Top 10 Hardest Bass Riffs to Play

The Top Ten
1 YYZ - Rush

It's really painful to learn this song, and I disagree with some of the comments here : the base lines aren't easy at all, to play them properly with mutes and rigor is really demanding. Though, after playing the song a few hundred times, it actually seems to be easy. The very hard part is the solos and the end, which are incredibly difficult to play properly, even after lots of time through them. The only thing which makes this song easier than some of this top 10 is that the rhythm isn't so complex and it doesn't demands a lot of endurance to get through the song.

2 Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) - Metallica

The first half isn't too hard, it consists of basic arpeggios and sped up scales, unless you haven't played too many things this shouldn't be a problem. It's the second half that is truly hard, he speeds up the tempo to a solid 200 bpm, not to mention the aggression Burton played the notes which consist of a two string chord like fashion that being played in time with the additional random open chords emphasized by the wah. He decided to also throw in a bunch of higher note hammer offs and a few taps here and there. It's one of the harder songs on the bass guitar.

3 Panic Attack - Dream Theater

I honestly think that this should be higher up on the list. Yes, the intro sounds difficult (and it is, especially if you play in standard), but the solo section is the real doozie here. Not because of the fact it's insanely fast, or makes you stretch over about 5 frets, but because of the fact that it takes a boatload of endurance to play through it, and it definitely takes 1000 times more than any songs in the top 10.

The songs from the 1st to 9th are difficult, but this... If your fingers are not stretched and warmed you risk a tendinitis! YYZ and Anesthesia maybe are more difficult to remember, but this is very harder than hysteria (fantastic bass track but not harder as this! ).

4 Hysteria - Muse

It's not difficult to play it. It's just impossible to do it the same way as Chris plays that. A lot of stamina is needed, especially for your right hand, to make a perfectly timed bass line where every 16th is clear and great.
This is one of the most beautiful riffs, if not the best, made by Chris Wolstenholme.

This song is quite hard, but not enough I think to be on this top 10. However, it's not that easy like some of the comments suggest. The base line can be difficult to learn for a beginner, and it's difficult to keep it constant in terms of speed and intensity through the entire song

5 Tommy the Cat - Primus

Everyone has their own particular techniques that are harder for them that some other bass players find easy. However, this song is one of the songs that utilizes the most of the techniques bass players bow down to. Slap, flameco, percussive neck slapping, tapping, chords, doublestops, and throughout the song combinations of many of the techniques listed simultaneously. I don't believe there is any "hardest song", but in my opinion, this is the hardest out of any of the songs listed, with the exception of maybe YYZ. But Aeroplane... Come on guys its just a good bassline but it is not that hard.

6 Jerry Was a Race Car Driver - Primus

Ever tried to play this song? Don't. It will completely destroy and/or ruin your life. Laugh out loud It's funny that half of these songs are by les claypool.

Wow! Really amazing how he plays this while singing and moving around. Definitely deserves to be at the top of this list.

Les Claypool makes it look easy... But it is not

7 The Pot - Tool

The time signature on this song is arguably what makes it so difficult. Even if you work around the complexity of the main riff and play a simplified version, it is still difficult to control the tone, especially when the riff moves to the 4th string. Still, it's an incredibly fun song to play, and learning it successfully (for the most part) is truly satisfying. I found a great video on YouTube where a dude breaks the song down so you can learn to play it.

This isn't too hard once you've learned it, but it takes some time. What the heck is hysteria doing so high up? It's fast but once you get it it's super easy...

8 Aeroplane - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Honestly I think that flea wasted his talent on a crappy band like the red hot chilli peppers. Well I mean obviously they are very successful and famous but instead he can't use his cool slap bass stuff because when they modernized he was playing boring slow crap

A good opening song and a great opening solo to play if you have all the frets and the slap bass during the verse is just flawless!

I listen to this song every day yet I still don't know how to play it

9 My Generation - The Who

Wouldn't say this is the who's hardest song on bass (the real or dreaming from the waist), but their bassist only played at about 0.0001% in the studio. He blows any other bassists here out of the water on the technical level, and I'm sure they would all admit to it too

Greatest rock bass player of all time playing the greatest bassline and bass solo of all time. There would have been no Burton or Geddy without this!

10 Orion - Metallica

This is the song that made me want to play bass. The bit were it all goes quite for a couple of seconds and the bass slowly starts is incredible and there is really no other song quite like it. In my opinion the best instrumental of all time.

It only took me a few hours to learn most of the song (minus the solo), but it's been a while and I still can't make it sound nearly as clean and great as Cliff does. The solo is the part that gets me every time, those 16th notes.

Why is for whom the bell tolls in the list? Orion is sixty times as hard. And, having said that, for whom the bell tolls ain't even hard...

The Newcomers

? Nuclear Burn - Brand X
The Contenders
11 Lounge Act - Nirvana

Recently have been learning a lot of Nirvana songs for a tribute set, and this one is by far the trickiest. All those slick slides in the verses give this an amazing vibe.

The slides are hard to pull off and is almost impossible to reach the frets required to play. Sounds like an easy song to pull off when listening but will annoy when trying to perfom. There's a beast feeling whne you can play this song, one of Novoselics best work.

