The bass riff from Kuru/Speak Like A Child (from Jaco’s debut album) is an incredible challenge for any developing bass player. Yes, it’s fast but it also requires stamina. In this lesson I’m going to break down the riff and one of the common variations played throughout the tune and give you some tips on getting through the challenge.

Kuru/Speak Like A Child

When I first heard Jaco’s debut album, I was like most players out there blown away by his playing. When it came to this track however, it didn’t sound too difficult but when it came to playing it… boy was I wrong! This bass line TOTALLY broke me.


Jaco played this line at 135bpm and holds that groove throughout. It’s an amazing feat of time, technique and stamina. So in this lesson we are going to go through the basic groove and take a look at one of the variations.

Riff Breakdown

We are in the Key of A minor and this bass line is all based around the A minor pentatonic scale. There’s a hammer on at G to A followed by a cheeky ghost note on the “&” of beat two. This is on the D string as you are coming back down the riff. There’s another hammer on from the D to E, this can be tricky so be sure to practice this very slowly until you feel comfortable enough to pick up the pace a bit more.


I would strongly advise to paying particular attention to your picking hand, you need to know exactly which finger picks which note and when. Once you have that specific pattern down, then stick with it. The fretting hand is quite straightforward, you can play all those notes with the first and fourth fingers.

For the picking hand, I advise anchoring your thumb on the E string and keeping your hand position as close to the bridge as possible. The strings are tighter at this point and this is where you can get the most middy Jaco-style tone.

Now let’s talk about speed, this is a fast bass line and playing it like this for about 8 minutes is going to push your stamina to the limit! Be sure to start as slow as you need to while keeping your hands as relaxed as possible. The temptation when playing fast is to dig in, but this will only hinder you as you increase speed and can cause injury!

I’ve created drumbeats at gradually increasing BPM’s to jam along to.






Let’s finally have a look at some variation Jaco played, I didn’t even realise he played this until I extracted the bass line. This variation is added intermittently throughout the track. He just adds an anticipation on the “A” of beat four on the high A. This adds a little more groove to this line, so as you play along, just drop this differentiation in every now and then and you’re good to go!

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