How to play bass guitar in 2022: Definitive Guide

By Yuri Silva - April 11, 2022

Learn how to play bass guitar with our definitive guide step-by-step to all beginners

(Image credit: Fender)

Table of Contents

Bass guitar usually doesn’t have all spotlight as lead guitars receive, but it has key importance in almost every good song arrangement. This instrument has an important role in the rhythmic and melody section, creating a scaffold for other instruments like drums and guitars.

In this guide, we’ll cover every aspect of this instrument, from explaining what is a bass to study plans, and the next steps to being an amazing bass player.

What is a bass guitar?

A bass guitar is the lowest-pitched string instrument from the guitar family, founded in an electric or acoustic version, with a long neck and scale, typically with four strings.

At beginning of the 20th century, double bass players (mostly from jazz and swing genres) were looking for louder options, due to the creation of electric guitars. So Paul Tutmarc (May 29, 1896 - September 25, 1972) created the first version of the electric bass in 1933, starting the long journey of electric basses.

After years of evolution, Leo Fender (August 10, 1909 - March 21, 1991) developed multiple famous bass models, including the most used nowadays like Precision Bass and Jazz Bass.

Is the bass guitar easy to learn to play?

Playing bass could be easy in the beginning, but there are some music genres, like jazz and heavy metal, that have very difficult songs to play. Learning any instrument takes time and effort, so be patient and respect your learning curve.

Reserve a daily or weekly time to practice and keep in touch with other musicians for playing together and share experiences.

Gearing up

The first step to becoming a bass player is, of course, to buy your first bass setup. There is a list of items you should buy that we will cover down below:

Choosing your bass guitar

There are tons of models of bass available to buy, with different aspects such as:

  • Model: There are a lot of models available, we will cover some of the most famous below:
    • Precision Bass, also know as “P-Bass”, largely used on Motown classic songs and also by legend players like Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) and Sting (The Police)
    • Jazz Bass, also known as “J-Bass”, used by Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report) and Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
  • Strings: Most bass guitars usually have four strings, but you can find models with five or even six strings. With more strings you can have more lowest notes available to play, creating different opportunities for arrangement. If you are a beginner, it’s fine buying a four-stringed bass.
  • Size: Modern bass guitar standard scale is 34” (86 cm) for a four-string, but you can also find short scale basses, with 30” (76 cm) or less, being an option for a more light and compact bass.
  • Acoustic or Electric: I recommend beginners choose electric basses over acoustic ones. Electric basses are more versatile, allowing to play a huge variety of music genres, with better control over the sound.

Sting playing his four-stringed Precision Bass

Sting playing his four-stringed Precision Bass (Image credit: Jeff KravitzAMA2016Getty Images)

Choosing your bass amplifier

If you choose an electric bass, you need to buy an amplifier to get sound from your bass. For your first amplifier, choose the best for your budget and move on.

Don’t reuse your guitar amplifier for your bass. There is a high risk to damage your amplifier because they are not designed to bass guitar frequency range.

Choosing your bass accessories

Other important accessories for your bass:

  • Cases: Usually comes when you buy your instrument, it’s an important accessory to keep your bass safe and clean
  • Cables: Get a Cable P2 x P2 to connect your bass to the amplifier
  • Straps: If you want to play stand, you must have a good strap
  • Picks: If you want to play more aggressive sounds, like punk rock, you must have a pick on your setup
  • Fretwraps: Fretwraps help you to mute the strings, removing unwanted string noise. Choose a Fretwrap according to the width of your bass neck (due to string quantity)

How to hold a bass guitar?

Bass usually is a heavy instrument due to its solid wood body, so the most important rule is to find a comfortable position to play. Avoid resting bass upper body or neck on your leg when sitting. Find a comfortable chair and always keep the bass neck angled up a little.

If you are playing stand, always use a strap in waist height. It will guarantee your safety and make you not feel overwhelmed over time.

How to tune a bass guitar?

Tuning is a bass guitar is very similar to tuning any other stringed instrument. If your bass has four strings, you should tune strings in E (lowest string), A, D, and G (highest string). Tuning by ear could be difficult for beginners, so we recommend starting using a digital tuner or a tuner app on your mobile phone to ensure correct bass tuning.

Every time you pick your bass to play, ensure that it’s properly tuned.

How to read a bass tablature?

Most musicians are aware of the importance of reading music sheets, but for a beginner, could be tricky to learn. Hopefully, there is one simplest version of music transcription known as tablature.

Tablature transcription below standard sheet notations

Tablature transcription below standard sheet notations (Pinterest)

Tablature (also known as tab) allows bassists to identify each note that should be played in song through a visual representation of the bass neck.

You can easily find on the internet bass tabs for almost any song, so it’s important to learn how to read tablature.

Playing your first bass song

We selected some videos teaching easy songs on bass, using tabs:

Famous bass players

What’s next?

Learning an instrument is always a beautiful journey. You should keep working to unlock your full potential in music.

Every article here is made with a true passion for music, so if you like this article, please share it with your friends!

Good luck!

#chordlines #bass