Greenday Basket Case TAB Guitar Lesson and full guide

In this guitar lesson, we will be looking at the Basket Case TAB and learning how to play this classic Greenday track one step at a time. This track, much like the last song I wrote a lesson for which was the All the Small Things guitar lesson, is pure pop punk perfection. It’s an incredibly fun track to perform and there’s more to it than you may think.

In this guitar lesson, we will be looking at the Basket Case TAB and learning how to play this classic Greenday track one step at a time. This track, much like the last song I wrote a lesson for which was All the Small Things, is pure pop punk perfection. It’s an incredibly fun track to perform and there’s more to it than you may think.

Basket Case is from Greenday’s third studio album, Dookie. It’s a song about the band’s vocalist and guitarist, Bille Joe Armstrong’s struggle with anxiety. Before he was diagnosed with a panic disorder years later, he thought he was going crazy. Armstrong commented “the only way I could know what the hell was going on was to write a song about it.”

The track performed well in the Alternative Airplay chart where it would remain at the top spot for five weeks and it also charted in various other countries worldwide and it was also nominated for a Grammy in 1995 for best rock vocal performance by a duo or group.

It also happens to be my favourite Greenday song and not just because I’m at times, an anxious wreck although, that’s partly why. Anyway, let’s learn how to play it.

Basket Case Guitar TAB Guitar Lesson and Guide

basket case tab and guitar lesson

There’s one very important thing that you need to know before we dive into all the different parts of Basket Case and it relates to the tuning. Basket Case doesn’t use your standard tuning, it uses E flat tuning which means that you tune all six of the strings down by half a step. E becomes E flat, A becomes A flat and so on. You can play this in standard tuning if you like but remember, this will have an impact on you playing along with the record and you must also have this discussion with the other musicians if you’re performing with a band. I’ve played this in both standard tuning and E flat tuning. What you do with the tuning is ultimately down to you.

The E flat tuning will have an impact on how this lesson is presented. My job is to teach the song like the record therefore, I have to assume that you’re in E flat tuning. This will affect the chord instructions. For example, our root chord is an E flat chord which first occurs with the root at the 7th fret on the A string. In standard tuning, that chord is an E, not an E flat. This is something you’ll have to consider during the lesson. If in doubt, just follow the TAB which will always be presenting the correct chords.

Basket Case TAB the first verse

We begin naturally with the first verse of the song. This power chord based section uses three composition techniques. We have palm muting, accented notes, and we’re using push chords. Here’s the TAB. Guidance will follow the image.

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This image tells you how to play the first sixteen bars because the above is repeated.

As you can see, we have a whole bunch of two finger power chords that make up the section starting with the E flat. The full chord progression is E flat / B flat / C / G / A flat / E flat / B flat / B flat.

You can also see in the TAB that for the most part, the progression is performed with palm muting but there’s slightly more to it than that. You can hear in the record that some chords pop out a little more than others. These chords are accented and are indicated in the TAB via the little triangle icon above the chords.

Performing these accented notes/chords is easy. All you need to do is lift your mute. How much you lift the mute will be discovered with experimentation.

Do you have to perform these accents exactly how you see in my TAB or how you hear in the record? No. The truth is, nobody cares about you, so getting it exactly like the record isn’t massively important but you should aim for the vibe that you can hear in the recording.

You’ll also notice that the chord change doesn’t always happen on beat 1 of the next bar. Sometimes, the chord changes right at the end of the bar, just before the start of the next. The changes happen on the “and” after the fourth beat (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and). We can refer to this as a push rhythm or push chord.

Basket Case TAB chorus part 1

We continue the same muted power chord feel into the chorus section. The chords have changed, but the feel remains the same. Here’s the TAB.

This part is based around a power chord progression of A flat / B flat / E flat / E flat. This progression repeats and then the first half of the progression plays again and leads us into the next part.

All the advice from the opening verse applies to this section. No new guidance is required.

Basket Case TAB chorus part 2

Next comes the second part of the chorus section. This part moves away from those mutes and becomes more open and strummed. We also move into the world of full chords too. Here’s the TAB.

The first couple of chords are power chords but were soon run into a C minor barre chord. This is your standard five string minor barre chord shape.

We then have an A flat major (standard open A major shape, remember the tuning) and then a standard five string B flat major barre chord (once again, remember the tuning).

