What song would you learn to cover the bassics (pun intended!)

So I came across this article today The Lightbulb Moment: One Song To Learn – No Treble and thought this might be a cool thing to ask here.

The idea is: If you were to recommend ONE song to learn that would teach some the essentials (or at least help them practice it) what would it be?


Looking forward to your thoughts!


Happy Birthday

It teaches you the Major scale and chicks love it :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Can’t ever be angry at someone playing Happy Birthday! lol

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Come on come over

It’s the easiest to play on the album

You’ll learn several modes and scales at the same time

Ghost notes
Ghost notes syncopation

Here’s the easy tutorial. One stop shop!


I’m not sure why I didn’t expect this answer lol

OF COURSE it would be something by Jaco.

Definitely going to make this a goalpost to aim for!


In all seriousness, assuming your original post is meant for beginners. I’ll give you an example. My first song, Owner of a lonely heart, I pick that song because it was 1984 and it just gather a world wide hits and the riff was pretty easy. It took me 3 months to transcribe by ear on a cassette tape and almost 40 years to peel the layers upon layers of why and how. I just posted the covers last year but I know even that one wasn’t “the one” yet.


I guess the original link was meant for beginners, so I appreciate your input!

I think it’s an interesting topic though, as so many of us just learn songs that we love, which helps motivation etc. But having a “goal” song to learn that will teach you and develop your skill almost by default is great hack.

YYZ comes to mind as well.

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I don’t really know enough yet to add to the list, but the song in that article “Livin’ on a Prayer” was high on my playlist as a teenager and definitely a great song. Josh spoke about (and showed) how good it is in this video:


Woah… that can’t be a coincidence!

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“Great minds” :musical_note::notes::upside_down_face:

Well Jaco has been covered although it may be a bit more than some newbies can handle. :laughing:

When I teach I often start with simple walking bass lines in 4/4 time played against a metronome. I’ll begin with triads then move to extension of that playing both major and minor scales and some variations on each. Why? Isn’t that boring and not actually a song?

When someone realizes just how much of modern music and it’s bass lines are composed around these same patterns it begins to fall into place. You begin to hear the notes in the scale that make them up so it’s not only great for practicing timing it’s also good ear training.

Once someone is able to execute those patterns from memory we can pick songs and learn how these same lines may be incorporated into the bass lines of many songs. They’re pretty much at the root of all rock, blues, r&b/soul, and country music and many forms of ethnic music as well.


Thank you for this insight.

This time around of learning bass I’m focusing on understanding as much theory as I can. Not all. But enough.

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I don’t teach a lot of in depth theory because I’m not a professionally educated musician. What theory I do teach is more what I would call practical theory. That which someone will need to know to both advance on their own and play in ensemble with others. This is what most of those seeking lessons want to accomplish. It’s also very much the way I learned myself.

Learning scales is important and so is learning to play in time along with a metronome or a tic track to simulate playing with a drummer. The drummer is the bands time keeper but the bassist is the “groove meister” everyone is dancing too. So keeping the groove centered and in time is paramount. You gotta know where that one count is and be on it every time. You can play a lot of gigs with folks just playing the “money notes” as long as your timing is good.

I also teach Nashville numbering. Players need to know it if they plan to jam with others or audition for a band. Often a jam leader will call out something like “12 bar shuffle in A start on the V” or “Start on the Turnaround”. You’d better know that the first chord will be the fifth chord in that scale/progression and that it’s the E chord or note or you’re gonna be lost from the get go. Music is all mathematics anyway so it pays to know some of basics you’ll need.

I’m always please to hear people say they want to learn how to play their instrument not just teach me to play this or teach me to play that by so and so. Simply learning to play what someone else played doesn’t get anyone to the point of competence achieved through self learning and in order to teach yourself you need to know some of the basics and then build off of that. Until I was able to do that for myself I got nowhere and that’s when people quit.


@soulman this was the question


Then it would probably be a blues shuffle with a quarter note walking bass line. Take your pick. There’s hundreds of them. Why? Because it will use all of the fundamentals needed; scales, fingering technique, fingering precision, and timing every bassist needs to have down.

As boring as it may seem it’s the basis for nearly all rock, country, blues, etc. bass lines. When I was learning to play, and as I’ve taught others, being able to execute the simplest of bass lines with the repetition and precision required is often the hardest thing to learn.

So not only is it universally useful for any musical genre it’s a good practice routine for anyone to have. Whether I’m about to play a gig or just messing around at home it’s been part of my warm up routine for as long as I can recall so I’ve used it to teach others in the same way.


Nice topic! I had to give this some thought. I recently completed the 50 Song Challenge, so I wanted to reflect on this and pick the song that taught me the most, and the winner is…an early one: My Girl by the Temptations.
It was a very accessible song that helped me learn about note lengths and rests. It features rhythmic variations and some occasional syncopation. It changes keys which strengthens your sense of harmony and makes nice usage of approach notes. On top of that, its a song everybody recognizes when you play it, so that is cool too.


Reminds me of this lesson: https://youtu.be/ruMW7gsuFb0?si=_RyGdw4KokziAozK

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Not to split hairs but what SONG/S would have that (blues shuffle and a walking bass line) to the point where learning it would be just as educational to the extent that Living On A Prayer is touted to be?

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“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations…

Only three notes in this song that repeat throughout….

Playing bass to this song is all about Timing, Feeling, Mood, Groove……

A great song that cannot be played “well” unless you can actually “feel” it……

Keep On Thumpin’!!


Teaches being in the pocket!

Thank you!

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