How to Play Bass For Beginners 5 Garry Tallent Lines You Should Learn

By Paul Wolf

In your journey of learning how to play bass, learning songs is a great way IMO of putting left and right hand techniques to work in a real world setting. Garry Tallent’s bass lines with Bruce Springsteen contain some great bass lines that are ideal for learning because not only are they not too complex to play, but they nearly always contain great examples of subtle variations and developments of lines by using rhythm and octave shifts. This article looks at 5 great Garry Tallent lines you should study and learn.

1. Hungry Heart

Hungry Heart is from the acclaimed album ‘The River.’ This is my favourite Bruce Springsteen album – especially CD1. Hungry Heart – which Garry Tallent said he heard as a ‘tuba’ style line – is a great example of stating a simple theme and then expanding on it.

2. Born To Run

Born to Run is an iconic tune in the Springsteen lexicon. It’s one of those interesting tunes that has contrasting sections – and it’s worth transcribing and working out how Garry managed to fit a line into all the instrumentation that’s present without stepping on anyone toes but still fulfilling the bass player’s main role of gluing the harmony to the rhythm.

3. No Surrender

I could have chosen any one of about 5 songs from the Born In The USA album – e.g. Cover Me, Bobbie Jean, I’m Going Down – but I chose No Surrender. This is a glorious 4 minute rocker – and yet again it’s another great lesson in how to vary a line up with subtle rhythmic variations as well as octave changes. All of the uptempo tunes on this album are worth transcribing and learning.

4. Point Blank

This is one of Garry Tallent’s favourite performances with Bruce Springsteen. It’s a mid temp rock ballad. And the two elements that are uppermost in the song are the vocal line and the bass – and that doesn’t happen often in Bruce Springsteen’s music! What Garry plays is another masterclass – this time in supporting the melody line but still functioning as a bass line. Seriously, it’s not technically difficult but there are 6 months worth of practice contained in that one song!

5. I Wanna Marry You

Another song from The River. This one again is a mid tempo ballad – like Point Blank – and again the bass line is very supportive but very melodic. A close study of this tune will definitely help you with making your bass lines more melodic.


Garry Tallent summed up his playing beautifully in an interview – he said something like: ‘I try to be noticed only if I’m NOT playing.’ If you think about that carefully your appreciation of what the bass player’s role in the band will increase. Garry’s playing is a great lesson in how to be supportive within a band context – and yet still create varied and interesting bass lines. It would be very easy within the Springsteen band setting – with all the keyboards, guitars and voices – to settle for pumping 8th notes on the root note. Yet Garry never does – contemporary music would be far more interesting from a bass playing perspective if more bass players could learn that lesson.

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