40 best Bass Heavy Songs

The bass guitar can often be underappreciated, especially considering how much of an impact it has on a song. Helping out on the production side of things 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, and 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, being able to provide 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 ability. There’s also a small section in triplet timing right before the 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 the ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ album 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 just uses 1 main riff throughout the majority of the song, so there’s not too much to learn. But 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. Making this incredibly catchy bassline also 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 that Muse does do incredibly well is experiment. And what this song proves is that when they want to, they can come up with some gripping bass lines 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 bass line essentially ‘pedals’ off of a 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, meaning you don’t need to constantly be holding the root note down.


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 which went 2x platinum in both the US and the UK and was an important part of their live setlist.

The opening riff just uses the A and D strings which repeats for essentially the entire song, even though 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 on this song is performed by a double bass which is then double tracked with Herbie Flowers fretless bass, which Herbie was happy to do as he got paid double the fee for recording both instruments!

Now you don’t need a fretless bass to play this, 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 to match 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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So if it wasn’t enough that John Deacon made 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. Winning a Grammy Award, selling over 7 million copies, and with his bassline in particular being sampled/covered and remixed by a staggering number of prolific artists who wanted some of his iconic bass guitar goodness in their own music.

As is in 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 try and focus on emulating correctly as you learn this song. But 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. 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 giving 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 to that, 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, but also ‘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 too. It really ticks all the boxes of being catchy and fun to play, so be sure to give it a try!


The Chain by Fleetwood Mac

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Sometimes, and especially in modern production, the bass guitar is relegated to a ‘behind the scenes’ roll, just complimenting 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. Now if any Brits are reading this you will no doubt know this bass riff for its use as the Formula One theme tune on BBC Television.

There’s not much phrasing involved when playing this song so you can focus more on making sure the notes pop and are as clear as possible. When you are playing a lot of the same note in sequence try to ensure you are 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 re-recordings and edits made to the song due to some of the lyrics being unacceptable 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 allowing Green Day to break out from their alternative roots and reach a more mainstream audience, in large part due to the coverage they got from MTV. And just so happens to be the song where the bass guitar is the primary driving force of the song, coincidence? I think not!

This has an upbeat and bouncy bassline that really holds the rhythm of the song down as 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, which 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’s bass guitar performance that sells the song. It’s the lead melodic instrument and serves to both set the pace of the song and lift it up. Considered one of the best songs of all time, and was ranked at the number 5 spot on Rolling Stone’s 40 greatest Led Zeppelin songs. Lyrically the song was actually inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ books.

The song requires a lot of care and attention to the sustained notes. and 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 the space to be able 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 on 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 the energy flow 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 are the heavy use of ‘rhythmic mutes’ or ‘dead notes’, which is where you will 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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One of the most unique bands around, who are not 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 as the front and center instrument 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 are really going to 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 a promotional single for an album. It achieved great commercial success being ranked at 196 on the 2021 Rolling Stones list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

William Collins’s bassline plays around a lot with doubling up notes which, instead of just letting the note ring out for the duration, really adds a great pace and energy to the track. There are also some key rhythmic mutes and dotted note pauses which 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 written for the movie also titled Stand by Me. Due to it being covered and re-recorded some many times (there are currently over 400 different versions of the song available from various artists) it’s also become one of the highest grossing songs of all time because of the artist royalties. It’s estimated that by 2012 the song has garnered over 22.8 million in royalties alone, not bad for a single song!

This song is ideal for a beginner to learn 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 create ‘thank you for letting me be myself again’. This was originally intended to be part of a new LP album, but unfortunately, it was never finished. But as 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. Where 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 83 million views on YouTube.

This will offer a great challenge to any bassist, it starts pretty intense but doubles up on certain notes which makes it a little bit easier on the left hand. For the verse when it goes a little more funk on the bass side there is 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 to which many artists will use to compose their own pieces. Of course, Herbie himself is a legend, having a whopping 41 full studio albums to his name and is 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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Originally recorded by Robert Johnson in 1936, when Eric Clapton formed the supergroup Cream he would perform his own rendition of the song which gave the song massive 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. Primarily coming from the use of ‘micro bends’ or ‘quarter step bends’ which are very common in blues, where you bend up to certain notes such as the b5. In addition to that, 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 to that, it also received two Grammy nominations for both Record of the Year and Best music video.

Probably one of the simplest basslines to play on this list, but for what it lacks in technically 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’ in over a hundred different ways. What makes For Whom The Bell Tolls special is that it is heavily driven by the bass guitar, where 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 song. 

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

This represents a time when bands were not 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 that’s called counterpoint or a counter melody. This song is part of Bill’s 1977 album titled ‘Menagerie’ and, as a completely random fact, this 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, this 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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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 in dance charts the world over and has an official music video which is currently sitting at nearly 15 million views on YouTube.

This is a bassline that makes fantastic uses of pauses and octaves to strike that 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 quite quickly to make everything ‘pop’ 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 from the album of the same name and became one of their biggest hits which really helped expose 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 about this is 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 as 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, ensure 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’ which would be the last album they would have Jim Morrison perform vocals on. The song flirts with a few genres, covering things such as jazz, rock, and psychedelia to make a very 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 the fact 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 which allows 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 to date has released 6 full studio albums and 4 EP’s, which is quite an impressive pace! This band is noted for their slightly 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, which while of course extremely common in genres like metal, is not too common in funk. This puts a bit of pressure on you as a bassist as you’ll need to make 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 it’s finished. This song is intense and a ton of fun to play!

Speed and aggression are the name of the game when playing this song, 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. With Smooth criminal having 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 from 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 did 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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An absolutely stellar and iconic song and bassline from 1990 from the MC Hammer ‘Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em’ album. But here’s something you might not know, when we hear that opening bassline, most people will associate this 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 for this song, it’s just 2 bars long and repeats for most of the song, with 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 is 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, they embraced the raw and natural sound much in the same way bands like Nirvana did. And 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 to learn 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 as the band that popularized the grunge genre, and made use of just 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 also 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’ which is 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 two Grammy Awards for both Best Rhythm & Blues Song, and Best R&B Vocal Performance. The song has also been used a lot in popular media including on the 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.

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.

Liam Engl has 34 posts and counting. See all posts by Liam Engl