Bassists are often the unsung heroes of a rock band. Without a solid groove or bassline, songs lack the dynamic groove they need to have their desired impact. Fortunately, the bass guitar is one of the easier instruments to learn (though it’s still quite challenging to master).
One of the best ways to further develop your bass technique is to learn songs from other artists. So here are my top 20 easy bass songs for beginners to polish off your bass guitar skills.
If you are looking for top-notch bass books and resources, head to my article covering the best bass guitar books!
1. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
Deep Purple was one of the rock titans of the 1970s and 80s eras, and their rhythmic approach to writing songs often goes overlooked. “Smoke On The Water” is one of Deep Purple’s biggest hits and tells the story of a crazed concertgoer who set off a flare during a Frank Zappa performance in Switzerland in 1971. The band had been recording in the same town on this night bassist Roger Glover saw the concert building burning down from his hotel window.
I always recommend this song to anyone picking up a bass guitar for the first time. The opening riff that chugs along with the drums is easy to play for most beginners within an hour or two of learning. Once you’ve learned the classic opening riff, the rest of the song is simple enough. The chorus is made up of a two-chord turnaround followed by a hook that doubles the ominous catchphrase “fire in the sky”.
2. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Jack White is considered one of the modern-day mavericks and saviors of classical rock-n-roll. He first found fame with his two-piece act, The White Stripes, before branching out into several other musical projects. The White Stripes’ biggest hit to date is the infectious “Seven Nation Army”. You can still hear its intro riff being played and chanted at sports stadiums by excited fans, which is a true testament to its impact.
Seven Nation Army is a great track for bass beginners as it introduces them to the fundamentals of the pentatonic scale. The entire song can be played using just the low E string with your fingers or a plectrum. There’s a slight looseness in the overall groove of the song, as it’s meant to feel more primal than tight and dancey.
3. Come Together – The Beatles
Paul McCartney will, without a doubt, go down in history as one of music’s most prolific songwriters. He also happens to be one of the best bass players of all time. During his time with The Beatles, McCartney composed and produced an insane amount of timeless chart-topping songs. His excellent bass playing can be easily heard in the main riff of “Come Together”.
One of the best parts of “Come Together” is perfecting the bass slide that makes up the verse groove. Once you have this piece of the arrangement dialed in, it’s impossible to stop playing. It can even be used as a simple lick while improvising over other jam sessions. There’s also a well-crafted and simple groove in the bridge that rides out as the song fades.
4. Texas Sun – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
Khruangbin has swum upstream to become one of the most popular indie acts of the modern era, mostly due to their exotic, groovy instrumental music. They teamed up with American songwriter Leon Bridges to release a double-sided EP in 2020: “Texas Sun” and “C-Side”. The title track of the first EP is a slow, easy-listening song about driving in the desert with your loved one.
This song is a wonderful example of how effective and important bass guitar is in three-piece bands. The basslines here follow a slow motown shuffle throughout the song and are responsible for holding down the chord progressions while the guitar comps over the top end. It is an easy bassline to learn that will help you understand some fundamental bass techniques.
5. 21 Guns – Green Day
Greenday started out as one of the top 90s punk bands after they released Dookie in 1994. But the band very quickly evolved from a quirky teen-skate band to a more grown-up, politically-driven punk band that has influenced countless acts throughout the past couple decades. They are very well known for their catalog of anti-establishment anthems, one of the most solemn and simplest being “21 Guns”. The song refers to the traditional 21-gun salute that fallen military soldiers are given at their burial.
The bassline of “21 Guns” will help you grasp the bare necessities of playing tight, simple backing bass. There aren’t a ton of notes in the two-part composition, but having this much space between notes will help you focus on playing on time and with enough dynamics.
“21 Guns” also happens to be one of the best Green day songs on guitar!
6. Yellow – Coldplay
During a backstage interview in 2002, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin jokingly predicted that their band was going to be the biggest in the world within 4 years. Little did he know just how right he would be. Coldplay is one of the best-selling artists of the modern era and has evolved from a humble, friendly folk act to a stadium-filling pop band. “Yellow” is one of the earliest Coldplay hits.
Yellow’s bass lines follow a very simple and smooth progression, with constant 1/8th notes driving along with the backbeat. The chorus opens up to a very subtle but melodic bass hook in halftime that gives you a bit of room to breathe. This bassline is best played with a pick for the right tone.
