Top 5 Bass Riffs For Beginners

2018-12-27T11:13:52+00:00March 13th, 2015|Categories: Beginner Bass Lessons|48 Comments

Riffs are a great way to get started on bass because they are relatively quick to learn (quicker than full song) and they’re usually quite catchy. So you can play them to your friends and feel like a rock star!

This lesson I cover my top 5 most popular riffs for beginning bass guitarists. We’re going to be looking at:

  • Another One Bites The Dust – Queen (time – 1:10)
  • Stand By Me – Ben E King (time – 15:16)
  • Billie Jean – Michael Jackson (time – 29:51)
  • Come As You Are – Nirvana (time – 33:53)
  • Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream (time – 38:29)

Another One Bites The Dust – Queen

This riff by the great John Deacon might sound really simple and a lot of  players would probably class it as an easy riff to play. But there are a few little  challenges in there for the beginning player. We have a  few little 16th note skips so it’s good for developing technique and we’ve also got some changes in note duration so that’s good for developing your groove and feel.

Practice Tracks:

Stand By Me – Ben E. King

Stand By Me by Ben E. King is a great riff to learn because it  just repeats all the way through and it’s a great example of how some riffs will weave a line through a chord progression.

In the original recording there’s no drum beat. It’s just a triangle, some percussion and the orchestra so I’ve written a basic drum beat that should help with your practice.

Practice Tracks:

Please Note: The original recording of this song is actually in the key of A Major. So if you want to play along with that version, here you go:

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Billie Jean by Michael Jackson is a really short riff in the key of F  sharp minor and it’s really popular with beginners because it’s  so recognisable. There are several different ways of playing the riff but I’m going to show you a simply fingering that’s easy for beginners.

Practice Tracks:

Come As You Are – Nirvana

For this lesson we’ll be playing Come As You Are in the key of E minor but it is worth noting that the live versions always tend to be in F minor. I think this is possibly due to Nirvana tuning down to D on the original and then down to E flat on  the live versions but, either way, this fingering will work for playing  along with the studio version.

Practice Tracks:

Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream

Lastly let’s look at one of the most famous rock riffs of all time: Sunshine Of  Your Love by Cream which is played by Jack Bruce. There are several different variations on this riff depending on  where you want to play the end or beginning part of the riff.  We’ll just work through the riff that’s used in the intro

Practice Tracks:

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  1. Juan Carlos March 16, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Hi Mark.

    Where can we find Top 5 first you made it ?

    I would like to keep it , but I can not find it in the your web anymore ?

    thanks a lot

  2. MarkJSmith March 16, 2015 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Do you mean the Top 5 Slap Riffs? Check out the Lesson Map ‘Slapping’ section

  3. Jim Batt March 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Great lessons Mark,if you can teach me (and I’m learning) it cant be bad! a three chord wonder with a skiffle background (73’s old)Bass playing was not a choice until I saw your lessons on talking Bass,now after 1 month I feel buying a Bass guitar was a brilliant idea.Many Thanks

  4. fer grande March 17, 2015 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    funny and super instructive… thanks mark!

  5. Joe Couto March 22, 2015 at 1:28 am - Reply

    Excellent work Mark…Never thought I would be able to learn an instrument this late in my life, but you are getting me there.

  6. Gregg Davis April 24, 2015 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    I might be retarded but….
    I wish you had done this and preferably other related videos with on screen notation so that I can find the notes you’re playing more easily. I’m just not that comfortable with the bass guitar yet.

  7. Gregg Davis April 24, 2015 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Oh forgot to mention, I’m a lefty so everything you do I have to learn as though looking in a mirror- sorry.

  8. Jojo Ogle May 2, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Hi Mark, does it matter that i don’t know how to read music? Thanks

  9. Devon Eastman May 3, 2015 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    This helped so much thanx!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Devon Eastman May 3, 2015 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    This helped so much thanx

  11. Deona Bien May 30, 2015 at 1:54 am - Reply

    So glad that I found your courses on YouTube!! I found your style so much easier to follow by the way you broke them down. Looking forward to learning more on the site.

  12. Tom Cole June 22, 2015 at 12:05 am - Reply

    This is a cool way to learn, thanx

  13. Brian Seay July 14, 2015 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    u r a bad mo fo,,, I love u man,,,,,,,

  14. Mac Bulman July 25, 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Mark, as a 68yr old beginner on Bass I absolutely love your video lessons. You explain everything in easy to understand terms, and your vids are fun,informative, and such a great help! Thanks for all the work and effort you put in – you obviously love the instrument so much!! Respect!

    • Stuart Platt October 3, 2015 at 8:09 am - Reply

      What?? You mean that I am not the only 68yr old beginner!!
      I fully agree with Mac’s remark. you make things easy to understand.

      • Frank Mayer November 13, 2015 at 9:44 pm - Reply

        A wink and a blink away from 70, I am enjoying the bass more than I thought I would. Marc does an excellent job for us new players of any age, thanks.

  15. Michael Evans August 20, 2015 at 5:17 am - Reply

    Great lesson I really like how you explain how the song was constructed based on the scale

  16. Jeremiah Alikor September 3, 2015 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Hello mark, I’m inspired and I really want to thank you…. Also, keep the good work on…. Bless you

  17. Steve Ramsden October 27, 2015 at 6:32 am - Reply

    Hey Mark….i’m a 54 year old beginner and i find your lessons the easiest to understand i have come across…thank you so much for making things much simpler to understand….your teaching style is brilliant….thanks again!

