The 7 Best Bass Guitar Songs to Learn

Best bass guitar songs to learn

Dreaming of playing the bass? This list of the best bass guitar songs is sure to inspire you.

A bass player can hold a band together and it is often the most distinctive sound you hear in any song. It is a known fact that the bassist is always the “coolest” guy in the band. So when things get rough within a band, it’s the bassist that keeps his cool and keeps the band going.

And the best part about being a bass player is you will ALWAYS have a gig!

So to all the seasoned bass players out there, if you’re just starting to learn the bass, here are seven of the best bass guitar songs to learn – with the most recognizable and hip bass lines in music history.

The 7 Best Bass Guitar Songs to Learn

Queen – “Under Pressure”

Difficulty level: 2

This bass line is a staple of the instrument. Its distinct rhythm and groove is instantly recognizable and it is surprisingly not difficult to play at all. Let’s not forget that there is some controversy over whether the pop artist Vanilla Ice used this line for his hit “Ice Ice Baby.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Give it Away Now”

Difficulty level: 6

This line is probably more suitable once you have a little more experience under your belt. With a line like this, the term “funk” is instantly incorporated into the music. One has to feel the funk to get down with a bass line of this caliber.

Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”

Difficulty level: 5

You can tell from the way that Michael dances in this song that he is getting his groove from this groovy bass line. It’s a not-so-difficult line to play but it’s always moving so you have to keep the groove up.

Primus – “American Life”

Difficulty level: 9

This is one of the best bass guitar songs on this list. When you hear the bass lines you’ll automatically think “I want to play that!” Les Claypool’s bass lines are more like guitar licks or melody lines.

He gives the bass a distinct sound and a dominant role in any song he plays in, which also makes his bass lines on the more difficult side.

Pink Floyd – “Money”

Difficulty level: 4

The bass line that comes in after a variety of clicking sounds is an unforgettable one. This popular song by Pink Floyd is a hit in anyone’s playlist and this bass line, with its rhythm of 7/4, is one every bassist should know how to play.

Johann Pachelbel – Pachelbel Canon in D Major

Difficulty level: 3

This is not generally a song thought of when talking about bass lines. However, this line known as the basso continuo is in fact a legit Baroque period bass line.

It is so legit that it is even featured in more familiar songs, such as Coolio’s “C U When U Get There” and Green Day’s “Basket Case.” This is a rockin’ canon and exemplifies how far back bass history really goes.

Herbie Hancock – “Chameleon”

Difficulty level: 2

This funky/jazzy bass line is a standard and staple of the bass repertoire that every bass player should know. If bass lines had a holy grail, this might be it.

This line is smooth, classy, and above all, groovy. Herbie made this song popular, but it was the bass line that made it immortal. It’s not difficult to play, so why not learn it?

These are some of the best bass guitar songs to learn, and they all helped in making the bass the immense instrument that it is today. The songs here give any bassist some good grooves to learn that will develop his or her skills.

ChristopherS.Christopher S. teaches bass guitar and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelor’s from Humboldt State and is currently working toward a Master of Music degree. Learn more about Christopher S. here!



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Photo by: Ethan Prater

Bass vs Guitar: The Differences, Difficulty, and How to Decide

bass vs guitar

For aspiring musicians trying to decide between bass vs guitar, there are many factors to consider. What style of music do you want to play? What do you find most enthralling about that style? And, where do you see yourself fitting into that style?

These are all key questions to answer when considering which instrument to learn. Here, we’ll uncover the pros and cons of playing each instrument.

One important thing to realize is that whichever instrument you start with, you’ll learn concepts that apply to other instruments as well. This is all part of your musical journey and will help you become a multi-faceted musician.

To help you find the better fit for you, let’s start by breaking down the differences between the bass player and the guitar player.

Already made up your mind? Cast your vote on the best instrument to learn below!

Which instrument do you prefer: bass or guitar?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Bass vs Guitar: How to Decide

Bass Guitar

The bass guitar is the foundation for all music. Without bass, there is nothing to weigh the music down and bring it all together. Oftentimes, the bass player is the most essential element in creating a successful band. They determine the “feel” of the music by laying down a pattern of notes according to their rhythmic pattern with the drums.

Bass players are often understated individuals who appreciate the improvisational nature of their instrument. While other instruments have to stick with their respective written parts, the bass player has a greater ability to play what they feel is right (especially in blues and jazz progressions).

For this reason, the bass player usually learns to be fluent with scales and chordal patterns so they can lay down an awesome bass line! When considering bass, you must ask yourself: is this the role I want to play?