Then next chords are E flat / B flat / C minor / B flat. This is the mini instrumental interlude that follows the last line of the chorus and precedes the verse.

What about the rhythm? Well, those constant 8th notes are gone which may prove a welcome break for your arms. The rhythm in the TAB is a good representation of the recording but you can pretty much hear what’s going on anyway. There’s a lot of distortion there, but you can clearly here the rhythm and you’ll pick it up no problem now that you know the chords.

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Does it matter if your rhythm doesn’t match the recording exactly? No, not at all. What I would say though is a) stick close to what you hear in the record, b) it’s important to get the rhythm right on that little instrumental part and c) look out for those push chords because they’re here in this section too.

There are also some percussive mutes in there indicated by the Xs.

Verse 2

Our next section of the Basket Case TAB is the second verse which is sort of like the first verse except, it’s nothing like it. Here’s the TAB.

So, we can see right away that there’s changes. The power chords have gone. As has the muting and al that focus on accented chords. We now have unmuted distorted full chords, both open and barre.

This TAB is played twice, and the chord progression is E flat / B flat / C minor / G (still a power chord) / A flat / E flat / B flat / B flat. There are no new chord shapes here. Just the ones we’ve used so far.

The constant 8th not rhythm has now gone and the strumming is much more free but do keep an eye out for those push chords because you still need to hit them just before the start of the bar, as demonstrated in the above TAB.  

Chorus 2 part 1

The same sort of thing happens in the chorus. I’ll once again break the chorus down into two sections. Here’s the first part.

We have full chords again here. The progression is A flat / B flat / E flat / E flat played twice, then A flat and E flat again. The same structure as the first chorus only with full chords instead of power chords.

Again, the rhythm is free. You can alter the rhythm slightly in these parts if you like but once again, look out for those push chords.

Chorus 2 part 2

As you know, the second part of the first chorus featured full chords, so nothing has changed here. There’s just a tiny tweak in the arrangement that you will need to look out for. Here’s the TAB.

The only difference here is that the end instrumental interlude thing is played through twice making it longer but aside from that, everything is the same. This is one of those things that very easy to forget, so don’t forget.

Basket Case TAB build up / bridge

There’s this cool little mini anticipation / build up part that comes next. Nice and easy. All power chords. Here’s the TAB. I doubt you need any guidance on this. Just straight muted 8th note power chords and don’t mute the last one.

Don’t let that last one ring out for the whole bar. Cut it off by lifting your fingers or just touch the strings with your fretting hand. That short little rest is quite important.

What comes next?

We’ve already learned the next two parts so pay attention. After that little bridge thing, we have an instrumental version of the verse, which is performed the same as verse two, the open chord version. That’s followed by chorus 1 part 1 and the first 4 bars of chorus 1 part 2. Scroll up if you’ve forgotten. Seems confusing doesn’t it but you can hear this quite clearly in the recording.

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You’ve reached the final moments of the Basket Case TAB. Well done. We do have another part to learn though. Here’s the final part of the TAB.

We can break this down into two parts. The first 4 bars which are repeated thrice, then the part after that.

The opening couple of bars are based on simple two finger mini chords. Start with your second finger at the 7th fret on the A string as indicated and your first finger on the string below at fret 6. Your third finger can then fret the 7th fret when advised. The next part is simply a power chord but you add your pinky finger when required at the 7th fret.

The next 2 bars are chord based. We have the A flat, E flat and B flat major chords there and where the chords change are quite specific. You can hear this in the recording if you prefer to listen than read the TAB.

After three repeats, we get to the final run through.

We play through the micro chord part one final time before hitting those big chords right at the end. Again, you can hear the rhythm for this in the record if you need it.


The outro was the last part that you needed to learn. Now you have all the building blocks that you require to play Greenday’s Basket Case on guitar. This song is both easy and tricky at the same time. Some of these chord changes are quite specific and it’s easy to get caught out or lost while performing. Use the TAB as a guide and see if you can hear what you’re shown in the TAB in the recording.

This is a great track to play. It’s a bunch of fun and you’ll never get bored of it. It helps you to practice several different things all in one amazing pop punk masterpiece.

What next?

That just about concludes the Basket Case TAB and guitar lesson. Hope you enjoyed this one. I certainly enjoy playing it. Looking for more rock songs to learn? Give these two a try. 

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