Tips on how to improve your bass guitar playing

tips how to improve bass guitar playing

Throughout his career, every bass guitarist deals with new challenges with mastering new playing techniques and combining them together with harmony and style.

If we wish to upgrade our playing skills in practice and entirely develop our musical personality, we have to take into account the following concepts:

1)
What does it mean to master the instrument in a technical sense? We should practice solely technical exercises. We start with basic and easier exercises and progress to harder and more complex exercises. Then we go back to the easier ones.

2) Reading the notes! Every bass guitarist must eventually learn how to read and write notes. Learn to read the notes in the bass clef and eventually in the treble clef. The remaining literature that can be useful for a bass guitarist is written mostly in the treble clef.

3) What are harmonic symbols? You have to know and memorize them. If we wish to play and write a bass solo or a bass line, we have to know what a harmonic symbol Cm7, from which we then pass over to D7/9, means.

4) Ear training. Having good ears and hearing the notes means that we hear the root and other harmonic symbols and scales. While we practice the bass guitar we should also sing the notes. Then we put down the bass guitar and just sing the notes.

5) Educate yourselves constantly. Make a collection of music magazines and textbooks on your bookshelves. They might save you in the bad moments when you lack ideas.

6) When playing, do not rush or fall behind. Always be on time when you play or practice. It happens often that some members of the music group enter the measure too late or too soon. Rehearse with a metronome and in the beginning count the measures. You could also use a rhythm machine, which simulates a good drummer.

7) When rehearsing, use the correct positioning of the hands, fingers, movements and the bass guitar. When playing, don’t be tense – be relaxed at all times.

The bass guitarists have developed many new techniques and styles of playing in the past 20 years. Playing chords on bass guitars or accompaniment in semiquavers is often used in smaller musical groups.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Edward usen April 25, 2012 at 5:20 am

I love music.. I’m a bassist from nigeria, i want to be like victor wooten,even more than him 4ril.

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2 Ladislav April 25, 2012 at 8:09 am

This is great Edward! Victor is a great bass player and I encourage you to develop your playing skills! Practice, patience and childish curiosity will bring you all the results you need.

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3 Edward usen April 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Please i want to know how to play bluescale and funk… I want to master it very well.

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4 Ladislav April 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Hello Edward, to start, you might consider hiring yourself a bass guitar instructor that will assist you in learning and offer some mentorship. If money is a problem, there is a lot of free videos on You Tube which can help you out for a start, but information is scattered all over the place.
In my book I also present all the basic to advanced techniques you need to master funk slap and I believe it would be a great resource, if you are serious about mastering the bass guitar. You need knowledge, but then don´t forget to practice! You need to invest some time and effort, practice and results WILL follow.

And thank you for your comment, I wish you a lot of success!

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5 Romar July 16, 2012 at 12:59 am

Hi Jim Greene,An concept I’ve had sueccss with setting smaller and more concrete (chunkable) and achievable goals just think small one little lick or passage to conquer ..since I know my practice time will inevitably get reduced by things that always seem to happen beyond my control, instead of trying to mentally carve out an hour or more each day to work on learning a whole bunch of stuff .I break up my approach, and just focus on one small tiny piece ..something I can practice whenever I get the chance, five minutes here, 10 minutes there .and stay focused on that one little piece .and make sure I get it down before moving on .in the end it seems I am able to aquire more useable skills doing it this way than maybe sitting for a whole hour and getting distracted by a hundred licks I think I want to learn .just always have that one little small thing at a time you are working on ..saves a lot of frustration knowing that you are still progressing even if you only have 5 minutes here or ten minutes there to practice .hope this helps.Tom

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6 Yoko Jo May 7, 2012 at 6:49 am

Hey. I have a dilemma. I LOVE BASS! Love the sound and feel I just can’t move around the neck fast or I don’t know where to start I’ve just been doing tabs on really simple songs (Nirvana) and I am lost and getting discouraged since I don’t know where to start or how to improve I try to practice 30min to 2hours a day depending on my schedule and I don’t seem to et better and it irritates me and I have a great ear and I know ALOT of guitar and I just hate guitar hate the feel and everything about it , it just bothers me that I don’t have that ear for bass and I know how to play the Viola (3years) and I like it but my true passion is bass and I don’t know what to do! I don’t have any guidance or teacher like I do with my viola please help or at least gimme some kind of advice.

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7 Yoko Jo May 7, 2012 at 6:50 am

And some tabs I’ve mastered have been wrong and it bothers me because then I think (I’ve been doing everything wrong I just made my self worse and didn’t accomplish anything!)

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8 Ladislav May 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Hello Yoko Jo, thank you for your comment! Don´t loose your love for guitar just yet ;) Bass forms the basis of many songs, so don´t loose heart if you don´t achieve results and speed right away.
It is important that you first practice and master the technique. Take simple exercises in beginning. First you practice simple exersices in slow tempo. You can use metronome, or even better, use rhythm machine, count your measures and develop your feeling for timing!

Than go to more advanced practices, the same way, again use rhythm machine, this way you will develop a sense for rhythm. You can also use my book, there are lots of funk slap exercises (exclusively), if you are interested in this technique of course. It is indispensable in lots of other music generes too.

Use tabelatures for orientation, and try to learn notes. Also listen and observe how other musicians play, listen to different music generes. Get some experience and maybe even music instructor for a beginning or a friend musician. Together you will motivate each other and learn faster.

Thank you again for your comment and keep on playing!

