Bass guitars are an essential piece of most bands, so it’s no wonder they’re a popular instrument to learn for new and seasoned musicians alike.
If you’re looking to pick up a bass for the first time, you can expect to be able to play beginner songs in 6 – 12 months or so with regular practice.
After 2 – 3 years, most bass players are considered intermediate. And while 5 – 8 years is when you’ll be considered advanced, there will always be more to learn. Truly mastering this instrument will take a lifetime of learning and dedication.
Before you can start playing your bass guitar, you need to make sure your instrument is tuned correctly.
In fact, your instrument should be tuned before every playing session.
Traditional bass guitars have four strings, which are tuned – from the lowest (thickest) string to the highest (thinnest) string – to E, A, D, and G, respectively.
Using a tuner can help determine how far up or down you need to tune each string in order for your instrument to be in tune.
Because bass guitars are often played one note at a time, learning scales is important foundational knowledge.
Notes can be played using either a pick or your fingers, and the easiest scale to start with is a major scale.
A G Major scale can be played entirely on your G string and will help you get the hang of playing notes and moving between them.
C Major is also an important skill to learn, as many songs are in the key of C.
Learning several scales, including minor scales, will help solidify the different notes and how to play them.
Now that you can comfortably play notes and have mastered a few scales, you’re ready to start learning some basslines.
One of the easiest songs to get started with is “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.
This bassline is simple and repetitive, but it’s easily recognizable and enjoyable to play.
You can also learn the bassline in “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen or “Super Freak” by Rick James.
These songs are also instantly recognizable and great for beginners.
Once you have a few simple songs down and are getting more comfortable with your bass guitar, you may be ready to take on some more complex songs.
“Hotel California” by the Eagles has a great bassline, and learning to play the entire song start to finish is great practice.
“September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire has a great bassline that bassists can experiment with throughout the song.
“Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye is another one that can be fun to riff on throughout the song.
However, it’s critical to find songs that you enjoy and that you want to learn how to play, as that’s the best way to motivate new bassists to practice.
Once you’re comfortable playing basslines in songs, you may find it beneficial to listen to songs without prominent basslines and improvising.
By just knowing the key signature and the flow of the song, great bassists can add texture and rhythm to any kind of music they play.
Practice for at least 30 minutes a day, balancing scales/technique, replicated basslines, and basslines of your own creation – and you’ll sound like a pro in no time.