Bass is vital to the sound of any music. It provides depth rhythm a feeling of power and a 2018 study discovered it really is all about the bass.
The bass is the backbone or foundation of a song that provides the rhythm and beat for the track. It can also create musical tension with its deep resonant sounds when combined with other instruments such as drums or guitars.
Bass players are very important to a band’s sound because they provide both rhythm and melody in their instrument playing.
Let’s get to our 20 best bass songs:
1. Chic “Good Times”
The bass on Chic’s “Good Times” is a standout moment in pop music. Not only is it a catchy song, but it also has an amazing bassline that makes it a perfect start for our list of the 20 Best BassSongs
The bass on this song is a perfect example of how an instrument can be used to increase someone’s mood you can’t help but smile when it comes on.
“3 on the E’ (three notes building to the key of E) is a rule in bass playing and is used by Bernard Edwards extensively on this track.
He considered it to have an ability to make you want to move on the dancefloor and the fact DJs are still playing it in 2021 is testament to this track’s bassline.
2. Level 42 “Lessons In Love”
Mark King is one of the UK’s best bass exports and had a string of huge hits in the 80s with his band Level 42. His unique approach to slap bass playing is one of the reasons their songs are still on heavy rotation on 80s Radio stations.
The bass pattern in Lessons in Love is created by a single index finger ’pop” sound and a lot of muting in the left hand married with a subtle chorus effect.
This allows the bass to make more of a statement and makes the music feel very dynamic. It lends itself well to a galloping feel.
3. Fleetwood Mac “The Chain”
The great bassline that underpins the sound of The Chain is arguably one of the best ones ever. If you’re a fan of the TV show Top Gear then you already know the familiar riff of this classic.
Throughout the song, the bass stays relatively in line with the drum. But as they exit on the final chorus John McVie starts playing that instantly recognizable series of bass guitar notes and manages to lift this whole song up.
4. Michael Jackson “Billie Jean”
This world-famous tune features the renowned bassist Louis Johnson who worked on the Jackson albums ’Off The Wall”. ’Thriller” and “Dangerous*, as well as being a member of his own group The Brothers Johnson.
Johnson’s signature sound came from Leo Fender’s Stingray bass guitar and is one of the most identifiable brand trademarks in the history of Slap Bass.
5. Daft Punk – “Around The World”
Daft Punk’s Around The World has a fuzzy bassline that completely changed the face of 90s Dance music.
The style in this song is similar to a live bass guitar, but can also be done by a synthesizer. It is unknown which method the band used as they mostly keep production techniques to themselves
Despite being first released in 1997. this bassline still sounds like it’s from the future.
6. The Breeders “Cannonball”
Hailing from Ohio. The Breeders have been bringing their unique musical style to the world for over three decades.
They are well known for their catchy basslines, blunt lyrics, and aggressive sound that is often considered to be one of the earliest characteristic traits of the genre Drum & Bass.
The bassline in this song grabs your ears after only 24 seconds into the song and is best played on a BIG sound system.
7. Nancy Sinatra “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’
The bassist uses a different range of octave notes all the way up to 16 for this timeless hit and it sounds great when played even today by musicians on fretless bass.
A jangly, impressive bassline that oozes confidence and jumps out of your speakers.
8. New Order “Blue Monday”
If you’ve ever been near a club in the last 30 years you likely know this tune. It’s 7 minutes of blistering bass, played by the legendary Peter Hook.
It also holds the accolade for the biggest selling 12 vinyl track of all time and was the first British electronic Dance track to make a real impact in America.
And it’s all down in large part to that bassline.
9. Lou Reed “Walk On The Wild Side”
By the end of the 1970s alone, bass player Herbie Flowers had appeared on 500 hit songs – including this. Despite being paid only a one-off fee of £17 as a session musician on the song he will nevertheless be always remembered for his hooky performance here.
The double bass and fretless bass guitar are melted together by Herbie to make Walk On The Wild Side’ one of the most memorable basslines in the annals of music.
10. Talking Heads “Psycho Killer”
Lead singer David Byrne says the song’s lyrics take us inside the head of a deranged murderer and he was aiming for a Soul meets Rock sound (he succeeded).
