Actual Tabs vs. Bass Covers

So I subscribed to Songsterr so I can continue my bass journey and slow down songs and really dissect them and learn them and it’s been great. Sometimes I turn to video tutorials to help with the fingering. That said, there’s also a ton of videos of “bass covers” that don’t use the proper tabs at all. They all seem to be these simplified version of the lead guitar or vocals. And some of them sound so much better than actually playing the real bass line. So I’m curious if my assessment is correct. And if other people play bass covers vs. the actual bass part? Thoughts? TIA!


The sad part is, there’s no one way to play a song. I’ve found that Songsterr and Ultimate Guitar have tabs of varying degrees of accuracy. People on YouTube playing along have probably tried transcribing it themselves or have copied and/or modified it from some other source.

Even then, I’ve seen that both Songsterr and UGT have a tendency to do weird things when it comes to open strings and 5th frets. Often times they’ll write it as a 5th fret when an open string would be far easier to hit or visa versa.

Long story short: the entire tab ecosystem is a pain in the ass. Best thing to do is pick the source that feels and sounds best to you.


It is rare to find a tab (or sheet music) that is accurate. People listen to the music and transcribe what they hear, and it’s seldom exact. So tabs are sort of a starting point.

And let’s take the song LaGrange by ZZ Top. Dusty laid down a bassline when it was recorded. And is tabbed. Listen to a live version, and Dusty plaid a different bassline. And then Elwood took over after Dusty passed (rip brother), and Elwood plays his own bassline. Because bassists play their basslines.

Even in the same group with same musicians, there’s variations. Play the line which feels/sounds good to you, and yes tabs are a great jumping off point.


Found this:

ZZ-Top_La-Grange_v2_DD_p.pdf (480.9 KB)

And this

ZZ-Top_La-Grange-Blackbird-version_v1_p.pdf (289.8 KB)


Maybe that works`?


Ultimate guitars probably have the worst tabs I’ve tried so far, but that’s what happens when it’s low cost or free, lol.

I’ve tried the premium version by hiring on Fiver and it’s excellent but pricey for sure. Then I tried it myself. It’s not bad but super time consuming :joy:

What kind of music are you listening to?


@Alex_B does a great job for a reasonable price too…


Classic Rock and 80’s Rock (Journey, Van Halen, Bowie, Queen, Cream, Beatles).


You are in SoCal and my Local, if you have any questions just let me know. I know a couple of things about a few basses, :joy:


I pay for UG and I find most of the tabs are acceptable or close enough to figure out from.
Beatles - nope, but even the official Beatles book they published is crap.


I imagine @Al1885 is not talking about their “official” transcriptions. I find their official ones to be like you say… generally pretty good. And they’ve been responsive when I’ve suggested changes.


Or sound better. There’s plenty of cases where open strings simply work and sound better than fretted notes; usually with drones and pedalling. I’ve corrected several tabs because I know for a fact that the open strings are how the original bassist played it.


I wouldn’t go that far. Probably the majority are accurate. But it’s very safe to say that bad tabs and sheet music are not uncommon at all.


it can be considered as a part of making a cover :slight_smile:


The notations are not too bad to input on GP8 but the tabs are still pretty new to me so it takes quite sometime to finish. I have lots of fun doing it.

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I struggled with this to begin with: do I try to faithfully reproduce the bass line, per the original, or do I allow some flexibility? I also had exactly the same discussion last week with a group of jam buddies.

The conclusion, for many songs, an interpretation is fine. However, where a song is led by the bass line - e.g. Queen’s Under Pressure and Another One Bites the Dust, must be played per the original as the baseline is the song…

Regarding the accuracy of tabs, I take them as a starting point, look at a few, then iterate from there…


I’ve exclusively been using UG, I pay for their “official” access to tabs. As a rule, I like them, and to me they sound good enough to get you there. I have found songs where they make you play a fretted note when you could play an open string. One I learn the song as they show it, I tend to mess with it a little in my head.

I’ve started cross referencing with some fo the free stuff on Songsterr, and most of the time they’re really close to each other. In my opinion, Songster sometimes lays the tabs out to be easier. Since I don’t want to pay for two premium services that basically do same thing, I am sticking with UG.

When using the tabs, I set it to display notation and tabs, so i get the notes and the rhythm.

AS for bass covers say on YouTube, I watch a lot of those too. Even if I see a song I know being played wildly different to how I have learned it, I don’t immediately jump to one of us is wrong. Especially if they both sound good, then who cares if it serves the song. If whatever tab you’re using sounds good, then it is right enough.


Even this depends on the section of the song. As an example I’m thinking of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain here where I’ve heard slightly different rhythms and fills in the chorus sections of different recordings, but the bass solo/guitar solo/outro part is iconic and obviously not flexible.


The solo bass cover genre is a Social Media genre in its own right.
I have so many beginning students coming in and wanting to know about chords, tapping, finger picking with plucking hand - all of these techniques that folks use to come up with bass-player versions of cover songs that grab melody and chords and - sometimes, rarely - even the bass line.

I used to do this a lot back in my shreddy days.
It’s an absolutely wonderful way to explore the instrument and to make music with the instrument that you have.

It doesn’t play so well with others, so it isn’t something that’s been happening for me recently.
But solo versions of songs is always a fun thing to try.


These two are legit upright bass classical techniques though! I don’t see why they shouldn’t play nicely with others with the right arrangement, although that arrangement would be a bit atypical.


Yeah, I don’t “plan” to jam (just playing for myself) so the covers are kind of fun. It’s nice to lead a song. But good to know that if I ever jam, it might behoove me to learn the real bass line. Or at least something close to it.