with his fingers, he also played extremely hard, so be sure to get angry, get aggressive and make sure those notes pop.


London Calling by The Clash

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This one’s a classic rock/post-punk song from English legends The Clash. It was released as part of a double album which was also titled London’s Calling. A very political song, it tackled many issues London was facing at that time, from the dangers of the River Thames overflowing to police brutality. The band also had their own financial struggles, which played a part in the writing of this double album.

This represents a time when bands weren’t afraid to have the bass guitar very loud in the mix. It’s quite mid-heavy and slices right through the other instruments, so as a listener you will have no trouble tuning your ear to the bass guitar’s notes.


Lovely Day by Bill Withers

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Another really wonderful and catchy bassline that actually plays off of the rhythmic guitar to create what’s called counterpoint or a counter melody. This song is part of Bill’s 1977 album titled Menagerie. Fun fact: This track has an 18-second-long sustained note at the end from Bill, which is one of the longest notes ever recorded on a pop song

As mentioned before, the rhythm is quite playful and contains some key rests and held notes to give the listener a chance to hear what the guitar is doing. This might sound complicated, but once you get the primary bass motif down you’ll realize all the pauses are placed at very nice spots on the musical bar and it will feel totally natural to play.


Around the World by Daft Punk

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Around the World is a primarily bass-driven song from the kings of synthpop and electro. This was a single from their debut album titled Homeworld and became an instant hit, reaching number 1 on dance charts the world over. The official music video currently sitting at over 81 million views on YouTube.

This is a bassline that makes fantastic uses of pauses and octaves to strike a balance between groove and an almost synthesizer-like arpeggiation in how it jumps around the fretboard. You’ll need to get comfortable with skipping strings and being able to mute notes quickly to make everything ‘pops’ just like the original song.


My Generation by The Who

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An absolute stellar single from The Who. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably already heard this song more than a few times. It was released as a single on the album of the same name and became one of their biggest hits, exposing them to a wider audience. The song charted at the number 2 position in the UK and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its historical and artistic value.

The first thing to note is that John played with a pick. So although the basslines are all fairly easy to play from a technical perspective, it’s really going to help if you pick quite hard and confidently, because the bass is a big driving force in the song. There are a couple of short triplet sections peppered throughout, so be sure to look out for those too.


Orion by Metallica

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Another incredible track from the Master of Puppets album that perfectly showcases Cliff’s unique approach to bass and why he was such an important and iconic player. As an instrumental track, it’s essentially left up to the bass to fill in where the vocals have left off, so it covers all the roles, rhythm, melody, and complementary instrument to the guitars.

Essentially the bass is trying to act larger than life here, so you’ll be doing some slightly more unusual things like big, open 4-string chords and melodies that follow lead guitars. And as always when playing Cliff’s stuff, make sure you have a decent amount of distortion on and pick as hard as you can!


Riders on the Storm by The Doors

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This was the second single released from the Door’s sixth album titled L.A. Woman. This would be the final album they’d have Jim Morrison perform vocals on. The song flirts with a few genres, covering jazz, rock, and psychedelia to make a unique and defining style of music. But as you would expect, the bass is very loud in the mix and uses a ‘walking bassline’ to keep the song’s rhythm in check as the other instruments such as piano go a little off-road and crazy.

The real defining element of this song’s bass-guitar part is that it’s consistent, using straight 16th notes with almost no breaks throughout. Your fingers will be going constantly and rarely stopping. Definitely a good workout for both finger dexterity and picking consistency!


What’s Going On? by Marvin Gaye

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A classic soul/R&B track from Marvin Gaye from his 1971 release What’s Goin On. It’s said that this song was inspired by Renaldo Benson (a credited songwriter) who witnessed a case of police brutality. The song went on to sell over 2 million copies and topped the U.S Billboard charts at the number 1 position. The song was also famously covered by the wonderful Cyndi Lauper.

You will notice that although the bass motif repeats a lot, there are small and subtle changes on each repetition, allowing it to stay musically interesting, while still fundamentally serving the song in a nice way.


1612 by Vulfpeck

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A fantastic funk group that formed in 2011 and has released 6 full studio albums and 4 EP’s to date, which is quite an impressive pace! This band is noted for their minimal style, where each instrument can have its own room and space in the mix. They also record albums live, which is something we don’t see too often nowadays! 

One of the most unique aspects of this song is that the kick drum syncs up quite heavily with the bass guitar. While this is extremely common in genres like metal, is not too common in funk. This puts a bit of pressure on you as a bassist and you’ll need to be sure your rhythm timing is good in order to not miss those kick drum hits. Feel free to use a metronome to help you!


Ace of Spades by Motorhead

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Hopefully, you already knew this would make the cut. An absolute monster track from English heavy-metal band Motorhead and the title track of the album of the same name. Right from the very beginning, it opens with the late singer/bassist Lemmy’s absolutely filthy and overdriven bass riffs. And once the song starts, it doesn’t let up until the finish. This song is intense and a ton of fun to play!

Speed and aggression are the name of the game here. Fortunately, your left hand won’t be doing anything too involved. This is a classic metal song, after all, so you’ll just be playing single notes and some easy power chords. However, the right hand is going to be going nonstop and at 140bpm, this will be a great workout for your forearm!


Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson

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A truly spectacular pop song from Michael Jackson’s seventh album Bad. And as much as we know Michael for his stellar vocal performances, songwriting, and dancing, it does need to be said that the musicians he plays with are also fantastic. Smooth Criminal has some wonderfully catchy bass lines, which are also doubled up with synthesizers in unison.

