The Payback Bass Line

There are lots of great bass lines that have been played over the years on different recordings that are memorable for many different reasons. The Payback bass line played by Fred Thomas is definitely one of the greats.

One of the good things about this bass line is the use of space, or rests in your playing. The space you leave have as much effect on your line as the notes you play.

Whenever you learn a new bass line you should listen and play along with a recording of that song a lot so that you can get the feel and inflections that are being played. When playing don’t just play the notes but try and match the tone, feel, as well as any accents being played. Don’t let the simplicity or repetition of this line trick you into playing without feeling.

The Payback – Make It Funky – The Big Payback: 1971-1975


Rather than writing out every note for the whole song I have included a short transcription of each part. This Bass line has four main parts:

  • The Intro –  They play this groove only at the beginning of the song
  • The Channel – They play this only once in the song as a transition to get from the Intro into the main groove
  • Verse – This is the main groove of the song
  • The Breakdown – Listen for James Brown to say “Hit if Fred“, it is the next measure after that


Hope you enjoy playing this Groovin’ Bass Line.

PDF Bass Clef & Tab versions are in theBass Toolkit Area

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