Are you the “understated foundation” of the band? If you feel like this is the right place for you, then the next thing you should do is consider the style of music you want to play.

A Note About 4, 5, or 6 String Basses

guitar vs bass

A bass player has a unique choice in the number of strings they want on their bass guitar. You can purchase basses with 4, 5, or even 6 strings. For the most part, the only real difference between basses with more strings is the availability of higher or lower notes on the instrument.

Most 4-string basses are tuned like a guitar, that is: E-A-D-G. With 5 or 6 string basses you can choose to add lower notes, like B-E-A-D-G, or higher notes. While a 5 or 6 string bass can seem enticing, a majority of the time all you will need is 4 strings.

Pros of Bass:

  • Bass is arguably the most important instrument in a band. A song without bass just isn’t right.
  • Bass allows you to improvise and be active in the creation of a song.
  • You can choose between a wide variety of bass guitars including 4, 5, or 6 string basses.
  • Tabs for bass guitar are readily available.

Cons of Bass:

  • Since the strings on a bass are bigger to provide the right tone, bass players have to work to get really strong fingers.
  • The neck of a bass is also very long, so starting out on a full-size bass might be difficult for musicians with smaller frames.


guitar vs bass

The guitar is a very flexible instrument. A talented guitarist can fulfill several roles including rhythm section, lead guitar, or a mix of both! But generally, if you like to be the center of attention, the guitar is a good fit for you.

Guitarists play a defining role in the style of a band. If you listen to artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kirk Hammett (from Metallica), and then compare them to Tommy Emmanuel, you’ll see just how much flexibility there is with this instrument.

Guitar players are often at the forefront of the band. While the bass provides the foundation of the music, the guitar player builds upon it. By building chord progressions from bass licks and matching them with a drum beat, the guitarist can create some awesome songs!

Pros of Guitar:

  • While bass does have more freedom within a song, if there is a solo it usually goes to the lead guitar player.
  • The strings on a guitar are smaller than on a bass, so there is less finger strength required to learn the guitar
  • There are numerous styles of guitar. You can play like Tommy Emmanuel or Kirk Hammett – the possibilities are endless!
  • Tabs for music are readily available.

Cons of Guitar:

  • The guitar is just as much a rhythmic instrument as a lead instrument, so it requires you to learn more chord shapes than bass.
  • There is never a shortage of guitar players, so getting a gig can be difficult.

Musical Styles for Bass vs Guitar

guitar vs bass

What style of music do you hope to learn to play? What do you listen to in the car? Do you listen to rock, country, blues, jazz, or classical?

Both the guitar and bass have unique responsibilities within each genre of music. Neither guitar nor bass is any better than the other for a certain style of music; they simply perform different tasks.

For example, blues music offers improvisational freedom for both the bass and guitar. The bass player gets to make unique bass lines and the guitarist gets to play solos.

Where Do You Fit In?

If you’re still trying to decide between bass vs guitar, try taking a few introductory lessons. There are many guitar and bass teachers online and locally. Taking beginner level classes or lessons will give you a taste of each instrument so you can make a more informed decision.

Need Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Complete Beginner’s Guide to Playing Bass Guitar

Learn How to Play Bass Guitar for Beginners Guide

If you’ve chosen to learn how to play bass guitar for beginners, congrats! Learning to play any instrument can be a lifelong adventure bringing with it a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, as well as a ton of fun along the way!

The bass guitar provides the low end, punch, drive, rhythm and groove in most musical genres. Along with the drummer, the bass player is the other member of the “rhythm section” in most bands. He or she plays an important role in every genre by giving live music a solid foundation.

Learning how to play bass guitar for beginners requires dedication and practice, but it’s not a difficult instrument to learn how to play.  You can get a basic understanding and become functional relatively quickly with a little work. Mastering the instrument requires a lifetime of dedicated practice and study, so let’s get started!

How to Play Bass Guitar for Beginners

How to Choose a Bass Guitar

choosing bass guitar

If you’re just getting started and aren’t sure if bass guitar is right for you, you’re going to want to buy a “starter” or student bass.

Bass guitars can vary widely in price with student models priced under $200 dollars and professional models that can cost thousands. As with anything, to a certain extent you get what you pay for.

Of course a $5000 vintage Fender is an amazing instrument, but the good news is that most student models today are perfect beginner instruments that will get you through the early phases of learning.

