What To Play On Bass Guitar: Top 10 Must-Learn Bass Guitar Songs

Are you ready to dive into the world of bass guitar playing but don’t know where to start? Worry no more, as we’ve put together a handy guide on essential techniques and skills, along with some beginner-friendly songs and tips for honing your craft.

No matter your musical taste or experience level, there’s something for everyone in this blog post! So grab your bass and let’s get grooving – keep reading to unravel the secrets of becoming an outstanding bass guitarist.

Essential Techniques And Skills For Bass Guitar Playing

Mastering essential techniques and skills is crucial for any bass guitar player, including fingerstyle playing, slap and pop technique, walking bass lines, understanding rhythm and groove, and navigating the fretboard.

Fingerstyle Playing

Fingerstyle playing is a foundational technique for bass guitarists and offers an excellent starting point for beginners. This method involves using the tips of your fingers, rather than a pick, to pluck the strings. The most common approach uses the index and middle fingers to achieve a fluid, smooth sound that accentuates the natural rhythm of the instrument.

As you progress through fingerstyle playing, consider experimenting with different rhythms and patterns on bass guitar chords or arpeggios. For example, try incorporating ghost notes (lightly touching the string without holding down any frets) or tapping multiple strings at once for added texture. Renowned bass players like Paul McCartney and James Jamerson commonly utilize fingerstyle techniques in their songs such as “Come Together” by The Beatles and “My Girl” by The Temptations – two classic examples that showcase this important skillset within various musical genres. Practice regularly to develop strength in your fingers while honing your overall dexterity; soon enough, fingerstyle playing will become second nature as you learn more advanced techniques on your bass guitar journey.

Slap And Pop Technique

One of the most popular techniques used in bass guitar playing is the slap and pop technique. This style involves slapping the strings with your thumb while simultaneously popping them with your fingers, creating a percussive effect that adds punch and rhythm to your playing. It’s commonly used in funk music but can be applied to various genres such as rock, pop, and even metal.

To master this technique, it’s important to focus on hand placement and coordination between your thumb and fingers. Start slow and gradually increase speed as you become comfortable with the motion. Some great examples of songs that heavily feature slap and pop include “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers or “Good Times” by Chic featuring Nile Rodgers. Incorporating these kinds of techniques into your playing will help make you a more versatile bassist overall!

Walking Bass Lines

Walking bass lines are an essential technique for any bass guitarist. It’s all about playing a steady rhythm that moves stepwise through the chord changes of a song. This style has been used in many different genres of music, from jazz to rock and pop songs. A great example of walking bass can be heard in the classic jazz tune “Autumn Leaves.”

To play a walking bass line effectively, you need to understand how chords function within a piece of music. Each note played should outline or imply the harmonic progression happening at that moment, creating an interesting melody or counterpoint to the other instruments being played. With practice and a good understanding of chord theory, you’ll be able to walk confidently up and down your fretboard while providing smooth transitions between chords – locking in tight with your drummer and forming a solid rhythm section foundation for your bandmates.

Understanding Rhythm And Groove

To truly excel at bass guitar, it’s crucial to grasp the concepts of rhythm and groove. Essentially, this means finding the pocket – that elusive sweet spot where you lock in with the drummer and other musicians to create a tight, cohesive sound. One key aspect is mastering different time signatures and subdivisions, such as 4/4 or 6/8. Practice playing along with drum loops and tracks to hone your sense of timing and feel.

Another important skill for nailing rhythm is using dynamics effectively. Varying your note volume and attack can help emphasize certain beats or add energy to a performance. Additionally, don’t be afraid to experiment with syncopation – putting accents on off-beats or unexpected places – for added interest and complexity in your bass lines. By focusing on groove as much as technical proficiency, you’ll become better equipped to elevate any song you play.

Navigating The Fretboard

Navigating the fretboard is one of the most crucial skills for any bass guitar player. It involves understanding the layout of your instrument and knowing where to find specific notes and chords quickly. A great way to learn this skill is by memorizing the names of all the notes on each string, from open to twelfth fret. This will help you locate different positions on the fretboard easily.

Another technique that can be helpful when navigating the fretboard is using scales and arpeggios. By learning common scales like major, minor, pentatonic, or blues scales, you can create a mental map of where all these different notes are located throughout your bass guitar’s neck. You can also use arpeggios (which are broken down chords) as a way to navigate between different chord progressions efficiently.

