How and Why do you choose songs to learn

I’m rather curious about this, because I’ve had to ask myself this very question. What has motivated me to pick a song and learn it, and then record a cover of it? I think I’ve found the answer as far as I’m concerned; It’s purely emotive.
Thus far, every song I have chosen to learn, and those that I’ve recorded and made into videos, have some tie to a part of my life, a memory or an event, perhaps an emotional moment or day in which a memory is invoked whenever I hear the song. Looking back to my year and a half of bass playing, and my short history of posting in “Post your Covers”, none of my work has involved overly complicated bass lines or anything memorable; it’s all been very personal.
I just finished recording a song with a very simple bassline, but I love the song and it brings with it a story from my past (I’m working on the post production of the video now, and I will most likely be posting it within a few days). However, I doubt that any of you will be impressed since you are unable to share the special feeling that I have for the song.
So now I must satisfy my curiosity: What compels you to choose a particular song, and devote the time and energy to learn to play it?
Is it the challenge of a complicated bassline? Is it a demand from a band you are wanting to join or have joined. Is it a memory?
I think this is a fair question and I am very interested to hear input from my fellow Buzzers.


Great topic @PamPurrs!
For me, the main motivation as to why I choose a song to cover is:

  1. That it’s fun to play.
  2. I really do enjoy playing the covers I’ve posted.
  3. Nostalgia is another reason (hence the unusual number of Tijuana Brass songs).
  4. Did I learn anything or incorporate anything I’ve learned by playing this song.
  5. Can I improve my playing by covering this song.

Let’s hear from our regular cover artists on this. I think it’s a great topic.


Speaking as a former guitar player:

1.) I like the sound of it.

2.) Fits my mood.

3.) It has a bit in it I really like.

Pretty simple reasons, I know. But thats why I was motivated to learn new songs.

Father on the other hand, he was learning songs to add to the bands repertiore. Sometimes, it was the new hit single that was overly simplistic, but cover bands more often that not, have to keep up with new tracks so they can keep getting booked.

As my father would say, “Being an amatuer muscian for fun and being a pro musician for work are two entirely different things.”

I watched my dad as a young boy absolutely grit his teeth and play stuff he didn’t particuarly care for (He hated Garth Brooks with a passion), but he learned to play it and got paid because of it.


So far I have just gone with my favorite songs that have killer basslines, plus one recently rediscovered song that I happened to think was cool.

Two of the recent songs were tied to a specific memory so they kind of came together. There’s actually a third there that I may or may not do :slight_smile:


Nice topic @PamPurrs.

I kind of have 3 types of songs I like to cover.

“I really need to LEARN that” TYPE SONGS.
I learn some songs to stretch myself and try to learn new techniques and become better/faster/smoother (eg. I’m trying to get something to sound good on my recently resurrected Jaco fretless.)

“I really need to FEEL that” TYPE SONGS.
You know the ones that when you start to play them either the groove, vibration, power and rumble or even tension and resolution somehow makes your soul say “thanks for playing that”

Then there’s the “EASY PEASY” TYPE SONGS.
Learning those ones (i.e. Angus and Julia Stone) is fun because they’re pretty predictable and easy but still very satisfying and give you a lot of room to practice fills and improvisation.

Sorry I went on a bit… I just really liked your question.


I totally agree, Pam! This should be the main driver (unless you are a gun-for-hire and need to make a living with playing bass)!

This also presents my biggest challenge regarding covers: there are potentially many songs that I could cover considering my technical abilities at this point. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of those, there is zero emotional involvement from my side. Conversely, those songs I really like, most of them I can’t play (yet; or never) because they tend to be those that are technically much more challenging. Hence, my modest output of covers so far!

I have a bunch of songs that I really like and that I work on, but there is often this one part that is just so hard, and so I keep working on that for a while, then put that song away for a while, then come back to it again… But, yeah, something that is challenging and pushes me out of my comfort zone is also a big motivator for choosing a song (to eventually/potentially cover).

