There's a lot to learn isn't there?
It might seem like learning bass is an endless winding road of scales, techniques, and practice but, actually, there aren't that many things you need to master.
Here are fifteen tips for you that I've learned over nearly twenty years of earning a living as a bass player.
Scroll down for links to lessons that you can take to dive a little deeper.
Skills that other musicians value above all others
People in your band or in the audience don't care about your latest double thumbing lick or the new distortion pedal you just bought. They want you to play:
- In time
- With good taste
- With great tone
That's pretty much it so focus on those areas.
Complete Bass Tone Rundown
10 Ultimate Groove/Feel/Timing Tips
Two areas that make bass playing easier
These areas are technique and a good sense of rhythm. They get you out of so much trouble and allow you to express yourself freely on the bass not to mention bypassing any feelings of frustration you might have due to struggling with your bass.
In short, work on your technique and timing. My book Creative Bass Technique Exercises is filled with fun sounding musical exercises that reflect the real world of music.
10 Important Bass Guitar Technique Tips
The Most Common Rhythms (& How To Use Them)
Learn different styles of music
There is SO much you can learn from the intricacies of different genres. From beat placement, to tone, to note selection, note length, to harmony.
The list is endless.
The more you know, the more rounded a bassist you will become.
10 EASY Bass Lines, 1 Chord Progression (Part 1)
10 EASY Bass Lines, 1 Chord Progression (Part 2)
Master bass by learning MUSIC
Don't obsess over anything apart from learning lots and lots and lots of bass lines. Stick with simple lines that you like and that are achievable and then start to broaden your horizons.
Here's a load of cool bass music for you!
Be aware of the key bassists in history (& develop YOUR voice)
The way to acquire your own vibe on bass is to listen to as many of the best bass players from history as you can. Add what you like to your playing and discard what you don't.
You'll be left sounding like you and nobody else.
Don't copy one player, listen widely.
The number 1 musical skill
This one's simple: it's having a strong ear. Ask any professional contemporary musician and they will have that at the top of their list. Combine this with good technique and sense of rhythm and you're laughing!
Fun Movie Themes On Bass (Learning By Ear)
Figure Out Bass Lines By Ear - INTERVAL Shapes
Music theory unlocks creativity
Knowledge isn't power, it's creativity. For musicians, knowledge equates to knowing the nuts and bolts:
These areas are crucial for reading, interpreting charts, improvising, composing, and strengthening your ear. Once you learn the basics, music theory will change your life.
10 Music Theory Tips For Bass Players
The Most Useful Bass Song To Learn EVER?
You don't have to be a technical wizard
I've rarely been called on in a professional musical situation to whip out the bass pyrotechnics. Sure, you have the odd moment where you play a bass solo but, even then, you can be really tasteful and minimal.
I'm not saying don't work on your technique (because you absolutely should). I'm saying that all those Instagram and YouTube bass geniuses you hear (who are amazing!) don't represent what most bass players are required to play in most styles of music.
Learn that the bass is generally an instrument that lays down the foundation for the music, providing the low end and the heart and soul.
If you have a gig, recital, concert, rehearsal, or session, make sure you know what you're doing when you walk in. Sometimes you'll be asked to improvise and you won't know what you're going to play.
But that situation is also about how you've prepared and practised. Have you got your reading and improvisation skills down?
Then the gig will be a piece of cake.
How To Split Up Your Practice Time (Get Better Quicker)
12 Really Useful Practice Tips For Bass Players
NO ONE cares about your gear
Unfortunately, it's true 🙁
Whilst there's a huge industry fuelling G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), you don't need much to sound good and most of the time you won't be using fancy pedals.
There are, of course, exceptions to this but focus your energy on improving your skills and not damaging your wallet.
Some musicians do seem to love a Fender Precision
This is just something I've noticed in my experience and reading hundreds of interviews with session players. It's just a sound that fits in many different situations. P bass tone doesn't sound that exciting on a YouTube video but it does work perfectly in most mixes.
Getting Different Tones From A Fender Precision Bass
Vintage Bass: Fender vs MusicMan vs Rickenbacker vs Gibson. Which One's Best??
Be professional, prepared, punctual, and easy to get on with
The last point is the most important. Be someone that other people want to hang out with. Play some half decent bass and you've got yourself a gig!
Seriously though, you're part of a team when you make music so have a professional mindset and you'll reap the rewards.
A really useful skill is to be able to read and make charts
After the initial effort of learning to read notation and make and read your own charts, the amount of time you save is insane! Not to mention the joy and improvement you can get from easily finding and learning new music.
The internet and TAB sites have turned reading into a dying art. Put effort into this area and you'll be able to teach yourself and progress faster.
BEGINNER Bass lesson Reading Simple Rhythms
Reading Music On The Bass Guitar: The Very Basics Part 1 - Note Names And Locations
Befriend great drummers
Find an amazing drummer and hang on to their coat-tails. Not only will they help you improve your game, they'll get gigs and (hopefully) bring you along for the ride.
You only need to know a few things (but REALLY well)
I hope you enjoyed that. I know there's a lot there for you to practise but take one thing at a time and be consistent with your playing. You WILL get better in time, there's no question about that.
If you do want me to walk you through the elements of great bass playing, I have a course From Beginner To Bassist which teaches a lot of these core concepts. It's comprised of eighty video lessons and a PDF with backing tracks and loads of tips on ear training, technique, theory, improvising and lots more.
In fact, after the beginning section, it's suitable for most intermediate bass players too. Click the link below to check it out!