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Advice on Playing the Bass Guitar!

By Yann, published on 26/03/2019 Blog > Music > Guitar > How to Play Bass

“Bass guitar is the engine of the band.” – Suzi Quatro

Knowing how to play the bass is initially simpler than playing the drums or the guitar. Nevertheless, a bass guitarist is an essential part of every band and has to understand rhythm and melody in order to unite the whole band.

Would you like to learn how to play the bass like the greats?

In this article, we’re going to look at the reasons why you should learn to play bass, how a beginner can choose their first bass, the equipment they’ll need, and how often you’ll need to practise.

Why Learn to Play the Bass?

Learning to play the bass isn’t often the first thing people think of when they want to play an instrument. When it came to music lessons, it was much easier to imagine myself playing the piano, guitar, or drums.

Why should you learn to play the bass? There are plenty of good reasons to learn to play the bass guitar. (Source: 6554)

Of course, this depends on everyone’s taste but the bass still isn’t the most popular instrument. A lot of people know someone who plays the guitar.

Do you know someone who plays bass?

Not wanting to be like everyone else is a great reason for learning how to play the bass guitar. It’ll also help you when it comes to joining a rock, bossa nova, or jazz fusion group.

Need more reasons to start playing bass guitar?

It’s initially easier for beginners to play the bass than the acoustic guitar or electric guitar! An acoustic bass or electric bass usually has just four strings whereas guitars usually have six.

Tuning is easier, as a result. When you first start, you’ll just be focusing on rhythm rather than melody. If you have big hands, it’s also easier to play four strings rather than six.

The bass is often used to keep time with the drums but it’s much easier to transport than a whole drum kit. If you plug in your headphones to your bass amp, you can practise without making too much noise!

May the groove be with you!

What Bass Should a Beginner Buy?

Whether you’re getting bass guitar lessons in a music school or teaching yourself how to play bass, you’ll probably need to buy a bass guitar.

Which bass should I buy? There are different basses for different styles. (Source: 6554)

As a beginner, you don’t need to buy an expensive bass guitar. Firstly, you’re probably not sure how long you’re going to be playing the bass and it’d be silly to spend a fortune when the first few things you play are probably going to sound awful regardless of your gear.

Do you need some encouragement?

Having paid for a bass guitar should encourage you.

Choose a 4-string bass to get started. The bass can be easier to learn when you first start playing given the fact it has fewer strings. You don’t need any more than that to practise your fingering.

The type of wood won’t matter when you’re just getting started. You probably won’t know whether you prefer a warm tone, a lot of sustain, or a clear sound until you’ve played for a bit. Ash and alder give a balanced sound. Mahogany gives a rich sound and maple can give you sustain.

You should pay attention to the neck as well. Choose a standard length, 34 inches, unless it’s for a child, then you should get a short scale (30”). The neck should be as thin and narrow as possible so that you work on your dexterity and reach the strings more easily.

You don’t need to empty your wallet to get a bass since you can always get an unknown brand. That said, it will be more difficult to sell it on if you want to get rid of it. Here are some popular entry-level models:

  • Ibanez GSR200
  • Yamaha TRBX174 or TRBX304
  • Cort Action Bass
  • Epiphone Les Paul Special or Toby Deluxe IV
  • Peavey Zodiac BXP

To save some money, you can also get second-hand basses. In this case, you should check the following:

  • Fret wear.
  • The dials (pots) should be fixed and not turn endlessly.
  • The strings should sit close to the fretboard (action).
  • The neck shouldn’t be curved.

What Equipment Does a Beginner Bassist Need?

Once you’ve bought your instrument, you’ll also need to invest in some bass equipment and tools that’ll help you to learn.

What equipment do bassists need? If you play an electric bass, you’ll need an amp. (Source: microart1)

You’ll need to start with an amplifier. For electric basses, you won’t get any real sound out of them if you don’t have an amp. It’s difficult to play a riff or a song if you can’t hear anything.

Again, you don’t need to bankrupt yourself buying one. An amp between 15W and 40W will be sufficient when it comes to learning how to play. For under £200, you can find decent amps, especially those from Fender.

Don’t forget that you’ll also need to pick up a cable. A decent quality cable will set you back between £10 and £20. Monophonic is fine as it’s highly unlikely that your bass will have stereo output.

You can play the bass by fingerpicking but if you want to learn how to play quickly and save your fingerprints, you might want to pick up some plectrums. This will cost you nearly nothing. In fact, most picks cost less than £1. Since the strings on a bass are thicker than those on a guitar, you’ll need a thicker plectrum.

You’ll probably also want to invest in a tuner. When you first start, you probably won’t be able to tune by ear. It’s probably better to trust a precise tool. If you don’t want to buy one, you can also download apps for your computer or smartphone.

A metronome will help you keep time and a strap will be useful for playing it while standing up. You might also want a case if you plan on taking your bass anywhere and a music stand is a good idea if you know how to read sheet music or tablature.

How Often Should You Practise Playing Bass?

Learning an instrument is easier said than done. You might think that you just have to pick up the bass and start playing along to the beat. It’s more than that.

How often should you practise bass? Make sure you establish clear goals. (Source: rawpixel)

To really become a good bass player, you need to make your bass guitar playing a part of your lifestyle.

Do you know why you decided to learn the bass? To join a band? To improvise or compose music? To accompany you while you sing?

You need to keep this reason in mind when you’re practising so that you can set appropriate and achievable goals. Before you join a band, you’ll need to learn how to tune your bass, work on your playing, and keep time, etc. If you want to write your own music or improvise, you’ll need to be familiar with scales and harmonies. If you want to sing along, you’ll need to work on multitasking as well as harmonising your voice with your instrument.

You also need to think about how often you’re going to play bass.

30 minutes a day? Every other day? 10 minutes every day?

Put together a practice schedule to help you achieve your goals more quickly. Plan ahead and make sure you know what you’re going to be working on every time you pick up your bass and how long you expect it to take. A good session should last around an hour. This should give you enough time to warm up, work on a technique, and study some theory.

If you don’t have an hour each day, don’t worry. It’s better to play 15 minutes each day than two hours once a week. Your brain needs repetition to learn new skills and techniques.

Even without your bass, you can pay attention to rhythm and work on your timekeeping. You can always work on something.

So are you ready to start with some bass lessons?

You can get bass tutorials from a tutor on Superprof. In fact, there are three types of tutorials available: private tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.

Private tutorials are one on one lessons with a bass tutor and you’ll get bespoke tuition from your tutor.

Online tutorials are offered remotely via a service such as Skype.

Group tutorials are more like a traditional class at school but cheaper because the cost is shared amongst the students in attendance.

Many of the tutors on Superprof also offer the first hour of tutoring for free so you can see what they offer, whether you get along, and plan some learning objectives for some upcoming lessons.

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