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The Art of Playing “Killing in the Name” on Bass: A Comprehensive Guide

Playing the bass guitar is an exhilarating experience, and mastering iconic basslines can take your skills to new heights. One such legendary bassline is found in the song “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of playing “Killing in the Name” on bass, exploring the techniques, tabs, and tips that will help you nail this iconic bassline.

The Importance of “Killing in the Name” in Bass Playing

“Killing in the Name” is a song that has left an indelible mark on the world of rock music. Released in 1992, it quickly became an anthem for rebellion and social change. The bassline, played by Tim Commerford, is a driving force behind the song’s energy and intensity. Mastering this bassline not only allows you to pay homage to a classic track but also helps you develop essential bass playing skills.

Understanding the Tabs

Before diving into the techniques, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the tabs for “Killing in the Name.” Tabs provide a visual representation of the notes and finger placements on the fretboard. Here is the tab for the main riff of the song:

G|----------------- | ----------------- | ----------------- | -----------------|
D|----------------- | ----------------- | ----------------- | -----------------|
A|----------------- | ----------------- | ----------------- | -----------------|
E|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0- | -3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3- | -5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5- | -3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-|

Each line represents a string on the bass, with the lowest line representing the E string and the highest line representing the G string. The numbers on each line indicate the fret number to be played. In this tab, you will notice that the main riff is played on the E and A strings, with the open E string and the 3rd and 5th frets on the A string being the key notes.

Techniques for Playing “Killing in the Name” on Bass

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the tabs, let’s explore the techniques required to play “Killing in the Name” on bass.

1. Finger Placement

Proper finger placement is crucial for playing this bassline accurately. Place your index finger on the 3rd fret of the A string and your ring finger on the 5th fret of the same string. Keep your fingers close to the frets to ensure clear and precise notes.

2. Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is a technique where you alternate between using your index and middle fingers to pluck the strings. In “Killing in the Name,” use alternate picking to play each note of the main riff. This technique adds a dynamic and rhythmic feel to the bassline.

3. Palm Muting

Palm muting is a technique where you lightly rest the side of your picking hand near the bridge of the bass to dampen the sound. In “Killing in the Name,” palm mute the E string to achieve a tight and percussive sound. This technique adds a punchy and aggressive quality to the bassline.

4. Slides

Slides are an essential technique in playing “Killing in the Name” authentically. To execute a slide, play the initial note and then slide your finger up or down the fretboard to the next note without lifting it off the string. In this bassline, slide from the 3rd fret to the 5th fret on the A string to create a smooth and seamless transition between notes.

Tips for Mastering “Killing in the Name” on Bass

Now that we have covered the techniques, here are some additional tips to help you master “Killing in the Name” on bass:

  • Start slow: Begin by practicing the bassline at a slower tempo, gradually increasing the speed as you become more comfortable.
  • Focus on accuracy: Pay attention to the timing and accuracy of each note. Practice with a metronome to develop a solid sense of rhythm.
  • Listen to the original recording: Study the original recording of “Killing in the Name” to understand the nuances of the bassline and how it interacts with the other instruments.
  • Experiment with dynamics: Explore different dynamics, such as playing softer during the verses and increasing the intensity during the chorus, to add depth and variation to your performance.
  • Record yourself: Use a recording device to capture your practice sessions. Listening back to your playing will help you identify areas for improvement and track your progress.


1. Is “Killing in the Name” suitable for beginners?

While “Killing in the Name” may seem challenging for beginners, it is an excellent song for developing essential bass techniques. Start by practicing the main riff at a slower tempo and gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable. With dedication and practice, beginners can certainly master this iconic bassline.

2. Can I play “Killing in the Name” on a four-string bass?

Absolutely! “Killing in the Name” can be played on a four-string bass without any modifications to the original bassline. The tab provided earlier is specifically designed for a four-string bass.

3. Are there any variations or improvisations I can add to the bassline?

While staying true to the original bassline is important, you can certainly add your own variations and improvisations to make it your own. Experiment with different fills, slides, and techniques to add your personal touch while still maintaining the essence of the song.

4. What other songs by Rage Against the Machine should I learn as a bass player?

Rage Against the Machine has a rich discography with many bass-driven songs. Some other notable tracks to explore as a bass player include “Bulls on Parade,” “Guerrilla Radio,” and “Know Your Enemy.” These songs will further enhance your skills and expand your repertoire.

5. Can I use a pick instead of fingerstyle to play “Killing in the Name”?

While the original bassline is played with fingerstyle, you can certainly use a pick if you prefer. Experiment with both techniques and choose the one that feels most comfortable and allows you to achieve the desired tone and

Diya Patel
Diya Patel
Diya Patеl is an еxpеriеncеd tеch writеr and AI еagеr to focus on natural languagе procеssing and machinе lеarning. With a background in computational linguistics and machinе lеarning algorithms, Diya has contributеd to growing NLP applications.

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