Learning to play the bass is a great idea for people who are truly interested in making music, and enjoying the sounds being produced. As you probably know already, the bass guitar is used exclusively for creating musical notes at the low-end of the scale, and it is a major component found in all varieties of music. Hopefully, your reason for learning to play the bass is for the sheer love of creating the sounds it can produce, rather than thinking that it’s an easier instrument to learn than a guitar.

While the bass may look very much like a guitar, there are some significant differences which are both visible and invisible to the casual observer, as you will discover during your learning journey. In any case, bass tabs can be read very much like guitar tabs, with the exception of the strings for B and high E.

Once you become better acquainted with music theory, and can play a bass line fairly successfully, reading bass tabs and guitar tabs becomes a very easy method of figuring out harmonies and scales for the songs you want to play. For the present however, we have provided the top 10 bass tabs which novices should seek to master, as they gain in prowess with playing the bass.

1. I Want You Back (The Jackson Five)

This is one of those songs which is practically mandatory for bass players to know, and it’s one of the most fun songs to play that you’ll encounter. It was recorded very early during the career of The Jackson 5, and it became a #1 hit in 1970 for the Motown record label.


2. Rio (Duran Duran)

A terrific funky tone is evident in this Duran Duran classic, released on an album of the same name. Although the album never got higher than #6 on US charts, it went double platinum and remained on the Billboard Chart for 129 consecutive weeks.


3. 16th Note Subdivisions (Rhythm Study)

This tab provides wonderful background for learning how to master 16th notes. With metronome accompaniment, you’ll absorb the techniques necessary to improve right-handed technique, while gaining an appreciation for tone balance, which you can then apply to all musical styles.


4. Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra)

This song has been recorded by a number of artists, but the jazz version recorded in 1964 by Frank Sinatra is the one which offers some classic bass chords for students. Interestingly, Sinatra’s recording had a heavy association with the Apollo missions to the moon during the 1960’s.


5. Improvisation (Pentatonic Patterns G Major E Minor Blues)

This is an outstanding lesson for bass players, as it offers on playing all five of the pentatonic scales, as well as several very useful insights on how to play the instrument, regardless of your level of proficiency.


6. Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith)

There’s an awful lot included in this bass tab of a very popular Aerosmith song, which coincidentally was co-written by the band’s bassist, Tom Hamilton. You’ll see the technique for both left and right-handed play, with every beat explained and demonstrated.


7. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley)

The introduction, verse, and chorus of this song are all demonstrated in this tab, and the chorus lyrics are often thought to be the title of this song, because of the repeated phrase, “Don’t Worry About a Thing”. The real title though, is the one listed here, and is thought to be a reference to three female singers in a reggae group which Marley admired.


8. Living Loving Maid (Led Zeppelin)

An extremely popular song with lovers of hard rock, this song was one which lead guitarist Jimmy Page disliked personally, and refused to play it at any concert the band ever gave. Fortunately, all the well-known licks of the original studio recording are included here for you to learn and master.


9. O Christmas Tree (Holiday Traditional)

While there are many versions of this traditional holiday classic, the present version is one in the key of E, and shows the use of both diads and triads for supporting the melody.


10. Low Rider (War)

The most striking characteristic of this song is its ever-present bass line, which makes it a great song to learn for a bass enthusiast. The main bass line is demonstrated in this tab, as well as two alternative versions, to add a little extra fun to your learning experience.