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Reading Bass Tab Using 4 Easy Songs

If you’re just starting on the bass guitar and want to know how to read the bass tab, look no further. 

What Is Bass Tab?

There are easy bass tabs and very complex bass tabs out there, but learning to play begins with understanding what tab is and how to read it.

Bass tab is a type of music notation for bass guitars that is written with lines, letters, and symbols.

Strings and Lines

It consists of four horizontal lines; each line corresponds to a string on the bass. Standard bass tuning is E, A, D G. When you look down at your guitar, the G string is first, so the first line of the bass tab is G, then D, then A, and, lastly, E.

Some bass tabs may also include 5 or 6 lines since some basses have more strings. You may also see vertical lines, which are bar lines, which divide the tab into counts.

Numbers and Frets

There are also numbers on the bass tab, which represent the fret you should play. These numbers usually range from 0 to 24. 0 corresponds to the open string, and 24 would be the highest fret. Some bass guitars only have 20 frets, so you may not see numbers up to 24. 

Easy bass tabs likely won’t include numbers that high, but more difficult pieces often play many frets in the teens and twenties.

Rhythm and Markings

Occasionally the rhythm of the notes is indicated with numbers underneath the four vertical lines. 

There are other markings that musicians may use to indicate moves in pitch, bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs, taps, slaps, and other ways to play the notes.

Easy Bass Tabs for Beginners

The best way to get familiar with bass tab is to choose a few simple, but fun songs, and practice. These are four songs you should consider practicing to help you learn bass tab

‘Every Breath You Take’

English rock band The Police released Stings’s “Every Breath You Take” as a single that quickly grew to become the top hit of 1983. Like many bass lines, this one is repetitive, and despite its quick tempo, the repetitiveness gives plenty of time for note transitions.

‘Rolling in the Deep’

Adele’s hit “Rolling in the Deep” is another suggestion for easy bass tabs. While it starts out on some of the higher frets, it’s repetitive and the tempo is moderate, letting you transition easily, even with slightly more difficult notes.

‘Dream On’

The bass line of Aerosmith’s song “Dream On” is slow-paced and uses lots of open strings and lower frets, making it extra friendly for anyone just starting on bass guitar.

‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’

U2’s “Pride” has a very simple bass line with open strings. The most difficult part about the song is getting the rhythms down. 

Using Bass Tabs To Progress

Once you get used to reading bass tabs and playing easy bass tabs, you can choose progressively harder ones, with more difficult transitions, more notes, and different tunings. With diligence, you’ll soon be playing more intricate and advanced pieces.

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