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50+ Common Questions Beginners Ask Before Learning Bass Guitar

This article comprehensively addresses more than 55 common questions that novice musicians often have when embarking on their journey to learn bass guitar, offering valuable insights and guidance for those new to the instrument.

Table of Contents

What is a bass guitar, and how does it differ from other types of guitars?

A bass guitar is usually a four-stringed instrument with a body similar to a standard electric guitar, except the strings are thicker, producing a lower sound. A bass guitar adds low frequency and depth to an arrangement of music, song or orchestration. Keep reading to learn more.

Do I need any prior musical experience to learn bass guitar?

No, absolutely not, but I’ll tell you a little secret. You already have so much musical experience because you have been listening to music all of your life (hopefully) – in movies, on the radio, at school or on your phone. While you may not be aware, you most likely already know the role of the bass in music instinctively from bass music history. Once someone points out the role of the bass and how it helps the music, you’ll have an Ah-Ha moment!

How much does a beginner bass guitar cost?

How much do you want to spend? Was your first car a banged-up fix, or was it a current model beauty courtesy of your kind, rich folks. In other words, if you have cash, take the word beginner out of the question. If you want to get started and avoid investing heavily in an expensive bass because you are still trying to figure out bass long-term, then I’ll say 2 things. Firstly, you can get a decent beginner bass for approx. US $ 200+, or consider a bass guitar starter kit. Secondly, find an excellent local bass teacher or a well-structured beginner bass course online that will give you the correct technique and bass principles to keep you motivated and inspired.

Are there different types of bass guitars for beginners?

The prominent bass for 15-year-olds to adults is a standard 4-string bass. I would not recommend a fretless or 5- or 6-string bass for beginners. There are ¾ basses, sometimes called a short-scale bass, for children and smaller framed people. It is easier to hold for children.

Should I buy a new or used bass guitar?

As long as the second-hand or used bass plays well, either is fine. Of course, a new bass will come with a warranty, but a used bass will be cheaper. Your call. I have bought second-hand basses and still have them after 25 years. 

What accessories do I need along with the bass guitar?

Most basses come with a guitar strap; if not, you’ll need one. You’ll need an electronic tuner, a standard guitar lead (1.5-3 metres is fine), a music stand will certainly be helpful and for me, this item is compulsory – a metronome. You can buy one at a music store or online. To get started, you can use free online metronomes. Google has one just in the search engine browser.

How do I choose the right size of bass guitar?

A simple test you can do… Get your hands on a bass at a music shop or school. Sit down with it, rest the bottom curve of the body on your upper right leg (for right-handers), and lean the body close to your stomach /chest. Now, with your left hand on the fretboard at the first fret (or the furthest end away from you), place your first finger on any string. If it is not a stretch for you, then that bass is OK. You don’t need a measuring tape. Common sense will tell you if the bass feels right and is not too big. You can observe how to hold the bass from a decent bass player on YouTube. 

Can I learn bass guitar online for free? Are there free online resources for learning bass guitar?

Yes, there are plenty of great videos online. If you already have some bass guitar ability, you can certainly benefit from online resources. 

However, if you are a beginner, you may find it quite challenging to know where to start. Bass videos on YouTube can be pretty random. If you are a beginner, you need a structured instruction sequence, like you would get from a seasoned bass teacher in person. The next best thing is a sequenced and structured beginner bass course from a seasoned bass teacher.

What are the advantages of taking a structured bass course?

All the information is right in front of you, and you do not have to go searching and making the right decisions for the correct instruction.

 It will certainly save you time. You’ll become accustomed to the bass instructor’s style and be able to relax and learn.

It’s much cheaper than taking regular, in-person bass lessons; however, at some point in your bass learning journey, if you are serious, you should definitely find a great local bass teacher and get lessons.

How long does it typically take to learn the basics of bass guitar?

The basics?? Learning the basics doesn’t take long at all. Mastering the basics can take a great deal longer. But the basics in any endeavour are always very important, so relax, take your time and enjoy the basics.

How long does it usually take to become proficient at playing bass guitar?

This is a big depends! There are a number of factors to consider here: how long you practice for each day or week…, what you practice, and how quickly you learn and develop proper technique (a good teacher or bass course really helps). There are more things to consider in the answers to these questions on this page. 

Is it better to learn bass guitar in person or online?

I’d say in person if you have a great local bass teacher and can afford lessons. But having said that, even with your own teacher, you can learn many things online too. An in-person lesson may only go for 30 minutes or one hour. That’s not long, so you certainly could supplement your learning with online courses and videos.  

