Yes, guitar and bass are stringed instruments of the same general shape and size. However, as any bass player can tell you, they’re not the same in terms of sound, playing, and objective. Well-played bass tabs drive the music forward with powerful rhythms while underpinning the melody and weaving everything together in a harmonious whole. Plus, everyone knows that bassists are just cool. If you’re trying to choose a new bass tab to practice your technique, here’s a list of our favorite popular songs.
Reading Bass Tabs
Like guitar tabs, bass tabs use horizontal lines to represent the strings of the bass. While contrabass has six strings, most bass tabs are written for a standard 4-string instrument. The tab shows the lowest-pitched string, the E, at the bottom, with subsequent lines labeled for each string like this:
Although some music requires a different tuning or more strings, the lowest string remains at the bottom of the tab. Numbers representing the fret are added to the lines to indicate the notes to play. Fret numbers run from 0, the “open string,” to 24, as most basses have 20 to 24 frets. Read bass tabs from left to right playing the notes indicated on the lines.
While Reggae, Jazz, and Funk tend to earn the most acclaim for their use of bass lines, you can shred your bass in nearly any genre as long as you remain dedicated to improving your skill and experimenting with style. Here’s a sampling of songs with recognizable and fun bass lines ideal for perfecting your technique and letting your instrument shine.
1. “Oye Como Va”
Carlos Santana’s Latin and Grammy Hall of Fame-winning song makes you want to dance. The Cuban cha-cha groove even has lyrics that stress the importance of the bass line: “Oye cómo va . . . mi ritmo” roughly translates to “listen to how . . . my rhythm goes.”
2. “Sunshine of Your Love”
Cream’s bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce composed this tune’s unique bass riff after attending a Jimi Hendrix concert. “Sunshine of Your Love” is a wildly eclectic mix of hard rock, pop and psychedelia, which means you can practice multiple genres simultaneously.
3. “Another One Bites the Dust”
There can’t be a bassist alive who doesn’t recognize the thumping bass line of this one from Queen. You can find numerous amateur and professional bass tabs for this song online and elsewhere because it’s just that good.
I can’t fit all of the incredible bass tabs in this list, but here are a few more I couldn’t resist mentioning:
“Sweet Child o’ Mine,” by Guns N’ Roses
“Ava Adore,” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” by The Beatles
“The Sound of Silence,” by Simon & Garfunkel
“For Whom the Bell Tolls,” by Metallica
A kind of musical like-mindedness among bass players manifests in a culture of composing and sharing bass tabs for songs both popular and esoteric. Whatever your jam, keep the music playing using bass tabs that challenge you to grow as a musician.