When you begin your search, start by setting a budget and gaining an understanding of the basic parts of a bass guitar. Having an understanding of the parts of the bass and how it’s built will help you ask the right questions and make an informed decision. Here’s a quick overview of the basics:

  • Neck: The neck of the bass guitar includes the headstock, fretboard and an internal truss rod, which is how the neck is connected to the instrument body.
  • Headstock: The headstock is the wider part at the end of the neck where the tuning pegs are located. The tuning pegs adjust the string tension and are how you change the pitch to tune the instrument.
  • Fretboard: The fretboard is a thin piece of rosewood, ebony, or maple. Fretboards can vary widely in quality. The best fretboards are smooth and easy to move your fingers over. They are usually slightly arched from side to side and this arch is known as the radius.
  • Frets: Embedded in the fretboard are thin metal strips called frets. The frets divide the neck into half step increments and determine where each note is played on the neck. While some basses are fretless, they require greater skill from the player and are best left to intermediate or advanced players. If you’re learning how to play bass guitar for beginners, you will definitely want a fretted bass.
  • Truss Rod: The truss rod connects the neck to the body and is used to keep the neck from twisting. Because bass strings are much thicker than guitar strings, they exert a lot of pressure on the neck. Adjusting the truss rod allows the neck to be straightened if it becomes bowed or twisted. It is also used to adjust the string height.

Types of Bass Guitars for Beginners

Bass guitars come in a number of variations including solid body and hollow body basses. Pickups can be either single coil or humbucker, and electronics can be either passive or active. Basses come with four, five, and even six strings.

All of these variations (other than the number of strings) effect the tone of the bass and are not crucial to its playability. Smaller “scale length” basses are available that are perfect for younger players as they are a little smaller than a full sized instrument.

The best option for choosing the right bass is to set your budget and then visit your local music store. Play the available options in your price range. The most important factor is making sure the instrument feels comfortable when it’s in your hands. As a beginner you’ll want to spend as much time as possible playing and practicing.

As you progress in your studies, you may decide you want a better instrument. At that point it’s good to have more of an understanding of pickups and electronics as these will help shape your personal sound on the instrument.

For now, just focus on finding an instrument in your price range that feels good under your fingers and comfortable in your lap. Most beginner basses have adequate electronics and four strings. Play a bunch of different instruments and choose the one that feels right for you!

How to Tune a Bass Guitar for Beginners

learn to tune a bass guitar

Tuning your bass can be tricky if you’re a beginner. The good news? The more you do it, the easier it will get. Tuning your instrument is crucial especially if you’re going to be playing with other musicians. It will not only make you sound better, it will help you with the learning process.

The bass is pitched exactly one octave lower than the guitar. The strings are tuned to the same four notes as the 4 lowest guitar strings: E, A, D, and G. Here are a couple of methods to help you get in tune and ready to play.

If you’re playing with a guitarist and they are in tune, you can have them play the four bottom strings. Use your ears and turn the tuning pegs on your instrument to match their pitch.

If you have a piano handy you can ask them to play the tuning notes and match the pitch by turning your tuning pegs. Today, there are also a number of apps for your smartphone that will help you tune your instrument.

Electronic tuners are available and make tuning a snap. Simply plug your instrument into the tuner and pluck a string, then turn your tuning pegs until the arrow lines up with the correct note on the face of the tuner and your done. Go through all four strings.

One great method to learn that requires no technology and is called the “5th Fret Method.” With this method you need to get one string in tune (preferably the low E) and then use that string as a reference pitch. Even if you don’t have access to a keyboard or other tuning device, the 5th fret method will let you tune the instrument “to itself.”

Once you’ve tuned the low E string, press your finger on the 5th fret of the E string. This is the note “A”. Pluck the open A string and compare the two. Use the tuning pegs to match the pitch.

Now that the A string is in tune, repeat the process to tune the D string. Fret the 5th fret on that A string, pluck the open D string and adjust the tuning pegs to match the pitch. Using the same process, tune the G string and you’re ready to go!

How to Read Bass Tabs

learn to read bass guitar tabs

Bass tablature, or bass tab, is a simple system of music notation to help you learn how to play bass guitar for beginners to advanced players. Tab is available through books, bass magazines and at various websites online. Learning how to play bass guitar using tabs is just a small part of learning the instrument but it’s a great way to start playing songs quickly.

Bass tab is a system that shows the strings of the bass drawn horizontally, like this:


This is standard bass tab for a four string bass.  The lowest (fattest) string is always at the bottom.

In tab, notes are indicated as a fret number on a string. Most basses have between 20 and 24 frets so you may see fret numbers between 0 and 24. For example, you may see something that looks like this:



In this example start by playing the 3rd fret on the E-string followed by the 2nd fret on the A-string, the 5th fret on the A-string and finally the 5th fret on the D-string.