There’s a very obvious primary motif or riff that gets used for the majority of the song, which you’ll probably already recognize. The main thing to ensure is that you get the 8th note rests in there, and mute the note played before it quite fast to give it that punchy and tight sound.


Bombtrack by Rage Against the Machine

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The opening track of their self-titled debut album and right out of the gate, it hits us with one of the most memorable basslines ever. It’s also worth noting that this song was actually primarily written by bassist Tim Commerford which is a nice refreshing change. And despite its political lyrical content, the song (as with most songs from RATM) achieved huge commercial success and has even been featured in movies and videogames such as Rock Band.

Obviously, the song opens with that iconic riff where you’re essentially playing within the first position of the minor pentatonic scale in E, so there’s a lot of open note use, which makes it quite comfortable on the hands to play. All the riffs hit hard and have a deep aggression to them, so make sure you pick hard and confident.


Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer

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Here’s an absolutely stellar and iconic song and bassline from MC Hammer’s 1990 album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em. When we hear that opening bassline, most people associate it with the MC Hammer song, but it’s actually sampled from the Rick James song Superfreak. It’s been estimated that the album sales (it wasn’t released as a promotional single, so that was not an option) were over 18 million copies.

So the catchy Rick James bass riff is the only thing you need to really learn. It’s just 2 bars long and repeats for most of the song, the only exception being the breakdown which just holds a little bit on the A note before going straight back into the main riff. This makes it very easy to memorize and also a ton of fun to play!


Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

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The White Stripes are a unique group, who instead of pursuing technical playing and high-end production and mixing, embraced a raw and natural sound much in the same way bands like Nirvana did. As such, they have affectionately become known as ‘garage rock’. No song showcased this better than Seven Nation Army from their fourth album Elephant. The opening bass riff is so iconic, it’s become a commonly-used sports anthem for many events including the 2018 Fifa World Cup. A simple and raw song that is both catchy and easy to remember.

It’s also an ideal song for beginners as it’s so simple, there’s no phrasing involved. You can just play the 2-bar phrase using straight notes and you’re already done with learning the majority of the song.


Come as You Are by Nirvana

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Obviously, this is the band that popularized the grunge genre, making use of only drums, guitar, bass, and vocals. Every instrument has a larger role to play and a greater degree of importance within the music. In this song, the bassline essentially follows and supports the guitar, and is a great example of a bass part that can be very fun to play, but doesn’t have to be doing its own thing and can just support the overall song.

Much like the guitar part, the bass also uses the same style of chromatics around the 5th and 6th fret for that signature Nirvana edge we all know and love. It doesn’t spend a great deal of time around the lower register until the pre-chorus, so it’s also a good chance to spend some time playing a little high up the fretboard.


Bullet in the Head by Rage Against the Machine

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Another extremely-successful song from Rage’s first self-titled album and another heavily bass-driven song. The track itself deals with propaganda and the government’s use of mainstream media to both influence and control the narrative and views of the general populace. It’s a primarily bass-driven song and a must learn for players of any skill level!

The song opens with a solo bass-guitar part, where you’ll be holding the rhythm down by yourself. There’s also a cool-sounding dissonant interval used between the 6th fret of the D string and 7th fret of the G string to great effect.


La Grange by ZZ Top

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A catchy and memorable classic from American rock legends ZZ Top, this was a single released as part of their 1973 album Tres Hombres. It was met with great critical acclaim and, although not their biggest song, it did receive heavy radio play and hit the no 41 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song talks about a brothel located in La Grange, Texas (also the subject of the popular Broadway play The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas).

The song has a very upbeat rhythmic feel to it, and although you will be riding on your low A string for a large part of the song, it is important to lock into the groove of the drums. This song is very easy to play and is perfect for a beginner or someone just looking for a fun song to jam!


Superstition by Stevie Wonder

How To Play Superstition | Bass Guitar Lesson | Stevie Wonder

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And finally, we have one of the all-time greats from Stevie Wonder. A funky, groovy tune with an incredible bassline that’s pure joy to play. This song is a single release from his fifteenth studio album titled The Talking Book, which hit the number 1 spot on the U.S Billboard Hot 100 and won Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance. The track has also been used repeatedly in popular media, including 2013 Super Bowl and Bud Light commercials.

The bassline on this is primarily just holding and grooving on the root note of the song, along with some small embellishments as the musical parts turn around. There are also a few moments where the bass really gets a chance to shine, as the other instruments step back for a few bars and the bass takes a small lead riff, before returning to the main motif.

Final Thoughts on Best Bass-Heavy Songs

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the 40 Best Bass-Heavy Songs and have discovered some new favorites or revisited old classics.

Whether you’re a bass purist or just enjoy the feeling of a powerful beat, these tracks deliver some serious low-end energy.

From the funky grooves of Superstition to the punk-rock riffs of Longview, these songs showcase the versatility and impact of bass in music.

We encourage you to keep exploring and expanding your bass-heavy playlist with even more great tracks. Who knows, maybe your next favorite song is waiting to be discovered.

Author

  • Liam Engl

    UK born gear nerd that happens to play guitar. Began playing properly at the age of 12 after hearing Soilwork's Natural Born Chaos and deciding trying to sound like Peter Wichers was a respectable life goal. Full time guitar teacher and over the last decade has become involved in the audio/production side of things.