How to Play Bass Guitar - Essential Beginner's Guide - Music Grotto (2023)


Despite not having the limelight as muchas lead guitar, thatbasguitarremains essential in a musical arrangement. Regardless of the genre, the bass is essential in gluing the band's instruments together, giving the music an intimate feel.

Here is an essential guide on how to play the bass guitar.

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The bass guitar is a more accessible version of the older upright bass. With the design ofelectric guitar technologyusing the guitarpickupsandamplifiers, the bass guitar was born. This instrument is present in many kinds of bands and musical groups across virtually every genre.


A good bass player enhances both the sound and feel of a musical group by contributing to what is called a bass line.

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The bass line typically supports the higher pitched parts of the other instruments while also collaborating with the drum part. Rounding out the arrangement of the higher instruments and playing alongside the drummer, the bass line locks all the band's instruments together.

For those wondering how to play the bass guitar, the journey begins with choosing the right bass guitar for you.

Choice of bass guitar

There are many different kinds of bass guitars on the market today, and there are many companies that make basses for both beginners and professional bass players. Since there are many types of bass guitars and a wide price range, keep in mind that you want the best value for a bass that fits the genre you want to play.


For starters, don't buy the most expensive bass you can find. Instead, find a bass that meets the budget you set.

You want to spend enough money on a bass that feels comfortable to you, that doesn't cost a fortune to get started. The best method is to do some research before making your purchase. You can go to your local music store and ask for a good bass that fits your price range. You can also look up reviews online for bass guitars that other musicians say are good for beginners.

Instead of looking at the brand and the fancy features, look for value. If you have a music store nearby, be sure to sit down with the bass guitars. They need one that feels comfortable to hold and play with.


The design of a bass guitar will make it better for specific genres of music.

While there is no wrong decision to choose a bass for a particular genre, if you know what style of music you want to play, you can look for a bass that complements that style. A major factor that determines a bass guitar sound is the pickups.

Different pickups will produce louder and more aggressive tones from your bass, so you can choose a bass equipped with an ideal pickup for your genre. For louder or heavier music like rock or metal, you can look for humbucker pickups. For other genresi'm jazz, country or rock, you can look for single-coil pickups.

Read next:Try some easy country guitar songs

Parts of the bass guitar

Once you have purchased your bass, the next step is to learn the different parts of the bass guitar.

Knowing the names of these pieces will help youtake bass lessonsbecause your teacher will probably refer to different parts of your bass guitar when instructing you. Parts on your bass may also need to be replaced, so it helps to know the terms so you can search for them or ask for help.


Thebass guitar bodyis the large round piece that houses the pickups and anchors the strings.

Basses come in different shapes and sizes. The shape of your bass's body is usually the identifying factor. Inside the body are the instrument's electronic wires that make it possible to amplify and contribute to the sound.


The bridge of your bass anchors the strings to the body. This is where your right hand will rest when you play your bass guitar.


Pickups are typically rectangular in shape and sit between the end of the neck and the bridge of the bass guitar.The pickupsare magnets that convert the frequencies that you create when you play the bass strings into an electrical signal so that your bass guitar can be heard through an amplifier.

Pickups are important to the sound your bass guitar will make.


The neck is the longer part of the bass guitar that is attached to the body. The neck is where your left hand will support the bass guitar. You will also find frets that make the fingerboard here.


On the neck, metal pieces are encased in the wood. It's tape. They act as reference points for your left hand to position its fingers as you play.


The main trunk is on the opposite side of the neck to the body. It is the part of the bass guitar that houses the machine heads or tuners. In addition, the neck gives the strings an opposing anchor with the bridge.


Tuners are the large metal pieces on the neck. When you turn a tuner, you either relieve or increase the tension on the bass guitar string. It will make the sound of the bass string higher or lower.


Although not directly a part of the bass guitar, your amp is a necessary part of your bass guitar playing journey. Your amp makes your bass guitar sound louder; otherwise, the bass is difficult to hear during training and performance.

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You'll find a volume control on most amps, and other amps may have bass, mid, or treble controls.

Before turning on your amp, use a guitar cable with a ¼ inch plug to connect it to your bass guitar. Connect the cable to the connector with Input above it. If you have bass, mid, and treble controls, you can set them all to what is called "midday" or have them all set to halfway to full.

These controls will help you shape your tone, but setting these controls to midday will do it for simplicity. You can always fine-tune your tone later when you have more experience. Finally, turn the volume all the way down before turning on the amplifier.

Amplifiers, even small ones, can surprise first-time users with how loud they can sound. Hold the volume down and then turn on the amplifier. From there, pluck away at one of the strings and slowly raise the volume until you reach a reasonable volume that is not too low or too loud.

Next:Best Bass Players Ever (Our Pick)

Tune your bass

One of the essential skills to learn in your bass guitar journey is how totune the open strings on the bass. Since you'll likely be playing as part of an ensemble, you'll be playing the basic notes of each chord. So if the bass player is out of tune, the whole band will sound and feel out of tune as well.