Measures are marked as in standard notation with a vertical bar line. Often rhythm is not indicated in bass tablature. All you get is the order and position of the notes. Rhythm may occasionally be marked with the count written under the fret numbers. It’s often best to listen to the song you’re practicing to get the rhythm of the piece.

There’s really not too much to know about reading bass tab. Basically it’s just fret numbers on string lines. While it’s a great way for a beginner to start playing quickly, the best method is to use tab as you begin to study standard musical notation and memorize the note names on the instrument.

How to Practice Bass for Beginners

Practice Learning Bass Guitar

Practice is the key to learning how to play bass guitar for beginners.

How long should you practice? Practice as often as you can fit into your schedule. However, it’s best to establish a basic regimen in order to progress. Here are some tips to get you started:

• Practice regularly. Preferably practice daily and from 30 minutes to as long as you can.

• Find a time of day when you can practice without distractions and when you can concentrate. Some players get up early and practice for an hour before work, some practice after dinner.

• Start with technique exercises. Run scales, play arpeggios and chords to get your fingers moving and your mind focused.

• As a bass player, developing a strong sense of time is important. Always practice with a rhythm device whether it’s a metronome, a drum machine, or a play-along recording.

• Start slowly. Focus on each note and as you gain fluidity and precision, slowly speed up the tempo.

• Keep track of your progress with a practice log. Keep track of your routines, goals, exercises and difficult passages you need to work on.

Learning to play any instrument is a challenge that can pay dividends for your entire lifetime. While you can teach yourself how to play bass guitar for beginners, it’s a good idea to study with a qualified teacher. They can help you avoid bad habits and will offer direction, inspiration and encouragement to get you through challenges that may arise during your studies.

Congratulations, you made a great choice when you decided to learn how to play bass guitar! Best of luck on your musical journey!

Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

10 Problems Only Bass Players Will Understand

10 Problems Only Bass Players Will Understand

Don’t let anyone tell you the bass is easier than a regular guitar just because it has less strings! Bass guitar teacher Kevin S. shares the unique challenges you face as you learn bass guitar…

1) Capos are Misleading

victor wooten- things bass players understand

Victor Wooten, Photo by Alexandre Janini

Any bassist who has regularly played with a guitarist who uses a capo has discovered that this simple tool can be confusing to deal with at first. This is a where good transposing skills come in handy, especially if the guitarist is referring to the chords they are playing by shape. For example, you may hear “It’s a D chord” when in fact the guitarist is playing a ‘D’ chord shape with capo on fret 2, resulting in a E chord.

2) The Need for Compression

kim gordon- things bass players understand

Kim Gordon, Photo by NRK P3

Compression is an effect used in live performances as well as on studio recordings that minimizes the dynamic range of an instrument. Compression is most often used on drums, vocals, and bass. Many bass players struggle with the uncompressed nature of the instrument. Some notes are inherently louder or softer than others, which can make producing a consistent volume challenging.

3) Heavy and Big

nate mendel- things bass players understand

Nate Mendel, Photo by Scott Barlow

Lower frequencies require larger instruments to produce them, and larger amplifiers and speakers to push them. Not only is the bass guitar longer and heavier than the guitar, but bass amps tend to be larger and heavier as well. There are many ways you can counteract this physical issue. Short-scale bass guitars, chambered bodies, and wide, heavy-duty straps can help manage the weight of the instrument. In regards to amplifiers and speakers, neodymium speakers, class-D amplifiers, and casters or wheels are great options for reducing weight.

4) Soloing Challenges

jake bruce- things bass players understand

Jack Bruce, Photo by Heinrich Klaffs

In addition to the creative and technical challenges of improvisation, soloing on the bass comes with some acoustical challenges as well. Unlike a guitar solo, whose notes reside on top of the mix, a bass solo has to punch through the mix, since the instrument itself resides in the low end of the frequency spectrum. Soloing on the bass can be a frustrating endeavor if the rest of the band doesn’t come down in volume to make room for the soloist. Depending on the style, it can also be difficult to produce the necessary volume to compete with ambient noise of the venue. As luck would have it, the bartender often fires up the blender when its time for the bass solo.

5) Playing with Drums

geddy lee- things bass players understand

Geddy Lee, Photo by Nick

Arguably the most important relationship between instruments in a band is the relationship between the bass and the drums. When the bass and drums are tight and working together, the effect is fantastic. However, playing with an inconsistent drummer, or even worse, a drummer who doesn’t listen, can be a frustrating endeavor. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to take a step back and simplify. If you are struggling to make a good connection with a drummer, relax, focus on beat one, and build from there.

