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How to Practice Bass Guitar

You picked up the bass guitar, fell in love with it, and even learned to play your first few songs. As a beginner bassist, the first days with the instrument may feel hypnotizing: you search more and more tutorials to be able to play as efficiently and as fast as possible.

But, to be able to keep progressing, eventually, you will have to make a few decisions regarding your practice routine and structure it more clearly. For example, where are your strong and weak points while playing the bass guitar, what are your goals: playing solo, in a band, and so on.

Keep reading this article if that’s your case, as we are going to give you a few tips and tricks on how to practice bass guitar so as to make your progress as steady and effective as possible. We will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions by beginners.

Tip: If you haven’t picked up your instrument yet, check out our Best Bass Guitar article for some awesome recommendations.

Table of Content

How to Practice Bass Guitar – Tips and Tricks

Create a Plan

For many things in life, having a plan will greatly help you reach higher levels of skills and abilities, and with bass playing, it is no different. You can structure your learning plan any way you want, but we recommend that you practice for at least 3 days a week.

If you’re a beginner, you can start with a plan that looks as follows:

  • Day 1: Agility Exercises + Practicing Songs
  • Day 2: Practicing Scales + Jamming
  • Day 3: Practicing Songs + Jamming

As you progress, you may structure a schedule that is more specifically aimed at certain parts of your bass playing development. This will largely depend on your own judgment of where you must improve. Keep in mind though that these are only suggestions and your plan should be as personalized as possible.

Learn to Read Bass Guitar Tabs

Learning tabs is one of the first steps a beginner takes after picking up the bass guitar. It is pretty simple to take a grasp on the concept and you should build this skill as early as possible in your learning journey. Take a look at our Beginner Bass Guitar Songs and How to Read Bass Guitar Tabs articles to learn.

Learn How the Fretboard Works and Where Each Note Is

We can’t stress this enough: learning how your instrument works and the logic behind it is as crucial as playing it well. Being aware of the position of the notes on a bass guitar fretboard, for example, is essential and will give you lots of benefits when memorizing scales.

Sure, it may seem hard to remember the location of each note at first, but it is actually quite intuitive once you understand the logic behind it.

Take a look at our Bass Guitar Notes article to learn more about the relationship between those different notes and how you can easily memorize them.

Learn the Bass Scales

Learning and memorizing the bass scales patterns should be done as soon as possible in your bass guitar practicing schedule. Scales, in music theory, are a group of musical notes that work together within a context. There are numerous different scales: major, natural minor, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, etc.

You don’t need to remember each note of the scale, but rather the pattern of the scale on the fretboard which you can move up or down depending on the key of your song. Having this skill will make you able to create your own songs and improvise. Take a look at our Bass Scales Chart article to learn more about the concept. 

Practice Improvisation and Jamming

After you have a basic understanding of bass scales, it is time to start improvising and jamming. You can find thousands of backing tracks on YouTube to practice your skills in playing in a band setting. Just search for something like: “bass guitar backing track in C major“, for example. You can find tracks on whichever key you’d like. Make it a routine.

Dive a Bit Into Music Theory

Dive a Bit Into Music Theory

Music theory is, in fact, a complex subject. But after you get the basics of it, everything else starts to come naturally. Every musician, no matter which instrument they play, should know a little about it. 

Sure, you don’t have to be a specialist, but knowing the basics of it like the logic behind how scales are formed, chords, musical structure, and arrangement, for example, will give you much more confidence in your practice journey and make you able to communicate better with your band members.

Set Goals to Achieve in Different Areas of Bass Expertise

Like we said in the “Create a Plan” topic, as you progress in your practice journey, you should take a moment and list which are your strongest and weakest points. You can do this at least once a month by recording yourself playing and/or asking friends their opinion, for example.

Once you have a list of all the things you would like to improve, separate a day of the week to be dedicated solely to one area. For example: speed, agility, etc.

Don’t Be Afraid to Incorporate New Styles Into Your Playing

We often fall into the trap of only staying in places that are familiar to us. The truth is every musician should try to tackle a new genre every once in a while. For example, if you’re a rock bassist, why not try playing some funk basslines? Funk is a very rhythmic-heavy style so experimenting with it could be beneficial to your skills in that particular area.

Develop Your Own Style

Don’t be afraid to develop your own style. Part of the beauty in music is that everyone has their own baggage and identity that influences how one approaches their instrument. Take Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example: when you hear his basslines, you can almost instantly tell who’s playing.