The open strings

Sit down with your bass guitar on your lap so that your body rests on your right leg and the neck extends out to the left. Your bass guitar has four strings.

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From top to bottom, or thickest string to thinnest string, the strings are E, A, D, and G. These notes are the standard tuning for the bass guitar. Remember that G is the string closest to your leg when you are sitting, and E is the thickest string, farthest away from your leg.

When tuning your bass guitar, you want all four bass guitar strings to be in tune. Electronic tuners are available to help you keep your bass in tune before and during your workout.

Electronic tuners

It is possible to learn to tune your bass just by listening to the strings and correcting them, but this skill comes from years of experience.

To keep things simple, you can buy a clip-on tuner or an electronic chromatic tuner. When you strike one of the open strings, you will turn the tuners on your bass so that the tuner reads that the string is tuned. Usually the device will tell you if the string is too high or too low, or too sharp or too flat.

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Turning your tuner clockwise tightens your string, making the string louder and sharper. If you turn it the other way, the string will loosen, making it lower and flatter.

While adjusting the tuning of your string according to the tuner, turn the bass tunings slowly so that the string gradually reaches the tone. Vote only one string at a time. Get one string in tune, and then the next, and so on.

Plays the bass

Now that your bass guitar is in tune, you're ready to goplay bass guitar.

There are two basic styles of playing the bass guitar. One method uses the fingers of your right hand to play, while the other uses a pick. Neither method is better than the other, but each style gives your bass a different sound.

Fingerstyle is a more traditional style of bass playing and has a warmer sound. Using a pick gives the bass a little more punch and precision.


To play with your fingers, take your right hand and rest your thumb on one of the bass pickups. Usually you can keep your thumb on the pickup closest to the bridge. You need to use your thumb to anchor your hand to this part of your bass. Keep your index finger and middle finger open, and the rest of your fingers relaxed and slightly closed.

You need to use your index and middle finger to play the strings in this method. With your thumb resting on the pickup, reach down with your index finger to the E string. Your finger should lightly hit the string in an upward motion, and it will curve like a hook when you strike the string upward from below.

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Then make the same motion with your middle finger and strike the E string in the same way you used your index finger. To practice thisfingerstyle metode, practice striking the E string alternately with the index finger and middle finger.

Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, both of these fingers will soon get used to this alternating motion to strike each of the four strings in different rhythms.


There are bass guitar picks that you can use to play. These are often wider and thicker than typical guitar picks. It is also possible to play bass with a standard guitar pick that is heavier.

Thinner guitar picks are flimsy and won't hit the strings properly when folded.

To play with a pick, use your thumb and index finger of your right hand to grip the pick. The point of the pick should stick out to the left at a 90-degree angle with your thumb. Keep your other fingers in the hand relaxed and slightly closed.

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Take the point of the pick and place it on your E string. Use your wrist to drive the pick into the E string and you should hear the E string ring out. The pick doesn't need a lot of force from your wrist, test different amounts of pressure and keep in mind the sufficient amount of force you need to play the string.

When you use the pick to strike the string down, this is calleda blow. You can also use your pick to strike the string from below, similar to the fingerstyle method. When you hit the string from the bottom up to the top, this is called a rebound.

You can try this on each of the four bass strings so that your hand becomes comfortable picking each of the four strings. To practice the plucking method, choose one of the strings and practice using your wrist to pluck the strings alternately downward and upward.

You can think up, down, up, down so your wrist can get used to the motion of playing the strings fluidly andin rhythm. Start slowly and gradually build up speed.


Your left hand is responsible for using the fretboard to change the notes that your bass guitar strings can play. You need to use the index, middle, ring and pinky fingers of the left hand to hold down the areas between the metal frets to create different notes.

Music teachers often refer to your index finger as your first finger, your middle finger as your second finger, and so on until your pinky, called your fourth finger.

Holding the neck, use your thumb and place it at the back of the neck on the opposite side of the fingerboard. As you learn to play the bass, your thumb will get used to sliding up and down the neck while you stay anchored to it so your other fingers have access to the frets.

With the thumb in position behind the neck, your other fingers will come around the neck from the bottom. You can now start practicing by using the fingers of your left hand to hold specific notes on the fretboard.

If you notice, the bands closer to the main stem are wider apart. As you travel down the neck and come to the body, you will notice that the bands come closer together.

Start by looking for the 3rd fret on the E string. The frets in this area of ​​the neck are a little easier to play for beginners. Take the tip of your index or first finger, place it on the E-string 3rd fret and press down on the string with your fingertip.

Now either use your pick or your fingers to strike the E string. You should hear a second note as your first finger presses down on the string. Alternate between playing the note at the third fret of your E string and then releasing it to play the open E string.

Practice third, open E, third, open E to hear the difference in sound and get used to using your finger. Then you can do the same exercise using your middle or second finger on the fourth fret of the E string, and your third finger on the fifth fret, and so on.