6) Bass Strings

flea- things bass players understand

Flea, Photo by Stephen Eckert

Compared to guitar strings, bass strings are longer and thicker, and as a result, more expensive. A typical set of 6 guitar strings will cost around $10, whereas a set of 4 bass strings will cost around $25. 5- and 6-string sets will cost even more. Fortunately, bass strings do not need to be changed as much as guitar strings, but it can still be frustrating to see your guitarist friends leave the music store with more cash in their pockets.

7) 4-, 5-, and 6-string Basses

john paul jones- things bass players understand

John Paul Jones, Photo By Craig

One challenge facing bassists is choosing a proper number of strings. The standard bass guitar has four strings, but five and six string models have become increasingly popular over the past few decades. Choosing a proper number of strings is purely subjective, and is mostly affected by what styles you are interested in playing. For country, blues, jazz, and rock music, a four string bass will work great. For other styles, such as metal, fusion, latin, and solo bass playing, a five or six string bass may be preferable.

8) Building Calluses

rob pope- things bass players understand

Rob Pope, Photo by starbright31

The bass guitar is a physically-demanding instrument. The first parts of your body that will suffer heavily from playing the bass are your fingertips, especially if you play fingerstyle. The best advice I can offer is to focus on multiple, short practice sessions instead of long ones. This will allow your fingers time to harden without risking blowing through a callus altogether, requiring you to start building from scratch.

9) Using Effects

marcus miller- things bass players understand

Marcus Miller, Photo by Guillaume Laurent

Effects are not meant for just guitar. They sound great on bass too! However, there are some special considerations when applying effects to bass. The most important consideration is frequency-based effects, most notably wah-wah. Effects that are designed for guitar will at times not work on bass, simply because they are designed for the frequency range on the guitar, and therefore do not effect notes in the lower range of the bass very well, if at all. Distortion, delay, and  reverb can all sound great on bass, but if not used properly, they can muddy things up quickly.

10) Not in the Spotlight

weezer- things bass players understand

Weezer, Photo by starbright31

Of all the instruments in a standard band, the bass is the one that goes unnoticed most often. This is not because it is unimportant, but because it is so foundational. To the average listener, the bass is certainly there, but is not as discernible as a guitar, voice, or horn. It can be frustrating to feel like the audience isn’t aware of your invaluable contribution to the group. Remember though, that without you there, the audience would certainly notice something lacking!

Despite the challenges, it’s definitely worthwhile to learn bass guitar! A great bassline can make a song funky, heavy, or just plain danceable! Find your bass guitar teacher today and start playing the bass!

Kevin SKevin S. teaches bass guitar, piano, ukulele, and upright bass in Salt Lake City, UT. He began studying music at age 4 and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance. Kevin regularly performs in Salt Lake City and Park City and spends time as a studio musician and producer.  Learn more about Kevin here!


Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by BAG Blues Association of Geneva

Learn Bass Guitar How to Play a Walking Bass Line

Learn Bass Guitar: How to Play a Walking Bass Line in 3 Steps

Learn Bass Guitar How to Play a Walking Bass LineLooking for a way to make your bass lines move? Bass guitar teacher Miller W. shares his three step plan to creating walking bass lines…

The walking bass line is one of the most fundamental parts of American music. It is found most commonly in blues and jazz, but as you learn bass guitar, you will hear its influence in almost any style of music. A walking bass line provides a strong rhythmic and harmonic foundation by smoothly moving from each chord to the next using four quarter notes per bar, or three quarter notes per bar in 3/4 time.

Many bass players have based their entire careers on their creative and innovative walking lines. Upright bass players like Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, and Paul Chambers were some of the first musicians to make the walking bass line an art form all its own, and that tradition is so widespread that some of the best electric bass players like Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Christian McBride, and John Pattituci cite those walking lines as major influences in their musical development.

Playing a walking bass line is fun and easy if you follow these three simple steps:

1. Learn the Chord Changes

Familiarize yourself with the chord changes and when they occur in a song. Play through the changes a few times using only the root note of each chord (e.g. a Bb for a Bb7 chord).

2. Add Arpeggios

Now that you’re familiar with the chord changes, play through them again, but this time arpeggiate each chord (e.g. play Bb – D – F – Ab for a Bb7 chord). The most enjoyable and creative part of playing walking bass lines is finding new and interesting ways to outline each chord, so make sure you practice as many variations of arpeggiating the chord as possible.

3. Add Passing Tones

One of the most important and essential features of a walking bass line is that every chord, or at least the vast majority, is approached by a half-step above or below. This means that if the chord changes move from Bb to F, on the last quarter note before the F, you would play either an E or an F#. This is particularly important in jazz due to the very chromatic nature of the music. In more advanced walking lines, you can employ a similar technique within the chord by putting one or two “chromatic passing tones” between the notes of the chord (e.g. Bb – D – Ab – A – Bb for a Bb7 chord).

