The best way to learn bass and music concepts is by example. I’ve created a database of songs and basslines to make it easier for you to find songs to study and practice. For lessons that have suggested example songs, you will find a link to a page of these songs on the lesson toolbar marked "songs". Here are some example pages:
I'll be adding songs continuously, so check back from time to time on your favorite lessons for new song suggestions.
I would recommend each time you study a lesson, to learn at least a couple of these basslines to hear the lesson concepts in action. This will strengthen your understanding of the concept, increase your repertoire, and make the learning process more fun. This is how I’ve always taught private students and it works very well.
Why These Songs?
I’ve chosen these particular songs for a number of reasons. First, I’ve chosen songs that have very good use of, or very obvious use of, the concepts in the lesson.
Next, I’ve made sure the music is widely available. That means you can easily find transcriptions of the music and find recordings. I’ve chosen songs out of a small pool of transcription books and recordings to give you the most for your investment when you buy them. Buying this stuff is good on many levels. You’ll have a well-printed copy with standard notation, you’ll be supporting the artist that made this great music, and you’ll be helping support StudyBass when you order through the links provided.
The basslines that are really great and I think everyone should learn are marked “Classic”.
There can be several reasons I might designate a bassline as “Classic”:
- It’s simply a brilliant or legendary bassline (in my opinion).
- It's a line from which you stand to learn a lot.
- It’s a well-known and recognizable bassline. (e.g. Another One Bites the Dust; Come Together)
- It’s a line others would expect you to know how to play. (e.g. Guitarists always know Jimi Hendrix songs so you should be able to accompany them.)
Technical Difficulty Ratings
Technical difficulty means how hard something is to physically play on the bass. The difficulty rating is not about the overall complexity of the song. There are some songs that may be easy to play, but are actually complex and vice versa.
In my private lessons I’ve watched players of all different levels learn many of these songs and I have a good sense of how hard they are to play for most people. I’ve rated their technical difficulty based on that experience.
I'll also say a lot of students often think they can play a bassline before they actually can. Ask yourself whether you could hold the whole song together for a whole band in front of an audience. Don't just noodle on the main riff.
The technical difficulty rating may not be how you expect. Firstly, it is a pretty loose rating. Rating these songs is not a perfect science. Some may find the level 1 songs difficult while others may find level 3 songs not that hard.
These ratings are mainly to help people find something easy they can play or locate a challenge. Don’t forget just because you can physically play a song, doesn’t mean you’ve mastered all that it has to teach you. Could you create an original line in a similar style applying the concepts it uses? That’s when you know you truly know a concept.
Technical difficulty is rated on a 3-point scale:
These are easier than average to play. That doesn’t mean they are bad. In fact, some of the greatest basslines are quite simple to execute. Just because you can play a bassline doesn’t mean you could have created it. Creating a good, simple line is far harder than people realize. Be careful to not overlook these.
You should not have too much trouble playing and learning these basslines within your first year of practicing (notice I said practicing - just owning a bass doesn’t count!). This should make it easier for beginners to find lines that won’t overly frustrate them.
Possible Characteristics of a "Level 1" song:
Very repetitive, simpler rhythms, easier to read, easy fingerings, simple techniques, and not too fast.
These lines are of average technical difficulty. This level is very wide and might account for 70-80% of the songs. It’s too time consuming for me to break them down further and not really useful enough to do it.
For the player in his or her early stages, they may take some work. These are the types of lines you can expect to play most often.
Possible Characteristics of a "Level 2" song:
Average repetition and variations, typical rhythms with some complex rhythms mixed in, average tempos, and typical fingerings.
These songs are more difficult than average to physically execute. If you’re looking for a challenge, many of these lines fit the bill.
Possible Characteristics of a "Level 3" song:
Lots of variations, lots of complex rhythms, difficult to read, troublesome fingerings, fast tempos, and unusual techniques.
About the Bassline Styles
Some of the style designations may strike you as odd. I try to classify the style of the song, not the artist. So, while an artist may be considered rock overall, he or she may have recorded a song that sounds more like country or blues.