Are there any age restrictions for learning bass guitar?

I would say yes – just on the small kids’ end. The bass is physically demanding compared to smaller instruments like recorder, ukelele, flute, and violin. It’s not that it’s heavy as you play with a strap, and the bass sits on your lap. It’s the bigger metal strings on sensitive and weaker fingers and the left to right reaching up to the fingerboard. 

I recommend starting no earlier than 9-10 years of age. Of course, there are exceptions, and that’s over to you now! 

Do I need to know how to read sheet music to play bass guitar?

No. BUT. If you can learn to read sheet music in bass clef, then you will certainly progress faster, and you will have many more resource materials at your disposal. I.e. bass transcriptions of the tunes you want to play. See the bass notes at the first position.

What are bass tabs, and do I need to learn them?

Read sheet music first. I started reading music at the same time I learned classical guitar, so I didn’t know any different. TABs were not around then. However, when learning a new song, TABS can be helpful, especially if the bass part is using advanced techniques like slap, tapping, chords or harmonics.

So, in short, no, you don’t need to learn them, but it’s pretty simple to understand if you want to learn tabs.

Is it necessary to learn music theory to play bass guitar?

If you want to be a real musician. Yes, it is! Having said that, if you want to learn a few songs and jam away with some backing tracks or a few friends, then it’s not necessary.

But, if you invest a little time and effort into learning basic music theory, I promise it will pay off 10-fold.

It’s fun – c’mon – Just do it!

Can I learn bass guitar without a teacher or instructor?

Yes, you can. If you have a good ear for music, you can pick the bass and jam away. You can also teach yourself from a beginner bass guitar book, or you can buy a beginner bass guitar video course. 

What are some common beginner mistakes to avoid?

There’s a lot that can and does go wrong at the start of any journey. Here are a few common ‘mistakes’… Limiting or incorrect technique (both hands), trying to play too fast, not using a metronome or drum machine, impatience, unwilling to learn to read music or develop your ear (Aural training). Not seeking quality instruction via in-person lessons with an experienced bass teacher or a sequenced bass instructional course online.

Are there any physical requirements for playing bass guitar?

You should be able to hold a bass guitar and balance it on your lap with the aid of a shoulder bass strap. The bass guitar is played using both arms and all fingers.

What should I look for in a good beginner bass course?

The structure of the course – is it sequential from a starting point of absolute beginner, and how far will it go. The experience of the bass instructor, teaching experience, performance and music industry experience. The experience of the bass instructor will no doubt reflect the course’s quality and the student’s success. Value for money.  

How much time should I dedicate to practice each day?

If you’re a kid, then at least 15 minutes per day. If you are an adult, then you will progress much further and faster if you can allocate 30 minutes per day. It’s better to practice for 20-30 minutes per day, than to practice for 2-3 hours just on Sunday for example. More frequent practice sessions are much more desirable.

How do I tune a bass guitar, and how often should I do it?

It is very possible to tune by ear. In our electronic and tech world, this is becoming rare. You can buy an electronic tuner very cheaply these days. You will plug some electronic tuners from your bass, and smaller, cheaper ones can clip onto the headstock of your bass.

Tune every time you pick up the bass for a practice, rehearsal or gig. I tune at the start of every band set. Keep your instrument in tune at all times!

Are there physical requirements or hand strength needed to play bass? Do I need to have strong fingers to play bass guitar?

Yes, the bass has physical demands. Is that a problem for most? No. Children as young as 8 can manage the physicality if they are motivated to learn bass. You don’t need strong fingers to start learning bass – you’ll get strong fingers if you keep playing bass!

Are there specific exercises to improve finger strength and dexterity?

Oh yeah! How long have you got today? Refer to a good bass guitar book, a bass teacher or an online course. If you are after standalone exercises for finger strength, you can google to find some online.

Can I learn bass guitar by ear, or do I need to use sheet music?

You can learn music by ear. It all depends on what your goals are for playing bass. Reading music opens up so many more resources for you with bass books and transcriptions, and you will feel empowered. But you can certainly play by ear

What are frets, and how do they work on a bass guitar?

The frets are the thin metal inlays that appear at measured intervals on the fretboard (also called fingerboard). They are raised from the height on the wood, and when you press down on a string with your finger at a given fret and pluck the string with your other hand, the string will produce a higher note than it would if you played that same string in its open position (i.e. without pressing your finger down). So, the frets are used to accurately calibrate set frequencies (i.e. notes) on the fingerboard. This is what gives us the range of notes on the bass.

How do I properly hold the bass guitar and the pick?