One of the most common places to find walking bass lines is in blues music. Walking bass is so instrinsic to the blues that you would be hard pressed to find a better example. Here is a sample bass tab over a Bb 12-Bar Blues:

Walking Bass Line Tab and Music

Notice that in Bar 2 the line moves Ab – A – Bb instead of fully outlining the Eb7. This is a common substitution used to make the line flow more smoothly. Similarly, notice that in Bar 6, the note immediately preceding the Bb in bar 7 is a G, which does not follow the rule of approaching the new chord by half-step. This is done so often that it would almost sound wrong if the line did follow the half-step rule. The beauty of walking bass lines is that there are exceptions to every rule, and those exceptions are what allow you to be creative and make the lines your own.

Now you have all the tools you need for creating your own walking bass lines. Good luck and have fun!

Learn more guitar and bass guitar techniques by taking lessons with a private instructor. Search for a guitar teacher today! 

NuerMiller W. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, music theory and upright bass in Orange, CA. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Music at Santa Barbara and has been teaching students since 2008. Learn more about Miller W. here!




Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource


Photo by Mark Blevis

How to Read & Find Bass Guitar Tabs For Your Favorite Songs


Want to play all of your favorite songs on bass? Learn where to find the tabs you need in this guest post by San Diego teacher Justine D...


Bass guitar tabs can help you sharpen your listening skills, try out new skills and techniques, and — of course — learn your favorite songs’ bass lines! In this blog post, we’ll cover where you can find bass guitar tabs and how to decide which one you want to use.

What is a bass guitar tab and how do you read it?

Did you know that “tab” stands for “tabulature,” a kind of musical notation that focuses on fretted finger placement rather than the actual pitches? It’s been in use for years; in fact, during the Renaissance tabulature was used to help lute players play and write down songs! Today, many bass tabs are written and shared online by musicians like you who want a way to remember their favorite songs.

tabulature example

Bass tab features four horizontal lines that represent each of your strings; the line at the very bottom represents your low E string, while the line at the top represents your G string. The numbers on the lines represent what fret to play. Read the tab from left to right, playing only the notes indicated by the numbers. In this example, you would play the 1st fret of your E string six times before moving on to the next measure.

Where can you find bass tabs online?

  • Ultimate Guitar: Despite its name, this website does have bass guitar tabs, too! Use their advanced search to make sure you only get bass tabs in your results. I like this site because tab submitters can indicate the difficulty of the tab and the genre, making searching easy. There’s quite a range of genres here — anime to electronic to world and rap — but most of the tunes are in the rock genre.
  • Big Bass Tabs: Here, the name rings true: this site only lists bass tabs! The majority are rock songs, though you can find the occasional rap and pop bass tab, too. They have a dedicated requests page that you can try if you’re looking for a hard-to-find tab. You can also find bass lessons here.
  • 911Tabs: If you can’t find a good tab on the above two sites, this is another good website to try. This site doesn’t actually host the tabs on their server; instead, it’s more like a search engine that checks other sites’ databases (including Ultimate Guitar) and shows results from multiple places. However, they don’t show all the versions that other sites may have.

While they aren’t dedicated tab repositories, Bass Musician Magazine and No Treble share tabs from jazz, metal, and other rarer genres of music. You won’t find just any tab here, though; you’re limited to what they’ve chosen to provide to you. Many of the tabs are more intermediate to advanced, though, so it’s a good place to browse and learn more complex music and techniques. You may even pick up a new favorite artist or two!

How do you know which bass tab to use?

Anyone can submit a bass tab to any of these websites, and they don’t usually review the tab before it goes online. Because tabs are written by ear, some tabs may have mistakes. Other musicians may upload additional versions of a song’s tab to correct the mistakes they see or share the way they play it.

Many sites use a rating system that allows users to show which tabs they recommend and which they don’t; look for a 4- or 5-star rating next to a tab’s link.

Popular songs may have up to 20 or more tab versions on a site. I typically start with the highest number version (e.g. “Money (version 25)”, versus “Money (version 2)”), assuming that the multiple versions are fixing errors found in versions 1–24.

tabulature example 2

Lastly, most tabs don’t indicate any kind of rhythm; you have to rely on your ears to help you know how fast or short you play the notes. Some tabbers will try to space the numbers out, but this can still be unclear. If you see a tab that does explicitly state the rhythm, though, try that one first! In this example, the Es at the top indicate the eighth note rhythm of the bass line.