You can take this exercise to the other strings. Your hands will have to adjust to the position of each string on the neck and get used to traveling between them. Once you've learned how to fret and play bass using fingerstyle or a pick, you're ready to start playing bass parts using tablature.

How to read Tablature

Tablature or tablature is a shorthand way of writing music. It's a writing method that simplifies the ability to read sheet music so you can learn music quickly.

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If you look at a tab chart, you will see a chart with four horizontal lines, and in those lines you will see numbers. Each of the horizontal lines represents the strings of the bass. The bottom horizontal line represents E and the top line represents G. The numbers in the lines indicate which fret to play on the strings.

For example, if you see a tab chart with a "3" on the bottom line or the E string. This indicates that you are playing the third fret on your E string. If you see a "0" on one of the lines at any point, this indicates that you are playing an open string.

While tablature is great for learning songs quickly, it is a method that cannot represent rhythms. Tablature works best when you can hear the music and also see the tablature to play it. By hearing the song, you can hear how the rhythm and other details of the song are meant to be played. Use listening along with tablature to play new songs accurately. Learn more aboutread guitar tabs here.

Playing the roots

As you learn your first songs, the parts you play will likely consist of playing the root notes or roots of the chords for the other instruments.

When a guitar or piano player plays a basic chord, that chord usually consists of three different notes played together.

For example, if a guitarist were to play oneG major chord, the notes in that chord are G, B, and D. As a bass player, your job is to support that chord by playing the root note. The root of the G chord is the note G. In most cases, you can tell the root of the chord because of the name of the chord.

The root of oneA minor chordis A, the root of an F# major chord is F#. Many bass lines consist of the bass player simply playing the root notes of the chords of the melodic instruments.

Plays arpeggios

Bass guitar playing is not just about playing basic notes. There are ways that bass players can add variety and color to their partsplaying arpeggios on the guitar.

Arpeggios are the notes that form a particular chord. For example, in a G major chord, the arpeggios are the notes G, B, and D.

Two basic arpeggios to learn are major chord arpeggios and minor chord arpeggios. The patterns for both major and minor chord arpeggios are not a fixed sequence you must play. The patterns show you where the chord notes are on the neck so you know which frets to play to stay within the chord notes.

Major chords

To learn the pattern for a major chord arpeggio, let's look at the G major chord.

The notes that make up this chord are G, B, and D.

On the neck, the G is the third fret on your E string. Then there is B, which is the second fret on the A string. And finally, D is the fifth fret on your A string. Whenever the melodic instruments play these chords, you can play one of these three frets to harmonize and support the chord.

Notice that the pattern begins on the root G, then goes to B by going up one string and down one fret, and finally goes to the final note D by moving three frets up to the fifth fret.

You can use this pattern for any major chord that you might need to play. For example, the A major chord is a combination of the notes A, C#, and E. The arpeggio pattern begins on the fifth fret of the E string, which is the note A, then C# is the fourth fret of the A string, one string down and one fret to the left, and then E is three frets above C#, the seventh fret of the A string.

Minor chords

Minor chords have a similar arpeggio pattern. An example is the A minor chord.

A minor has the notes A, C, and E. The pattern starts on the fifth fret of the E string, which is the A, and then goes to the third fret of the A string, which is the C, and finally goes to the seventh fret of the A string, which is E.

You can follow the arpeggio outline for this chord for any minor chord with major chord arpeggios. As long as you know the root note, you will see where the pattern begins and what notes you can play.

How to practice

You can now start studying, playing and practicing bass guitar in earnest. Although the bass may seem like an instrument with a simple role, it is crucial to an ensemble's sound. Along with songs,weights, and exercises, bassists have two other critical musical areas to master: timing and listening.

Use a metronome

The drums and bass guitar form the rhythm section of an ensemble. As a bass player, you need to have a good sense of stable time. You will learn how to play your part to give the song a steady feel, with no tendency to slow down or speed up.

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To learn excellent timekeeping,practice with a metronome. A metronome is a machine that you can set to different tempos and will give you a constant speed reference to play with. Use a metronome for scales, exercises and songs.


Finally, one of the essential skills to learn as a bass player is to learn to listen to the other instruments while you play. As your part locks the drums and melodic instruments together, you must learn to have a keen awareness of everyone else's role.

By listening you will understand how fast the drummer is going so you know how fast to play. You'll also know when the guitarist or piano player is changing chords, and you can also listen to the vocalist to know which section the song comes next.

This awareness is what the best bass players have. Your support of the other instruments allows those players, and therefore the song, to shine.

For bass guitarists, it's not the bass player who can play the most extravagant bass solos that gets hired for sessions and bands - it's the bass player who can play a supporting bass line with a sense of giving to the other musicians.

Read next:

Learn to play acoustic guitar

Playing guitar as a beginner - a guide

Guide to playing funk guitar

Best bass songs ever

Liam Flynn(Editor-in-chief and writer)

As Editor-in-Chief and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced by professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also a founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate about delivering editorial content to his readers.

Liam's lifelong love of music makes his role at the Music Grotto so rewarding. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.


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