But it’s band member Tina Weymouth who can take a bow for this one. Her full-bodied bass didn’t just work well on this song, it was later sampled by Selena Gomez for her 2017 hit ‘Bad Liar.”
11. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
We can’t have a list of songs like this without featuring one of the most respected musicians of all time on there – James Jamerson.
Jamerson was the backbone bass player on many of Motown’s biggest creations and he can be heard at his best on this one. Sometimes sound does more justice than words so we found aversion of this track with just James’ masterful bass playing on there.
12. Jackson Five “I Want You Back”
James might have been the king of the Motown bass but Wilton Felder was his prince in waiting
This song is best known by Pop audiences as the one that made the world take notice of a then young Michael Jackson. But it’s Wilton’s bassline that is the glue that holds it all together.
It’s the melody. It’s the rhythm. It’s the hooks that Felder creates here that made people like Marvin Gaye want him in their studio next When you put it all together, it makes for something you cannot get out of your head once heard.
13. Metallica “For Whom The Bell Tolls”
A bassline best savored at a live gig by the band, this is where bass player Cliff Burton really cuts loose with his trademark buzzsaw bass, lots of swaggers, and a wah pedal.
In the studio version, the band layered on as much dark bass menace as they could, with a distorted main riff that drops like a bomb.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is one of Metallica’s most famous songs. The song was released in 1984 and continues to be heard in concerts and commercials today.
The bass track has been praised by critics for its unique tone which is said to be a reference point for metal bass tracks.
It was created by James Hetfield playing through a Marshall JCM800 amplifier with a blackface Fender Bassman amp as well as an Ampeg SVT amplifier with a horn-loaded cabinet on-stage. Each channel was recorded separately onto two different machines at about 15ips. using two different microphones – Shure SM57 on the front and Shure SM58 on the back.
The end result is a bit special.
14. Queen and David Bowie “Under Pressure”
The late David Bowie was at the forefront of pioneering new sounds and techniques for music and the bass sound in his duet with Queen is so powerful that it can be heard throughout, even over the drums.
Both he and bassist James Deacon are responsible for a very simple and yet very catchy bassline. It would be revived on Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby” in the 90s but nothing comes close to the original from 1981.
15. Pink Floyd “Money”
Released in 1973, ”Money” is one of the most iconic Pink Floyd songs.
Given that the band is known for their creative and innovative work (they were one of the first musical artists to use tape machines to create sounds), they keep things more old school here. The main star of the show is a guitar and the bassline that goes with it
Roger Waters takes the bassline spotlight for this one and you can hear a cash register loop and the renowned bassline at the introduction to the song.
16. Moloko “Sing It Back”
The bass sound on “Sing It Back” is one of the most iconic and recognizable sounds in electronic music history. The bass on this track is a result of a lot of things including the rhythm, the chords, and even some piano notes in the background.
German DJ and producer Boris Dlugosch remixed the song in 1999 which made the track Number One on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart
His new bassline riff made it sound more energetic and led to it being the biggest song in clubs that year.
17. Led Zeppelin “Ramble On”
John Paul Jones, the bassist of the legendary rock group Led Zeppelin, is known for his bass talents and sound, which is unique for each song they composed.
He uses a 1962 Fender Jazz Bass on this song to compliment Plant’s vocals and then pairs it with an Acoustic 360/361 bass amp for extra audio warmth.
This song is widely considered to be one of Zeppelin’s best songs and it is famous for its bassline sound which many have tried to recreate or emulate.
18. Duran Duran “Rio”
The song ‘ Rio” was released in 1982 and was one of the best-selling singles of that year. It is considered to be the quintessential Duran Duran single.
The lyrics reveal a romantic relationship with an ambiguous ending which makes it difficult for listeners to decide what exactly happened between them. But it’s the bassline that really punches through.
In the video here, bass player John Taylor explains how they put the song together and how certain bass riffs pay homage to musical legends.
19. The Beatles “Come Together”
“Come Together” was released in 1969 and is about coming together as a group of people for a common cause – to make the world a better place. It also discusses how people can live together without hatred or prejudice, and that people should just be kind to each other.