Good luck with your bass playing! If you come across a resource we haven’t listed here, let us know where it is by leaving a comment below!

JustineDJustine D. teaches guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, and music theory lessons in San Diego, CA, as well as online. She received a double major in in music and psychology at Kalamazoo College, and joined the TakeLessons team in 2011. Learn more about Justine here! 



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource


What Should I Expect From Online Bass Guitar Lessons?


Interested in online bass guitar lessons? Here, online teacher Justine D. shares what to expect in your bass guitar lessons, how to prepare, and more:


If you’re curious about playing bass but can’t find a teacher in your area, online bass guitar lessons may be right for you! Video-chatting technology like Skype and Google Hangouts make it easy to connect with a teacher and start making music from your own home.

You may be wondering what to expect from online lessons, whether you’ll be able to hear or see your teacher, or how you’ll get feedback on your playing. I’ve been teaching online bass guitar lessons for two years and have worked with students of all ages and all learning levels. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through how online bass guitar lessons work, whether they are right for you, and what to expect from your first lesson.

Why should you consider online bass guitar lessons?

  • They’re convenient. You won’t need to travel to your teacher’s studio or carry around your bass and amp. This saves you money on gas or transportation and time.
  • Take lessons anywhere. All you need is a computer or tablet, an Internet connection, and your instrument! Just make sure that you choose a room or location that’s quiet and has good lighting. And if you want to continue your lessons while on vacation, you can!
  • They’re affordable. Online bass guitar lessons are often slightly cheaper than in-person lessons. This is mostly because you won’t receive the same kind of physical feedback or adjustments as with in-person lessons.

Are online lessons right for you?

Because the tones produced by a bass guitar are lower than other instruments, it’s especially important that your computer or tablet has a good quality microphone. And if you don’t play an acoustic bass guitar, you’ll also need an amp in your home. You might need to turn the volume up a little louder than you’re used to, too. This will make sure your teacher can see and hear you well.

If you have a slower Internet connection, you may experience problems like dropped calls and video or sound lagging or freezing. Most video-chat issues are easily fixed by restarting the call, but slow connections can make this happen more regularly than you’d like.

Lastly, online bass guitar lessons are great for independent students. You should feel comfortable following directions, making small changes in your hands, body, and posture, and be able to ask questions about anything that may be confusing.

How do online bass guitar lessons work?

After you sign up for online bass guitar lessons, make sure that you add your teacher to your contact list. Most online teachers will use Skype or Google Hangouts, free video-chatting software for computers or tablets, to teach. Talk to your teacher to find out more about what he or she recommends.

Make sure there’s enough room in front of your computer or tablet for your chair, yourself and your bass, and your amp. An armless chair or stool is best so you can fit yourself and your instrument on it comfortably. You should also be able to easily reach your amp in case your teacher asks you to make adjustments to your sound so he or she can hear you more easily.

Once you’ve started your lesson, I recommend always double-checking the video you’re sending (the smaller screen or video) to make sure that your teacher can see both your left and right hand. Because bass guitars are often bigger instruments, you may want to scoot back to get everything in the picture. Ask your teacher if he or she can see enough of your playing!

The exact format of your online bass guitar lesson will vary based on your teacher and your musical goals, but rest assured that you and your teacher will still be able to hear and see each other, just like in an in-person lesson! Your teacher can help you tune your bass at the beginning if you don’t already know how to tune. I often play with my student at the same time, either on my bass or guitar, though I sometimes do ask students to play by themselves so I can really focus on what they’re playing.

There’s many different ways for you to get and study your learning materials online, too. Screensharing lets your teacher show you music, charts, or other materials that they have open on their computer. Your teacher can also email you files or links to review or recommend books or sheet music for you to purchase. Some of my students like to print out their materials, while others open their files on the computer and practice in front of their screen. It’s up to you!


Online bass guitar lessons are an affordable and convenient way to become a better bass guitar player! Your teacher will walk you through the best way to set up in front of your screen, help you choose your volume and amp settings, demonstrate new techniques, and play along with you. You’ll learn new musical concepts, study your favorite songs, and become a video chatting and bass guitar playing pro!

Good luck with your bass guitar playing!

JustineDJustine D. teaches guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, and music theory lessons in San Diego, CA, as well as online. She received a double major in in music and psychology at Kalamazoo College, and joined the TakeLessons team in 2011. Learn more about Justine here! 



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by kohrogi34

How to buy the first guitar for a student

Guitar Strings

Here is a compelling article about how to choose a guitar from our Rancho Cordova teacher Bob C, who has a Masters in Music from Columbia University.

