How to Play a Bass Guitar

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Bass guitar is a musical instrument like a guitar, but only with four strings. This instrument plays a lower register of notes than an electric or acoustic guitar and is often thought of as the heart beat of any musical ensemble. Playing the bass guitar is not as difficult as playing the guitar, but still takes concentration and lots of practice. With practice and some lessons, you too can play a bass.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Bass guitar
  • Electronic tuner

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  1. 1

    Learn what note each string plays. Bass guitars have four strings, and each string has a specific note when plucked without holding down that string anywhere. The notes of each string, starting from the largest looking string to smallest, are as follows: E, A, D and G. You can hear these notes by plucking the strings with your finger.

  2. 2

    Decide whether to pluck the strings using your fingers or use a guitar pick. To play notes, you can pluck the strings on the body of your bass guitar or you can pluck the strings with a guitar pick. Most people will strum the strings both up and down when using a pick.

  3. 3

    Practice holding each string near the frets to make different notes. You'll see metal bars on the neck of your bass that are perpendicular to the strings. These are the fret bars. To play different notes, you'll want to place your finger right above each of these metal bars, not completely touching the bar, and push down so the string sits on the neck. Then pluck the string with your other hand.

  4. 4

    Learn which note goes with which fret. Notes go from A to G, with sharp notes, written as A#, in between each note except for B and E. An entire scale looks as follows: A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G and G#. Each fret plays a higher note as you get closer to the body. For the E string, the first fret is an F note and the second is an F#, and onward.

    How to Play a Bass Guitar
  5. 5

    Play a scale. Scales can be played all the way down each string, but they can also be played using all four strings. Write down all the notes your bass guitar can play and you'll get a visual of how you can find scales. Here's a beginning of a scale starting with the E string to get you started: E string open, E string 2nd fret, E string 4th fret, A string open.

  6. 6

    Find bass tabs online and learn how to play songs. Tabs are a good way to learn songs and gain confidence on the bass. This approach uses the frets as instruction, so you don't have to know how to read music, scales or notes. Find a bass tab to an song you know. This will help you learn how to play multiple notes in succession to a beat.

  7. 7

    Take bass guitar lessons at your local community college or music school. In order to learn chords and music theory behind the bass guitar, you should take lessons. It is possible to learn these on your own by buying books and teaching yourself, especially if you're skilled on another instrument.

Tips and warnings

  • Use an electronic tuner to tune your bass guitar's strings. This will ensure that you're playing pure notes.
  • Pluck near the metal pickups for the best sound.
  • If bass guitar is your first instrument, lessons are always a good idea.
  • Don't worry if you get blisters from playing bass guitar at first. Your fingers will become stronger as you go.

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