If you have just started playing the bass guitar, you have come to the right place. Practicing is hard. You may be frustrated with your practice techniques and your skill levels may have begun to plateau.
We’re covering some of the best techniques for practicing bass guitar.
Whether it is learning an exciting new technique like slap bass or dedicating more time to practicing with a metronome to nail your timing, there is always room for improvement. Engaging with new techniques and habits can make practicing bass guitar refreshing and more rewarding.
We want you to get the best you can out of your instrument. The bass guitar is an important instrument in a variety of genres, but its value is often underestimated. If you put the techniques and habits outlined below to work, you will improve your bass playing.
If you want to learn bass guitar but have no idea where to start we would recommend engaging the services of a tutor. The tips outlined below should build on all the basic work and practice you have already done. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned player there is always more to learn!
1. Practicing with a Metronome
It’s easy to lose focus when practicing certain bass techniques. Often, the first thing that goes when you are practicing poorly is your timing. This dilemma can be solved by practicing with a metronome. You will improve your playing by sharpening your focus and over time certain rhythms will become second nature.
The bass is often a vital part of the rhythm section. Staying in the pocket and becoming one with the drummer will be easier if you practice with a metronome. Ultimately, you will develop an internal metronome and an innate sense of rhythm. For now, practicing with a metronome is one of the best ways to improve your bass guitar skills.
Slow practice is the key to getting better and working with a metronome is the best way to do this. If you are trying to learn a difficult passage or a tricky lick, playing it slowly along with a metronome is a great method. As your performance of the passage improves you can gradually raise the tempo with your metronome.
It is important that you incorporate metronome assisted practice into your daily routine. You will feel the benefits of practicing slowly and with rhythmic focus almost immediately.
2. Scales, Scales and More Scales
Yes, they may seem boring and monotonous but they are important. Scales are the foundation of so many music lessons for a reason. They are the best way of learning how different notes interact with each other. You will improve your overall music knowledge as well as your bass technique by dedicating time to practicing scales.
Your bass practice schedule should be chock full of scale practice including:
- Half diminished
The sequence of notes in a given scale should become second nature to you.
Whether you play a four or five string bass, practicing scales is a great way to learn how to navigate the bass with your fingers. Hopefully, once you have mastered the basic major and minor scales your bass guitar finger placement will become easier.
Playing bass practice scales over and over again is not as fun as playing along with your favorite songs or learning specific licks but it is even more valuable. There are a variety of scales to learn and a variety of ways to become comfortable with them. You can learn by ear how the intervals sound or you can memorize the movement from the root note. Regardless of your skills on the bass, practice scales should be a priority.
There are many ways to pluck the strings of your bass. The technique that you use is probably the one you were taught by your first teacher or the one that came naturally when you first picked up the bass. It is important to explore a variety of techniques. By diversifying your plucking styles you will improve your bass playing.
They are a number of things you can work on when changing your plucking style. It is important to pay attention to the position of your hand, alternating your fingers and how hard you pluck the strings. All of these will affect the sound and dynamics of your playing.
Adjusting your plucking technique also includes experimenting with different muting methods. Whether you choose to mute with your palm, your ring finger or your fret hand it is important to incorporate different approaches into your practice routine.
Experimenting with plucking the bass guitar for beginners is an interesting way to bring variety into your playing. For a more in-depth look at the many ways you can pluck the strings of the bass, we would recommend StudyBass’ look at plucking.
4. Slap Bass Playing
If you are looking to get funky with your bass playing, slap bass is a vital weapon to have in your arsenal. Commonly heard in funk music, slap bass is a method of hitting the bass strings to produce a more percussive sound. This sound is achieved by slapping with the thumb and popping with the fingers.
Different bass players use slap bass in a variety of ways to create funky and percussive grooves. Whether you model your playing after Flea, Bootsy Collins or Nathan East there is plenty to be learned by studying the masters and how they slap bass.
It is also worth mentioning that slap bass is particularly suited to the funk genre but is not exclusive to that genre. Even if you play bass in a rock band, a pop unit or a folk quartet it is also useful to have various skills at your disposal. Practicing slap bass will help you become adept at adjusting the dynamics and tone of your playing.
Practicing slap bass is great for beginner bass guitar players because it is a tricky skill that is incredibly rewarding when mastered. Many of the most famous bass grooves require slap bass playing so it is also important if you want to play along with your favorite songs.
5. Play Along with Backing Tracks
Finally, playing along with good backing tracks is a great way of elevating your bass playing. Not only will you learn to play certain tunes but you will learn how to stay in tempo and on pitch without having to play with a proper band.
Playing with a backing track is a way of fine-tuning your bass playing without embarrassing yourself in front of other musicians. Many good backing tracks can be found on Youtube. Even more, can be found in CD form along with study books.
Practicing bass guitar alone can sometimes become boring. Playing along with a backing track takes away this boredom and provides you with the immediate satisfaction of a complete sound. You will be able to easily hear where and when you are making mistakes. Practicing with a backing track will keep you from getting complacent and falling into bad habits.
There is a wealth of backing track resources out there but you should be careful in your selection. Some backing tracks may be in a different tempo or key to how you should be playing the song. As long as you practice with tried and tested backing tracks you should be on the way to improving your bass playing!
Keep Playing Your Bass Guitar—Practice Makes Perfect!
Hopefully, the above tips have given you a good idea of how you should be practicing bass guitar. It is important that you develop your own routine and become comfortable with the techniques that work best for you.
The worth of different techniques and habits will become clear with time. Perhaps for some people, it is worth spending more time practicing your plucking and slapping techniques. For others practicing with a metronome to improve your timing will be of greater importance.
Alongside the tips discussed above, it is also worth mentioning the value of bass guitar lessons from professional music teachers. Another common habit that musicians have picked up in recent years is learning from tutorial videos. Youtube is a great resource and if you want to learn bass guitar you should definitely take advantage of the teaching available.
We would recommend:
We wish you all the best in your musical endeavors. Hopefully, you can use the advice above to take your bass playing to the next level!
How have you worked to improve your bass guitar playing?
Share in the comments below!