7. Stand By Me – Ben E. King
Certain composers can construct entire songs off of one simple looped bass hook. “Stand By Me” is one the greatest examples of this technique. This is one of the first basslines most bassists learn, as it is extremely simple and does not use any complicated techniques. The original recording features an upright bass, which most of us won’t have immediate access to, but you can easily learn the same tab on a regular electric bass.
This bassline is one of the most recognizable of the 20th century and has just the right amount of harmony in its phrasing to keep it interesting throughout the song. Try not to lean too hard into each note, and instead play with a lighter, more bouncy feel.
8. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
Most people are either surprised, horrified, or both when they discover the dark backstory behind Foster The People’s infectiously fun single “Pumped Up Kicks”. The lyrics are written from the point of view of a troubled teenager who discovers a pistol in his father’s closet. He then plans to use the gun to chase down the wealthier kids at his high school, who could afford the expensive “pumped up” shoes he envied and was teased for not having.
There is nothing complex or fancy about the bassline that sits at the back of this song. The same riff is played consistently throughout the entire arrangement without any changes in timing or dynamic. The same riff is also doubled with another guitar, so if you have a jam buddy to play with you, get them to learn this song.
9. Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers
You cannot make a list of the best bass songs to learn without mentioning legendary bass player Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea is one of the most celebrated and technically proficient bass players of his era. He is known for his eccentric playing style and remarkable playing relationship with guitarist John Frusciante. “Otherside” is one of the easiest Flea arrangements to learn and is one part funk, one part melancholy.
Two major parts in this song are exceptional for developing your bass playing. The intro riff plays harmonies alongside the guitar, creating a simple but beautiful opening for the song. There is also a slightly more technical part during the bridge that showcases Flea’s funk roots and versatility.
10. Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz
After dominating the British rock charts during the mid 90’s with his band Blur, songwriter Damon Albarn changed lanes to create a more experimental electronic act. Shortly after Blur disbanded, The Gorillaz was born, and it wasn’t long until Albarn was back on radio stations globally with his new indie-dance troop. “Feel Good Inc” is one of their first singles and remains one of the band’s most iconic hits to this day.
You can’t imagine “Feel Good Inc” without hearing the driving bassline in your head. Use a guitar pick when playing this song to give the bass riff some added bite. The bass line of this song stays consistent and is relatively easy to learn. Quite unconventionally, there is no bass line in the chorus or B-sections of the song.
11. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Next up on my list of the top easy bass songs for beginners is a funky fresh bass riff. Wild Cherry wrote “Play That Funky Music” in light of the oncoming disco influences that were stealing away their rock fans. The crux of the song is quite simple: someone approached the drummer during a performance and a club and insisted that he keep performing to please the crowd. The song was a great strategy for the band, giving them longevity beyond many of their rock peers.
Most players are fooled into thinking that the opening guitar riff of this song is the bassline. The two are deceptively similar and even use the same position on the neck but follow different rhythmic phrasing. There is also a key change around the 4-minute mark of the song and an enjoyable turnaround riff that doubles the lyrics at the end of each chorus. This is a super fun bass guitar song that beginners can easily learn.
12. Message In A Bottle – The Police
Sting is one of the few well-known bass player/frontman combos and churned out an impressive array of singles and albums with his first band, The Police, before going solo. Anyone that knows The Police knows their hit song “Message In A Bottle”, and some guitarists fear it for the awkward extended chord shapes used for solo performances. That said, it is a wonderful song for beginners to learn on bass guitar.
There’s a slight laziness that Sting uses in the verses and opening grooves of this song, but he does so to make the chorus seem faster and more intense. Sting uses fingerstyle to perform this track, making it tricky to consistently play the chorus notes. There is also a very groovy bass lick that Sting plays as a call-and-response.
13. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen
Another rock band that welcomed the dawn of disco into their sound is Queen. Frontman Freddy Mercury is considered one of the most powerful, diverse songwriters of the 20th century. “Another One Bites The Dust” is one of Queen’s biggest-selling songs to date and details the death of a fictional character’s relationship with a loved one.
It’s pretty easy to grasp the initial bassline of this song. You can even play it without a backing track by singing the phrase “Another One Bites The Dust” to get the timing right. There is a second part that moves similarly to the intro riff and uses chromatic notes to give it a slightly edgier feel. “Another One Bites The Dust” is undoubtedly one of the best songs for beginner bassists to learn.
