Most Motivational Bass Activity for Beginners

Hail Forum!

I have a question. As a bass teacher I’m always trying to raise the bar for skills without alienating my students.
I’m wondering -
In your beginning year of playing, what were the most consistently motivational activities for you? Learning full songs? Favorite riffs? The long-game of the BassBuzz modules with their guidance and variety? Warmups? Scales? Exercises?
Wondering what grabs different people and why.
If you have a minute, drop a line!
You’ll help me, bass students, and the future of bass playing!!

For me it was riffs.
I didn’t care about entire songs. I just wanted to play the cool bass parts to the songs I liked. That’s what I remember, and that’s what I pursued.


i think for me it was doing things that sound like “music” and not like “exercises”. while clearly there is huge value to scales, finger exercises etc… learning stuff that sounded like it could be part of an actual song was very rewarding.


For me during B2B it was advancing trough the modules and seeing real progress (being able to play what I couldn’t play before). The use of riffs kept it musically interesting.


It’s been a while… and my memory might be “backwards biased” (if there is such a thing), but as far as I can remember the two things that really motivated me and made me put in a lot of effort were

  • I was asked to learn “I want you back” - at first I thought this was nuts, but the bass line was so cool, I really wanted to crack it (later you can go back to it and “analyze” it; find the scales and triads used here)
  • the occasional challenge we had in this forum where we were supposed to come up with a bass line over a (simple) chord vamp and drum groove - that was a lot of fun (also to see how different people tackled that differently)

The riff is the hook I think. Mine was Owners of the lonely heart. It was catchy and easy enough to do. I could play along with that throughout most of the song. The chorus however is not as easy, lol.

The motivation for playing is to be able to play along with the songs. So finding the popular songs with simple enough bass lines to play along in different genres would be helpful.

I think manny beginners do not know easy songs to difficult songs. To them “with or without you” seems hard as it has so many notes, lol.


Hearing your playing/practice as part of an ensemble. I can practice anything on my own, but having the backing track or Josh playing along made it fun and worthwhile. Deconstructing complex lines and learning them a piece at a time was also fun (ex: rhythm using root notes, key changes with root notes, progressing to the verses etc) and watching it come together gives you a greater sense of accomplishment than just learning a very simple song in my opinion.


Beholden to the Riff. The riff is still what grabs me most.


For me, it was being able to play full songs. I started jamming with my drummer buddy after about six months and the drive to play full songs with him is still very strong two years later. I’m still motivated by the idea of playing in a cover band someday.


For me it was learning to play songs that I really love, (starting easy Baba O’Riley, Eye in the Sky, Never Ending Story and slowly going more advanced as I get better) and not just basslines of songs but also melodies.

I started with Danny Boy because I wanted to be able to play that for what would’ve been one of my cousin’s birthday.
Amazing Grace, probably the most easiest melody out there as if you know the pentatonic minor scale it’s just the upside down version (that’s the way I think of it whenever my mind goes blank), was mastered in under an hour.

Of course the Canadian National Anthem and because I have American family also the Star Spangled Banner (I play it in a way that also makes it a good shifting exercise. 2 for the price of one).

Music theory is something that I’m also interested in. Opens the door to more melodies like an der Schönen Blaue Donau (Blue Danube).
And of course the bassics like scales, triads, fretboard knowledge are important to learn as well but I just wanna play and preferably something that fits my mood.

Everyone’s different with different goals and interests so I think that if you teach one on one it’s important to find out why your student picked up the bass to begin with (I fell in love with it from the start. The low end, the vibration, it just felt natural when I first held one at around 9 years old) and what his/her goals are, short and long term.
Do they prefer riffs or full songs? What skills do they want to learn like slap or tapping? (Neither interest me. Never really did and now that the wrist of my picking hand isn’t the greatest those are definitely out of the question. My hand naturally prefers to be in a bended position so picking is comfortable, straightening it for slap? Nope, too painful).

So long story short:
If you teach one on one talk to your student.
If you have more students at the same time it’s finding a way that keeps everyone interested and progressing and that’s the most tricky to do with different goals and interests to take into account.


Warmup (practicing riffs), scales and arpeggios across the cycle of 4ths, different types of exercises, learning songs. Those are the things that get my bass blood flowing.




Riffs. And from songs that matter to me. Zombie was one of the first riffs I learned. And Stand by Me.

I fail miserably with Justin Guitar because it doesn’t get me into playing music. My mind wanders playing scales and arpeggios.

Practicing plucking too hard to stay focused. But I can play the riff from Under Pressure all evening. Or Iron Man. Give me a riff and groove.


It’s also important to make a video recording of yourself playing. It doesn’t have to be a production video just something you can watch in the future, immediately or otherwise. This can be very useful motivational tool going forward as you can see how the skills improved subtly or drastically.

A few months ago my mom showed me the vhs tape of my first performance the 3 songs that stood out because it shared similar traits were Smooth Operater, Billy Jean, and Caribbean Queen, I remembered thinking “Damn I’m good and smooth!’

It was so syncopated, it would have been cool in a Scary Pocket’s kinda way if it wasn’t so sad, lol.


@Gio , that’s an excellent question.

I loved the bite sized approach of B2B, with bite sized but recognizable riffs from real songs that I know. The first one that really did it for me in B2B was Child in Time.

Now I’m able to learn songs, whereas before it was just too much to start with.

What got me into B2B was the same style presentation that @JoshFossgreen did of Steve Harris. Had me hooked right there, because the "Steve Harris Box"™ was tge first thing I learned how to play.

To summarize:, bite sized, learnable chunks of recognizable and loved songs.


Riffs for sure.
The B2B riffs were cool for sure, but finding other ones and thinking ‘look what I can do on my own’ was really cool. The guy online with the bushy eyebrows (never remember his name cause the eyebrows traumatized me) had a lot of cool ‘learn this cool riff’ videos.

Kinda seeking something out and being able to play it was key in the riff department.
But…quickly a full song or two is needed IMO. Easy ones. Feeling like you can play a whole song is super cool, even if it is easy. I scoured Constantine’s site for tabs that looked easy and interesting. There was a Styx song (Babe) I must have played a zillion times simply because I could play the whole dang thing.
Playing even an easy full song tells you ‘hey, I can do this’ and motivates you to push to a bit harder song and stick with it.

For the songs that were too hard at the time (or even now), going back to the riff or a passage that is cool is always cool and keeps it in your mind’s eye, and then one day the whole song becomes easy.

So for me, its a blend of riff and song, and riff, lol.


Unfortunately, for most genres, if you learn the riff you’ve learned 90% of the songs lol. The guy you’re thinking of is eBassguitar (James)


Totally agree with the riff being a major driving force @Gio

But what drives me to pick up my bass and try to improve is the reason I began.
I want to play like Lemmy! Simple as that.




It’s BLS for me. Be Like Steve :slight_smile:


I agree with everyone’s comments.

Overall, Josh hit it out of the park with his formula of short and sweet riffs from familiar songs. As others have said, riffs are all that. But whole songs built on recognizable riffs, regardless of genre, definitely boost student enthusiasm and increased practice. What’s not to like?

Further, linking key theory concepts to fave riffs reinforces memory retention. So theory is incrementally, and even subliminally, increased.