5 Reasons Why You Should Play the Bass
Whether you are planning on learning an instrument for the first time or you're looking for a second instrument to learn, you should try the bass out. The bass is a rhythm instrument that has four strings tuned to E, A, D and G, the same tuning of the first four strings of the guitar albeit a few octaves lower. Contrary to popular belief, the bass guitar did not come from the guitar. In fact, you could argue that the guitar came after the bass!
The bass guitar is a 'guitarified' version of the double bass, the huge cello-like instrument used to play the bass rhythm section in a band. The bass guitar was made so that the instrument would be easier to transport since the musicians back then traveled a lot and lugging the double bass all across the country would be a hassle.
If the bass guitar piqued your interest, here are a few reasons why you should learn to play it:
What is the root note?
A chord is made up of notes, and the base note in that group of notes is what we call the root note. For example: the C chord is composed of the notes C, E and G. Since it is the C chord, the root note is the C note.
1. It's easy to pick up...
Musical instruments are typically difficult to get into. To learn the guitar, you need to learn the different finger twisting chord positions. To learn the drums, you need to be able to use all four of your limbs simultaneously yet at the same time, separately. The bass however, is a bit different. While the guitar has chords and the drums have patterns, the bass have what we call notes. To play a note on the bass, you simply press a string down on a fret with your left hand and pluck it with your right. It's very easy to start playing once you know the basics and learning those basics is not difficult at all!
A song is usually composed of chord progressions. A guitarist provides melody while following the song's chord progression and a bassist provides rhythm while still playing over that same chord progression. As a beginner bassist, that means that all you need to do to start playing the bass is to play the root note of each chord in the song's chord progression in a repeating rhythmic pattern.
2. ... but it's hard to master
Despite the ease in starting to learn the bass, it's quite hard to master. To be a good bass player, you have to develop a sense of groove, a sense of feeling what the song is about and where it wants to go. You then fashion a bassline to direct it there all the while still keeping perfect rhythm and time since the bass is still primarily a rhythm instrument.
The advance techniques of bass playing are also very difficult as well. Things like slapping, popping, double thumb, left hand tapping, among others are already pretty difficult to do let alone master. Employing these techniques while controlling the direction of the song while keeping a sense of groove and rhythm is a skill that can only be mastered through years and years of practice.
3. Playing the bass rewards creativity
All musical instruments are tools to express our creativity. The bass is no different. In fact, being creative really brings out the best in bass playing. Although you're only required to play the root note of the chord progression, there's no harm in playing any other note as long as you keep your key signature, rhythm and time in check.
When jamming with others, bass players often experiment and play notes over the chord progression to see which works and which doesn't. You can even change the entire bass line of the song to give it your own twist. Sometimes, especially in Jazz bands, bass players even improvise. That means they make up the bass line that they are playing on the spot!
4. You start listening to a wider variety of genres
As you start getting better, you also start listening to the intricacies of the songs you listen to in order to adapt the bass style to your own playing. As a result, you will start listening to songs from different genre. Different genres have different playing styles, from the distorted sound of heavy metal to the more groovy sound of funk to the walking finger style of jazz. Often times, you'll gain a new found appreciation for the new genres you listen to and as a result, you become a well rounded music lover.
5. Your musical outlook matures
Bass players are rarely under the spotlight. The bass is not as flashy as the guitar or the drums but that's okay! Bass players don't really care if they're not being adored by a legion of fans. They're in it for the music. You will be up on stage, content with simply nodding your head to the beat as you play, not because you've given up the spotlight but because you don't need it. You're there to keep the music together, to keep the groove going. You're up there to make music, and that's what you're going to do.
Being a bassist has an added plus if you plan on going professional with your music instrument. There are a more drummers and guitarists as there are bassists so being a bassist means you can get gigs and sessions easier!
If you're interested in playing the bass, I suggest trying one out to see if it's for you. Look for a cheap bass or a used one when you go to your local guitar shop. Remember, playing an instrument is a calling, and the bass is no different. Play with it, learn with it and don't forget to have fun with it!