15 Best Basslines To Learn On Guitar

 
At BeginnerGuitarHQ, we aim to help you learn to become a great guitarist. However, by playing guitar you’ll pick up a general understanding of how to transfer some of this skill to the bass guitar. You’ll notice that basslines are pretty different to guitar lines, so why not pick up a few of the most famous ones!

In this important guide, I’ll talk you through the 15 best basslines you can learn to play.

If you’re looking to learn a few cool basslines, then look no further…

First Things First

Playing guitar doesn’t mean you can play bass. This is an important misconception a lot of people have. While, as we’ve looked at in this article, can use your guitar skill to learn bass, you aren’t naturally able to play both. Well, play both properly at least.

In order to truly learn how to play the bass, you’ll need to develop an impressive fingerpicking technique, learn to position yourself in a new position amongst a band, and maybe even pick up a few extended techniques, such as slap.

However! These basslines are easy to pick up (because they’re all, essentially, quite easy to play), so you won’t need to have this extended understanding off bass. Your guitar skill will allow you to play these on either instrument.

One more thing. I’ve written the tabs below as if they’re for a guitar, because I’m working under the assumption that most of you are playing on a guitar. If I’d done it with 4 strings, things might have gotten a little confusing regarding where on the guitar this should be played. If you want to transfer these tabs to an actual bass, simply pretend the two frets at the top don’t exist.

The White Stripes- Seven Nation Army

Okay, so our very first bassline actually isn’t even a bassline. Technically, Jack White is just playing a guitar with an octave pedal taking his notes down into the bass register. However, it sounds like a bassline and plays like a bassline, so we’re going to learn it like it’s a bassline.

Firstly, you’re probably pretty familiar with it, seeing as it’s so famous, this is good because it means you probably aren’t going to have to worry about the rhythms too much, but the tab below will help you get to grips with the first few notes.

The shift from fret 7 to 10 will need to be done using your 2nd and 4th finger in order to get that leap (which is much bigger on a bass than a guitar, so bear that in mind) to sound smooth. You can then slide your second finger down to the 5th, 3rd and 2nd frets as necessary, making this one pretty easy to get used to.

As this bassline is the most well-known section of the piece, you’ll be able to get a grasp of this section pretty quickly, but you can move towards the simple, chord-following chorus when you need to.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Pink Floyd- Money

One of the most famous basslines of all time comes from one of the greatest albums of time, Dark Side Of The Moon. This particular bassline isn’t too difficult to grasp, but you are going to need an understanding of time signatures, as this one is in the uncommon metre of 7/4.

This means each bar has 7 beats, rather than the expected 4 (or 3). You can count this by hearing the first four beats as a bar of 4/4, then the second half as a bar of 3/4. The first beat of the first half sounds like the second half coming to a conclusion.

If you’re used to playing power chords on guitar, you’ll be able to get used to this bassline pretty quickly. Simply position your hand so that your second finger is on the 2nd fret of the 5th string (of your guitar, remember what I said above if you’re playing this on an actual bass), your 5th finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string and your 4th finger on the 4th fret of the 4th string.

After this, when you move down the 2nd fret of the 6th string, you can use your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret and then make sure your 5th finger is strong enough to press down on the 5th string. Make the same pattern and movement when you move up to the 2nd string.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Fleetwood Mac- The Chain

Another one of the most famous basslines of all time comes from the end of ‘The Chain’, by Fleetwood Mac, which you also might know as the theme tune of Formula 1. While you don’t have to, I’d suggest playing this bassline with a pick in order to get the intense, loud sound the original song has.

Luckily, you can leave your fretting hand in a very easy shape. Simply hover your 2nd finger over the 2nd fret of the 5th string, and make sure your 3rd finger is ready to move between the 3rd fret of both the 5th and 6th strings. Other than that, you’re only dealing with open strings, which makes life a little easier.

Arguably the two most important notes of this track are the open 5th string at the start, and the open 6th string at the end. You need to make sure to play these with enough force to get the metallic, aggressive twang desired in both cases.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Nirvana- Come As You Are

The actual song is played in drop D tuning on guitar, but obviously you aren’t going to want to subject your bass to this treatment. There is a sneaky chromatic note added into this riff via that 1st fret of the 4th string, so don’t be alarmed if you hear a note that sounds a little out of place.

