Have you ever felt the music instead of just hearing it? If so, you can probably thank the bass guitar. With its low, deep, vibrating sound, the bass guitar sets the beat that we feel in our bones. It sets the groove to our tunes. So if you’ve decided to take up the bass guitar, you’ve made a wise choice. Not only is it fun to play and feel, but you’ll quickly gain fans who want to listen. Don’t feel intimidated by this powerful-sounding instrument. The bass guitar is easy to play with a little patience and perseverance. Let’s take a look at a beginner’s guide to playing bass guitar so that you can get your fingers strumming.
What You’ll Need
The first step in playing the bass guitar is gathering your supplies. You won’t need a lot, but you do need a bit more than just the guitar itself. Start with the following pieces of equipment:
The Bass Guitar
First and foremost, you need a rockin’ bass guitar. Easy enough, right? Not really. There are plenty to choose from, which can be great but a little overwhelming. When choosing a new guitar, consider these five factors:
- Budget: That word we can’t escape when we want something — budget. Just remember your budget is in place to help you. Sure, you dream of an auctioned, autographed bass signed by Duff of Guns N’ Roses, but your budget says beginner bass guitar. Stick with the budget, and try to avoid looking at the next shiny bass just above what you can afford.
- 4 Strings or 5: A basic bass guitar has four strings. Those four strings are basically the same as the bottom four strings on a regular guitar, but they’re an octave lower. If you already play guitar, this makes picking up the bass a breeze. The fifth string adds another octave, a lower-pitched B to be exact. It’s helpful when playing more complicated pieces because your fingers won’t have to move as far. However, as a beginner, it may add more confusion than it’s worth, so it’s probably best to start with the four-string and move up from there once you’re confident.
- You’ve Got Style: Well, at least you will when you start playing the bass guitar. When choosing your new bass, you need to find your style. It may not seem that important, but how a guitar feels in your hands affects the way you play. You’ll be connected to this powerful instrument regularly, so make sure you love how it looks and feels. Bass guitars come in just about every color and include tonewoods, such as mahogany, basswood, alder, maple, and rosewood.
- What Type of Music: The type of music you intend to play helps determine your choice in a bass guitar. There are a few different types of bass guitars, but the most common are the jazz bass and the precision bass. Either is a great place to start and can play any kind of music; it’s all in how you use it. Still, each guitar will have its own sound, so do a few test runs before you choose.
- Purchase: This isn’t too complicated. You need to decide if you’ll purchase online or in-store. Online opens up the options immensely, but buying in-store gives more opportunity to ask questions and test out the bass guitar options. Maybe do a little searching both ways and, of course, find the best deal.
An amplifier does what it says—it amplifies the electric bass guitar. Without it, the bass guitar won’t sound the way it’s designed to sound. A small amplifier is fine to start out with, somewhere around 100–200 watts. Don’t forget any cables you’ll need to hook up the guitar to the amplifier.
The best part of choosing an instrument like the bass guitar is its ability to go where you need it to go. With a nice, strong case, you can take your bass guitar just about anywhere. Invest in a good one from the start so that you’re ready when it’s time to travel for lessons or your first gig.
Please don’t try to cut costs by not purchasing a bass guitar strap upfront. Within minutes of trying to play, you’ll regret having to focus on holding the guitar in place. A bass guitar strap gives you more freedom of movement and protects the guitar so that you can focus on playing.
Don’t let reading music intimidate you if you’re new to it. It’s an important skill—one you’ll pick up quickly as you practice. Grab some fun sheet music as you begin. Start with basic stuff to help you learn, but also buy something challenging to help you reach your goals. Maybe there’s a piece out there that made you want to play bass guitar. Keep it on hand, and work your way up to it.
Some people have the ability to pick up an instrument and simply teach themselves how to play it. However, if you want to learn bass guitar, it’s a good idea to take instruction from a pro. Without that more formal training, you’ll likely pick up bad habits in your playing style that will make things more difficult down the road as you learn new skills and songs.
There are two options for bass guitar lessons—an online course or an in-person teacher. Both work well, depending on your learning style. If you need accountability, choose an in-person lesson. If you prefer to knock things out on your own, you might do well with an online course.
Practice Makes Progress
Last but not least, you’ll need to practice, practice, and then practice some more. You can’t practice your bass guitar too much (unless you live with someone and it’s driving them nuts). Don’t expect to progress to another level without practice. Like most things in life, since we’re all so busy, you’ll benefit from scheduling practice time for yourself. Remember, it isn’t selfish. Learning an instrument is a form of self-care that’s great for your mind and coordination—plus, it’s just plain fun.
There you have it: our beginner’s guide to playing bass guitar. With just a few pieces of equipment, some lessons, and a great attitude, you’ll be helping others feel the music before you know it.
At Yandas Music, we’re a bit passionate about what we do, and it shows. Check out our online store to buy an electric bass guitar and everything else you need to get started. Give us a call, stop in, or shop around our online store for all your music needs.