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Bass Guitar 101

Updated on April 30, 2015

Bass Guitar 101 - Learn to play bass today

Bass guitar is so easy to play and the good news is that bass guitars have never been more affordable so why not start learning today? This Bass Guitar 101 page will set out some basic tips to get you started on bass guitar. While singers and lead guitarists fight for the limelight we all know music would be nothing without the bass and drums. Bass players provide the pulse and the drive in music and if you already play guitar it is an easy move to make too. It's a wonderful feeling to be in the driving seat! Just remember less is more in bass - the power is all! So let's start to play bass guitar today!

Graphics used on this page are all my own work. Please do not copy!

Open Strings on Bass Guitar - Bass Guitar open strings in standard tuning.

Bass Guitar Open Strings
Bass Guitar Open Strings

Simple chord progression using open strings

If you know the open bass strings, you may already have enough to play a song!

Try these chord sequences with a simple basic rock rhythm:

DUM DA DUM (pause)

DUM DA DUM (pause)

A / / / D / / / A / / / E / / / A / / / D / / / A / E / A / / /

D / / / D / / / G / / / D / / / A / / / G / / / A / / / D / / /

Bass Guitar Notes in First Position - Learn to play bass guitar with Open Position Bass Notes

bass guitar notes open position
bass guitar notes open position

Why do you have to learn note names?

You are going to ask me why you need to know note names aren't you? After all, you can use guitar TAB! Well, of course you can, but the beauty of knowing note names on your bass is that you can play and communicate with other musicians, such as keyboard players. You can look at a lead sheet with melody and chord letters and straight away make up your own bass lines. That can be a challenge in jazz, but it is always satisfying! Good bass players understand the theory they need to communicate with other musicians who can't play from fret numbers!

If you want to learn a little more about rhythm notation and playing in time, click on the picture. This will take you to my website where you can download a pdf and play along with a little backtrack I put together. You will need F# too - the one you need for the "rundown" is 2nd fret on the E string.

Bass Guitar Packages for Beginners - Everything you need to start to play bass guitar!

When you first start, a package is a good deal. You can always upgrade guitar and amp individually as you progress. Starting at less than $100, these packages are suitable for anyone. It is virtually impossible to play bass guitar without an amp or strap, the low notes are hard to hear without that little boost from the bass amp, so a kit that includes them is very useful. Any old guitar amp won't do for bass as the lower frequencies demand a more robust and much larger speaker cone just to survive at medium volume! Here is a small selection of instruments to look at.

Practice improvising simple bass lines with this book and CD combo

RGT - Improvising Bass Guitar, Early Stages [Paperback]

Practice improvising bass with this simple course - basic, informative and easy to follow.

Bass guitar notes for improvising simple bass lines

Taking that a step further, here are all the notes in nut position. You now have enough information to play a simple bassline in any key! I will be stopping by to add another lesson soon, so don't forget to practice with the rhythm reading backtrack and meanwhile here is a great bass course I recommend for beginners. It leads to recognised exams too!

More Bass Guitar Notes - the sharps and flats - Notes in open position including accidentals

bass guitar notes including sharps and flats
bass guitar notes including sharps and flats

Bass Exams set a target to reach

RGT - Bass Guitar Playing Grade 3 To 5 Intermediate [Perfect Paperback]

RGT - Bass Guitar Playing Grade 3 To 5 Intermediate has everything you need to learn to play classic rock and blues styles.

This provides an ideal course for the improver bass player. You might already be playing in a band? This will improve knowledge and skills and take you to the next level.

RGT - Bass Guitar Playing, Early Grades Book [Perfect Paperback]

First Exams in Bass Guitar from the Registry of Guitar Tutors. A practical course that will teach musicianship.

These exams extend from complete beginner to professional level.

Rgt Bass Guitar Playing Advanced Gr 6-8 L (London College of Music Handbooks for Certificate Examinations in Bass Guitar Playing) [Paperback]

Rgt Bass Guitar Playing Advanced Grades 6-8 takes you high up the fretboard and into the realms of advanced bass and jazz.

The RGT exam syllabus focuses on technical skills and improvisation and this level gives you everything you need to be an accomplished player.

Bass Player Chat - Please leave a comment here!

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I love music but unfortunately have zero musical talent. I would love to be able to play theis Bass Guitar.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • profile image

      Kurage LM 

      7 years ago

      Nice Lens.

      I love the bass and the sound it makes.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens - good solid info for beginners on the Bass - really useful resource to have to hand. Been playing the Bass for about six months or so now - very cool instrument :-)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm a lead guitarist, but this guy told me if I could play bass in his band for a show and I agreed. It was actually pretty fun and I could learn the songs very quick too.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm a lead guitarist, but this guy told me if I could play bass in his band for a show and I agreed. It was actually pretty fun and I could learn the songs very quick too.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hey! You know what, this pushed me a lot more to learn how to play the bass. Now I'm about to enroll on some music lessons. :) Thanks to this lens, it gave me a bit of advantage with regards to the chords. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I just started playing bass seriously (already play guitar). Good advice!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Wish something like this was available back when I started!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great page. Don't let any of the stereotypes about bass players get to you. The bass can be as complex and intricate an instrument as you let it be and I'll refer you to Victor Wooten as proof.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 

      8 years ago

      Great page that teaches us how to play a basic chord on the bass. I play guiter but my brother is a musician and he playes the bass. To me the bass and drums have the leading rhythm in a song. My brother has a fender bass and an Ernie Ball Music Man Sting Ray 5. A bass with 5 strings that sounds great :)

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      You know, I relate better to guitars, and the bass guitar strings are harder on my fingers, but my brother and one son play the bass, and I love the ease of composition with it. Lovely page as always! Merry Christmas!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great lens for learning bass.


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