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.

I've been playing bass for nearly a year and this song took me the longest to learn. Most songs take around 10-30 minutes for me to nail. This song took me 2-3 weeks to be able to play everything. I do believe Pulling Teeth should be number two though, I'm currently in the process of learning it and I have almost all of it learned within a few days. Playing both of these songs shreds your fingers until they become immune and invincible, so there is no doubt they deserve 1 and 2 for sure.

Yyz is a difficult song. It's basic tune isn't that hard thought the solo's leave me jumbled. I have been learning bass for close to two years now and this has definitely been the biggest challenge yet. Like I said the tempo isn't to hard and if you want to make things easier for yourself use a little third finger. The solo's and particularly the triplet ending are... hmm lets say FRUSTRATING, but apart from that its not an extremely difficult piece. Really some Primus should be up at number 1. I have to agree, Cliff Burtons anesthesia sounds ridiculously guitar rooted; but man I have to give it too him to come up with that is some great work. GEDDY IS BETTER. I have to ask why the hell is hysteria even on this list?! It's a sinch. I learnt it in like 40 minutes. Seriously.

Yyz is most definitely the hardest song on here, without a doubt. But, Anestesia is such a masterpiece of bass performance and skill. I'm not saying Yyz isn't. Yyz is insanely hard to memorize and master, with the insanely fast bass solos and the dozens of verse variations. Granted, Yyz is much more complex and skill demanding, but anestesia still has hard sections to play, but nowhere near yyz. I think why this song has such a reputation for being a very hard song to play is because no one has ever heard of a 2 and a half minute bass solo when it was released.

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.

It may seem like an easy song but once you really get into this song you start realizing that its really not. To memorize each part is nuts.. To play each part is nuts. To get the distortion to mastery is nuts. Good luck with this one world.

This is Cliff Burton at his best. The recording was insane, but the live version is pure insanity on the bass. Hell I can play bits on pieces of this song, but even in the first riff, my fingers hurt like hell. Cliff's best song on the bass

Honestly I can play both anesthesia and yyz and I think yyz is a whole lot easier just because the timing is easier... Oh yeah and there is insane bass chords in anesthesia and crazy triplets that yyz does not have. Do not undermind this song because it is not famous it is really difficult

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! ).

Why is this not top 3? This song should have been named the "Make Your Arms Pudding Song" YYZ would only be harder in the area of more to remember, whilst this is far more technically difficult.

This song is hard, fast at times and abruptly slow, just to get back on track as well. It should be higher in the list

4 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.

You try playing Hysteria and Anesthesia followed by Tommy the cat, out of the three Tommy the Cat will be the hardest to pull of because Les Claypool is such a unique bassist, you will also notice the different levels of physical energy required, this song if played in succession will break a lesser man, plus it's fun and that's what counts, in all honesty my opinion is this is one of the hardest to pull off, along with the awakening.

I've been learning a lot of hard basslines recently, and though I don't have Jerry was a Racecar Driver down completely, but this one is harder than that. I have been learning Jerry was A Racecar Driver, Anesthesia, Tommy the Cat, DMV, and a few others, and this is by far the hardest overall due to it's speed, unusual technique, and groove.

Without a doubt, the most difficult Primus lick of all time. The amount of technique needed to play this is beyond that of most player's range, and is a notorious morale killer.

5 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

This is one of my favorite bass riffs of all time, but I really think that people really overestimate how hard this bass line is. I've been playing bass for around 1 and 1/2 years, and I learned this in a couple days a bit less than a year ago.

Well it maybe a bit hard but not that much, I learnt it after a month or two after I first play a bass (I play other instruments all ready), it is the fist bass line I learnt. It's a awesome song nether the less.

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

If only I had 6 strings

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...

I'm a guitarist and I can barely play this... On my guitar... That means it's hard. It's also one of the bad-assiest songs ever in my opinion. Chancellor is the best bassist in metal.

I want to know how in the world there isn't any Ryan Martinie songs on here. Compare these songs to "Dig" and there's no chance.

8 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!

John Entwistle is amazing.

9 Aeroplane - Red Hot Chili Peppers

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

Never had to listen to a chorus so many times to get the hang of the bass' groove

It took me a while to get the hang of how the funk and the beat worked together

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...

Y'know, this should really be higher up on the list. I'd like to see somebody that can play hysteria nail the fills in this song. Let alone the bass solo.

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!

Fast as hell and tricky. How isn't this higher?

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.

This song has over 100 time signature changes in under 7 minutes, it contains the time signatures 13/16, 15/16, and 17/16, as well as many, many others. How this song isn't in the top 10 blows my mind.

It doesn't have a specific riff, but it is hell to master this tune. Or pretty much any Dream Theater tune.

Why isn't this at top 5? This piece is just insane. every instrument is really hard on this song. John myung is a beast with his 6 string bass

15 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

"Hardest I've ever tried. "

16 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.

17 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.

I can never get the rhythm right. Too fast for me.

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.

In my opinion, the best display of bass playing ever. Sure, tapping, slapping, sweeping, etc is cool but to be bass is best served a groove instrument. This song is full of improv-ed groove from Jonesy. Tons of tasteful and musical licks, sweet runs, and dead notes. Not to mention having to play all on up beats on the faster part of the song. And as said, memorizing this whole thing is insane.

This song is nuts. It barely ever repeats the same thing twice so it is near impossible to memorise, And then it speeds up again. Going up and down the fretboard the whole song back and forth gets very difficult and it's just flat out nuts to play

This is an extremely hard bass line, especially if you're tackling it by ear. Right now, I barely got headphones and It's only been my second month transcribing music!

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.

Gosh, don't even try to.

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.

Oh man this song has one of the best build ups in my opinion, Geddy does not disappoint. Especially with the unexpected fast bass solo that pops up towards the end, took hours to get down right! The synchronicity of these three guys is just amazing

The greatest rush song and blows my mind every time. The musicianship in that band is insane. I saw them on the last tour and when they started playing this I thought the roof of Madison Square Garden was going to explode.

22 Virtual Insanity - Jamiroquai

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

23 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.

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.

Fast, complex and fretless. a lot of stuff to learn, hard to play consistently especially at full speed. if you are new to fretless basses, the accuracy needed for the notes will make this stuff almost impossible

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