The bass guitar is an excellent instrument for guitar players to learn. Playing the bass can expand your horizons as a guitar player. It can improve your rhythmic playing, your understanding of harmony and chords. In a band setting the bass serves a different purpose compared to the guitar. The bass will provide the harmonic foundation for the chord progression, and lock in with the drums to provide a rhythmic pulse.
I’ve recently started learning how to play the bass. In this post I’d like to elaborate on the three tactics I’m using and why I think they are best way to learn bass guitar for guitarists.
YouTube contains a vast library of video lessons and tutorials on playing bass guitar. From the absolute basics to advanced topics, you can find it all on YouTube. I recommend creating a Playlist of videos that cover the topics and techniques you’re interested in.
I started with this Basic Bass lesson by Billy Sheehan. It’s a 90 minute video that starts from the very basics of how to hold the bass and pluck a single note.
To find useful lessons I suggest putting together a list of your favorite bass players. If you don’t have any in mind, get the names of the bass players from your favorite bands. Then search on YouTube for something like “Geddy Lee bass lesson” or “Geddy Lee bass tutorial”.
After you’re comfortable with the basics of plucking notes and navigating your way around the bass, I suggest learning and playing along with songs.
I started with the song “Street Of Dreams” by Rainbow. It’s an excellent bass song that incorporates multiple techniques. Even though it isn’t the easiest beginner song to start with, I found it to be a great challenge. Plus it’s a lot of fun to play!
My process involves a combination of learning the song by ear and referencing bass tabs for parts I can’t figure out on my own. It’s also helpful to have the tab up on the screen when I’m playing along with the song.
I also suggest creating either a YouTube or Spotify playlist containing the songs you want to learn. Go for a walk and listen through the songs in the playlist and pay attention to the bass parts. Really absorb the parts and try to hear all the details in every performance. You’ll find this focused listening will help you when you’re learning to play the songs!
Create Jam Tracks
Creating your own jam tracks is another excellent way to learn the bass. I use a program called ChordPulse. It’s software that creates a virtual backing band.
Here is an example of a progression I wrote:
In the mixer I’ll mute the Bass track and then will play along with the band. I’ll improvise as many different bass lines that I can come up with.
The software also allows me to change the tempo and the music style.
I’ve found that creating my own jam track and playing along helps me familiarize with note locations on the bass, as well as being able to better sync my left and right hands. Plus it’s a lot of fun to start coming up with my own original bass lines!