You’ll need a bass strap if you’re standing and playing bass with either your fingers or a pick. Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger. If sitting and playing, you can support the position of the bass with your forearm by resting on the body of the bass. 

What is fingerstyle playing, and how does it differ from using a pick?

Most bassists use 2 fingers in the plucking/playing/picking hand. They are the index (i) and middle (m) fingers. This fingerstyle playing uses the tips of the fingers to pull back and pluck the string to be played. This can also be referred to as a stroke of the string. The finishing position of the finger after the stroke is it finds a resting position on the lower (thicker) string immediately next to it. In both the bass and guitar world, this is known as a rest stroke. It is very common for guitarist to use a free stroke. This is where the finger pluck finishes in ‘mid air’, usually towards the inside palm of the picking hand. You’ll see this a lot with acoustic guitars when they are playing arpeggio style picking.

Similarly, when using a pick, the stroke usually finishes without resting on any other string. I.e. it finishes like a free stroke. The motion of a pick is literally up and down, and the pick is held between the thumb and index finger. 

What are the basic components of a bass amplifier?

The basic components of a bass amplifier are: input (a hole for your guitar lead) Volume (sometimes called pre-gain), a graphic equaliser is common to modify mid-tones, separate tone controls ie treble and bass) and a master volume (some called post-gain). Some amplifiers have proprietary tone controls and built-in bass effects. On the back, there will be an output jack to connect a speaker box and usually a direct line output (to connect to a PA or larger audio set up)

How do I adjust the settings on a bass amplifier?

Bassically – You turn the knobs! But seriously, there is more to it than that, but to really learn, you need to plug in and turn the knobs! You will be able to hear the effect that the different volume and tone controls have on your bass sound. 

What are the different types of bass strings, and how do they affect sound?

Bass guitar strings come in various types, including roundwound, flatwound, halfwound (groundwound), tapewound, coated, and nylon strings. Roundwound have a bright sound and are generally an all rounder and most common type of bass string. Flatwound strings have a mellow sound and produce a more vintage sound. Good for jazz and classic rock. Nylon strings are mostly used on acoustic bass guitars for use in world music.

How do I change bass guitar strings?

As an absolute beginner, don’t change strings unless you are very confident. Ask your bass teacher, a guitar tech at a music shop or find a really good video online. There is a bit of a knack to it.

How do I choose the right songs to practice as a beginner?

Is there such a thing as a ‘right’ song? The key is to find songs you love and that you enjoy playing. That, then, pretty much deems you are the authority here. However, and it’s obvious, you must start with simple songs that are technically within your grasp. I’ve complied some great beginner bass songs – Have a listen!

Can I play songs I like even if they seem too advanced?

Well, can you play them? If you have determination and persistence, then don’t let anything stop you. The issue here is- are you skipping over crucial techniques in order to play something more advanced. Technique is something you need to develop to play the things you want to. As soon as technique prevents you from playing something, then that’s when you need to fix the technique problem. Overall, if you are rushing to play more advanced songs, then it may well be possible that you are skipping over essential technical development too. It’s easier to spend the time earlier on in your learning music journey to develop good technique than realise further down the track that you have developed a bad habit and you have to go back and correct it.  

Can I play bass guitar in a band as a beginner?

Hell yeah – Best fun! A few issues though… Do you have a good sense of time? Do you actually know to play the songs you’re performing together? Are the others in the band the same level as you, or will they be tolerant of your inexperience? If you have the opportunity to play with other musicians… Absolutely, go for it. A lot of students find it hard to find other musicians to jam with. You’d think with the internet and social media, it would be easy. For some, it’s not, and that’s a real shame because music is a language. And playing with other musicians is a conversation. And that’s a wonderful thing, Truly it is. Don’t be discouraged or self-conscious. Just do it! Think of the conversation 3 or 4 toddlers might have at a daycare centre. It’s not going to be rocket science, but hell, it’s fun for them and they’ll love it because they’re learning.  

What are some iconic bass players I can learn from?

How long have I got to answer this! As a beginner, you may not truly appreciate or pick up the skill and virtuosity of some of these iconic bass players, but do have a listen. 

Here’s a list of 10 iconic bass players: Flea, Jaco Pastorius, Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, Victor Wooten, Bootsy Collins, James Jamerson, Les Claypool, and Marcus Miller

How do I practice effectively without getting frustrated?

Ha! So, how do I become a better human by getting to know myself?? Music will teach you a lot about yourself. This should be a really good reason to pursue music. There’s a lot to this question, and you could discuss many things, but I’m going to throw you a bone and give you a HUGE clue. SLOW PRACTICE!

