You've got a bass guitar, now you want to learn about how to place your fingers on that bass guitar. Well, you first have to decide what style you want to play. Do you want to pick, play with your fingers, or slap? No matter what way you choose, you first have to know how to place the fingers of your left hand on the bass. Unlike with a guitar, you want to keep the fingers of your left hand flat against the strings of the bass. Since the frets are farther apart, you can place your fingers on the bass guitar's frets without any nasty sounding "fret buzz." You'll often find that if you try to use the tips of your fingers, like when you play guitar, you won't get a solid-sounding note. That's the easy part about learning how to place your fingers on the bass guitar. Now, think about how you want to place the fingers of your right hand on the bass guitar.
- Picking a bass guitar isn't difficult. It is exactly the same as picking a normal guitar, although you will want to use a hard pick and strum with the duller edges, rather than the point, since bass strings are stiffer. There's no trick to learning how to place your fingers on the bass with this method, because you just hold the pick between your thumb and index finger and strum, while your left hand is placed on the frets in the position of various chords.
- Finger Playing a bass requires a whole different tactic. The most important part about placing your fingers on a bass guitar when you are playing with your fingers is to keep your thumb on the thumb guard, the square piece of plastic that is placed above the strings. You can also rest your thumb on the top of the uppermost string (E) if the thumb guard is poorly placed. Use the flats of your index finger and middle finger to strum at the top string to get the hang of this position. When you get used to it, try using your ring finger to add faster rhythms.
- Slapping a bass requires another different technique. Make a fist with your right hand, then stick your thumb out. Hit the strings with this thumb and be sure to slap the strings where they meet the neck of the bass guitar, rather than where you play them when you play with your fingers- this will give the notes a fuller sound. Once you've mastered this technique, you can hit one note with your thumb, then pluck (see below) the next note with your index finger.
- Muting is a technique that you want to learn right away when you're learning how to place fingers on the bass guitar. When you play with your fingers, play a string, then let the next finger fall against it to stop the string from vibrating. When you slap, play your notes (usually a thumb-slap, then a pluck), then just slightly lift your left hand so that your fingers are still placed on the frets but without enough pressure to make notes. If you don't mute, you will have multiple notes ringing as you try to play different strings.
- Plucking is slightly different, because you don't keep your thumb on the thumb guard. You instead play the strings with the tips of your fingers. For soft, melodic notes, just brush the strings with your fingers. For harsher notes, like when you're slapping, hook the string with your finger.
You have to learn about how to place your fingers on the bass guitar before you can actually play it. There is very little difference in the way you place the fingers of your left hand, but you have to pay attention to the way you place your right hand's fingers, because that will define the style of music you are playing. Now that you have the basics, go have fun and make some noise!