In summary, mastering how to navigate your bass guitar’s fretboard opens up endless possibilities for creativity and expression in your playing. Learning some essential techniques like memorizing note positions and practicing with scales or arpeggios will drastically improve your playing fluency over time!

Beginner And Intermediate Bass Guitar Songs

pexels karolina grabowska 4471314

Here are some of the best beginner and intermediate bass guitar songs that you can start learning today: “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, “Longview” by Green Day, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Hysteria” by Muse, and “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“Another One Bites The Dust” By Queen

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is one of the most popular bass guitar songs for beginners. Released in 1980, this iconic song features a simple yet catchy bassline that any aspiring bassist can learn quickly. The song starts with an intro riff that uses open strings and hammer-ons before transitioning to the main groove. The verse section consists of a repetitive bassline over a steady drumbeat, while the chorus adds some variation to keep things interesting.

To play “Another One Bites the Dust,” you’ll need to have basic fingerstyle technique down pat. You’ll also need to develop good rhythm and timing skills, as this song requires precise playing throughout. Learning this classic tune is not only fun but also an excellent way to improve your overall bass guitar playing ability.”

“Longview” By Green Day

“Longview” by Green Day is a classic bass guitar song that’s perfect for beginners looking to improve their skills. It features a catchy bassline with simple yet effective techniques like slides and muted notes. The song’s slow tempo also allows for easier navigation on the fretboard, making it an ideal choice for those just starting out.

As you progress in your playing, you can also challenge yourself by incorporating more advanced techniques such as hammer-ons and pull-offs to add flair to the bassline. Playing along with the song and other musicians can also help develop your rhythm and timing skills – two essential aspects of being a great bass player.

So if you’re looking for an easy but fun song to play on bass guitar, give “Longview” by Green Day a try! It’s a great way to build up your confidence while still enjoying yourself through music.

“Stand By Me” By Ben E. King

“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King is a classic and timeless song that has become a staple for bass guitar players of all levels. The song’s simple chord progression allows beginners to get started on the bass right away, while its catchy melody keeps advanced players coming back for more. The driving rhythm section sets the foundation for this iconic tune, making it an excellent choice for practicing your groove and timing.

To play “Stand By Me,” start with a basic four-note walking bass line that repeats throughout most of the song. From there, experiment with adding in embellishments and fills during breaks in the vocals or instrumental parts. This will help you develop your improvisational skills while also staying true to the original arrangement of the song. Overall, “Stand By Me” is an essential piece for any bassist looking to improve their technique and add some soulful grooves to their repertoire.

“Hysteria” By Muse

One of the most iconic bass lines in modern rock music comes from “Hysteria” by Muse. The song’s opening riff, played with a combination of fingerstyle and slap technique, is instantly recognizable and sets the tone for the rest of the track. As you progress on your bass guitar journey, mastering this song can be a great way to challenge yourself and improve your skills.

While “Hysteria” may seem daunting at first, breaking it down into smaller sections can make it much more manageable. Practice playing each part slowly and gradually increase your speed once you feel comfortable. Additionally, watching live performances or instructional videos online can give you insight into how other musicians approach this challenging piece. With dedication and practice, you’ll soon be able to tackle even more advanced bass guitar songs!

“Higher Ground” By Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Higher Ground” is a classic bass guitar song that showcases the funky and groovy style of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song’s opening riff features Flea’s signature slap technique, which gives it a unique and catchy sound. The verses incorporate walking bass lines with an emphasis on syncopation and staccato notes, adding to the overall funkiness of the tune.

Intermediate bass players looking for a challenge should definitely give “Higher Ground” a try. It requires excellent timing and dexterity to nail down all of the intricate parts, but once mastered, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Plus, incorporating some playful improvisation during the solo section can make this iconic tune your own. Keep practicing those fingerstyle techniques and you’ll have “Higher Ground” under your belt in no time!

Intermediate And Advanced Bass Guitar Songs

Some of the best intermediate and advanced bass guitar songs include Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” Jaco Pastorius’ “The Chicken,” Weather Report’s “Birdland,” and Victor Wooten’s “Classical Thump.”