A lot of Chris's basslines are really cool. The one from Sappy is great too, and so is the one from Heart Shaped Box. Definitely a great and underrated bass player.

12 Route 666 - L'arc en Ciel

I gave up playing bass because of this song...

13 Classical Thump - Victor Wooten

The entire song is insanely fast, and is played almost exclusively with your thumb. This is probably the hardest song to learn how to play, and there are so many unique parts to learn.

The beginning is already hard enough with hammer on triplets, but when the song is also over 3 minutes long, its just too hard.

How the hell is this NOT #1? YYZ is hard, but the technique to play this song compared to YYZ is miles away in difficulty!

14 The Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater

Dear lord the fact that their isn't a Dream Theater song on the list until 14 (Panic Attack) is insane. John Myung is INSANE. This song is INSANE! This song, on all instruments, is EXTREMELY difficult and requires a tremendous amount of focus, skill, and precision to play. Learning this song on Drums was one thing but I imagine on every other instrument it's even more difficult to play, and this is no exception. There's a reason why it's considered one of the most difficult pieces of contemporary music to learn and play.

15 Roundabout - Yes

A really quick, off-kilter galloping rhythm that can easily throw off novice players, and can even give more seasoned players some trouble in the mid-sections.

The base line doesn't seem so hard, but the ghost notes are really frustrating and make it way more difficult!

I Like the Bass, I am currently learning it, especially after it's attention for "To be Continued..." I had to do it.

16 The Awakening - Les Claypool

I played this Senior year in HS for a senior spotlight show for the music department. It was so tough back then that I ended up just improvising at many parts/. Still sounded great, but only because I took the basics of the song (if there is anything "basic" about it) and using the same style with easier versions of some of the riffs. I can play it pretty well now after a few years of coming back to it now & again, but there are still parts that get me. Claypool is a god.

This isn't a Les Claypool song you fools. It's by a band called The Reddings. It's actually Otis Reddings son on bass

17 Good Times Bad Times - Led Zeppelin

Very intense bass line. Takes a while to learn but is a very fun song to play. The bass runs after the choruses and after the solo is simply genius. Extremely good song.

18 The Lemon Song - Led Zeppelin

This honestly needs to be the highest on the list. John Paul Jones is a bass god, but in this song he channels the pure essence of groove and uses it to lay down a line with swagger unmatched by anything else I've heard, and I've heard a lot. For a song based around a blues pattern he keeps the bass line constantly fresh, constantly spicy, constantly moving around, but NEVER overplays! When the band plays, they all leave enough space for each other so that each member can play to the fullest without sacrificing the song for the notes. As far as any other song even close to this style of playing goes, you don't need to look any further.

19 Around the World - Red Hot Chili Peppers

A good bass line but hard to get the hang of. Especially the fills

It just sounds really hard too.

20 Amazing Grace - Victor Wooten

No one has mastered bass as much as he has!
How in gods name is classical thump or show of hands not in the top three? As it is a post about the hardest bass riffs it's embarrassing looking at how easy the top ten really is!

That harmonic run down lick he does is near impossible.

21 La Villa Strangiato - Rush

This is one of the most complex and musical songs of all time. I would put rush in terms of complexity and musicality on the same level with Beethoven or Bach or Handel Mozart and Vivaldi. Its not just this song, yyz, 2112, Xanadu, and Cygnus x-1 part 1and 2 etc. Plus the bass solo in the middle says it all about Geddy Lee who is without a doubt the greatest bass player of all time.

The greatest bass solo of all time. The greatest bass player of all time. This song is better and harder then most of the songs above it and one thing you have to remember about the list is it's hardest bass songs not the coolest bass songs.

22 Portrait of Tracy - Jaco Pastorius

There are some really big strectches that require not muting ringing harmonics and just getting all the harmonics to ring equally is quite difficult. It also changes time signatures but that's not too bad. I love this piece and good luck to anyone trying to play it

Quite hard to play harmonics and regular fretted notes at the same time. Not having any drums to follow is also tricky. Definitely giving me an awesome feeling after a lot of practising.

This should be in the top 3 extreme skill is needed to play this.

23 Virtual Insanity - Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai has some amazing baselines, art least one it the sights deserves to be on the list

24 By the Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Actually, probably one of the easiest bass lines on the album, but I had to vote for it because it's the chilies. If you want some hard Flea bass lines, try playing songs like Salute to Kareem, Coffee Shop and Permutation or any live jams. Also look at songs like Wet Sand and Soul to Squeeze because those are just beautiful on bass.

One of fleas best bass lines. Its amazing how he plays from pop and slap to everything else in that somng and his little solo is brill

25 Teen Town - Weather Report

I don't know if it's me who can't play this bass line but I think it should be at least on the top 5 since it's harder than most of the song of this top. The main problem is that it seems to be random notes played quite fast, it doesn't seem to follow any scale. Jaco is a monster to play this on a fretless bass!

You want to know the secret to making an already difficult song even more difficult? Compose it on a fretless bass, making playing it accurately on standard bass even more difficult than needed.

"Teen Town" is not unplayable but should definitely be higher on this list. A rather intricate line spanning the whole fretboard played at a rather fast pace. One of Jaco's most memorable lines.

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