Are you a fan of fat, groovy bass guitar riffs? Well, you’re in luck, my friend! Whether you’re into rock, funk, metal, or jazz, the bass guitar is the backbone of any good band and it’s time we give it the recognition it deserves. In this article, we’re going to dig into the best bass guitar songs of all time.
We’ve scoured the internet, asked our music-savvy friends, and consulted with some of the best musicians out there to compile this list of bass-heavy hits. From the funky basslines of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” to the head-banging riffs of Metallica’s “Orion,” we’ve got something for everyone.
Maybe you’re a bass player yourself and you’re looking for some inspiration or just want to learn some new techniques. Or maybe you just appreciate the sheer talent it takes to make a bassline that rocks your whole body? Either way, get ready to feel the groove, and let’s dive in.
Importance of Bass Guitar in Music
A Bass guitar adds a lot to many different styles of music. While the lead guitar and singer often get all the recognition and credit, the drummer and the bass often lead the show behind the scenes. The bass riffs provide the foundation of the music, adding depth and rhythm that allows other instruments to shine.
The bass can serve several different functions in a band, and here are the five main ones:
- Creates rhythm: The bass guitar provides the foundational rhythm of a song by providing a steady pulse and groove. It serves as the link between the melody and the rhythm section of a band.
- Adds depth to the sound: By providing low-frequency notes, the bass guitar adds depth and richness to the overall sound of a piece of music. It fills out the sonic spectrum and can make a song feel fuller and more complete.
- Creates harmony: In many types of music, the bass guitar helps to create the harmonic framework of a song. By playing notes that complement the melody and chords, the bass guitar can add complexity and interest to the music.
- Enhances dynamics: By changing the intensity and volume of their playing, bass guitarists can help to create dynamic shifts in a song. This can help to build tension and release, which can be crucial to the emotional impact of the music.
- Adds personality: Finally, the bass guitar can be a source of personality and individuality within a band. A skilled bassist can add unique flourishes and riffs that help to distinguish a band’s sound and give it a distinct identity.
In rock music, the bass guitar is often the driving force of the song. The bass line sets the pace and provides the backbone for the guitar and drums to build upon. In funk and soul music, the bass guitar takes on a more prominent role, providing a groove that gets people moving.
The slap bass technique is a hallmark of funk music and is instantly recognizable.
In jazz music, the bass guitar acts as the glue that holds the different instruments together. The bass player often takes on a more improvisational role, adding their unique style to the music.
In blues music, the bass guitar adds a deep resonance that fills out the sound, providing richness and complexity that enhances the emotional depth of the music.
Overall, the bass guitar is an essential ingredient in many different styles of music. It adds depth and complexity that allows other instruments to shine while also providing a powerful presence that can lead the show. A skilled bass player knows how to harness the power of the instrument to create music that is both powerful and beautiful.
Best Bass Guitar Songs
Classic bass songs are ones that are instantly recognizable. These are songs that instantly have you tapping your foot or hand along with the bass riff. While the best songs to play on any instrument can be a source of great debate, there are songs that many will agree fit the bill.
I will admit, I’ve put a few of my personal favorites in this list, but most are ones that are widely regarded for being songs with good bass. I’ve tried to select a great range of heavy bass, double bass, distorted bass, and slap-happy bass to include something that everyone would like in my list of songs!
Top 5 Classic Bass Songs
“Orion” by Metallica
Orion is a classic bass song that showcases the talent of Metallica’s late bassist, Cliff Burton. The instrumental track features a driving bassline that seamlessly shifts from low, rumbling notes to high-pitched, melodic phrases. Burton’s unique playing style, which incorporates fingerpicking and the use of distortion effects, creates a rich and complex sound that is both powerful and expressive. The song also highlights the band’s technical prowess and creative experimentation, making it a beloved fan favorite and an important part of Metallica’s musical legacy.
“Ramble On” by Led Zepplin
Zepplin could have made this list for a number of songs, but “Ramble On” stands out for its mixture of folk and rock influences, as well as its allusions to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” The song’s lyrics tell the story of a wanderer on a quest for love and adventure, evoking the spirit of classic mythology and epic tales. The driving rhythm and intricate guitar work also showcase John Paul Jones’s mastery of their craft. Overall, “Ramble On” is a standout track that embodies the quintessential sound and style of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
“Money” by Pink Floyd
A great song with a great bass line, “Money” by Pink Floyd is an iconic track that features a driving groove anchored by the bass. The guitar solo is instantly recognizable and sets the tone for the song, which explores the corrupting influence of money on society.
The song opens with a memorable bass riff that is instantly recognizable. It’s a driving, syncopated groove that sets the tone for the entire track. Throughout the song, the bass keeps the rhythm moving, creating a sense of momentum and urgency.
The bass player, Roger Waters, is known for his distinctive and melodic playing style. His bass lines are often complex and intricate, but always serve the song and never overshadow the other instruments. His playing on “Money” is a great example of this – the bass is front and center, but never takes over the song.
Overall, “Money” is a great example of how a well-crafted bass line can drive a song and complement the other instruments. It’s a classic rock song that has stood the test of time and remains a favorite of music fans around the world.
“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
This classic was released by Wild Cherry in 1976 and quickly rose to become a chart-topping hit. The song was written by the group’s lead singer, Rob Parissi, who was inspired by his experiences playing in funk bands in Pittsburgh.