Is it OK to take breaks during practice sessions?

Yes. Encouraged. 5-15 minute breaks. Cuppa or water. Jump up and down. Quick 5 minute walk. Focus and revive during breaks. 

Should I start by learning cover songs or focus on creating my own basslines?

I would suggest starting with cover songs, and here are some great beginner bass songs to get started. Once you can play some bass lines to cover songs, then you’ll be able to see and hear the construction and composition of the bass line, which will help you to start creating your own basslines. 

Are there any specific techniques for playing slap bass?

Yes. Slap bass is an advanced bass technique which involves striking the string with the thump to produce a percussive ‘THUMP’ sound and a pluck in a snapping up motion with the index finger to produce a ‘POP’  

How do I use a metronome to improve my timing?

I tell my students to refer to the metronome as “your best friend”.

A metronome is an essential device that will help to build your sense of time, which is first and foremost as a bass player. By playing along with the metronome at different tempos (speeds), you will build a strong sense of time.

What are scales, and how do they relate to bass playing?

Scales are sequences of musical notes organized in ascending or descending order, and they play a fundamental role in bass playing. Bassists use scales as a foundation for creating basslines, improvising, and understanding the harmonic structure of songs.

What are some common bass guitar maintenance tasks?

Bass guitars are quite low maintenance. Occasionally, you’ll need to replace batteries in the back of your bass if you have an active bass guitar. You’ll need to change strings. How often that is will depend on you and the sound you want. Some bass players have strings on the bass that are years old because they want an old, thumping, bassy sound. Other bassists, depending on their performance schedule, may change strings much more frequently.

How do I care for my bass guitar in terms of cleaning and storage?

Simple. Give it a quick wipe with the special cloth that came with the bass or a soft cotton cloth and put it back in it’s case.

Are there any online forums or communities for beginner bass players?

Yes, right here at Bassic Training. There’s also https://www.talkingbass.net/

What are some good resources for finding bass tabs and sheet music?

Personally, I’m not a fan of bass tabs. My experience tells me that if you find a song which has just the tab and not the music notation too, remain suspicious. It may be incorrect. Start with this site, which seems to have some good tabs: https://www.songsterr.com/

How do I build finger independence for more complex basslines?

Find finger independence exercises. Bass Fitness by Josquin Des Pres is a great book for finger independence.

Are there specific exercises to improve my plucking hand’s speed?

There are plenty of exercises for plucking hand speed in bass books and online courses, too many to mention here. But again, this is a great case for learning to read music notation, right?

How do I know when it’s time to upgrade to a more advanced bass?

You’ll know! Trust me.

Can I learn bass guitar using an acoustic bass guitar, or should I start with an electric bass?

Ideally, start with a 4 string electric bass. If you have an acoustic bass guitar already then, giddy up! Start using it. However, you may find that it is hard to play if it’s not set up properly. The strings may be too high off the fretboard, making it hard to push the strings down with your fingers. If this is the case, then bite the bullet and buy an electric to earn on. You can still use your acoustic bass guitar later once your hands and fingers become stronger. Hey, you could even start doing some roving gigs with your acoustic bass guitar with a roaming band at festivals! Ker-ching! 

What are some potential career opportunities for bass players?

There’s really only 3 things: Live performing, teaching and recording. Each have they’re own set of particular sub-skills. In reality, you’ll need to do all three to have a career as a bass player – particularly playing and teaching. Playing could involve live gigs, concerts, clubs, events, theatre shows and these along with teaching privately or in schools will be your ‘bread and butter’ income. Recording sessions has changed over the past 20 years or more. You can have a successful recording income by setting up your own studio and charging others to record bass for their song or track.

What should I look for when choosing a good beginner bass course?

A course that promises to deliver and does. The bass course should have logically sequenced music instruction delivered by a professional bass player with a high level of actual music industry performance experience. Clear direction, good quality video and music notation and theory are a must.  

Are there any recommended songs or exercises for beginners to start with?

Have a look at our collection of beginner bass songs.

What are the potential benefits of learning to play bass guitar for me personally?

Learning to play bass is not really different to learning any instrument. The potential benefit of learning a musical instrument is huge for any human. In particular, it does absolutely amazing things for the brain. Watch this TED video on my website: https://jeremylabrooy.com/jeremy-labrooy-bass-teacher/

 

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You can teach yourself bass guitar by using bass guitar beginner books.

You’ll be playing the best beginner bass guitar songs in no time. Fun and easy to play.

Bass guitar starter packs usually contain everything you need to start playing straight away.

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