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Bass Guitar for Beginners – What to Know Before You Start

Bass Guitar

Interested in learning bass guitar? It isn’t as simple as picking up an instrument and playing. There are different types of woods, sounds, and equipment that need to be factored into your decision. But if you do your research, we are confident you will fully enjoy your purchase and playing.

Why Learn How to Play Bass?

How to Play Bass

The bass player tends to fade into the background. They provide the rhythm and work extensively with the drummer to give a rich, deep sound. Despite singers and lead guitarists receiving the spotlight, all great bands have excellent bassists.

The power of the bass is undeniable; just plug it into your amp and get ready to play. When you strike the thickest string, you will hear and feel a powerful noise.

If audiences are unaware of a bass guitar’s importance, they would hear the difference if you take it away. Bass guitars provide groove and rhythm no matter the genre. Good bass players are always in demand. If you learn how to play well, you will never lack job opportunities.

Composition of a Bass Guitar

  • Headstock. This is the wide part of the neck found at the end and is where tuning pegs are. Tuning pegs adjust string tension. They are how the pitch is changed and how an instrument is tuned.
  • Neck. The neck is made of the fretboard, headstock, and internal truss rod to connect it to the body.
  • Fretboard. This thin piece of ebony, maple, or rosewood varies in quality, and the best ones are smooth and easy to move the fingers over. There is a slight arch from each side called the radius.
  • Truss Rod. Truss rods connect the body to the neck. They prevent the neck from twisting. Bass strings are thicker than guitar strings, so they exert a great deal of pressure on the neck. Adjusting these allows your neck to remain straight to prevent twisting and bowing. It also adjusts the height of the string.
  • Frets. Frets are the thin metal strips embedded in the fretboard. They divide your neck into a half-step increment. Each fret determines the location of a note on the neck. While some guitars may not contain frets, greater skill is required to play these types of guitars so they should be left to advanced or intermediate guitar players. If you are a beginner bass guitar player, you will need one that is fretted.

What Equipment is Required

You will need a few things before playing on your brand-new instrument.

Cable and Amplifier

If you’re playing electric bass, an amplifier and cable are essential. A new bass guitar by itself won’t generate sound unless it is connected to an amplifier. If you are just beginning to play, buy a smaller bass amp with 100-200 watts. This size will allow you to practice until you are comfortable playing at high volumes.

Also make sure that you have a cable. A cable takes the sound from the bass to the amplifier. They vary in length and size. You can easily find cables at music stores or online. Ensure it is long enough to move around comfortably. You may require ¼” jacks for both ends.

Having spares is a good idea as they can get damaged easily, especially if you regularly transport them.

Guitar Strap

Many bass guitarists use a guitar strap. Most basses come with one, but if yours does not, you may want to consider purchasing one for yourself. Straps make practicing more comfortable and less strenuous, and wearing one will prevent the bass from hitting the ground if you happen to drop it. Basses are heavy, and a younger bass guitarist should have a strap to develop good form.

Adjust the strap to properly fit your body. If it doesn’t fit, it won’t work properly. Straps also come in all kinds of fun designs so you can show personality with your gear.

Bass Case

While you may think a case is unnecessary, experts still advise purchasing one. Leaving your instrument out could mean that it gets covered with dust. Cases prevent scratches and keep your bass from being knocked over or bumped. All these things can damage your bass guitar.

If you want to travel, cases make transport easier. Hard cases are best for travel, while soft ones offer simple at-home storage.

Tabs and Sheet Music

You will require notes when learning to play bass guitar. Part of the learning process is learning both theory and how to read music. You can do so through sheet music notation or tabs.

Beginner lessons have arpeggios, scales, and reading music. Players benefit from learning about music theory, tablature, and sheet music before picking up the bass. If you are familiar with reading music, you have already mastered the basics, giving you an additional reason to purchase sheet music to learn how to play your favorite songs.

As you begin to play with other musicians, you will need to know how to read music. Like learning a foreign language, learning to read music takes time. Any basic guitar lessons should include instruction on how to read sheet music.

Considerations for a Bass Guitar for Beginners

There are some considerations you should remember before purchasing your first bass guitar. Purchasing a bass guitar is an investment and a big decision. Since there are so many nuances involved, we walk you through the basics of what to look for.

  1. Budget. You can find a quality beginner bass guitar at a multitude of price points. When you are looking at a bass guitar in your price range, make sure that it is a quality one. While beginning, you may not need one that is top of the line, but you don’t want to run into challenges either. Stick with a good brand name.