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9 Matjaz Babic June 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I’ve known Lado Rebrek for more than ten years and during this period not only enjoyed Lado’s pleasant company but also his excellent bass lessons ranging up to complex funk techniques. My warmest welcome to this book and my recommendation to bass players – I think it is a great contribution to the bass playing community!

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10 Ladislav June 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Dear Matjaz, thank you very much for your kind comment!

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11 Richard November 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I love bass so much! I practice up to 3 hours everyday and on the other days more. My dilemma right now is that, I have no direction in improvement. I can’t afford a bass tutor but I wish to learn more. Is there anything else I can do?

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12 Ladislav November 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hello Richard, thank you for your comment. Great that you play your bass for 3 or more hours a day, congratulations!

Having a good mentor is surely one of the best things you can do in your early years of playing. This way you can improve your technical and harmonical knowledge faster, than if you only play by yourself. You can also go to clubs and events where music that interests you is being played. This will motivate you further. Try to get to know some musicians there, connect with people in your field, ask for help if necessary.

It is also important to study and practice various styles and genres. Musician expands his knowledge by getting to know new and different ideas. Best ideas develop gradually, when we have more experience and knowledge from older musicians, especially jazz musicians. Jazz does not have limits and is the final stage of your musical education.

Also don´t start with practices and examples that are too hard, this is the usual mistake of many young aspiring musicians. Start by playing simple and effective bass lines, which are also most effective when playing in a band.

Many of such examples are in my book and some free examples from the book here. You can also subscribe to my mailing list, I will publish new and interesting content from which you can learn!

Keep it up!

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13 frank December 20, 2012 at 10:09 pm

i love playing the bass guitar. I make use of an acoustic to practise. And right now, i need to acquire an electric bass guitar in nigeria but the truth of the matter is that i don’t have money to buy one. Please help

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14 Ladislav January 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Hi there, great that you like playing the bass guitar, keep it up. If you can´t afford a new electric guitar, consider buying or even borrowing a used one, they should not be so expensive. Best of luck to you.

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15 Rafael Wiliam January 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Hy, my name is Rafael, i’m 13 now.. I fall in love to bass guitar sience i was 10 years old…
I like to callenge myself, so i choose to learn all genre in bass guitar..
Now i’m learn to play jazz and blues.. So, can you teach me about that?

Thanks for your time! Im really want to be a leggendary bassist..
GodBless you!

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16 Ladislav January 24, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hello Rafael! There is a a lot of books and resources talking especially about blues and jazz. On this website I focus mostly on funk slap technique, which is often used in many other music genres as well and as such is very valuable to learn. To learn jazz and blues especially, you should explore other resources too. I wish you much success in your playing career!

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17 Mahomy January 26, 2013 at 2:03 am

I plan on going to play bass for the army band, and i have about 2 years to gain an ample amount of skill, mainly speed, strength, and learning slap.

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18 Nengi March 1, 2013 at 8:19 am

Kool!!!! Love music!

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19 Zeeck March 22, 2013 at 3:46 am

Richard thanks man i love u dedication. My concern is dat having a mentor bra coz u said u dnt have direction so h/sh will help a lot
bt i cn help u wt dis i tought my self playing both bass and piano da secret is hard work n consistancy in dng ur wrk, nw bra learn all da scales on bass n da right fingering make sure u dnt d da fast bt in a slow temp put ur matronome on atleast 50 speed d all major n minor scales 4 an hour or so singing every note u playing its helpful. On a later stage find ur self frnds hu u cn practise with coz dng things alone u will think u in a right way though u lost and i preffer you go 2 sum 1 hu is more matured in playing plz dnt mind bng embarrased dat u dnt knw lot of staff they wont lough at u they will help you. Wish was around was gng 2 help.

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20 osas May 4, 2013 at 5:17 am

Pls am a basist I want to know how to apply feelings when playing worship somgs

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21 Ladislav May 10, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hi there, you should always apply feelings when playing bass, music itself is an expression of feelings! The same counts for worship music. You do that by first getting proficient in bass playing techniques, play and practice A LOT. The better you become at playing your bass, the easier it will be later for you to involve feelings into music. And have fun while playing, having fun is the quickest way to become better at whatever you do. Best!

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22 David May 30, 2013 at 1:09 am

So i am a young bass player, and i know most techniques, scales, modes, and can learn the majority of the songs put infront of me. What’s next?

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23 Ladislav May 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Go out and play, get into a band or form a band and play play play! Connect with others and put your knowledge into practice, you need “real world” experience, as much as you can get. Good luck!

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24 Alex June 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Been playing bass for over 5 years now, on my own and in bands. However, due to lack of a singer I’m in charge now of both leadvocals and bass. Any tips how I can make this as easy as possible? We’re a coverband, and I can easily play all songs playing the bass alone. However, having to sing at the the same time makes it a lot harder to get some of the nicer fills in there or playing songs with a more difficult rythm. Thanks in advance.

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25 Ladislav June 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm

No matter which instrument you play in the band (except for wind and brass), you can sing vocals or backing vocals. However it is IMPORTANT to master your bass part to the extent that you can play it almost automatically and you don´t have to think much about your playing. You will obtain this routine eventually, with a lot of practice and mileage.

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26 x-ygfw July 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

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27 Emmogee September 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Sir iv bn a base player for over good 10yrs now but i stil find it very difficult to connect my emotions and dances whiel playing,sir what do i do?

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28 Igor September 11, 2013 at 9:24 am

Check some of other comments on the blog, where I discuss this topic.

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