Starting musical lessons is a wonderful idea and can improve a person’s life.  It has been shown that students that seriously study music develop structures in their brain that MRI studies demonstrate are used for Math and Physics concepts.   In fact, Einstein credits his conceptual creativity on learning the violin at aged four.  As you learn, your brain grows musically and you’ll enjoy music much more.

To start lessons, as the teacher I am more than willing to help obtain a  reasonably priced, easy to play instrument.  Unfortunately students often show up with a guitar shaped toy.

The Toy:

Many parents show up or I find someone bought them a guitar at Wall Mart or similar guitar shaped toy.

The parents say, “If he/she likes it, we’ll get a better one.”   Well, it never works like that.
No one likes to play a piece of junk.  They are generally impossible to play; they hurt your fingers and sound terrible.   If they do everything perfect, which is almost impossible, it will still sound terrible.

The student won’t want to play the guitar.  End of lessons.   It is a sure path for failure.
Worse, it will discourage the student and think they can’t play guitar.     

The Recommended Starter Guitar:

A steel string guitar has 220 pounds of pressure, and usually has a narrow neck.  It is much easier for the student to start on a nylon string, usually called a classical guitar.
Nylon strings are much easier to play and there is more space between the strings making it easier to play chords.    It just is easier. 

Many children want to learn electric guitar.  At some point, when the student has progressed, that’s fine.  However electrics are a much more expensive proposition. You have to pay for a guitar, electronics, cables and an amp.       When a student is ready for an electric they can play and feel how well they play.    

If you prefer to go to a store, I’ll help work with a local store selecting an instrument.  You will pay more at a store, but they will be there if you need repairs or adjustments.

There are a number of excellent Chinese makers and but these people will only export a number at once.   While most Chinese guitars are junk, but there are a few shops that make excellent instruments for the money.  I used to import basses, and I can import very high quality supplier of guitars at low costs.  

Why a solid top?  That’s your speaker.  The more it is played, it will quickly open up and sound better and better.  Plywood tops will never get the beautiful sound.  But the top must be made of good woods and toned correctly.

Please buy a tuner.  Tuning is a fairly difficult task, and learning to tune a guitar with a tuner makes it much easier.   Tuning is tricky since it involves listening, getting used to adjusting the pitch.   Tuning takes practice.  And out of tune guitar really sounds terrible.
Get a tuner that will let you set which string you are on.  Some will play the sound of the note.  Even pros use tuners.  Regardless, I’ll teach you how to tune your guitar.

If you go to a store to buy a guitar, there are a few basic things you can check. 

1:  If you put a straight edge from the neck, it should hit the bridge, ideally, at the bottom of the saddle.  If not, the angle is off, and the guitar will be useless.  A yardstick or ruler is ideal for this.  If the angle is wrong,   the only repair is a neck reset which costs about $150 or more.

2:  If you push the guitar string down on the top and bottom fret the string should come close to hitting every string, with no more than a 1/8th of an inch.  If not it will be warped, and difficult to play.  Sometimes we can adjust the truss rod and straighten the neck.

3: Play every note on the guitar and make sure than all of them clear the next fret and don’t buzz.

4: It should be as easy to press down on the 12 fret as the first fret.  The notes are closer together up high on the fingerboard.  Once again, it is likely the guitar teacher will be able to help get a guitar. 

I think it is foolish to go to a store without someone that knows how to play guitar.  Each instrument that comes off the factory floor is unique.  You will pay much more.

In summary, a playable guitar is a musical instrument, not a toy.   If you buy a toy it will simply be money wasted and discourage your child.  A good student guitar is not very expensive, usually between $100 to $200.   I try and keep a few that I sell at cost to students.  I want my students to be successful and have a great time.  I will be glad to check out family instruments.   A string bass is well over a thousand dollars for even a playable plywood instrument.

And, a good guitar will likely appreciate in value over time.   So you see a good used solid top guitar, well taken care of is actually the better investment than the toy.

Even rock players do most of their personal practice on acoustic instruments.

Many children want to learn electric guitar.  At some point, when the student has progressed, that’s fine.  However they are a much more expensive proposition.   You have to pay for a guitar, electronics, and an amp.  Just think, the cost of pickups alone can easily exceed $100.   The cost for a playable instrument is much more expensive and a cheap one sounds terrible.    When a student is ready for an electric they can play and feel how well they play.     Only buy a guitar when you can get a good quality instrument and amp.

Finally, always wash your hands before playing the guitar.  The acids and dirt on your fingers will ruin the strings and even the guitar. Never let anyone play the guitar without washing their hands.