Plenty of the most famous songs of all time have been helped along by a brilliant bassline. And sometimes, these basslines rely more on a full, fat tone than they do on complexity. One of the best things about playing bass is learning your favorite songs, and we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ones to start with. Here are our top 12 easy bass songs to learn first.
The Top 12 Easy Bass Songs
1. “Super Freak” — Rick James
Learning this bassline actually lets you play two songs in one — it was initially used in the Rick James hit in 1981, and it was then sampled in the MC Hammer song “U Can’t Touch This.” (below left). You’ve almost certainly heard “Super Freak” at some point, and you can check it out in this entertaining music video (below right). The video shows you how to play the line, and the bass player slows it down at the end to get a better idea of how to play it.
The “Super Freak” bassline is a good first song to learn for a few reasons. To start, you don’t have to go past the fifth fret, so you won’t need to coordinate moving quickly up and down the neck. There also isn’t a whole lot to learn, as most of the song involves repeating the same bass riff repeatedly. The chorus is a little different, but you’re still staying in the same five frets.
This simple line will also help you master one of the first hurdles to playing bass guitar — coordinating your right and left hands. If you’d like a couple of exercises to practice before learning songs, this helpful site offers a few for you to try.
2. “Another One Bites The Dust” — Queen
“Another One Bites the Dust” is one of Queen’s most famous hits. Luckily, it’s another easy bass song. And like “Super Freak,” it’s an exciting one to learn because the bass features prominently and largely carry the song.
Interestingly enough, John Deacon, Queen’s bass player, actually wrote the song. The members of Queen alternated writing songs, and all of them were great songwriters. Each member wrote at least one of the band’s hits. Deacon also played almost all instruments used on the recording. He’s using a Music Man Stingray bass on the track. The Stingray is known for its powerful, incredibly fat tone, and it really comes through on this record.
You might be able to tell that Deacon plays the bass with his fingers (as opposed to using a pick). Many bassists do this, although there’s always been a debate over whether playing fingerstyle or using a pick is better. If you want to be a very versatile player, you might want to practice both styles from the very beginning.
If you’re playing with your fingers, make sure to practice with alternate plucking. That just means alternating plucking with your index finger and middle finger. And when playing with a pick, try to master alternate picking. That means going back and forth between striking a string with an upward motion and striking with a downward motion.
Much of the bassline in this song is played on the low E string, and the main bass riff is made up of only three notes. It does get slightly more complex at points in the song, but if you’re brand new to bass, you can always stick with the first part until you’ve had a little more practice. This video shows you how to play it and includes an easy-to-follow bass tab as well.
3. “Crazy Train” — Ozzy Osbourne
“Crazy Train” is a great song to step up to once you’ve mastered some basslines with a relatively slow tempo. The supporting bassline has a somewhat fast tempo. If you aren’t familiar with “Crazy Train,” check out this animated video (below left) before working on playing it.
Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne’s bass player, had a hand in the title of the song. When working on the music, he was running his bass through several effects pedals that created a “chugging” sort of sound. Ozzy and Randy both had an interest in trains, and they observed that the sound was like that of a strange train. Ozzy ended up coining the name “Crazy Train.”
This video (above right) shows you a tab for the song, and you can play along with the bassist. The bass line doesn’t go past the seventh fret, so the amount of movement you’ll need to do on the fretboard is limited.
The bass playing in “Crazy Train” starts off fairly simply — you’ll stay on the low E string and the E string. After the intro, the bass line gets faster and more complex. Once you have a little bass experience, it’s a great way to work on speed and dexterity. Make sure you start slow, and with constant practice and some patience, you’ll soon be able to play along.
4. “Smooth Criminal” — Michael Jackson
This very popular song (and the music video for it) were part of the movie Moonwalker. This video (below left) lets you hear the song and see some of Michael Jackson’s truly impressive dance moves.
“Smooth Criminal” was a departure from a lot of Michael Jackson’s very personal songs, too. He wrote it from the perspective of a gangster. Jackson really embraced the persona on stage, too — he would often dress up as a gangster from the 1930s, complete with a fake machine gun.
The bass riff for “Smooth Criminal” is a little more difficult than that of many of the other easy bass guitar songs on the list. And as you may already know, most bass guitarists will tell you to start practicing bass songs at slower speeds to master technique before you play them at full speed. This video lesson (above right) takes you through the bass line for each section at both full tempo and slower tempo.
