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How to Play Bass Guitar for Beginners

Updated on September 29, 2010
Playing Bass Guitar
Playing Bass Guitar

Learn Bass Guitar

The bass guitar is the driving and rhythmic beat that holds every band together. Without a bass player, a band is a bench without nails, a book without its binding. The reason why the bass is such a vital instrument in a band is because it allows from a balance between highs and lows. So how do you learn bass guitar?

The Basics: Bass Anatomy.
In order to play bass guitar it is important that you first understand its features. A bass consists of four strings which are tuned in standard to E-A-D-G from top to bottom (thickest to thinnest strings). The two--occasionally one--metal bars located underneath the strings are known as pick-ups. Pick-ups receive and amplify string vibrations allowing sound to be emitted from an amp when the bass is plugged into an amplifier. The neck of the bass is the long narrow piece of wood jutting from the body. The neck consists of metal bars known as frets, and it is these frets that allow you to play different notes. On top of the neck sits the headstock and tuning pegs which allow for tuning adjustment of the strings.

How to Play Bass Guitar

Proper Positioning
Begin playing by sitting down on an armless chair that has allows you to comfortably rest your feet on the ground (you may choose to play standing up using a strap but it is recommended that you learn how to play sitting first). After you have made yourself comfortable, loosely grab the neck of your bass so that your thumb is on top and fingers wrapped around the bottom. This will allow you to play notes on the fret board.

Now with your neck hand that is loosely gripping the neck practice plucking the open strings (without pressing down on any of the frets) with your free hand, you should hear a crisp clean sound every time. You may use a pick to pluck the strings, but many bassist choose to use there fingers to do this. When plucking with your fingers pluck the area in between the neck and the pickup closest to the neck. This will allow for the deepest and warmest tone.

Fretting, the act of pressing the strings down to play different notes, is very important when you learn bass guitar. When you fret your bass, press down as close to the fret as possible without pressing directly down on the fret. This will eliminate all fret buzz and produce a clear vibrant sound. Begin by pressing down on the fifth fret of the E string (the largest) and once you are comfortable gradually move to the next string. It is a completely natural phenomenon for your fingers to hurt and eventually with practice you will develop calluses.

Playing Notes
To play a note simply change which fret you are fingering. The musical alphabet is consists of 12 notes A-A#-B-C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G# before it repeats itself. Each note is separated by a half step. In addition, each fret happens to be a half step. By beginning with an open string you may play a chromatic scale (a scale that increases by a half step gradually each time) by moving up one fret at a time until you have played all 12 notes.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Practicing is the key to getting better, practice plucking, fretting and playing notes so you will be able to learn more songs and hopefully one day be composing your own music.

How To Play Bass Guitar - Lessons for Beginners

Lessons for Beginners - Open Strings

Choosing a Bass Guitar for Beginner

To the beginning bass player, simply learning the basics of this instrument may seem to be quite elemental and easy. Unlike a guitar, there aren't finger-stretching chords to deal with, and also, unlike a guitar, the bassist only has four strings to be concerned with as opposed to a guitar's six strings. However, serious students of the bass know that the basics are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the seemingly simple instrument called "bass." As nearly any mildly experienced musician will tell you; "When the bass is played correctly, you'll hardly notice it, but when it's played incorrectly, you won't hear anything else."

The bass frequently sets the tone and tempo for a song, filling out the overall sound and providing the pulse that drives it. The most accomplished bassists have a unique sense of a song's overall "fullness," adapting their playing to what the other musician's are playing. Quite often, bassists are called the "glue" of a band, and for good reason.

The beginning bassist should choose their first instrument carefully. You want a bass that feels comfortable and is easy to handle, because almost all beginning guitarists and/or bassists learn early that until you become accustomed to the sometimes unorthodox wrist and finger action, it can become frustrating. The discomfort is only temporary and the results very satisfying, however.

Some of the best basses are made by Yamaha. They are well-made, easy to learn on and affordable. Fender also makes quality basses in several models at a relatively low cost, and the Fender Sound is matched by few others. Ibanez manufactures one of the most popular beginner bass guitars, noted for it's thin neck which is very helpful for a new player. The Gibson Epiphone Bass is also a favorite with beginners due to it's reputation and solid construction, although it may be slightly heavy until grown accustomed to.


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    • animshare profile image

      animshare 7 years ago from I

      Laura Philips, you're welcome. Thanks for your comment.