Just being able to rip through a bunch of different bass guitar riffs will not make you an expert bassist. In fact, it may not even be enough to get you into a band. It can, however, be a great way to emulate your favorite musicians, and add extra practice time. The more time playing, the better you’ll sound.
For many of these riffs, you’ll need to know how to read basic guitar tablature. Andrew Pouska has a great overview article on the topic called “How to Read Bass Tab“. If you don’t know tabs yet or are a little rusty, we recommend you check out that article before looking at the tabs we’ll list out later in this article.
What is a Bass Guitar Riff?
Bass guitar riffs are a short, repeated set of notes that form the lowest line of sound for a piece of music. The notes in bass lines will often match the chords of the song. In the case of a bass guitar player, often the bassist will play the root note of the chord that the rhythm guitarist is playing. This adds backing to the rhythm and depth to the sound by adding a lower octave note from the chord.
The style of a bass guitar riff also may change depending on the type of music you’re listening to. Rock songs are usually simple and follow the rhythm guitar while pop songs will use catchy interludes where the bass will stand apart from the rhythm in a dynamic way. Blues and Jazz bass players often play what is known as a walking bass line, where a note is played on every beat, the extra notes create a “line” between the root notes.
Beginner Bass Guitar Riffs
Just like any other form of guitar or learning other parts of the bass, we want to start with bass guitar riffs for beginners. These riffs will be slightly more simple than many you will encounter but teach great principles that you can apply to more difficult songs later down the line. We’ve listed off fourteen of our favorite riffs to learn as a beginner bassists. The video we’ve included is from TalkingBass. This is a great resource for bassists of all levels.
- 1. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
- 2. Stand By Me – Ben E. King
- 3. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
- 4. Come As You Are – Nirvana
- 5. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
- 6. No More Tears – Ozzy Osbourne
- 7. How Many More Times – Led Zepplin
- 8. Love Buzz – Nirvana
- 9. Under Pressure – Queen / David Bowie
- 10. Bullet In the Head – Rage Against the Machine
- 11. Stay Away – Nirvana
- 12. Rocket Queen – Guns N’ Roses
- 13. Fools Gold – Stone Roses
- 14. Lounge Act – Nirvana
Can I play Guitar Riffs on Bass?
Guitar riffs are different from bass guitar riffs and so you can’t normally play them on a bass, you’ll need an electric or acoustic 6-string. Bass guitar riffs normally are only playing the lowest note of each chord, while many guitar riffs use scales or individual notes picked out of full chords.
Both types of riffs are great to practice and will help develop both accuracy and coordination with both of your hands, but they are different and will need different tabs to be played correctly!
The Final Note
Bass guitar riffs are a great tool to learn to play individual notes and can teach you many different styles of playing bass. With the 14 solid, basic riffs we’ve included you have a selection of bass lines that are easy to learn and that really sound good. Regardless of whether you’re just learning the bass or have been playing for years; these will provide a good foundation to sharpen your skills.
If you rip through these and still want more, go to SmartBassGuitar. This list of 9 easy bass lines is a bit more obscure but provides some great learning opportunities. The best part, your friends probably won’t know them!