Led Zeppelin: “Ramble On”

One of the most iconic bass lines in rock history can be found on Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” The song, released in 1969 as part of their album “Led Zeppelin II,” features John Paul Jones’ masterful use of the rhythm section. The bass riff starts with a descending line that sets the mood for the song and provides a platform for the other instruments to build upon.

What makes this bass line stand out is how it weaves itself throughout the entire track. Jones uses subtle variations throughout each verse and chorus, adding depth and complexity to an already stellar performance. With its driving beat and memorable melody, “Ramble On” remains one of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits, firmly cementing John Paul Jones’ place in rock history as one of the best bassists to ever pick up an instrument.

Rage Against The Machine: “Killing In The Name”

Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine is a popular choice for intermediate to advanced bass guitar players. This song showcases the band’s signature funk-metal sound, with a driving bassline that is both complex and catchy. The song features intricate slap and pop techniques, as well as fast-paced fingerstyle playing, making it a challenging but rewarding piece to master.

One notable aspect of “Killing in the Name” is its use of unconventional time signatures and syncopation. The bassline weaves in and out of different rhythms throughout the song, adding depth and complexity to an already intense track. Additionally, this song provides ample opportunity for improvisation during live performances, allowing bass players to showcase their skills even further. Overall, “Killing in the Name” is an excellent addition to any intermediate or advanced player’s repertoire.

Jaco Pastorius: “The Chicken”

“The Chicken” is an iconic jazz-funk tune that showcases the virtuosic bass playing of Jaco Pastorius. The song’s groove and melody are instantly recognizable, making it a great piece for intermediate and advanced players to learn. It features intricate bass lines, harmonics, and double stops all delivered with precision by Jaco. This song challenges musicians to combine both technical skill and musicality in their playing.

Jaco’s approach to “The Chicken” emphasizes the importance of understanding rhythm and syncopation. He uses fingerstyle technique combined with slapping and popping to create a dynamic sound that perfectly complements the drums and other instruments in the band. For bassists looking to expand their knowledge of jazz-fusion or develop their skills further, this is also an excellent song choice as it provides a foundation for exploring more complex tunes within this genre.

Weather Report: “Birdland”

“Birdland” is a classic jazz fusion song, originally recorded by the band Weather Report. It features an incredibly catchy bassline played by Jaco Pastorius, one of the greatest bass players of all time. The song also includes intricate guitar and keyboard solos, making it a great challenge for intermediate to advanced bass players.

To play “Birdland,” you’ll need to have a good understanding of harmonics, as well as fingerstyle and slap techniques. The song’s fast tempo and complex rhythms require excellent timing and precision. But with enough practice, you’ll be able to nail this iconic tune and impress your fellow musicians with your skills on the bass guitar.

Victor Wooten: “Classical Thump”

Victor Wooten’s “Classical Thump” is a true masterpiece for intermediate and advanced bass guitar players. The song showcases his incredible technical skills with fast, intricate patterns that require mastery of fingerstyle playing and slap bass technique. With its tricky time signature changes, this piece challenges even the most experienced players.

What makes “Classical Thump” truly unique is how it blends classical music elements with funk and rock influences, making it a great example of genre fusion in bass guitar playing. To learn this song, you will need to develop your finger dexterity to execute complex runs and arpeggios smoothly while simultaneously incorporating slap bass techniques for the upbeat parts.

Overall, practicing with “Classical Thump” can help expand your musical vocabulary by learning new rhythms, chord progressions, and scales that will inspire your own compositions. It’s an ideal piece for anyone seeking to take their bass guitar skills to the next level.

Tips For Learning And Practicing Bass Guitar

pexels mikhail nilov 7886314

Use a metronome to improve your timing and accuracy, play with other musicians to develop your listening skills and adaptability, watch online instructional videos to learn new techniques and expand your musical vocabulary, practice consistently and set goals for yourself, and experiment with different playing styles and techniques to find what works best for you.

Use A Metronome

One of the most important tools for any bass player is a metronome. This device helps you keep time and maintain a steady rhythm while playing, which is crucial when working with other musicians in a band or ensemble. By using a metronome, you can develop your timing skills and learn to play in sync with the music.

