5 Popular Beginner Bass Lines – Are You Playing Them Wrong?

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Are you butchering these beginner bass lines? These iconic lines are legit impressive - but only if you nail the crucial details.

0:37 - #1: Another One Bites The Dust by Queen
3:25 - Play-along
4:43 - #2: London Calling by The Clash
6:58 - Play-along
7:53 - #3: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
10:47 - Play-along
11:52 - #4: Walking On The Moon by The Police
13:41 - Play-along
14:56 - #5: Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine
17:00 - Play-along

Get all 5 bass lines in sheet music + tablature here.

Beginners often miss specific elements from these riffs, so they end up getting butchered. (which no one wants to hear) I’ll also show you how you can take concepts from these riffs and level up your own bass lines.

First up is Another One Bites The Dust by Queen, with John Deacon on the punchy disco bass. Clearly inspired by Chic’s “Good Times,” this line sounds simple but actually throws beginners off a lot due to the 16th note syncopation. Don’t worry, I’ll explain what the hell that means before we play it together.

Then I’ll quickly walk you through how you can make your bass lines funkier by adding some 16th note syncopation.

Bass line #2 is London Calling by The Clash. Paul Simonon starts off this bass line with a big nasty bass slide, which might catch you off guard if you’re not a seasoned slider. I’ll talk you through bass slide basics (bassics?) and how not to get totally lost when your hand moves that far.

After we play along with The Clash, I’ll show you how adding some slides to a simple bass line can add a little more character and dramatic flair, so you sound more confident.

Our next song is Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. I know, I know, this one is SO EASY, how could anyone mess it up? Believe me, I’ve heard plenty of students annihilate that triplet rhythm in the main riff. To save you from the same fate, I’ll explain what a “quarter note triplet” is, so you don’t make Jack White cry when you play this.

Bass line #4 is Walking On The Moon by The Police. Sting’s bass line only has a few notes, but getting the note length right - which notes are short and which are long - is the difference between sounding like a n00b and sounding Sting-tastic. I’ll show you how to get it right for this line, and how changing note length can completely transform how bass lines feel.

Last up is the heavy hitting Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine. Getting every note to rock as hard as Tim Commerford is hard for beginners because there are a lot of hammer-ons, which require a different fretting hand approach than normal notes. Guess what? - I’m gonna break it down for you so your hammer-ons won’t be wimpy anymore.

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Thanks for watching my weekly lesson here at Musicians Unite, check back next week for another lesson.

-Josh Fossgreen

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