How To Play Electric Bass Guitar
If you love music because of its driving, rhythmic force, you should consider learning how to play electric bass guitar. Though frequently overlooked, the bass plays a key role in realizing the mood of a piece and can also work in combination with the percussion to form a powerful rhythm section.
You will need the following:
- an electric bass
- an instrument cable
- a bass tuner
- a bass amplifier (a bass will easily blow out a regular guitar amp)
- a bass pick (optional)
- a strap (optional)
- instructional book (optional, but highly recommended)
- Holding the bass. Holding a standard bass guitar is like holding a regular guitar except that it will feel slightly heavier. The neck should face to your left and the thickest string should be closest to your chest. The curve of the bass body should rest comfortably on your thigh. If you're standing up, make sure that the strap is adjusted so that the bass is in a comfortable position for you to play.
- Plugging in. Plug one end of your instrument cable into the input jack on your bass (near the tone/volume knobs). Plug the other end into the input jack of your bass amp.
- Tuning your bass. Tune your strings to E-A-D-G (low to high) with a bass tuner. Then learn how to tune by other methods, so you can tune independently.
- Playing your bass. Chances are, you want to play bass because of the music you listen to, so select a song with a minimal bass line. Go through the song and find each note. It might help you to write down the string and fret numbers of the notes so that you can find them again. The same note can be played on every string, so try to group your notes close together. This way it will be easier to move among them. Once you learn the notes, try to play them with the song. Once you can do that, play them without the song. At this point, and for the rest of your bass career, your goal should be to play the notes as precisely and clearly as possible. In the long run, how you play matters more to a listener than what you play.
- Picking technique. There are two main ways to play the strings of a bass guitar, with your fingers and with a bass pick. Jazz and Funk bassists often use their fingers because they make direct contact with the strings and allow more control over the volume and expression of the notes. Punk and Rock bassists will often use a bass pick to get a more aggressive sound that is dynamically consistent.
- Scales and chord tones. After you feel comfortable playing a couple songs, you might want to learn more about how they function. For a bass player, this is where scales come in. Because the bassist's job is to ground the piano and guitar chords, he or she must know how chords work. Chords are made by taking certain notes from a scale. For example, to play a C major chord, a guitarist will take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tone from the C major scale (C, E and G). Those played simultaneously make a C major chord. As a bassist, you will usually play only one of those notes, most often the chord's root note ("1st" or the C from the this example). Learn major and minor scales first (this will enlarge your understanding of the songs you can already play), and then learn chord tones. It will expand your range of expression.
- Play with a band or with friends. This is important to do because it will give you the chance to grow and an opportunity to participate in a group setting, which as all sorts of communicational value. Learning from books and recordings is important, but participating in the production of music, be it a live performance or a recording, should be your end goal. Good luck and have fun.