You can rest your hand in a nice easy position around the 2nd fret of strings 4 and 3. This means you can use your 2nd finger to press down on the 1st fret and your 3rd on the 2nd fret, which is a very easy movement. You can bring your 2nd finger over to the 3rd string as well which helps making your jump between the strings simple. As there are so many open strings in this riff, you can jump between notes smoothly and create sounds that wouldn’t come so naturally if you were having to fret the whole way through.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Talking Heads- Psycho Killer

This might be the easiest tab on our list, as it only uses three different notes, one of which is played seven times in a row, and one of which is an open string. Considering this track is so famous, you’ll be able to turn heads just by nailing the rhythm of this opening solo bass.

If you use your 3rd finger to press down onto the 5th fret of the 6th string, then you’ll have a lot of control over your movement down to the open 6th string and allow you to use your 2nd finger to make that jump to the 3rd fret.

The main reason to use the 5th fret instead of the open 5th string is because it allows you to make the staccato sound of the bassline much easier than if you were trying to do the same with the open string.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

The Beatles- Taxman

Perhaps an unexpected entry on this list, but take a listen to this track and you’ll hear Paul McCartney delivering a brilliant introduction and bassline which matches catchiness and funk to create the perfect, and very recognisable, accompaniment.

This one really ramps up the difficulty, both in terms of its syncopated rhythms and the need for a hammered on note. Opening with the octave jump means you can use your 2nd finger to play the 3rd fret of string 5 and your 4th finger to play the 7th fret of 3rd string. This part isn’t too hard.

Then you’re going to need to use your 2nd finger to press down on the 5th fret of th 4th string, before immediately bringing your 3rd finger down onto the 7th fret of the same string hard enough to make it sound with enough presence to work. Then you can roll your 2nd finger over to the 5th fret of the 3rd string for the final note of the pattern.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers- Can’t Stop

This one is certainly the hardest on our list, so make sure you aren’t a complete beginner before taking it on, it’ll only dishearten you if you can’t get the hang of it very quickly. Considering this is Flea we’re talking about, it was always going to be difficult and employs a pseudo-slap technique that isn’t quite the funk of Jaco Pistorius, but certainly isn’t fingerpicking. I’d use a pick when getting started on this tune.

Start with your 2nd finger on the 7th fret of the 5th string, but make sure your hand is in a position that’ll allow you to bend round and use your 3rd finger to play the 7th fret of the 3rd string. This is because you’ll then need to use your 5th finger to press down on the 9th fret to get that sneaky last note in. The phrases that follow this one require a very similar technique, but they get harder and harder as you move through the four sections of this bassline.

If you want to take your playing to the next level when learning this track, make sure to use your picking hand to try and add some muted notes in. It’s hard to mark out in the tab (and optional when learning this for the first time) but take a listen to the track and work out for yourself where they would fit best.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Queen- Another One Bites The Dust

One of the most famous songs of all time, let alone one of the most famous basslines of all time, is refreshingly easy to play. Getting the hang of the notes and rhythms is easy enough, but where things really start to get tricky is when you work with a drummer. The key to this track is being absolutely perfectly tight and in time in order for the vocals to shine above.

This is another one on this list essentially made up of the same notes. All you need is your open E string, as well as the 3rd and 5th frets. Personally, I’d start with my 4th finger on the 5th fret and 2nd finger on the 3rd fret and work my way down to those repeating open strings, but with this one, you can use the open 5th string instead of the 5th fret if necessary.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Michael Jackson- Billie Jean

Another one of the most famous basslines ever, this one is a bit less simple. It’s funky and catchy, but in order to replicate the tightness and precision of the original it’ll take a lot of work.

One of the easy elements of this bassline is its simple rhythm, in which you’re playing one note per beat of the bar. Simple. You’re dealing with a few note you haven’t so far on this list but this doesn’t make anything more difficult, as you can still adopt one simple hand position and be able to deal with every note.