When asking yourself how much you should spend on a bass guitar, ensure you aren’t overspending. Be confident that the instrument is not low-quality. Poorly crafted basses will make bass playing challenging. They are difficult to learn on and may discourage you from playing.

Decent basses generally cost around $200. However, if you are on a tight budget, you will probably not need to spend that much on a bass guitar, especially if you look for a second-hand one.

  1. Tonewood and Body Styles. Purchase a bass guitar that you find visually appealing. There are several body styles to select. Learning how to play becomes easier when you find an instrument that you enjoy playing and fits you well.    

Tonewoods are the wood the guitar is made of, and it contains a body, neck, and fingerboard crafted from wood. Each wood will generate a different tone, and some are rarer than others. As always, the rarer the wood, the higher the price point.

Common wood types include:

  • Rosewood: Warmer tone than maple. Generally used for fingerboards.
  • Maple: Provides a crisp, bright sound.
  • Alder: Bright sound accompanied by good midrange.
  • Basswood: Similar to mahogany, except with a woodier sound.
  • Mahogany: Provides a warm, deep sound.
  1. Number of Strings. Most individuals find learning to play easier with a four-string guitar, but this is a personal choice. If you want an extra string, it will provide additional creative maneuverability.

Standard bases have four strings. They are the lowest four strings found on a traditional guitar but an octave lower. If you are familiar with guitar playing, bass shouldn’t be too challenging.

Some guitars will have five strings, including an added lower pitch B string. It makes bass playing complicated chords and scales easier on the hands because the hand position doesn’t need to be changed as frequently. Heavy metal bass players prefer this type of bass.

Beginners, however, tend to go with a four-string. They are easier to learn and easier to play, and most people won’t require you to bring a five-string to practice or a gig. Playing this as a beginner helps you understand fundamentals before progressing to something more complicated.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you and the type of genre you are interested in. Remember that five-string guitars are more expensive than standard ones.

  1. Type or Genre of Music. Your favorite genre may dictate what type of bass guitar you choose and how you learn to play.

If you want to play funk music, you may require a different bass when playing blues, jazz, or rock. Part of learning involves choosing your genre. Most people tend to have a favorite musical style; however, learning the bass guitar may change this.

People inquire whether a jazz bass or precision bass is better. This depends on how you wish to play sound. If you like a solid, punchy sound, go for the precision bass. The differences rest in pickup and placement.

You can play any music style on a jazz or precision bass. Once you’ve mastered the guitar basics, you can move on to experiment with various bass types.

  1. In-Store or Online Purchase. Begin your search by looking both in a retail store and online before committing to a purchase. The internet will allow you to do your research to determine which bass you would like. It will also provide specs. In-store allows you to discover how the guitar feels in your hands, which can factor into your decision.
  1. Electric Bass Pickups. When beginning, you can choose the type of pickups for your bass. Learning the basics gives you a better understanding of how various pickups affect the sound.

Electric bass pickups are magnets wrapped in wire. They generate a weak magnetic field disrupted by a bass string, creating an electric signal that travels to the bass amp. This signal provides audible sound to a listener.

There are single-coil pickups that have visible rows of magnets and are thinner. They give a clear sound and are popular with bassists. Split-coil pickups are used in the middle or neck position and provide a rounded, deep sound.

Humbucking pickups are fatter and wider since there are two rows of magnets. They generate a growl with a thicker sound than all other types.

If you are new, you may want to begin with two pickups to allow you to experiment with sound to see what you enjoy and don’t enjoy.

Everyone learns how to play differently. Some will pay for professional music lessons; others may use blog posts. There are apps available that provide online guitar lessons. The best way to improve your technique and proficiency is with consistent practice.

Practicing Your New Instrument

Once the guitar is set up, you will need to practice. Finding a great teacher or beginning with an online bass lesson may be a great way to start. Even if you practice for ten minutes a day, it is vital to play consistently. Pick a time where there are fewer distractions.

When practicing, find a device that keeps time. Metronomes are suited for this, but if you don’t have a metronome, there are phone apps that can help you.

Begin slowly and with easy-to-learn exercises on technique. Rehearse chords repeatedly and do your scales. Scales are the easiest bass lessons to learn. After you’re ready to take the next step, move on to playing songs. There are several songs across genres to select from. Simply practicing notes can make a profound difference in your skills as a bass player.

Consider YouTube videos to learn bass guitar and theory. There are many free resources online to learn the basics.

There are several things to consider when buying a bass guitar for beginners, and this information will make your selection easier. It will point you in the right direction regarding the overall costs and quality of your bass guitar. The instrument you choose should be one that you can play for years to come.

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