The bass notes in “Smooth Criminal” aren’t necessarily difficult on their own. But as is the case with even easy songs, coordinating them can be challenging. If you want to improve your coordination and dexterity, you might want to try some of these exercises.
5. “Seven Nation Army” — White Stripes
This alternative rock song has one of the most recognizable bass lines. And while most people have heard “Seven Nation Army,” they might not know where the title came from. Jack White of the White Stripes named it after what he thought the Salvation Army was called when he was a child.
The bass in “Seven Nation Army” actually isn’t from a bass guitar. The White Stripes was made up of two people, and there was no one to play bass in the band. So Jack White ran his guitar through an octave pedal to drop it down an octave in order to play the bass notes.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use an actual bass guitar to play this amazing song. This lesson shows you how to play it and includes bass tabs. The most challenging part of the song is the iconic bass riff. It’s played entirely on the A string and doesn’t go past the 10th fret. This very minimalist approach proved to be effective.
Despite its relative simplicity, the bass guitar part of “Seven Nation Army” has become one of the most instantly recognizable bass lines out there.
6. “Money” — Pink Floyd
“Money” is another easy bass song that was written by the band’s bassist. Roger Waters came up with the bass riff and the rest of the band added drums, lead guitar, etc. to it.
Since “Money” was designed around a bass riff, the song ended up having one of the strangest time signatures in rock music. It starts out with the very unusual 7/8 time signature, moves to 4/4, and then goes back to 7/8. To hear what that unusual song structure sounds like, you can check out the official music video for the song here (below left).
Though playing in 7/8 time might sound like a real challenge, playing “Money” shouldn’t be that difficult. Since it’s one of the most familiar easy bass songs to most people, you’ll be able to play along with the song in your head. This video lesson offers a step-by-step guide to playing the song.
You might find it helpful to have the tabs for the song handy while learning it — you can find the tabs here. If you’d prefer sheet music, it isn’t hard to find. As is the case with most popular songs, most music publishers offer sheet music for “Money.”
7. “Longview” — Green Day
From the very first note, “Longview” is carried by the bass part. And if you prefer more recent bass songs for beginners over classic rock tunes, you’ll love learning this great song. You can check out the music video here (below left).
The catchy bassline has an interesting backstory, too. Bassist Mike Dirnt has said that he first wrote it on an acid trip. He couldn’t remember the riff the next day, so he and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong re-created it from memory. Lyrically, Billie Joe has said that the song is about a difficult time in his life when he was demotivated and mostly sleeping on friends’ couches.
This video lesson (above right) shows you how to play the song and includes play-along tabs. But you might notice something a little different from the other video lessons on the list. You’ll need to play two strings simultaneously at a few points in the song.
There are a couple of ways you can do this. Since you’ll need the D and G strings (the bottom two on a four-string bass in standard tuning), you can strum them downward with one stroke. You also can pinch them between your thumb and a finger. Part of the fun of learning bass songs is putting your own spin on them, so you might enjoy trying different techniques and seeing which ones suit you.
8. “She Loves You” — The Beatles
The Beatles wrote this song in a hotel room while on tour. Paul McCartney and John Lennon put it together fairly quickly while in the room. Paul McCartney later said that his father wanted the hook to be “yes yes yes” instead of “yeah yeah yeah” — he thought “yes” sounded much more dignified. This live version (below left) lets you get a feel for the song.
Learning the bass part for this popular song might prove to be a little challenging, as it requires more speed and dexterity than some other songs on the list. This helpful tutorial (above right) shows you the tabs and how to play them. The bass player is even playing a violin bass like the one Paul McCartney played with the band.
Consciously focusing on improvement during your practice sessions is a great way to steadily improve as a bassist. One way to improve dexterity, in general, is incorporating your pinky finger of your fretting hand, much like you’d typically do while playing guitar. Doing so can cut down on the amount of movement on the fretboard you need to do, and it can also simplify some of the note changes you need to do.
Practicing dexterity exercises for even a few minutes a day can really do a lot for your playing, too. Exercises may seem dull, but eventually, you’ll become so used to moving quickly across the fretboard that you won’t even have to think about it.
9. “Don’t Forget Me” — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Right away, you can tell that the bass part of “Don’t Forget Me” is a little different — it involves what’s effectively strumming the bass. It also includes some percussive strums where you’ll need to palm mute the strings. Check out an especially impressive live video of the song in this video (below left).