It’s slim pickings though :wink:

PS: sometimes I fantasize about being talked into a busking gig or even a wedding gig by someone and suddenly having to learn a bunch of middle-of-the-road songs in a jiffy


for me it’s mostly emotive, but also the bass line must have this little something that makes it pleasant and interesting to me. it does not mean that it have to be complicated or what … a simple but very appropriate line can work if I like the song.

sometimes I choose a minimal song that I like, without any bass line, and the goal is more to compose an appropriate bass line than to learn to play it. (that’s what I do with the dark country things)

also I try to alternate between the styles I like : stoner/doom/sludge/sludgecore , industrial metal , classic rock/hard-rock/punk , dark country/folk … to avoid some kind of weariness and to bring some kind of rythm from one cover to another.

but in the end it’s still mostly emotive :grin:


For me the songs I’ve covered are mainly songs that I really love, there is definitely different styles, but mainly rock, blues and some metal.

I usually pick songs that I can learn to play through in a week or two so nothing too complicated. Also stuff I can play along with my guitar playing brother.

Looking forward to learning some more skills to expand my repertoire


For me it’s something like this:

  • The song has to have an accurate transcription. I haven’t attempted transcribing yet (it’s always “maybe next month”), and I can’t play by ear. So I usually choose from the B2B first 50 or the Hal Leonard first 50, or as a last resort, look up online tabs.
  • It has to be doable at my level. No matter how much I like a song, if it’s above my level I’m not even going to attempt to learn it. I don’t want to waste weeks on it and then end up getting frustrated and hating my favorite music.
  • I have to like the song at least a little bit.

But lately instead of learning new songs I’ve mostly been going through this book which has tons of 2 - 4 bar groove exercises in it, each one focusing on a certain rhythmic pattern. Kind of like the B2B workouts, but it’s 60+ pages of it. It exposes me to a million different challenges every day (as opposed to working on the same challenge in the same song for days), and it’s just tons of fun.


Nice Pam @PamPurrs,
It’s an interesting thought provoking observation, that will no doubt be something that everyone can think about🤔
I will give it some thought
Cheers Brian


Recognizing where existing tabs are bad and improving on them is also a good learning experience :slight_smile:

Also a good thing to get in the habit of since there’s so many bad tabs out there. And of course tabs vastly outnumber sheet music for availability, so you’re kind of stuck with them. Not that online sheet music is generally any more accurate anyway, as (like tabs) it’s just one person’s transcription.


Yep I know, I’m just lazy. (Also, chances are that the people who created those incorrect tabs had more experience than I do, and my transcriptions would likely be even worse.)


Don’t sell yourself short. I submitted a fix for a guitar tab in my first week of learning guitar, and it’s still the accepted tab version for the song. Bad tabs happen much too often :slight_smile:


Well I mean I’ve noticed errors in the B2B first 50 as well… Actually wanted to ask about that a while ago, but never got around to it.


I just realized I have only looked at two songs in that book.


my opinion is that being able to do a transcription and to play by ear is a very important skill. I think that covers can be used in a lot of different ways, one being to train those skills.

The thing is that, even if your transcription is not 100% exact, it’s not necessarily a problem as long as the bass line you play sounds good with the song. There are also a lot of possibilities to adapt the bass line to your playing level and personnal playing style. Playing a 100% exact cover is not necessarily an ultimate goal :slight_smile:


I’m interested in this, is it beginner friendly ? I’m after some exercises that I can add into my practice schedule, I’m just about at Module 3 on B2B


Anything from the 70’s is good for me! . . . :slight_smile:

(Re-living my younger days, I guess . . . :wink: )


Pretty much the same for me Joe @Jazzbass19. Many of my best and most vivid memories are from the late 70s, all of the 80s, and the early 90s. I’ve also seen music evolve into something that I don’t really care for, so those older songs are more appealing to me.
The song that I recorded a couple days ago (I’m doing post-production on the video now) was released in 2007, which makes it the most recent release that I have covered thus far.


Varies, it goes from basic to challenging in each chapter. 1st chapter is 8th notes, 2nd chapter 16th notes, 3rd chapter triplets (8th note and quarter note) and swing/shuffle, and then the 4th and 5th chapters put everything together.

I’d say it would be better for you to concentrate on B2B first and let Josh introduce you to everything, and start this book after finishing B2B. (That’s what I did at least.)