Playing the bass in a punk rock band isn’t necessarily about flowing scales and immaculate technique but rather about pounding down a hard driving rhythm that anchors and rallies the rest of the band and the audience around the band.
Punk is a highly energetic genre with a lot to say – and for that reason it is important to practice speed, rhythm, and timing before setting out to be a proficient punk bassist. Following are a few choice selections that should be easy to practice, with fairly easy to hear basslines being present in the recording as well as accurate and easy tablature.
Punk Rock Riot, Old School Flair With a New School Edge
A discussion of punk can’t really be had without mentioning some of the artists from the genres formative years in popular music – one of the most prominent bands being The Clash. One of their most recognizable tunes, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”, has not only been feature in recent music rhythm games such as the Rock Band and Guitar Hero series – having enthralled legions of fans in decades previous with a simple message of rebellion and standing tall against the status quo.
“Should I Stay Or Should I Go” is a fairly easy song to learn on the bass guitar, with very little variation.
In the early days of punk one of the artists leading the way with a grittier, more hardcore rock-and-roll edge would have to be The Ramones. Adding a bit of distortion and rock flair into their compositions, The Ramones are often regarded as the very first punk band – and have a large body of work to compliment that assertion.
One of their biggest hits and earliest pieces, “Blitzkrieg Bop”, is both amazingly fun to play but is also very approachable for bassists learning the strings.
One of the standout bands in recent years with regard to the punk genre is The Offspring, having hit it big with the album Smash in 1994 and having been very commercially successful afterwards. While many fans of the band, and the punk genre as a whole, feel that The Offspring recorded their best material up until Ixnay on the Hombre – their influence continues to be known in an increasingly commercialized genre.
One of the best songs by The Offspring is also the easiest to play – “Gotta Get Away” is a gem from the Smash album that is relatively easy to play and sounds fantastic.
In True Punk Fashion
Punk is a genre that is currently struggling with it’s image – a great deal of the cultural rebellion espoused by punk rockers up into the 1990’s has shifted towards a harsher, more brutal sound found in forms of extreme metal and hardcore.
This is not to say that the punk movement is dead; thousands of indie bands exist across the globe that are pumping out amazing punk anthems that capture the spirit of counterculture and resistance in the same fashion as those artists who came before.
By learning a few classic punk songs, and perhaps becoming a bassist in a punk band yourself, you will be contributing to a larger narrative and a subculture steeped in youthful energy and rejection of the ordinary.
Easy Folk and Country Songs for Bass Beginners
The wonderful thing about deciding to play country and folk music is that the canon has a great deal of established content produced by legends, ranging from Johnny Cash to Garth Brooks to Neil Young and the entire spectrum in between. Country music is generally fairly simply to play, almost always in standard time and tuning, and is recognizable to most music fans – meaning that it is always welcome at most local bars, pubs, or watering holes.
Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World
A great folk rock song to learn, Cinnamon Girl by Canadian artist Neil Young is possessed of a simple yet very memorable chorus bass line, and a very relaxing gallop throughout the rest of the verse. The timing takes a little getting used to for those beginning bassists used to playing more standard riffs, but since the bass guitar is so prominent in this track one should have little problem nailing it down with some slight practice.
A legendary band fronted by John Fogerty in its heyday, Creedance Clearwater Revival – commonly known as CCR – are one of the most popular and timeless icons of the country and folk music scene. The litany of good tunes put out by the band is nigh-endless, including Suzie Q, Fortunate Son, Looking Out My Back Door, and many others. For the purposes of learning one of their greatest, and easier songs – Bad Moon Rising fits the bill entirely. Very simple to play and a great deal of fun with a jam band!
Johnny Cash is a man who towers above many other music icons as a universally beloved figure who fought for the downtread men and women of the earth and wrote songs that resonated within the hearts of the working class – and others who had seen a great deal of hurt in their lives. Though he has passed away in recent years, his legacy lives on and so does a catalogue of excellent work. One of his classics, “Walk the Line”, is a great song to play on bass that requires attention to detail but should not require a great deal of skill in playing the bass portion.
Beer for My Horses
While it is certainly true that a great deal of modern country music has moved away from these roots, it does not mean that the genre is bereft of great artists. Alan Jackson continues to produce some excellent music, generally fun loving much like “Chatahoochie” but also sometime reflective and haunting as seen in “Midnight in Montgomery”.
Other artists such as Garth Brooks continue to be popular around the world. Being a bassist in a folk or country rock band can be a lot of fun and give one a great sense of rhythm as well as tone – country and folk music should be played with a warm resonance that supports the nature and emotion of both of these populist genres.