Initially conceived as a pure funk song that would showcase the band’s skills as musicians, “Play That Funky Music” quickly became a crossover hit thanks to its catchy melody and infectious groove. Its simple but effective lyrics and memorable chorus made the song appeal to audiences of all races and backgrounds.
The success of “Play That Funky Music” helped to establish Wild Cherry as one of the leading funk acts of the 1970s. The band went on to score several more hits, including “Baby Don’t You Know”, “Hold On”, and “I Love My Music”, before disbanding in the early 1980s.
Today, this song is regarded as a classic of the 70s and remains a popular choice for dance floors and parties around the world. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the song’s timeless appeal and enduring groove.
“Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Out of all the songs on this list, this might be my favorite, and Flea might be my all-time favorite bassist. The excellent bass groove in this song is infectious and impossible not to dance to. Flea’s slap technique is on full display, showing off his incredible speed and precision. The bassline perfectly complements the rest of the band, especially the guitar riffs and Anthony Kiedis’ vocals. The song is a great example of how a bassist can lead a song and drive the rhythm section, while still allowing other instruments to shine. Overall, “Give it Away” is a must-listen for any music lover and an impressive showcase of Flea’s undeniable talent.
Top 5 Pop Songs for Bass Songs
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
The iconic bass line by Louis Johnson is instantly recognizable and essential for any bassist to master. One of the greatest basslines of all time and a song that is instantly recognizable.
“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
The tight bass groove provided by Mark Ronson is the backbone of this modern funk hit. Fun fact, this was also my graduation song in High School!
“Come Together” by The Beatles
The catchy and iconic opening bass line sets the tone for this classic Beatles hit. The song has a groovy, bluesy feel with simple yet memorable lyrics that urge people to put aside their differences and “come together” as one. The harmonies and instrumentation are excellent, featuring guitar riffs, organ, and handclaps. “Come Together” remains one of the most recognizable and beloved songs in the Beatles’ extensive catalog.
“Good Times” by Chic
The heavy bass line by Bernard Edwards has been sampled in countless hip-hop and dance tracks, making it a must-know for any bassist.
“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
The classic Motown bass line by James Jamerson is a masterclass in creative and melodic bass playing.
Top 5 Rock Songs for Bass
“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
This is one of the most famous bass lines in rock history. The song is built around a simple, yet effective bass with a punchy and precise sound that carries the groove throughout the whole track. This song is a great example of how a bass guitar can be the driving force of a rock band.
“Money” by Pink Floyd
This song is famous for its iconic bass line, which features an unusual time signature of 7/4. The bass riff is smooth and groovy and perfectly complements the song’s message of greed and materialism.
“Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
This gritty and minimalistic track features a simple bass solo that has become one of the most recognizable in modern rock music. The bass line is played on a distorted guitar and gives the song a distinctive and edgy sound. Maybe the best part is a beginner bass player who is learning how to play can start with this song that is both fun to play and highly educational!
“Hysteria” by Muse
This song is a masterpiece of modern bass playing, featuring a complex and intricate bass line that drives the song forward. The song shows what a bass can do when played by a virtuoso like Muse’s bassist Chris Wolstenholme, who creates a dynamic and intense sound that perfectly complements the song’s explosive chorus.
“Schism” by Tool
This progressive rock masterpiece features an intricate bass part that sets the tone for the entire song. The song is played in a complex time signature of 6/4 and 7/8 and showcases the skills of Tool’s bassist Justin Chancellor, who adds a layer of complexity and depth to the song’s already intricate sound. The bass riff is one of the most challenging in rock music and a true testament to the artistry of the instrument.
Top 5 Funk Bass Guitar Songs
“Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” by Parliament
This song is a classic example of funky bass lines. The bassist, Bootsy Collins, plays a contagious rhythm that drives the whole song and sets the tone for the funk. The opening riff is instantly recognizable and the whole song has an infectious energy that makes you want to dance.
“Brick House” by The Commodores
The bass notes in this song are simple yet effective. It grooves with the drums and creates a solid foundation for the vocals and guitar. The repetition of the bass line makes it memorable and the occasional fills add interest and variation.
“Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly and the Family Stone
The bass line in this song is jazzy and melodic. The bassist, Larry Graham, pioneered the slap bass technique that is heard throughout the song. The bass line is full of slides, pops, and slaps that create a dynamic and syncopated groove.
“Super Freak” by Rick James
The bass line in this song is another example of the slap bass technique. The bassist, Oscar Alston, plays a fun riff that is instantly recognizable. It’s full of syncopated rhythms and clever melodic ideas. The bass line is the backbone of the song and sets the tone for the party vibe.
“Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder
The bass line in this song is the definition of soulful. It’s played by Stevie Wonder himself and showcases his skills as a multi-instrumentalist. The bass line is interspersed with keyboard riffs and vocal harmonies that create an intricate and dynamic arrangement. The bass line is the driving force of the song and carries the message of positive change.
What is Bass Heavy Music?
Bass-heavy music is a genre of music that focuses heavily on bass sounds and frequencies. This type of music typically features a deep, lingering bass that is intended to be felt more than heard. It is often associated with electronic dance music (EDM), hip-hop, and dubstep. Bass-heavy music is characterized by its vibrating, pulsing quality, and it is often played at high volumes in clubs and other venues.
The songs on this list generally don’t qualify for this category, but I wanted to include this section as it’s something I’m commonly asked about!