14. Super Freak – Rick James
Earlier, I touched on how much impact the disco genre had on popular music during the 1970s and 80s. One of the most underappreciated songwriters of this era has to be Rick James, who brought a harder, Little Richie-esque rock edge to the disco style. This edgy disco sound can be heard on his classic hit “Super Freak”.
Famously sampled on MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”, the intro bassline of this song consists of a slick, simple 8-note phrase. The bassline starts to deviate slightly toward the end of each verse and is used for the turnaround in the chorus. The crucial aim of this song is to lock the bassline in with the backbeat.
Fun Fact: Rick James once wrote and recorded a hit single for American comedian Eddie Murphy over a weekend when the two got trapped in a studio due to heavy weather.
15. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
I don’t think you’ve ever fully played a bass guitar until you have learned a reggae song. And there’s nobody more synonymous with the reggae genre than the late, great Bob Marley. While there aren’t a lot of easy Bob Marley songs for beginner bass players to learn, “Three Little Birds” is pretty close and can be easily simplified until you’re comfortable playing the full version.
Most of the arrangement in the verses of “Three Little Birds” consists of two chords that rebound back and forth from each other. Each verse resolves in a sweet turnaround that has the bass doubling over the line “This is my message to you”. The trick to this song is to keep your playing light and tight and to play using your fingers instead of a pick.
16. I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown
Much like reggae and disco, funk forms one formative pillar of bass playing. James Brown is the undisputed godfather of funk, and tons of his songs are ideal for bass players of all skill levels to develop their playing.
“I Feel Good” strays away from the traditional staccato form that funk basslines usually carry. Instead, the song is driven with a straighter groove and more sustained notes holding down the backbeat. The chorus opens up into a very interesting pentatonic shape that plays on the double time to a very nice punchy resolve.
17. Money – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd isn’t usually high on the list of bands that bass instructors recommend to beginner players. Their songs are more known for being spacey and psychedelic, which typically means they are challenging. However, some of their more political songs, like “Another Brick In The Wall” and “Money” are fairly easy to learn and can be used to help beginner bass players improve their skills.
Money is slightly trickier than most songs, as it is written in a unique time signature (7/4) that most pop songs don’t use. However, the main riff uses a very easy and accessible shape on the neck, and once you get the choppy timing down, the song is really fun to jam along to.
18. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac is renowned for their backstage drama as much as they are for their amazing songwriting skills. “The Chain” is a fitting example of how bass can be used in its simplest form to give a song its needed weight and drive. The song opens up without any bass accompaniment, and the bass only comes in for the choruses and the bridge of the song. The result is drastic, as you feel the impact of the bass dropping in and out throughout the composition. There is also a very tasty bass-driven bridge that puts a fascinating plot twist into the song and carries it out till the ending. Better yet? This bassline is not difficult at all. Making “The Chain” one of the best easy bass songs for beginners!
19. Should I Stay Or Should I Go? – The Clash
Rebel Brit punk band The Clash was one of the first bands to experiment with adding different styles to their repertoire. The band wrote a handful of theatrical anthems that reflected the angst of UK teenagers living under the rule of the Queen during the 1980s.
“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” is one of The Clash’s easier songs to learn. The groove of the bassline has a thick, rock-and-roll feel to it, which picks up to a double-time shuffle in the chorus section. The original bass recording uses a gritty fuzz pedal to give the bass a distinctly dirty, electronic sound.
20. Come Down – Anderson Paak
Anderson Paak exploded onto the music scene in 2018, thanks to his intense charisma and unique performances. He is one of the few artists handpicked and groomed by Dr. Dre himself (joining the ranks of the likes of Eminem and Kendrick Lamar). “Come Down” is Paak’s debut single off his first album, Malibu.
There is something ridiculously infectious about this otherwise very simple bassline. The bassline of “Come Down” sits somewhere between hip-hop, reggae, and funk in its phrasing. There are live versions of this song with a few embellishments, but for the most part, the entire arrangement consists of a single pentatonic pattern that closely rides Paak’s backbeat, making it an awesome easy bass song for hip-hop lovers.
Looking for some more guitar song recommendations? Check out my top beginner electric guitar songs!