One way to integrate this tool into your practice routine is to start slow and gradually increase your tempo as you feel more comfortable. You can also experiment with different subdivisions, such as practicing eighth notes or triplets at various tempos. As you become more advanced, try using complex time signatures like 5/4 or 7/8 to challenge yourself even further.

Remember that practicing with a metronome takes patience and persistence. Start small by setting achievable goals for yourself, such as mastering a specific bass line at a certain tempo before moving on to something more challenging. With regular practice and dedication, you’ll soon see improvements in your timing and overall musicality.

Play With Other Musicians

Playing with other musicians is one of the best ways to develop your bass guitar skills. When you play in a band or jam session, you have to learn how to listen and adapt to other players’ styles and rhythms. This can help improve your timing, phrasing, and overall groove. Additionally, playing with others can introduce you to new genres of music and different playing techniques.

If you don’t know any musicians in person, try joining an online bass guitar community or attending local open mic nights. These events are great opportunities to meet like-minded individuals who share your passion for music. Remember that playing with others should be fun and collaborative – don’t be afraid to make mistakes and experiment with different approaches!

Watch Instructional Videos Online

One great way to improve your bass guitar playing is by watching instructional videos online. There are countless resources available on YouTube and other platforms that offer expert advice and step-by-step tutorials. You can learn about different techniques, explore new genres, and even find inspiration for your own original music.

Another benefit of instructional videos is the ability to pause, rewind, and replay specific sections as many times as you need until you understand them fully. This kind of flexibility allows you to progress at your own pace and focus on areas that need more attention. So whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player looking to expand your skills, give online instruction a try – it might just take your playing to the next level!

Practice Consistently And Set Goals

Consistency and setting goals are key to improving your bass guitar playing. Consistent practice ensures that you make progress without forgetting what you have already learned. Set achievable goals for yourself and track your progress, whether it’s learning a new song or mastering a technique. Use a metronome to keep time and challenge yourself by gradually increasing the tempo.

It’s also important to keep things interesting so that you don’t get bored with practicing. Challenge yourself by trying out different genres of music or experimenting with new techniques. Play with other musicians to develop your sense of timing and groove while opening up opportunities for performance.

Overall, consistent practice and goal setting can help improve your bass guitar skills over time, enabling you to play more complex pieces in different styles confidently.

Experiment With Different Playing Styles And Techniques

To become a versatile bass guitar player, it’s important to experiment with different playing styles and techniques. Start by branching out beyond your comfort zone and trying genres outside of what you usually play. For example, if you typically play rock or pop music, try learning some jazz or funk songs to expand your skills.

You can also explore various techniques like fingerstyle, slap and pop, tapping, and harmonics. These techniques will help add unique flavors to your playing style while allowing you to be more expressive on the bass. Challenge yourself by practicing these techniques consistently until they become second nature.

Lastly, don’t forget that experimentation is all about having fun! Play around with things like tone settings on your amp or effects pedals for a truly personalized sound. You never know what kind of new sounds might come out of just messing around with different playing styles and techniques!


In conclusion, playing bass guitar is both rewarding and challenging. With essential techniques like fingerstyle playing, walking bass lines, and slap and pop technique under your belt, you’ll be able to handle any song with ease.

Start with beginner and intermediate songs like “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen or “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King before moving on to more advanced pieces like Jaco Pastorius’ “The Chicken.” Remember to practice consistently using a metronome and experiment with different styles to improve your skills further. And most importantly, have fun jamming with other musicians- that’s what it’s all about!


1. What are some popular songs to learn on the bass guitar?

Some popular songs to learn on the bass guitar include “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen, “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.

2. How do I decide which style of music to play on bass guitar?

When deciding which style of music to play on bass guitar, consider your personal preferences as well as the genres that appeal most to you. Some common styles for bass include rock, funk, jazz, and blues.

3. Can I play complex melodies on a bass guitar?

Yes! While the primary role of a bass player is often to provide rhythm and harmony in a song’s structure, many skilled players have developed techniques for playing complex melodies and solos on the instrument.

4. Do I need expensive equipment to start playing bass guitar?

While high-end equipment can certainly enhance your sound quality and tone range as a player, it is not necessary when starting out. Many affordable options exist for beginner-level gear that will allow you to develop your skills before investing in more advanced instruments or accessories.

Leave a Comment