Find Other People to Play With

You start practicing the bass guitar, get good at it, and suddenly realize that you’ve never played with other musicians. We know how hard it is as a beginner to find like-minded artists for a jamming session or even to create a band, but the experience you will have playing with other people is something priceless.

We recommend an app called Vampr. Available for iOS and Android, Vampr is a social network for musicians where you can swipe to find musicians, music producers, and people from the music scene in your area or abroad. My experience with the app has been pretty good so far and I’ve already made a lot of contacts.

Play In Front Of an Audience As Soon As Possible

Play In Front Of an Audience As Soon As Possible

This is a recommendation for all artists and performers out there. Like playing with other musicians, playing in front of an audience as soon as you feel confident to do so can be a turning point in your career as a bassist.

You don’t have to play to a whole crowd at first. For a start, play a few songs for your friends or family and ask them how they feel about it. Don’t forget to gather this information so that you can use it to further direct your learning journey.

Try Different Tones and Sounds

Beginners often start learning and playing with a clean bass tone to understand the basics of the instrument. But, no matter if you’re plugging your bass into your computer, pedals, or amplifier, your device is capable of much more than that.

Explore the tonality of your instrument. First, try dialing your amp differently than you’re used to or throw in some overdrive or distortion in your sound. Then you can move to other effects like chorus, phaser, auto-wah, etc. The possibilities are endless and you can create your own combinations.

Compose Your Own Basslines

Compose Your Own Basslines

Take a few minutes while you’re practicing to create a bassline completely from scratch. Composition is an important skill in the arsenal of any bassist. Do this as early as possible in your learning journey.

Learn to Play Songs by Ear

It may seem complex for a beginner to play a song completely by ear, but the reality is that once you progress in your journey, you will see that this skill comes pretty much naturally. And it is an important one as you may be asked in a live setting, for example, to play a song that you’re not familiar with. Plus, it will save you a lot of time when learning new ones.

Learn Bass Chords

Learn Bass Chords

Did you know that you play chords in your bass? Learning this skill can take your playing to a whole new level. Start with power chords and then progress to more complex ones. Keep in mind though that this technique should be used wisely, especially in a band setting.

FAQ

How Long Does It Take to Learn Bass Guitar?

This will vary from player to player, but you will certainly be able to play a few songs as early as in your first week of practicing. Plus, the amount of time it takes for you to feel confident while playing will largely depend on how you structure and plan your practice. Take a look at this article for more information on the subject.

What Gear do I Need to Start Playing?

Apart from your bass guitar, you will need an amp or an audio interface to connect your instrument to. If you’re short on money or live in a place where you can’t be loud, we recommend you consider an iRig. iRig is a device that you can use to connect your bass guitar to your smartphone and play with amps and effects, record yourself, etc.

Also, don’t forget to get high-quality cables and a decent pair of headphones if you plan to use one.

Do I Need an Expensive Bass Guitar to Start Playing?

Not necessarily. There are plenty of good options at an accessible price that you will use for a long time before you even think about upgrading. There are brands such as, for example, the Squier line from Fender and Epiphone which sell excellent instruments.

Can I Connect my Bass Guitar to my Computer? What Gear Do I Need?

Yes, you totally can. This is actually a very common practice in the music production world nowadays. What you need is an audio interface and a bass software or digital audio workstation (DAW) if you’d like to record yourself too; As well as a good pair of headphones or speakers and high-quality cables.

Do I Need to Memorize All of the Notes on a Scale?

Do I Need to Memorize All of the Notes on a Scale

Technically not. On the practical side, you just need to memorize the shape and pattern of each scale and know where the root key of the song you’re playing is. But, learning the notes on a scale and their relation to each other could in fact help you with certain things. Don’t feel pressured to do that if you’re just beginning to play, though.

Conclusion

These were our 15 tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your bass guitar practice. Like we mentioned on our list, we recommend that you plan and structure your practicing schedule wisely so as to progress in a way that is steady and fast. 

Setting goals is also essential. Record your practices and, at least once every month, take a moment to understand your strong and weak points and how you could work on improving your skills.

There are also a few other things that you should consider doing in your learning journey, such as playing with other musicians and in front of an audience. Don’t feel pressured to do that though: take your time and build some confidence before. We hope this article was helpful. We suggest you take a look at our related articles about bass guitar playing too. We have guides for lots of different subjects: scales, tabs, etc. Above all, have fun!