How To Play the Bass Guitar

how to play bass play guitar

Playing the bass may be one of the most sought after activities, ever. What else gives you the power to shake the house and anchor the song? Bass is the one instrument that people can not only hear, but feel - no wonder it fits perfectly with drums. Before you schedule that world tour, you may want to actually learn the instrument first! Here are some tips:

1 Tuning the Bass Guitar

Before you start playing, the bass should be properly tuned. The standard tuning used on the electric bass is, from the lower to the highest pitched string, E A D G. It is tuned the same as a double bass, which is an octave lower than the bottom four strings of a standard sixstringed guitar. To achieve this tuning, simple try each note on our glorious bass guitar tuner and try to match the sound. Try and test your accuracy with a digital tuner as well. Over time, using this combo will improve your hearing and hoist your playing to new heights.

Once the E string is tuned you can fret it at the 5th fret and this will play an A, which is the note that the string below should be tuned to. You can use this method to tune the remaining strings and impress others while doing so! Having an electronic tuner will verify the accuracy of your ears. Take your time and never start playing until the bass is all tuned up and ready to play.

2 Playing the Bass Guitar

Once the strings are tuned, the bass guitar can be plugged into an amplifier or even a computer. The key is to let those deep notes permeate your very existence. Spend some time getting comfortable holding it and playing notes without getting that buzzing sound. This buzz comes from not pushing the string down hard enough, but over time those fingers will strengthen and clamp down like a pitbull on a T-bone.

Although many bassists develop monster techniques and experience delusions of grandeur, the fundamental role of the bass is to hold the harmonic scheme of the composition and to accentuate the rhythmic section, along with the drums and other percussion instruments. You can either pluck it with a pick or with your fingers, both resulting in distinct tones. The usual way to pluck the strings with your fingers (pizzicato) is to use the index and the middle finger alternately, although many artists use other finger combinations. The right hand's thumb usually rests either on the side of the fretboard or on the top edge of a pickup while plucking the strings.

You can pluck the string at any length, be it near to the bridge or up in the neck; as you'll notice, this produces different timbres, ranging from taut to loose. Some bassists pluck the strings with their thumb while muting the strings with the palm of their hand in order to emulate the double bass sound. There are many other techniques which are more complex and advanced, such as slapping and popping, applied by many contemporary bass players.

When fretting, try to use a finger for each fret (referring to the left hand; for example, your index finger on the first fret, the middle finger on the second, and so on) as this will prepare you for further complex bass lines and scale practices; jumping from distant frets in order to use the same finger will prove hard and counterproductive when you're faced with faster songs or harder sequences. Learn some scales so that you're able to play bass lines which sound perfectly along the played key and study the fretboard.

Understanding your instrument helps for jamming and composing. The trick to success is to slowly build up confidence in the routines, so that the essentials are properly covered and no technical quirks stop you from playing harder songs. If you don't know where to start, try selecting a song with a simple bass line. To learn how to fret the bass line and if you have no knowledge on reading music sheets, you can easily find tabs.

3 Maintenance and Basic Care

The sound of the bass guitar relies heavily on the strings' condition. In other words, if you want to maintain a bright and defined sound you should change the strings regularly. One way to prevent the strings from wearing out quickly is to wipe the fretboard with a dry cloth after spraying them with 'Finger Ease' then cleaning off your dead skin! This also helps them last longer. When you're changing the strings, take advantage of the exposed fretboard to check it for dirt. It usually piles up against the frets and it compromises the durability and sound of the strings: to clean the wood on the fingerboard use specialized fretboard oil (available at music stores) and cloth; to clean the frets by lightly rubbing them with 0000 steel wool. As with other wooden musical instruments, the humidity and temperature conditions of the space where it's kept at affect its 'health'. Remember to keep it in dry conditions and safely cased when not using it. Also, remember to play it!

Written by Ben Long

Ben Long is a composer, sound designer and lover of all guitars, new and used. His music and sounds can heard in countless video games and across every major TV network. When he's not making music, you can find Ben tinkering with technology. Find him on and say howdy!

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