The bassline of ‘Come Together” is one of the best examples of great music production and the song has a natural and easy-to-follow rhythm that can be appreciated by novice and expert listeners alike.
The bassline is also one of the most memorable parts of this song and it plays a part in providing a sense of unity to the whole song.
Paul McCartney is the star of the show on this one and gives a masterclass in how to play the bass guitar.
20. Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”
Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On was released in 1971 and brought about the creation of “heavy soul.” showing that soul music could be used as a means of protest
The album became an instant hit reaching number one on the Billboard 200 and being awarded a gold record for selling 100.000 copies. It also received three Grammy Awards in 1972.
From the album came the tide single and from that came a majestic performance from the only person to make this list twice – James Jamerson. The song also contains our favorite story from this list of 20 songs.
Legend has it that James Jamerson came straight from a night of partying in Detroit and straight back to the studio to record his take for the song. That was impressive enough in itself given how it turned out. but what’s even more incredible is the story that Jamerson did his basslines in the studio that night in one take!
Only the true greats have such instant access to their best performances and Jamerson certainly was. Here’s his isolated bass playing on the song.
What songs have the best bassline?
What songs have the best bassline? Well, music is subjective but I’m sure plenty will agree with the following list where we discuss the songs with the best basslines in the world! There are some classic songs on this list that you won’t be able to resist bopping your head along to.
Here are some of our favorites:
1. Under Pressure
Queen and David Bowie’s collaboration proved that they’re still icons in the industry. One song that is an absolute must is the 1982 single “‘Under Pressure,'” which features Freddie Mercury on lead vocals over a blend of funk-infused rhythm guitar chords and slick bass lines. It’s a song that will change your mood, guaranteed.
2. I Want You Back
You probably won’t be able to resist dancing along to this early ’70s hit by Jackson 5, as its funky sounds are almost impossible not to groove with – especially the thick bass line throughout.
3. Money For Nothing
The bass line on Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” is one of the most iconic in music. It’s memorable, it’s unique, and it will make you dance — hands down. This 1985 hit features a ’60s-inspired bass line that blends perfectly with the guitar to produce an irresistible track that is eternally memorable.
4. Sex On Fire
No list of the best basslines in music would be complete without Kings Of Leon’s 2008 hit, “Sex On Fire.” The entire song is a concoction of strong guitar riffs and funk-filled bass lines that will leave you wanting to move your feet in any direction possible!
So those are some of our favorite songs that have the best bassline (in our opinion). The beauty of music is that it is all subjective, so even if you don’t agree with our list above, that is alright! Music should be an expression of passion, and we’re glad you’re here to help make the world a better place with your contribution.
What’s the hardest song to play on bass?
YYZ – Rush
The title of the hardest song to play on bass is highly contested. Everyone has their preferences and what may be difficult for one player could be easier for another. Many legends have thrown their hat in the ring over the decades, but there are some that stick out more than others.
Having said that, few songs have frustrated bass players over the years quite like the prog-rock jam YYZ by the Canadian power trio Rush. From start to finish, bassist Geddy Lee, to the tune of some unusual rhythms, demonstrates an impressive degree of dexterity and speed that is exceedingly hard to replicate.
While some other difficult bass lines from legends like Victor Wooten or Jaco Pastorius are more baffling in terms of complexity, the raw speed at which Lee plays in YYZ without any slapping, picks, or tricks of any kind sets it apart as one of the most difficult songs to play on bass.
Bass is important in music because it has the ability to alter our emotions through its deep sound. Without bass, music becomes empty and hollow.
The bass element has been around since long before Rock and Roll – and with good reason.
Bass helps set the tone for a song, whether that be mellow or upbeat, and can help distinguish one genre from another. It’s always been an important element in music because it helps bring out the emotion of a song better than any other instrument.
For some genres like funk or jazz, bass also provides a rhythmic backbone and energy that differentiates it from other genres like country or classical music. For these reasons, many musicians have come up with their own playing techniques.
Enjoy the 20 songs above on a great sound system or pair of headphones and make sure the volume is loud enough to take in all the dynamics … including the bass!