Make sure your 4th finger is positioned over the 4th fret of the 4th string, your 3rd finger over that of the 5th string and then use your 2nd finger to move towards the 2nd fret of the 4th string. From this position, you’ll be able to get the hang of the notes from this bassline with ease. Like I said above, taming the playing style is an entirely different matter which you’ll have to work out for yourself by listening.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Chic- Good Times

This is another one where the actual notes probably aren’t as important as the way you play. Replicating the disco-funk of this bassline needs an ability to absorb the style of playing, which means you’re going to need to get a feel for the groove of the piece rather than simply play through a string of notes.

Start on the open fret of the 6th string, then use your intuition to decide which fingers would be best to keep this bassline moving forward. I’d make sure to use your 2nd and 3rd fingers when playing that opening hammer on, before moving to the next string with fingers 2 and 4. When you reach the 4th string, using your 2nd finger to hammer onto the 2nd fret should work well.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

ZZ Top- La Grange

We’re back to the easy stuff now, though. All of the notes you’ll need for this track are the same as those you played for ‘Psycho Killer’, just in a different rhythm and with the repeating note being the open string rather than the 5th fret (and moved up to the 5th string).

While this opens with a lot of repeating notes, their placement in the bar is heavily syncopated, so this might take some getting used to. Once you’ve been able to do that, you can use your 2nd and 3rd fingers to jump up the 3rd and 5th frets of the same string. Simple.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Muse- Hysteria

Aaand we’re straight back to difficult. I think it’s important to open by stating that Muse are a terrible band who do not make good music, but the introduction to ‘Hysteria’ is a great piece of technical demonstration of the dexterity of the bass. It isn’t exactly a bassline as we only hear it at the start on its own, but once you’ve reached a certain proficiency, I’d definitely give it a go. And use a pick to make it easier.

You have to move particularly fast to play this one, so being able to work out the positioning of your hand is the best way to approach the opening of this. Keep your 2nd and 4th fingers over the 5th and 7th frets of the 4th string respectively, and alternate between playing these strings and the open string with simplicity.

From this, you can move your 3rd finger down th string 5 and use it to bounce on and off of the frets you’re using. As this is all quite staccato and overdriven, you have the option to avoid smoothness if you need to.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Rage Against The Machine- Killing In The Name

Rage Against The Machine are known for some killer basslines that help combine funk, hip-hop and metal in their work. Their most famous track opens with a simple, but incredibly recognisable, piece of solo bass before exploding into the main track through a menacing metal riff.

These opening three notes are so easy that the reason I’m including them here instead of the rest of the guide is so that you pick them up so easily that you can be inspired to learn the rest.

Simply use whatever finger you want to play the opening open string, then move towards that 6th fret with whatever you want as well. The rhythm of these notes are triplets though, so make sure to give the rhythms a listen first to refresh your memory.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Gorillaz- Feel Good Inc.

Buried beneath the rapping of De La Soul, the bassline of ‘Feel Good Inc’ is a great example of simplicity being used to its fullest degree. The bassline is made up of two phrases, the first of which I’ve tabbed out below for your convenience.

You only really need to use two fingers to play this little bassline, so position your 2nd finger over the 2nd fret of the 6th string and your 3rd finger over the 3rd fret of the 6th string. Do the exact same when you move to the 5th string, flattening your 3rd finger onto the 5th string as required. The rest of your hand will move perfectly into place and help you out naturally.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

Green Day- She

Interestingly, the inclusion of this bassline is more based around its prominence and rhythm than its notes, hence why you’ll be able to pick this one up easily and get used to simply following the root notes of the chord sequences. Perhaps you’ll be able to learn the majority of this track just by listening? This one is definitely played with a pick.

Start on that 4th string, and play it a lot of times while your 2nd finger frets it, then make sure you can reach your 4th finger up to the 6th fret as needed. Do the same when you’re down on the 5th string and so on and so on until you’ve played the whole, very easy, song.

If you fancy carrying on with this one, take a look at this tab.

In Conclusion…

As this guide has probably shown you, basslines can be pretty easy. As long as your hands are big enough to cover the larger frets and strings (and you have access to a bass) it shouldn’t be long until you can get a firm understanding of the instrument. Maybe these tracks inspired you to give it a go?

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