    • MARTY LAINZ April 28, 2016 at 3:22 am - Reply


      • Gren Owen May 1, 2017 at 6:27 am - Reply

        I’m 69 and loving every minute of learning something new.

  18. Jose December 5, 2015 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Where do you get all the back track songs (drums rythms)?

    • MarkJSmith December 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      I create them using Cubase

  19. Blake Ashton February 4, 2016 at 5:08 pm - Reply


  20. Blake Ashton February 4, 2016 at 5:15 pm - Reply


    • Jon Leighton March 2, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

      The fingering on the frets is in the TAB below the music in the pdf files.

  21. MARTY LAINZ April 28, 2016 at 3:17 am - Reply


    • MARTY LAINZ April 28, 2016 at 3:19 am - Reply


  22. Trevor wyatt May 30, 2016 at 10:46 am - Reply

    I am 76 and struggling with digital wizardry but having seen your lessons on u,tube I find them informative and challenging.All I need now is motivation it,s taken me a while to find my way into your lessons so I intend to start from the beginning . I would like to get these lessons on my desktop where I can watch and try to play at the same time wish me luck. Thanks a million.

  23. john paul June 26, 2016 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    I believe with your lessons I will learn how to play minor keys very well because I hardly play minor keys, Thanks am from Nigeria

  24. Herb Bates August 24, 2016 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    How come the tab for Billie Jean is different from what you are teaching ?

  25. Richard Ocheng November 5, 2016 at 9:29 am - Reply

    What could really help me is to know which finger presses on which string in wich fret, at least in the beginning till my fingers can easily adapt

  26. Ranko Skansi November 5, 2016 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    I’m writing to you from Croatia, and I wish to thank you for all the time you’ve spent on preparing this fabulous material for us!!
    Thanks for every moment of every single lesson!!!

    At the end I have a fast question: Do you have any peace of paper (PDF) where all the chords are described on tablature and as notes? I think this would be great peace of paper to start, and to play scales all day (and night) long, to became familiar with our instruments, but also with harmonics.

    Best regards


  27. Brian Twiddy December 28, 2016 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    It’s fantastic to find so many people “of a certain age” learning. I am 65 and started at the beginning of December as a friend lent me his Bass. I love it but find it frustrating, not quite getting it smoothly, and not quite getting the timing. Again and again and again. Is there a support group anywhere for those of us who lose heart and need encouragement?

  28. Tim. Bell December 30, 2016 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    This is a great opportunity for me to return to the bass after. 30 years and now having Parkinson’s after the last 20years I. Am. Starting to feel the best again Your repetitive lessons are great! You are great!!

  29. Tim. Bell December 30, 2016 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks man for doing this.

  30. Tim. Bell January 1, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the riffs, Mark. I am a little tired this new year years morning and a little sad to hear about all the bass greats we lost in 2016. I really was unaware.

  31. Imdaman21 January 4, 2017 at 7:46 am - Reply


  32. Imdaman21 January 5, 2017 at 6:57 am - Reply

    Help me mark!

    In the practice room, there’s Seven Nation Army in the beginner riffs, but it’s just watching you play. There is sheet music, but I can’t read bass sheet music yet (I only started the day before I sent this comment). Is there a video that could teach me how to play it? ?

  33. James Pope December 11, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Thanks Mark. Your lessons are really helping. The worship team found out I played bass once upon a time and are pushing me to play with them Sundays. It is really hard to pick the bass back up after 50 years. At 67 I am not quite as quick as I was as a teenager, but your lessons are helping me to pick it back up and correct a lot of the mistakes I picked up as a teenager.

  34. SX Breaker January 10, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

    This was a great start for me, thank you very much Mark. I checked hundreds of bass channels on Youtube and decided to go with you.

  35. Jeramy Hutchins January 14, 2018 at 1:47 am - Reply

    I have been listening to the beginners videos for about two weeks before I even got my bass out and I already feel more knowledgeable and more comfortable playing the bass.. Great Job Mark.. I am slowly progressing.

  36. Seth Penaranda January 15, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Turned 50 last september. I thought it was too late for me to learn or study music, especially plying bass… I guess not! Thank you guys for making me feel “young-er” 😄👍🏻 And thank you Mark, for the very in-depth & very “easy to understand” lessons, you have inspired us and so many more out there! A BIG THANK YOU! Keep up the good work, and continue INSPIRING PEOPLE!

  37. Oscar De Leon March 19, 2018 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    16th notes are killing me

  38. camper April 6, 2018 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    Just bought a bass guitar. And found your site. Looks like what I’m looking for. Where should I actually start?

  39. Graham McAuslane October 1, 2018 at 2:45 am - Reply

    Thanks for allowing me to sign up for free membership.
    I enjoyed your lesson covering the five riffs for beginners but!
    I am confused as the tabs in no way seem to match the notes of the music if the bass is strung as EADG.
    Please help.

  40. Bing Shen December 10, 2018 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Great site, really appreciate all the courses posted. Thank you so much for doing all this for public.

  41. John Foor January 17, 2019 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Did u say I could download the drum beats ?? where??

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