Based on this song’s title, you might think that it’s a love song, but that’s far from the truth. Anthony Kiedis, the band’s lead singer, wrote it about his drug addiction and seeking treatment for it.
If you’re ready to start learning the bass part of this song, this lesson (above center) includes a demo and tabs. The Xs on the tab indicate a muted note.
Palm-muting is a useful skill to have in your arsenal, although you typically see it used by guitarists as opposed to bass players. The technique itself isn’t particularly hard, but it involves deadening the sounds with the fleshy side of your hand. It may take some practice to get used to, but this video should help you get the hang of it.
10. “Come As You Are” — Nirvana
Along with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are” is one of the most famous Nirvana songs. Kurt Cobain described the song as being about how society expects people to act. It has interestingly contradictory lyrics, which you can hear in the music video here (below left).
This one may be one of the more challenging bass songs for beginners — it’s an up-tempo song with a lot of movement in the bassline. This tutorial (above right) shows you the tab and helps you get the hang of it.
You might notice that the tablature includes a symbol that looks like an arc connecting a line of notes. In particular, when you play the G string fretted on the seventh fret, ninth fret, and seventh fret again. That arc means to hammer on and pull off as needed. That means that after you pluck the string at the seventh fret, you “hammer” a finger onto the ninth fret and then remove it again. Hammer-ons and pull-offs can really add some variety to your bass playing once you get the hang of them.
11. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” — James Brown
This song, often called simply “I Feel Good,” is a classic that has stood the test of time. The song was initially released in 1965. You can check it out here (below left).
“I Feel Good” was inspired by a song released by Yvonne Fair, one of Brown’s backup singers. James Brown produced the song himself in 1962, and he later reworked it to form his own hit. Brown is commonly called the “Godfather of Soul,” and after hearing him sing, it’s easy to see why. His powerful and expressive vocals still have an incredible influence on the soul singers of today.
If you’re very new to bass, you probably don’t want to make this one the first song you play. The bass in “I Feel Good” often tracks with the lyrics, and that involves switching notes very frequently. You’ll need to build some dexterity in your left hand first. A basic dexterity exercise to get started with is the “spider.” you simply play each string fretted on the first fret, then the second, then the third, then the fourth, and back again. Each time, you leave your finger on the previous fret — by the end, your hand is stretched like a spider. It’s tougher than it sounds, especially if you’ve just started playing!
To see what playing the song entails, check out this tutorial (above right) that includes scrolling tabs. This tutorial includes a slowed-down version of the song to practice first. Remember that you become your own worst enemy if you try to build speed first. Once you can play the song with good technique, speed will come with time.
12. “Three Little Birds” — Bob Marley & The Wailers
The classic rhythm of reggae music can be a lot of fun to play along with. And whether you’re already a fan of Bob Marley or not, you’ll probably enjoy learning this song, which you can hear in this Disney-inspired music video (below left).
“Three Little Birds” is a pleasant, carefree song that encourages listeners to not worry. And while it might seem like the little birds are a metaphor, Bob Marley has said that the song is literal — he found the canaries who regularly visited his porch in Kingston, Jamaica to be reassuring and based the song on that. However, his trio of backup singers was adamant that the song was about them. They claimed that Bob regularly called them the “three little birds.”
To learn “Three Little Birds,” check out this helpful video (above right) that includes both tabs and sheet music. It’s a little more complex than some of the slower basslines on the list. But once you’ve learned some of the easier songs for beginners, this one shouldn’t prove to be too difficult.
Ready to Get Started?
Maybe you’ve already started playing the bass guitar and are on the hunt for some beginner-friendly songs to learn. Or maybe you’ve just gotten your first bass and are just getting ready to start. Many new bass guitar players find that they don’t know how to go about learning the instrument, and if that’s you, there’s no need to worry — with a good bass guitar course, you’ll have a well-designed curriculum to guide you.
With a good course, you can learn to play your favorite songs, work on genre studies, and learn and apply the music theory you need to become a better bassist. Most courses also come with chord charts, online metronomes, and other tools that can help you become a skilled musician.
If you’re a beginner bass player, you might be relieved to see that some of the most iconic bass riffs of all time are actually fairly easy to play. We think the list above contains some of the best easy bass guitar songs to get started with. But what do you think? Are there any great bass songs for beginners that we left out? Let us know in the comments, and please don’t forget to like and share if you found this list helpful!
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