The Bass Riff Everyone Get’s Wrong…and no, it’s NOT Billie Jean!

2018-05-04T15:04:50+00:00 May 4th, 2018|2 Comments

This week we’re going to have a quick look at a bass riff that lots of people get wrong… and no it’s not Billie Jean by Michael Jackson!

Whole Lotta Love – The Wrong Way!

So, this is a rock classic that we all get wrong especially when we play fingerstyle. I played this riff wrong for years and years and it’s only with the advent of Youtube I got to discover how John Paul Jones really played it.

The common way people play this bass riff is as follows:

I played it that way for years and years. When you listen to the original recording, you’ve got that huge Jimmy Page guitar riff and then it sounds like the bass enters, doubling the main notes up there before holding down that big low E underneath.

Well, that’s what I thought until I saw two hugely popular videos on Youtube. The isolated bass track and the John Paul Jones lesson (where he plays the actual riff).

The Correct Way!

So the key to this is the pick. It’s hard to really get the same tone and chords with fingers. You can do it but it’s just not the same.

Here we have the correct method for playing the riff:

Tip: Practice Your Strumming

As I show in the video, be sure to practice strumming that E and A string. Start out by simply strumming ghost notes as continuous 16th notes and then start to add the extra octaves gradually.

You can use palm muting with the heel of the picking hand near the bridge to get more of a ‘chug’ but you don’t have to. Keep the hand nice and loose and, most importantly, feel that groove!

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2 Comments

  1. Charles Jackel May 20, 2018 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Hi Mark,
    I am a beginner and have been watching your videos for about a month or so. I’m a little confused about the Whole Lotta Love riff. You quickly mention the Open D string as part of the riff but you don’t mention it again. After reading the tab, it appears it’s plucked on the up stroke with the 5th fret of A string. Is this correct?

    • Talkingbass-Mark May 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      Yup. Exactly right!

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