When starting out on a new instrument, it can be intimidating to learn music without the fundamental technique and theory that the modern day gigging bass player is expected to have. A great way to practice the bass guitar is to take apart easy bass songs, and understand what they can teach you about playing music and your role as a bassist. I’m here to break down a few easy bass-focused songs and help you along on the journey of becoming a bassist. Shall we get started?
1. “Another One Bites The Dust” - Queen
A classic rock tune whose bass line was written and performed by John Deacon of Queen, is an absolute must-know for any bassist looking for easy songs to practice bass guitar. If you’re just getting started on bass, it can be difficult to match each and every one of Deacon’s articulations and cleanly catch every single note he plays. But, what makes this an easy tune to start with is the key and the repetition.
Another One Bites The Dust is in the key of E Minor, primarily revolving around the open E string and the first and second positions. This allows for minimal shifting and allows newer bassists to get accustomed with the lower parts of the fretboard. The repetition in the tune also makes for an easy bass line that new players can easily familiarize themselves with.
2. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” - James Brown
For beginner bassists looking for a funkier approach, your search has ended! Look no further than this James Brown classic, whose bass line was written by David “Hooks” Williams. What makes this a great song for beginner bass players is the actual structure of the bass line itself. It is constructed almost entirely of pentatonic scale shapes, which fit well under a new bassist's hands. This tune will challenge the right hand of new players, as well as familiarize them with a typical 12 bar blues form.
3. “Cissy Strut” - The Meters
Another easy and essential bassline written and performed by the great George Porter Jr, this tune is also mostly centered around the pentatonic scale in C minor, and will help to challenge the new bass player’s rhythm and groove. For this slower funky ostinato-based track, practice and patience is essential in order to perform it with correct notation and feel. Isolating this track using Moises will be essential if you are looking to get Porter’s original line.
4. “For The Love of Money” - The O’Jays
Another funk classic, performed on bass by maestro Anthony Jackson, and one of the best songs to learn on bass. For new players, the challenge here lies in the right hand technique. Either played with a pick or fingerstyle, this bass line will push you to play with a light touch and clear articulation, as each note should stand out as it does on the track. This is an excellent tune for the practicing beginner bassist who is looking for a challenge.
5. “All Blues” - Miles Davis
A staple in the world of jazz performed by bassist Paul Chambers, this track features alternative chord changes to the typical blues form. Stationed firmly in the key of G, this tune serves as a great introduction to the world of jazz while not being too complex or difficult to understand. The ostinato line played by Chambers allows bassists to work on positional playing, and using Moises, can learn the functional harmony behind most blues-adjacent music.
6. “Mercy Mercy Mercy” - Cannonball Adderly and Joe Zawinul
Performed on bass by Vic Gatsky and originally composed by Joe Zawinul, this R&B/jazz track is a must-know for any beginner bassist looking to diversify their practice. Written in the key of Bb major, it is very easy for new players to either stay in first position, or move more towards the center of the fretboard in third position.
What makes this an easy bassline is the rhythm of the notes. For most of this tune, Gatsky plays mostly quarter note rhythms on chord tones, making it an easy track to pick up. The chords played are also diatonic to Bb major, meaning that the structures are all within the key and unaltered. This is one of the best songs to learn on bass if R&B is of interest.
7. “Girl From Ipanema” - Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes
A bossa nova staple, this track has an easy to digest rhythm feel, with the bass line being contrived of half-note rhythms over relatively complex and rich chord changes. The bass part in itself is not a very difficult one - where it becomes a challenge for beginner players is the harmony underlying what the bass is playing. Jobim’s careful chord choices, from altered diatonic chords to tritone substitutions, allow new players to challenge their theory a little more than the average beginner.
Learning something by ear is always a challenge. That never changes in the world of music. But as with any challenge, there is also the option to work smarter; isolating tracks. Using Moises to “take apart” music and listen further into the nuance of each individual's playing is some of the best teaching music has to offer, from a tone you like to the way a player articulates a note. By isolating bass tracks, it becomes much easier to work your way through a tune at any skill level.
Do you have any suggestions of easy bass lines that didn’t make the list? Share with us!