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!

Riff Timings

  • 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 but there are a few challenges in there for the beginning player. There are 16th note skips (good for developing technique) and there are changes in note duration (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 simply repeats all the way through and it’s a great example of how we can 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 really popular with beginners. 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 are commonly 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.

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 but we’ll just work through the line used in the intro

Practice Tracks:




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